An Impactful Elk Hunt — #MeandMyHunt

New Mexico Bull Elk Hunt

The part about hunting that non-hunters may not understand is that it isn’t about killing. It’s about life. It’s about sustenance. It’s about family. It’s about conservation of all things, including wildlife and human beings.

I have so many favorite hunts that I cannot remember which one I would list at the top. They are all grand in their own unique ways. When I’m called to declare one that is impactful or that made a difference in my life, I scan through the decades of files. My mind lands on one in particular. It’s not a memory of me killing a 6×6 Colorado bull elk or a big typical muley.

New Mexico Bull Elk Hunt

While it’s difficult to declare just one hunt as the one that made a difference in my life, there is one from my childhood that I remember with adoration, and it seated the knowledge I knew within. The knowledge we get from our ancestors. The wisdom from generations before.

You see, as a child, my dad moved us to a small rural town in Southwest Colorado. The populations had to have been less than a couple thousand. Mom worked summers for the U.S. Forest Service, and Dad’s work in construction seemed a bit seasonal as well.

Those were hard times financially, but that’s when I learned the most about life. Mom sewed clothes, crocheted afghans, and grew a garden. We had chickens, goats, and other small livestock, which the family would butcher for food, but the real celebrations were when dad would bring home a deer or elk.

The family would dress and process the wild game together. We all put the labor in to clean, cure, and then process the meat to put in the freezer for the long, cold winter months. There’s some sort of satisfaction that goes into that work, and then enjoying a steak in the middle of a snowed in February night.

That’s not the hunt though. That’s a way of life; a laborious way of life I continually appreciate.

Many years my dad’s cousins and friends would come to hunt the elk of Colorado. Many years we would have fun enjoying their company as they camped out in our yard, or on the floor of the main house. No matter the time of year, I remember dad building a campfire out back where we’d all circle around. They’d tell stories of the trials, tribulations, and successes of the hunts. Every year hunting season was a joy for all of us. Not always, but many years the season would close, and they would head home with no animal on which to put their hunting tags.

One of dad’s friends, who he’d met in kindergarten and I call my uncle, came year after year. He, his brother and his friends hunted hard. Sometimes one in their group would successfully take down an elk. They too shared the campfire stories, and one time he brought his son. My brother and I played in the hills while the adults visited. The next day he was blessed to tag along when one in his dad’s group got a nice 4×4 bull elk.

Year after year my uncle returned. While he’d taken cow elk (a female), he’d never taken a bull. He was determined to successfully tag one and continually worked toward the dream. As the years advanced, he gained a bit of weight, and his health deteriorated a bit, but it didn’t deter him from his quest.

One year he showed up, and his breathing was short. The doctor had put him on medication and suggested a healthy, low-fat diet. That year he couldn’t make the hikes up the steep San Juan Mountains. His brother, my dad, and their friend headed up the first short hill. Dad came back and asked if I was going to come. I declined and said I’d stay behind as well. I knew my uncle was feeling down. He still dreamed of tagging a bull and hoped his health would be better next year so he could get up there and go after them.

He and I sat on the tailgate of his pick up truck, at the bottom of a mountain draw, drinking coffee, warming our hands on the cups that chilly October morning, and watching the sun come up. Oh my, how one can never tire of the majesty of a morning sunrise over the Rockies! As the shadows came, the sun glistened, and we sat there, the coyotes’ song rang loud, echoing across the valley, announcing a new day. We looked at each other and smiled then continued to quietly tell stories, taking our binoculars and glassing occasionally, to see if we’d spy any elk in the vicinity.

We wondered how the others in the group were doing, and I could see the weight on my “uncle’s” mind. He told stories of past hunts, hiking to the highest peaks, seeing horned owls, bears, and other wildlife, and a time when his horse took him to close to a tree. He laughed saying he was lazy and thought he’d simply break off the branch before him, but the branch was stout. Before he knew it, he rolled off the back of the horse and found himself laying on the ground. We shared a good chuckle and refilled our coffee from his thermos.

