© 2019 Copyright by P. K. H. Groth, Denver, Colorado, USA All rights reserved - See contact page for for permission to republish article excerpts.
Learning from Hunting Stories Page A
This section has stories with tips, tactics and elk hunting history lessons with morals to make your hunts more successful. Hunting is an art which is best learned in the field. It is based on the little nuances and small preparation details summed up from my experiences of many years. You can get valuable "trade secret" pointers from other people who have "hunted the backcountry and walked its trails". These are tales more illuminating than a producer-influenced TV show or an abbreviated narration in a magazine. Notice that our atypical book and this website are intent on helping you to both enjoy the wilderness and be a successful hunter. Exposing our observations may help you to jump start your hunting career and build a lifetime of enjoyable adventures. That is our goal. Enjoy life! Value the outdoors! Live your dreams! Good luck! Elk Hunt 2013 The hunt could not have been any better, although I say that each year. A giant rising full moon crept like a huge lantern through the forest, edged slowly up through the spruce trees and danced on skag tops. Like a glowing omen it released itself into the deep blue night sky. I lay in my sleeping bag looking in awe out the open tent door. I could not light the lantern and interrupt my emotions. I kept trying to preserve the scene in a photograph, but the falling temperature continued to frost my lens. Thoughts of past family hunts flickered in my memory until shuteye at 10:30 PM. I reviewed opening morning hunting options as I lay in my down sleeping bag during the enchanting night vigil. The frosting grass would reduce my footfall noise, but I would have to be careful not to step on raised vole mounds which would be topped with crunchy crystals from the vole breathing. The falling temperature would be more severe in the valley by morning, so the walk and ride in hunters would be up later and slower to get going. I might have the first two hours to myself if the outfitter camp was not full of hard-core competitors. Opening morning greeted me at 6 AM with a moon-bright, spectacular, silent, eerie, “Hunters Moonscape”. I shivered in my stand, watching the frost feathers crystalized on grass strands in the predawn moonlight. The meadow landscape was alive with billions of twinkling diamonds! This portended a perfect day! I had reveled in the both the evening light of the gods and the dawn light of the angels! And the landscape was all mine to enjoy. At dawn two bulls materialized in the distant treeline and slowly grazed from 700 yards to my stand – the smaller, more tender bull was selected to fill our freezer. The half hour of a slowly setting full moon and the cold blues of a frigid dawn provided a spectacular and exhilarating wait. It just does not get any better than this! My conclusion that day-hunters would be late was confirmed when the heavily clothed fellows arrived at about 9AM. Things got even better the next day. Our family hunting philosophy is to be silent and patient by reading books while subconsciously remaining aware of what the forest sounds are telling us. The next day at 1:30 PM it was warm. I sat out in the open sunlight in my propped up backpack “lounge chair” intently reading an old spy thriller. Then bugling began. A danged, bored hunter stalking home for lunch in a nearby camp practiced his poor, silly midday bugling and disturbed my beloved wilderness peacefulness! Ten minutes later I looked up to my right and froze. Seventy yards away stood 18 “naked” (in the open without tree cover) elk sunning themselves, including the wacko 6X6 “big guy” exhausted bugler! (See my book on full moon man/animal restlessness and noonday elk movement discussions). The elk evidently never saw me until I tried to sneak to my camera and gun. The excitement of elk hunting is that you just NEVER know WHEN the “ghosts” will UNEXPEDTEDLY appear! Heap Bad Water; There is often a water problem in the the Colorado high country such as the Flat Tops. Yes, there are lots of lakes, ponds and streams. However, up on the “flats” water does not flow well and in late summers of dry years the shallow ponds may vanish. Much of the available water is undrinkable, or can be consumed by taking risks for digestion hazards because of contained organic material. The parasite Giardia is always a threat in any water. Lastly, good water may not be where hikers or hunters want to camp. This is especially so during late hunt seasons when water may be frozen during the late fall months. Bring adequate containers to haul water. Jerry cans are good if you have horses and panniers. I suggest plastic gallon water or milk jugs are ideal. They can be drained at the end of the back pack or hunting trip and burned. Then the last remaining plastic “button” can be carried out of the wilderness. I recommend duct taping together four or six empty jugs, placing the cube a pillowcase, and lashing the light-weight cube to the back of your backpack. This arrangement keeps the individual jugs from rattling and squirming