This post is long over-due. Five weeks out before G & D venture to the Colorado mountains once again, and I have yet to give a recap from last year’s hunt.
In 2012 G & D spent the first 5 days of September in the backwoods of the San Juan Mountains near Creede, CO. The Southern San Juan Wilderness is an expanse of nearly 160,000 acres with prime Elk habitat calling our inner Indian name. We had a single bull/bow tag for the archery season for GMU 77, which is regarded as some of the roughest terrain in southern Colorado. The intimidating slopes and ridges are largely why this unit was so desirable to us; we wanted to pack in where the elk hide and where we wouldn’t be bothered by other hunters (and we weren’t).
Heading several miles into the wilderness from the Rio Grande Reservoir, we set up camp for the first night as sunlight slowly drained from the sky. We got an early start the next morning, ate some quick oats, and headed to where we thought wapiti would be holding up. Numerous hours pouring over topo maps and dreaming about where we would find that perfect 5×5 bull was leading us to a couple high basins deep in the San Juans.
Most of day 2 and all of day 3 were spent trekking through thick timber that bordered picturesque mountain meadows, where we thought we would find the elk feeding. Honestly, I do not think that we made many mistakes on this trip, but our major fault was in this hunting strategy these two days. We discovered countless rubs, shredding small trees to pieces, and elk droppings throughout this timber, but no real fresh sign. We did see elk every day, but our rookie experience did not help us slay the beast.
Finally on day 4, feeling a little frustrated, we decided to head deeper into the basin and higher up the mountain. This immediately proved to be a good decision when we got two bulls to bugle back and forth with us early that morning. The problem was that we were down low and they were up high, and with all the adrenaline pumping through our veins during the bugle battle, we decided to climb up the nearly vertical slope where they calls were coming from. We probably didn’t have mountain goat agility and likely did not possess snow leopard stealth, but when we got near the tree line we were caught in a starring contest with a weary cow. Soon the bull and his cows were tearing down the trail, leaving us gasping for more thin air. Although this didn’t fill our packs with elk steaks for the grill, we discovered where the wapiti were hiding. We found a well used trail, seemingly an elk highway, deeply rutted into the dirt and with scars covering adjacent trees from passing antler racks.
Sadly, we learned where the elk were traveling too late into our hunt and were not able to successfully close on anything. However, the hunt was nowhere near a bust, and like I said before, I do not think that we made many mistakes during this hunt and the wealth of knowledge we gained is priceless. The experience of enduring the Colorado wilderness and chasing wapiti with a lifelong brother is an experience that words can not truly explain. I am blessed to have had to opportunity once, and I look forward to many more. Here is a video, giving a glimpse to what we experienced in the San Juan Mountains last September.
The 2013 Colorado elk archery season is not far away, and you bet your boots G & D will be back in the backcountry during the last week of September. I hope to make some more posts to share what we learned form last season and how we are prepping ourselves for the next trip. Stay tuned.
God Bless TGR.
Follow the Lord.