As we sat there smiling on the tailgate, we caught movement out of the corner of our eyes. We raised our binoculars and spied a herd of cow elk descending from the oak brush toward the meadow before us. We turned to look at each other in amazement. We thought, “Could this really be happening?”

Before the elk could clear the brush, he grabbed his rifle, and we slowly crouched to the ground, getting into a prone position. We knew the cows would be first, and we hoped a bull would follow. As he readied his rifle, resting it on his pack, I glassed further up the mountain into the oak brush to see if I could spy antlers.

The oak brush is thick, and it always amazes me at how quietly an elk can maneuver through. Since the branches are nearly as tall as they are you sometimes don’t even hear or see them until they emerge in a sparse area. I knew I needed to scan for movement or antlers that look like branches. Then I saw them! — Antlers!

I whispered, “I see a bull.” My uncle shuffled his position. I explained how far above, the direction he’s coming, and where I thought he’d emerge. Uncle readied, moving his rifle in the direction I’d indicated. I notified him when the bull would stop and when he’d begin down the hill again.

Before long there were more than a dozen cow elk feeding in the middle of the meadow. We waited patiently as we watched the bull emerge, clear the brush and then begin to feed out into the meadow. Uncle was patient. He waited for the elk to turn broadside, and then for him to move his front leg forward, and then he took his shot.

I watched through my binoculars as the big 6×6 bull spun, attempted to run, and then fell to the ground. After years of working so hard, he’d finally tagged a bull elk, and it wasn’t just a legal bull. It was a beautiful 6×6; every elk hunter’s dream. The cows scattered up the mountain, and we lay there in the dirt, in awe.

I looked over and saw the most massive smile I’d ever seen. The disappointment of not being able to climb the mountain had dispersed, and a tear of happiness filled my uncle’s eye.

He and I field dressed the bull, and when dad and his other friends returned there were huge smiles all around, lots of high fives, and congratulations, and still that tear in my uncle’s eye. We all loaded it into the truck, took it home and readied it to hang and cure. That night we shared fellowship and celebrated with elk tenderloin. The celebration was not only about his success but about health, happiness, and the meals his family would have.

We’d spent quality time together, watched that beautiful sunrise over those majestic mountains, listened to the coyotes’ song, watched hawks soar, and witnessed the incredible stealthiness of a massive animal. We helped one another, and despite my uncle’s health, we’d filled his hunting license. He and his family would have a freezer full of organic, low-fat meat. Hunting is about life, sustenance, family, friends, and conservation of all things, including animals and human beings.

Although I knew that hunting animals isn’t about killing, that season, it became even more evident. It’s about overcoming obstacles, finding sustenance, being skillful, and sometimes it’s about chance.


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Big Game Hunting – How to Prepare Your Harvest

Learning to prepare your harvests, when big game hunting, is key to great tasting meals on the table. One of the most overlooked parts of hunting is what we do after the shot. Learn how to field dress big game at a hunter’s workshop. 


Hunters, learn to prepare your harvest during CPW’s Field Dressing 101, Sept. 20 in Grand Junction

CPW_SiteLogoFRUITA, Colo. – With the big game hunting seasons approaching quickly, Colorado Parks and Wildlife is offering ‘Field Dressing 101’ – another in a long line of free seminars geared toward helping hunters have a successful season. The one-evening only class will be held at the Horsethief Canyon State Wildlife Area, Tuesday, Sept. 20, beginning at 6:30 p.m.

The class is detailed and will include the use of real animals to provide thorough examples of how to properly field dress big game.

Registration is required and is limited to the first 40 students that sign-up. Visit www.register-ed.com/events/view/87706 or call 970-255-6100 to reserve your spot.