out of the lashings. Note: don’t carry loose plastic jugs on horses, unless you want a spook induced joy ride. Don’t resort to drinking minor water sources. I recall a hunter complaining how utterly foul tasting the water was he resorted to obtained from small depressions. Contemplating his description, it dawned on me that he was drinking from elk wallows. I later pondered whether that testosterone-laden urine water created a nightmare for his wife when he returned home. (Does she still believe she looks sexy and ravenous doing the dishes in hair curlers?) Hunter Peeing: I am appalled to write these instructions, because they really should not be necessary for an experienced hunter. However, observations of “snow writing” discloses some hunter ignorance. How you perform natural bodily functions will affect hunting success. Last year I met an elderly man of great cheer, but limited high altitude stamina, riding out at first season’s end. He had used one of my most productive stands. He said he had a good time, but never saw one deer or elk. I checked that stand the next day and saw the problem. The fellow had evidently been told by the wrangler to stay put in the blind the whole day, and he had taken that advice too literally. Obviously, he had consumed copious predawn coffee. Nonsensically, he stood in the blind and sprayed high against the three different spruce trees forming the stand. High level, distant erratic urination and spitting is what some men may do in urinals. It should never be done on a hunt. “Ernie” could have made ten steps out of the blind and dumped in deep snow within sun-shading trees. There his urine would have quickly frozen once snow was kicked over the dribbling. “Mr. President Jack Kennedy” huffed Secretary of State Kissinger during the morning Cabinet briefing. “Last night someone urinated your name on the snow of the White House lawn”. “Ah sir, don’t let that bother you” replied the president. Kissinger retorted “but it is terrible! You do not understand! It was your name, but written in your wife’s handwriting!” After more than forty years of snow hunting, I have amassed some information about how and where hunters pee. Some recollections are like jokes. Ocasionally, hunters seem drawn to childhood glee of seeing how high up on a tree they can pee. Others, out of control of their tools, leave impressive monogram arcs as if they are drawing flowers. Hence, I will try to educate the reader about leaving human pee scent. All these suggestions should be obvious, but here goes. Plan ahead. Get rid of things before entering your immediate hunt area. Use a camp latrine as much as possible so you are able to keep it covered with dirt. Never urinate on tree trunks or branches. Bark absorbs and retains urine, which will be released over the following days during thaw cycles. Do not encourage other hunters to come talk to you, especially in the morning when they are fully loaded, will linger and inevitably will take a pee near your stand. Choose a pit stop location which is not along game trails. There is no sense in diverting or turning back your quarry. Do use a place which is out the line of sight of your intended hunt stand/area. Scent there may cause game to avoid your visually blind area and favor a diversion into your viewing horizon. Plan these locations ahead of time. Choose a location with deep snow where there will be shade all day. This will allow urine to remain frozen and scatter less scent. Make a stream that punches a single hole in the snow. Then kick snow over the hole. Never urinate on a trail or in a blind. There is no need for you or another to step in the scent pile and track it around. Relieve yourself slightly off main trails before entering your hunt area. A lot of scent is already there from constant horse and human traffic. Leave you hunt area as pristine as possible. Cover your mess, if only with snow. Avoid urination on your defecation. The warm stool will retard urine freezing. The uric acid in urine can provide nutrients to colonic bacteria. The stool may start warming with bacterial decay and release vapors. Stool should be covered with small rocks and then loose soil. A latrine may “activate” on a warm day and become smelly. You may not smell it, but game will. Keep a pile of LOOSE soil at the latrine for early morning coverage; compacted soil will be too frozen to use or too agglomerated to seal off stool. Cover the loose soil with a waterproof bag to keep the soil from frost-freezing. Do spray high on the western side of trees adjacent to your kill. Western tree sides will dry slower during the day because they are out of direct sunlight until afternoon. Then the tree trunk will thaw or dry and release human scent at twilight and early night. That is when coyote scavengers will begin prowling. Ladies, you have a great vertically inclined urinary disability. Use horizontal loose logs and prop them up. Elk Pee: I seem to have heard it all. Stepping in elk urine to cover human scent might seem like a sensible thing to do, but just do not take your boots into the tent at night. It can downright irritate other hunters, which it greatly did. PS: Another humorous