“Especially for the new hunters, field dressing is often the most challenging part of a successful hunt,” said Dick Severin, assistant northwest region hunter outreach coordinator. “This is great class for the beginner but even a seasoned pro might learn some new tips about field processing.”

CPW-Elk-de05b07b-d53b-49f3-b53a-322982ddd9cfInstructors will demonstrate gutting and gutless methods of field processing, quartering, and suggestions for transporting the meat out of the field. Additional topics will include techniques for skinning with taxidermy in mind.

“If you are planning to mount your harvest, knowing how skin the animal properly is critical so that the taxidermist can have a properly prepared hide to work with,” said Severin.

The seminar is offered through the agency’s Hunter Outreach Program. Through workshops, clinics, seminars, and educational hunts, the program appeals to diverse interests, backgrounds and levels of ability, helping novices learn about Colorado’s hunting heritage and traditions.

Colorado hunting regulations require that all big game animals be prepared for human consumption as soon as possible after being killed.

Who: Colorado Parks and Wildlife

What: ‘Field Dressing 101’

When: Sept. 20, 6:30 p.m.

Where: Horsethief Canyon State Wildlife Area – Directions provided on the registration page.

Registration: www.register-ed.com/events/view/87706 or call 970-255-6100

For more information about hunting in Colorado, visit www.cpw.state.co.us/thingstodo/Pages/hunt.aspx

CPW is an enterprise agency, relying primarily on license sales, state parks fees and registration fees to support its operations, including: 42 state parks and more than 350 wildlife areas covering approximately 900,000 acres, management of fishing and hunting, wildlife watching, camping, motorized and non-motorized trails, boating and outdoor education. CPW’s work contributes approximately $6 billion in total economic impact annually throughout Colorado.


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Evaluation of Elk Management Near Gunnison

CPW evaluating elk management near Gunnison

CPW_SiteLogoGUNNISON, Colo. – Colorado Parks and Wildlife will be seeking public input at two meetings regarding a new elk-management plan for an area near Gunnison. The new plan will guide elk management in Game Management Units 66 and 67, which are located south of Gunnison and north of Lake City.

The meetings: 6:30-8:30 p.m., July 26, in Lake City at the Armory on 230 Bluff Street (corner of Third and Bluff streets); and in Gunnison, 6:30-8:30 p.m., July 27, in the student center theater on the campus of Western State Colorado University. Anyone who can’t attend the meetings can submit comments to CPW at: Kevin.blecha@state.co.us.


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At the meetings, CPW wildlife staff will give a presentation about the current status of the elk herd in that area.

Management plans are written for specific elk and deer herd areas – known as Data Analysis Units ‒ and are updated about once every ten years. The plans, which include individual population objectives, take into consideration a variety of factors and influence management related to hunter harvest and hunter opportunity. Factors include: agricultural, range and ecological conditions, socio-economic considerations, input from other state and federal agencies, and input from hunters and the general public.

“There is a lot of information we need to develop an elk management plan and input from the public is a critical piece of information to assure a well-reasoned plan,” said J Wenum, area wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife in Gunnison. “So we want to hear from ranchers, landowners, business owners, hunters and the general public.”

CPW wildlife managers expect to have the management plan completed in the spring.


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CPW is an enterprise agency, relying primarily on license sales, state parks fees and registration fees to support its operations, including: 42 state parks and more than 350 wildlife areas covering approximately 900,000 acres, management of fishing and hunting, wildlife watching, camping, motorized and non-motorized trails, boating and outdoor education. CPW’s work contributes approximately $6 billion in total economic impact annually throughout Colorado.


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Submit Colorado Big Game License Applications Online

It’s time to apply for our 2016 Colorado elk, mule deer, black bear and antelope tags. You can do this online. See Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s details below. ~Mia

CPW DOW header Colorado Parks Wildlife

2016 Hunting brochures, applications available online

DENVER – An early morning sunrise viewed from a meadow, forest, mountain or plain, while listening to chipmunks shuffle through the leaves, is just one of the timeless memories that await big-game, sheep and goat hunters this fall in Colorado.

Create a memory like this and many others that come with enjoying the great outdoors by preparing now for the fall seasons. Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s brochures for big game, sheep and goat can help and are available now online.


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In addition, CPW’s online application period and secure license application portal is open now until 11:59 p.m., April 5, 2016.  Check out http://cpw.state.co.us/learn/Pages/PlanYourHunt.aspx to find all the resources CPW has to offer hunters to complete their applications now.

“Sports men and women are encouraged to review CPW’s  brochure and regulations before application,” said Matt Robbins, CPW spokesman. “CPW’s license refund policy has changed and applicants should be aware of new requirements and fees.”

The Big Game brochure contains regulations for deer, elk, pronghorn, moose and bear and the Sheep and Goat brochure contains regulations for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, desert bighorn sheep, and mountain goat. Brochures are available in print at CPW offices or any of the 750 license vendors throughout the state.

An approved hunter education card or certificate is required before applying for or purchasing a Colorado hunting license if you were born on or after Jan. 1, 1949. Colorado honors hunter education certifications from other states, countries and Canadian provinces. Read more or find a class at CPW’s Hunter Education page.

To complete an application online, check out this video and have the following information handy:

  • Current and valid photo ID and/or Customer Identification number (CID)
  • Proof of Hunter Education certification
  • Proof of Colorado residency (if applicable)
  • A 2016 Habitat Stamp, which will be automatically added to your online application if required. It can also be purchased separately. The $10 stamp is required for license buyers between the ages of 18- 64. Learn more at http://cpw.state.co.us/buyapply/Pages/HabitatStamp.aspx.
  • Social Security number for customers 12 years and older, unless already on file.
  • Hunt Codes (up to four for each species)
  • Credit Card (Mastercard, Visa or Discover)

Customer service representatives are available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. MDT at 303-297-1192 and specially trained Hunt Planners are available to assist hunters by phone at 303-291-7526. Hunters can also get personal assistance at one of CPW’s regional service centers in Denver, Grand Junction, Colorado Springs or Durango or any CPW office or State Park.


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Get Outdoors – Shed Hunting Restriction in Colorado | Mia’s Motivations

CPW DOW header Colorado Parks Wildlife

SHED ANTLER COLLECTING IN GUNNISON BASIN CLOSED UNTIL MARCH 15

GUNNISON, Colo. In order to minimize disturbance to wildlife during the cold winter months, shed antler collecting is prohibited in the Gunnison Basin until March 15. After that date, collectors must be aware of regulations for this activity established by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

“Special regulations have been in place for several years, so anyone planning to collect antlers should call our office and check to be certain they understand the rules,” said J Wenum, area wildlife manager in Gunnison.

A shed as big as she is.Those who violate the regulations can be fined $70, be assessed five penalty points against their hunting and fishing privileges, and antlers collected will be confiscated. Harassing wildlife is also illegal under state statute and can result in additional fines.

Winter is a difficult time for wildlife; human activity can cause significant stress on animals, especially big game. Deer often lose up to 30 percent of their body weight during the winter. If they are forced to move they burn the extra calories they need to get them through the winter.

In the Gunnison Basin in big game management units 54, 55, 551, 66 and 67, here are the special regulations that are in place to prevent disturbance of animals on public lands: Collection of shed antlers is prohibited on public lands within those units from Jan. 1 through March 14. From March 15 through May 15, shed antler collection is prohibited from legal sunset to 10 a.m.

 

CLICK TO SHOP SWAROVSKI OPTICS

Collectors are advised to consult official sunset tables and to obtain accurate maps of the area. Anyone who has questions about the regulations can contact the Colorado Parks and Wildlife office in Gunnison at 970-641-7060. Members of the public who see people violating the closure should call the Gunnison office.