incident was when a father took his son elk scouting. The exhausted young fellow slept on the truck back seat upon a burst bottle of elk urine lure. And it WAS a rather nice truck. Disorganized for a Hunting Failure: I received another 2014 report from an outfitter about easterners obviously not prepared to experience high country hunting success. Eight fellows booked a cabin and a remote drop camp for the second season – good. However, by the time they left Pennsylvania eight others were tagging along. The outfitter was unprepared for the unannounced double number of hunters, but tried to accommodate them as best as possible. The group had not planned and communicated. Each person brought his own gear and bickered with the wranglers who tried to point out that duplicate axes, saws, tables and chairs, etc. were not needed. Couldn’t they share bottles of whiskey to cut down on the pannier loads? Nor were their cases of Duraflame fireplace logs in a wilderness of trees a necessary overload for pack horses. This unorganized lazy elk camp obviously was not headed for hunting glory. A large part of the group was packed up above 10,000 feet to a select secluded hunt area. Loitering, boozing and gabbing began as soon as they reached their tent. Only one experienced member gathered firewood, made the camp ship-shape and scouted for elk. I suspect as he worked he was thinking how carefully he’d choose future hunting companions. I know from previous reports that such camps fail at hunting, and friendships often fracture. Snow fell. All of ten God-sent inches that would make an ordinary elk hunter’s heart leap for joy! On the third day of hunting the group had enough of the weather (and each other?) and radioed the outfitter to come and get them. Interrupting planned hunting guiding and work routines, the wranglers took all the horses up for the evacuation. Arriving, they found that actually only half the guys wanted to leave. The rest reconsidered and wanted to stay a couple more days. That meant two 7 ½ hour roundtrips instead of one trip they had paid for. After all their work in rough terrain and weather, the wranglers were tipped a mere total $40. That is about the cost of one of the many jugs of booze (and beer) flaunted in front of the wranglers who had to cart it up and down from the wilderness. There is nothing like insulting and demeaning a person who you asked for help. The evil good thing is: wranglers have pretty good memories. Those hunters will never get the best site again if they return! PS – They got no elk! Give at least reasonably good tips. Follow the 15% tips for usual service. Increase the gratuity if the wranglers provide extra service like guiding, field dressing your elk or extracting it from deep timber, or help erect or take down your self-provided drop camp. Work With Your Outfitter: The above story illustrates why outfitters don’t wish for some clients to return. The large group did not see any close elk, and their laziness precluded bagging game. Their poor attitudes will probably result in blaming the outfitter and his wranglers for not getting elk. Sixteen disgruntled men complaining to twenty friends in Pennsylvania results in a loss of 320 potential future hunters. The best, hardest working, most knowledgeable, client-dedicated outfitter cannot stay in business long with that kind of publicity. That is why some outfitters simply will not book you (or your friends) again. Outfitting is hard work and the profit margin is not that great. The gear, Forest Service licenses, year- round horse care and equipment maintenance is more than a few shekels. Obtaining and paying experienced seasonal workers for grueling work routines is not easy. So listen to outfitter preparatory advice and come prepared, and bring an understanding attitude. Help as much as possible. Communicate clearly. Take good necessary equipment in prime condition. Get in shape so you will not be a burden or emergency waiting to happen. Behave yourself. The last thing an outfitter wants is a alcohol-tipsy client falling off his horse. Smart Students: I chatted with a very happy, tickled pink outfitter. He had three University of Colorado students as clients. They came with their own food. If you know Boulder, Colorado University students or have been to one of their tailgate parties, you can imagine it was not peanut butter and jelly. They had planned for gastronomic excellence, bringing spices, pre-dinner snacks of fancy cheeses, pate’ and baked cakes. Moreover, they had called ahead so they had brought plenty of food for the outfitter crew. They joyously prepared the meals in challenges for cooking excellence. They almost immediately got a bull without trying very hard (they were in good shape and attitude acclimated). The best reward was that their conviviality got them a ten year elk hunting experience education from the crew during the next two days of conversations, interactions, and helping around base camp. You do not have to pay for all education, but you have to earn it. I know those students will go far in life. And any friends they refer to the outfitter will receive special treatment. It is called networking.
· · · · · · · · · · · ·
© 2016 -2017 Copyright by P. K. H. Groth, Denver, Colorado, USA All rights reserved - See contact page for for permission to republish article excerpts.
Learning from Hunting Stories Page A
This section has stories with tips, tactics and elk hunting history lessons with morals to make your hunts more successful. Hunting is an art which is best learned in the field. It is based on the little nuances and small preparation details summed up from my experiences of many years. You can get valuable "trade secret" pointers from other people who have "hunted the backcountry and walked its trails". These are tales more illuminating than a producer-influenced TV show or an abbreviated narration in a magazine. Notice that our atypical book and this website are intent on helping you to both enjoy the wilderness and be a successful hunter. Exposing our observations may help you to jump start your hunting career and build a lifetime of enjoyable adventures. That is our goal. Enjoy life! Value the outdoors! Live your dreams! Good luck! Elk Hunt 2013 The hunt could not have been any better, although I say that each year. A giant rising full moon crept like a huge lantern through the forest, edged slowly up through the spruce trees and danced on skag tops. Like a glowing omen it released itself into the deep blue night sky. I lay in my sleeping bag looking in awe out the open tent door. I could not light the lantern and interrupt my emotions. I kept trying to preserve the scene in a photograph, but the falling temperature continued to frost my lens. Thoughts of past family hunts flickered in my memory until shuteye at 10:30 PM. I reviewed opening morning hunting options as I lay in my down sleeping bag during the enchanting night vigil. The frosting grass would reduce my footfall noise, but I would have to be careful not to step on raised vole mounds which would be topped with crunchy crystals from the vole breathing. The falling temperature would be more severe in the valley by morning, so the walk and ride in hunters would be up later and slower to get going. I might have the first two hours to myself if the outfitter camp was not full of hard- core competitors. Opening morning greeted me at 6 AM with a moon- bright, spectacular, silent, eerie, “Hunters Moonscape”. I shivered in my stand, watching the frost feathers crystalized on grass strands in the predawn moonlight. The meadow landscape was alive with billions of twinkling diamonds! This portended a perfect day! I had reveled in the both the evening light of the gods and the dawn light of the angels! And the landscape was all mine to enjoy. At dawn two bulls materialized in the distant treeline and slowly grazed from 700 yards to my stand – the smaller, more tender bull was selected to fill our freezer. The half hour of a slowly setting full moon and the cold blues of a frigid dawn provided a spectacular and exhilarating wait. It just does not get any better than this! My conclusion that day- hunters would be late was confirmed when the heavily clothed fellows arrived at about 9AM. Things got even better the next day. Our family hunting philosophy is to be silent and patient by reading books while subconsciously remaining aware of what the forest sounds are telling us. The next day at 1:30 PM it was warm. I sat out in the open sunlight in my propped up backpack “lounge chair” intently reading an old spy thriller. Then bugling began. A danged, bored hunter stalking home for lunch in a nearby camp practiced his poor, silly midday bugling and disturbed my beloved wilderness peacefulness! Ten minutes later I looked up to my right and froze. Seventy yards away stood 18 “naked” (in the open without tree cover) elk sunning themselves, including the wacko 6X6 “big guy” exhausted bugler! (See my book on full moon man/animal restlessness and noonday elk movement discussions). The elk evidently never saw me until I tried to sneak to my camera and gun. The excitement of elk hunting is that you just NEVER know WHEN the “ghosts” will UNEXPEDTEDLY appear! Heap Bad Water; There is often a water problem in the the Colorado high country such as the Flat Tops. Yes, there are lots of lakes, ponds and streams. However, up on the “flats” water does not flow well and in late summers of dry years the shallow ponds may vanish. Much of the available water is undrinkable, or can be consumed by taking risks for digestion hazards because of contained organic material. The parasite Giardia is always a threat in any water. Lastly, good water may not be where hikers or hunters want to camp. This is especially so during late hunt seasons when water may be frozen during the late fall months. Bring adequate containers to haul water. Jerry cans are good if you have horses and panniers. I suggest plastic gallon water or milk jugs are ideal. They can be drained at the end of the back pack or hunting trip and burned. Then the last remaining plastic “button” can be carried out of the wilderness. I recommend duct taping together four or six empty jugs, placing the cube a pillowcase, and lashing the light-weight cube to the back of your backpack. This arrangement keeps the individual jugs from rattling