 

Collectors and other recreationists also should be aware that to protect Gunnison sage-grouse leks, the BLM and Gunnison County close roads throughout the basin to motorized travel during the winter and early spring. To learn about road closures or to report closure violations, call the BLM, 970-642-4940, U.S. Forest Service, 970-641-0471; or Gunnison County, 970-641-8201.

For more information about Colorado Parks and Wildlife go to: http://cpw.state.co.us.



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Hunting – 83 Year Old Elk Hunter | Mia’s Motivaitons

Many of us take it for granted a lot of the hiking, hunting and climbing we do. If we want to stalk an animal, we just do it. What a challenge to get grandpa close enough to that cow elk. 83 years old, successful and happy as can be! Closing on the first season of the year, always remember to be thankful for everything you have, health, happiness and the ability to hunt!

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Memories of a high mountain elk hunt

You couldn’t ask for better quality mom/daughter time than on an elk hunt in the high country. LG had quite the hunting season last fall. She drew more hunting tags than we knew what to do with. Actually we DID know what to do with them. We went hunting!

2014-We drew some tags. Did you? (Colorado draw results and preference points)

LG had a Colorado bear tag, a rifle elk tag, a mule deer tag AND a New Mexico elk tag. That’s a lot of tags for Little Gal, especially when she has school to attend. We try not to miss too much school for hunting, but I admit it does happen.

I took her out of school for 3 days, and we headed for the high country to look for an elk. It was quite a fun trip for the two of us. We had good times, made good memories and spent quality time together. PLUS she knocked down an elk! Horseback elk hunt packing out  LG elk

Pre-hunt: Set up camp in 6″ of snow! “WHOOP! WHOOP!” Snow helps the hunt.

Day 1: We rode in a horseback. It was dark and we made it to our desired spot before sunrise. The shadows of three cows crossed before sunlight. There were no bulls with them. LG had an either sex tag but really wanted a bull.
As the sun rose we saw the cows had moved from the meadow and on up a hill across the way. Shortly after sunrise we heard bulls screaming and headed that way. We had one within 100 yards, screaming at us, through the thick trees. We called but couldn’t pull him out.
The snow from the night before was frozen and crusted. We waited until it softened and then made our stalk. We scaled the mountain, keeping downwind, until we were on the same level as the bull. We stopped to catch our breath and glass through the thick trees to see if we could spot him. Suddenly we heard him jump and run.
“Dang it! He must have winded us.”
Nope. Shortly after we saw orange coming across a game trail. Yep another hunter had spooked him.
So close, but no luck on day 1.

Day 2: We were there before sun up again. We tied the horses and waited near by for the sun to rise. It took forever that day. It poured rain, sleeted, snowed and hailed. When it was finally light enough to see, we saw nothing. The elk were fairly quiet. We heard faint bugles here and there. Who knows, that may have been other hunters attempting to locate the bulls. We rode and glassed and rode and glassed. We ran into a lot of hunters. That day was tough because, as I said, it had snowed the day before. The snow crunched when we hiked. There was not sneaking anywhere that day. That second day we attained nothing wet and cold.

Day 3: That morning we bypassed all the early meadows. There was a camp we’d had to pass the morning before. The race was on because the hunters there were already gone. They tried to beat us up the mountain. We noted they were afoot. Then we saw their tracks went to the right. You guessed it. We went left and rode our horses right up that mountain.
As we crested a bench, I caught sight of the rear-end of an elk moving through the trees. I signaled for LG to be quiet and look. (As if she wasn’t already quiet. Sheesh.) Then I began to cow call as we rode up to the next bench. We were right in middle of a herd. I continued to call and signaled for LG to dismount. She stood at a nearby tree as I tied the horses in some thick pines.
When I turned around LG was waving. I knew she was eyeballing the cows so I discretely hurried to her side. We waited behind the tree as the cows meandered, mewed, circle and ate. They were all around us. LG said “I want to shoot that one.” She pointed at a large, healthy looking cow. We ducked down and crawled beside a large log.
LG got her rifle set, steadied and made her shot. 40 yards! Right in the goodies! Then the work began. Field dressing, quartering, packing and riding out. We were some happy gals!
By the way, that was the only shot we heard that day. Does it remind you of the “Early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese” quote?