and squirming out of the lashings. Note: don’t carry loose plastic jugs on horses, unless you want a spook induced joy ride. Don’t resort to drinking minor water sources. I recall a hunter complaining how utterly foul tasting the water was he resorted to obtained from small depressions. Contemplating his description, it dawned on me that he was drinking from elk wallows. I later pondered whether that testosterone- laden urine water created a nightmare for his wife when he returned home. (Does she still believe she looks sexy and ravenous doing the dishes in hair curlers?) Hunter Peeing: I am appalled to write these instructions, because they really should not be necessary for an experienced hunter. However, observations of “snow writing” discloses some hunter ignorance. How you perform natural bodily functions will affect hunting success. Last year I met an elderly man of great cheer, but limited high altitude stamina, riding out at first season’s end. He had used one of my most productive stands. He said he had a good time, but never saw one deer or elk. I checked that stand the next day and saw the problem. The fellow had evidently been told by the wrangler to stay put in the blind the whole day, and he had taken that advice too literally. Obviously, he had consumed copious predawn coffee. Nonsensically, he stood in the blind and sprayed high against the three different spruce trees forming the stand. High level, distant erratic urination and spitting is what some men may do in urinals. It should never be done on a hunt. “Ernie” could have made ten steps out of the blind and dumped in deep snow within sun-shading trees. There his urine would have quickly frozen once snow was kicked over the dribbling. “Mr. President Jack Kennedy” huffed Secretary of State Kissinger during the morning Cabinet briefing. “Last night someone urinated your name on the snow of the White House lawn”. “Ah sir, don’t let that bother you” replied the president. Kissinger retorted “but it is terrible! You do not understand! It was your name, but written in your wife’s handwriting!” After more than forty years of snow hunting, I have amassed some information about how and where hunters pee. Some recollections are like jokes. Ocasionally, hunters seem drawn to childhood glee of seeing how high up on a tree they can pee. Others, out of control of their tools, leave impressive monogram arcs as if they are drawing flowers. Hence, I will try to educate the reader about leaving human pee scent. All these suggestions should be obvious, but here goes. Plan ahead. Get rid of things before entering your immediate hunt area. Use a camp latrine as much as possible so you are able to keep it covered with dirt. Never urinate on tree trunks or branches. Bark absorbs and retains urine, which will be released over the following days during thaw cycles. Do not encourage other hunters to come talk to you, especially in the morning when they are fully loaded, will linger and inevitably will take a pee near your stand. Choose a pit stop location which is not along game trails. There is no sense in diverting or turning back your quarry. Do use a place which is out the line of sight of your intended hunt stand/area. Scent there may cause game to avoid your visually blind area and favor a diversion into your viewing horizon. Plan these locations ahead of time. Choose a location with deep snow where there will be shade all day. This will allow urine to remain frozen and scatter less scent. Make a stream that punches a single hole in the snow. Then kick snow over the hole. Never urinate on a trail or in a blind. There is no need for you or another to step in the scent pile and track it around. Relieve yourself slightly off main trails before entering your hunt area. A lot of scent is already there from constant horse and human traffic. Leave you hunt area as pristine as possible. Cover your mess, if only with snow. Avoid urination on your defecation. The warm stool will retard urine freezing. The uric acid in urine can provide nutrients to colonic bacteria. The stool may start warming with bacterial decay and release vapors. Stool should be covered with small rocks and then loose soil. A latrine may “activate” on a warm day and become smelly. You may not smell it, but game will. Keep a pile of LOOSE soil at the latrine for early morning coverage; compacted soil will be too frozen to use or too agglomerated to seal off stool. Cover the loose soil with a waterproof bag to keep the soil from frost- freezing. Do spray high on the western side of trees adjacent to your kill. Western tree sides will dry slower during the day because they are out of direct sunlight until afternoon. Then the tree trunk will thaw or dry and release human scent at twilight and early night. That is when coyote scavengers will begin prowling. Ladies, you have a great vertically inclined urinary disability. Use horizontal loose logs and prop them up. Elk Pee: I seem to have heard it all. Stepping in elk urine to cover human scent might seem like a sensible thing to do, but just do not take your boots into the tent at night. It can downright irritate other hunters, which it greatly did. PS: Another humorous incident was when a father took his son elk scouting. The exhausted young fellow slept on the truck back seat upon a burst bottle of elk urine lure. And it WAS a rather nice truck. Disorganized for a Hunting Failure: I received another 2014 report from an outfitter about easterners obviously not prepared to experience high country hunting success. Eight fellows booked a cabin and a remote drop camp for the second season – good. However, by the time they left Pennsylvania eight others were tagging along. The outfitter was unprepared for the unannounced double number of hunters, but tried to accommodate them as best as possible. The group had not planned and communicated. Each person brought his own gear and bickered with the wranglers who tried to point out that duplicate axes, saws, tables and chairs, etc. were not needed. Couldn’t they share bottles of whiskey to cut down on the pannier loads? Nor were their cases of Duraflame fireplace logs in a wilderness of trees a necessary overload for pack horses. This unorganized lazy elk camp obviously was not headed for hunting glory. A large part of the group was packed up above 10,000 feet to a select secluded hunt area. Loitering, boozing and gabbing began as soon as they reached their tent. Only one experienced member gathered firewood, made the camp ship-shape and scouted for elk. I suspect as he worked he was thinking how carefully he’d choose future hunting companions. I know from previous reports that such camps fail at hunting, and friendships often fracture. Snow fell. All of ten God-sent inches that would make an ordinary elk hunter’s heart leap for joy! On the third day of hunting the group had enough of the weather (and each other?) and radioed the outfitter to come and get them. Interrupting planned hunting guiding and work routines, the wranglers took all the horses up for the evacuation. Arriving, they found that actually only half the guys wanted to leave. The rest reconsidered and wanted to stay a couple more days. That meant two 7 ½ hour roundtrips instead of one trip they had paid for. After all their work in rough terrain and weather, the wranglers were tipped a mere total $40. That is about the cost of one of the many jugs of booze (and beer) flaunted in front of the wranglers who had to cart it up and down from the wilderness. There is nothing like insulting and demeaning a person who you asked for help. The evil good thing is: wranglers have pretty good memories. Those hunters will never get the best site again if they return! PS – They got no elk! Give at least reasonably good tips. Follow the 15% tips for usual service. Increase the gratuity if the wranglers provide extra service like guiding, field dressing your elk or extracting it from deep timber, or help erect or take down your self-provided drop camp. Work With Your Outfitter: The above story illustrates why outfitters don’t wish for some clients to return. The large group did not see any close elk, and their laziness precluded bagging game. Their poor attitudes will probably result in blaming the outfitter and his wranglers for not getting elk. Sixteen disgruntled men complaining to twenty friends in Pennsylvania results in a loss of 320 potential future hunters. The best, hardest working, most knowledgeable, client- dedicated outfitter cannot stay in business long with that kind of publicity. That is why some outfitters simply will not book you (or your friends) again. Outfitting is hard work and the profit margin is not that great. The gear, Forest Service licenses, year- round horse care and equipment maintenance is more than a few shekels. Obtaining and paying experienced seasonal workers for grueling work routines is not easy. So listen to outfitter preparatory advice and come prepared, and bring an understanding attitude. Help as much as possible. Communicate clearly. Take good necessary equipment in prime condition. Get in shape so you will not be a burden or emergency waiting to happen. Behave yourself. The last thing an outfitter wants is a alcohol-tipsy client falling off his horse. Smart Students: I chatted with a very happy, tickled pink outfitter. He had three University of Colorado students as clients. They came with their own food. If you know Boulder, Colorado University students or have been to one of their tailgate parties, you can imagine it was not peanut butter and jelly. They had planned for gastronomic excellence, bringing spices, pre-dinner snacks of fancy cheeses, pate’ and baked cakes. Moreover, they had called ahead so they had brought plenty of food for the outfitter crew. They joyously prepared the meals in challenges for cooking excellence. They almost immediately got a bull without trying very hard (they were in good shape and attitude acclimated). The best reward was that their conviviality got them a ten year elk hunting experience education from the crew during the next two days of conversations, interactions, and helping around base camp. You do not have to pay for all education, but you have to earn it. I know those students will go far in life. And any friends they refer to the outfitter will receive special treatment. It is called networking.
· · · · · · · · · · · ·