Me & LG on and elk hunt in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado.
Me & LG on and elk hunt in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado.

This year we are looking forward to more hunts of just as good and even better adventures. The adventures of Mia & LG! WHOOP! WHOOP!

Here’s a video for you to enjoy! 


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What A Trooper

One of my favorite things is how excited a hunting client gets when he puts meat in the freezer. Here is a story from a few years ago that is one of my favorites!

We took my friend’s 83 year old grandfather hunting for his private land cow elk. Each year we think that it may be his last hunt because of his age and of course his health. This year was no different.

The thermometer read -18 degrees when we headed out to search for an elk for grandpa.  We spotted a small herd over a ridge.  After a very short uphill hike and a whole lot of huffing and puffing and stops to catch his breath grandpa got into position for a shot.  Unfortunately, his shot missed its mark.  The hike was a lot for him.  He just was not able to catch his breath to get steadied enough. He was pretty upset about his miss and quietly walked back down the hill to the pick-up.  We headed home for dinner and put him under the electric blanket to rest.

The second morning it was -23 on the thermometer. We were up early and grandpa was ready to hunt again. Grandpa was sore from the previous day and he told us he was worn out. He didn’t think he could do another hike like the previous day so we took him to a location that had easier access. Today the girls just were not co-operating. They were on the wrong side of the fence. We could not set grandpa out to wait for them to come to the property. It was simply too cold. We headed home for the day. 

On our third and last day we got up early and took grandpa for his “last chance” cow elk hunt. That morning the temperature warmed up a little for us.  It was -12 when we left the house! We headed to the same piece of property and the same herd was still on the wrong side of the fence. Grandpa was getting very discouraged. He wanted to fill his freezer. the cold temperatures were very hard for him. He was beating himself up for missing the first morning and for not being able to hike around as good as he once could.  Fortunately we received a call and it was a land owner who said he had spotted a herd of cows. 

There was a potential problem with this property. All the meadows were a long way from the house with rolling hills in between.  We stopped and hooked up the snowmobile trailer on the way.  When we arrived we loaded a bundled up grandpa on back of the snowmobile and headed up the deep snow-covered valley. We stopped over a hill hoping we had not scared the animals away and then walked to the top to peer over.

Sure enough, there was a small heard of cow elk!  

Excitement began. We unloaded grandpa and he slowly hiked across the meadow and up a hill. He breathed and sighted in on a cow. I saw some hesitation in his eye.  He was worried about another miss. Then he took a deep breath. There was a shot and hit!!! Grandpa stood there, trembling with excitement. It was the GREATEST thing to see the smile on that man’s face! Hunts like grandpa’s are a lot of work but definitely rewarding. Not only to him but also to his guide! 

Many of us take it for granted a lot of the hiking, hunting and climbing we do. If we want to stalk an animal, we just do it. 83 years old, successful and happy as can be! Always remember to be thankful for everything you have, health, happiness and the ability to hunt!

 

 

The smile says it all! Grandpa is proud to put meat in the freezer!

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Come check out Mia & the Little Gal

Women's Outdoor NewsHave you been over to the Women’s Outdoor News yet? Are you subscribed to the news feed and updates? It is a great site for men as well as women. Not only will you find news, reviews and updates about women in hunting, shooting and outdoor world, but you can catch up with ME and my Little Gal!
Head over the the WON and see what we’re up to!

Mia & the Little Gal: On High Country elk hunting and ‘tag sandwiches’
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Mia and the Little Gal headed on horseback to the High Country of Colorado with a bull tag in hand for elk, and lots of optimism. They may have come home without their elk, but they brought memories to last a lifetime!

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