Man o man, where does a guy even begin? I suppose the first thing I should do is apologize for last weeks missed blog and anybody I neglected as I ran wild in the woods. And sure hope everybody had a great Thanksgiving with friends and family. It was the first time in a long time I took a week off from everything…and it was awesome! Had some incredible experiences throughout the whole hunting season and finished with a bang…not literally though I am only human like the rest of us and would damn sure click on a blog that had a picture of a big bull before not. With this being said, I hope you have still found yourself here! I have no picture of a big bull that has haunted me for four years now; but what I do have is a collection of the most cherished and magical memories. And about forty bulls that don’t know how lucky they are to be feeding in a park right now I remember the closest I came to shooting a bull was in 10’ and it was an awesome non-typical rag horn bull. He had a giant horn that came straight out from the side of his head. About the time I had myself talked into filling the freezer he walked up to a cow and gave her a giant sloppy kiss across the face…SAFETY ON! I have a huge deep respect for Mother Nature and all her wonderful children, but it grew immensely after I passed my first bull. Instead of pulling the trigger and seeing a flash of smoke…I clearly see my ghost white passion in their truest form. I have learned a lot and have got to see what very few hunters ever see. And I bet I’ve pulled the trigger with the safety on more than you…ha ha ha! I want to point out that there is ABSOLUTELY nothing wrong with shooting an elk of any size…I am just a full blown dumbass! I started this rant four years ago and it has been the wildest, most incredible journey of my life.
I would like to share just a couple memories from this season:
“A DAY WITH BIG D” In the second week of the season I hunted a day with my partner Dale Smithson. We ventured up a ridge we both have been eyeing for a couple years now. Huffing and puffing by the time we hit the top…fresh elk sign! Moseying along it wasn’t long before my nostrils filled with that deliciously rank aroma of elk. The forest started coming alive with elk and I had legal bulls within 100 yards. I scanned the forest like a search team for that elusive rack that haunts me every day. About the time I thought I had seen every elk, they caught wind of the even ranker human aroma and exploded off the ridge. There ended up being four branch antler bulls and a spike…and I am happy to announce I saw at least a couple calves!High fiving from the awesome experience we had just walked into, movement caught both our eyes to the left. Dale said, “what the hek?” and I said “WOLF!” Let’s just say nobody in this world no matter how big or bad wants to get between Dale and a wolf! All I remember was Dale saying “outta the way!” and he looked like a freight train busting through the trees for a shot. As he got his stance…BOOM!!! I watched the animal hit the ground and I yelled, “dude, you just busted a wolf.” Well, apparently the excitement grew my eyes and the big bad wolf ended up being a wily coyote. But to add the potatoes to the pot, I wouldn’t want to be a wolf in the woods with BIG D!
“Pine Needle Soup”
One night as dad and I were sitting (way too far back in like always) watching a park until dark we noticed a pine bough bouncing up and down. I quickly grabbed my rifle thinking an elk must have just bumped it and would walk out at any minute. To my surprise I spotted a big ol’ male Blue Grouse walking up and down the bough. Wondering what the heck he was doing I raised my binoculars to watch this marvel moment. He looked like a teeter totter at a children playground bouncing from beak to tail. I have to admit I have opened up a million late season grouse and found pine needles exploding from their crops. What I have not done is imagine how they got there…I have pictured (and watched) grouse picking berries and chasing hoppers but never playing teetor totter on a pine bough. Although we saw no elk that night we can now add a teetor tottering blue grouse to the bag of memories…and a long walk out of a s*&%hole with headlamps.
“Obstacle Course from Hell”
One morning heading into one of the toughest places I hunt, I heard crashing to my right and to my surprise it was not the elk or mule deer I imagined. It was a massive white wolf that looked like it was from a horror movie. I only caught a glimpse and then I looked up at the atrocious dark downfall infested jungle he disappeared into. I will also add, I had just crowned the head of the ridge that has a grade so steep you almost need mountaineering gear to make it. Of course he would be at the top instead of the bottom, and I knew what I had to do.
With the elk park only a couple minutes away, I decided to give up elk for the day and pursue the timbered beast. WORST MISTAKE OF MY LIFE…HANDS DOWN! I have never been drug through such a monstrous forest in my life! It literally had layers of downfall and of course it was snow covered so it was slicker than cat poop. I have already broken one leg in the mountains and I must have been trying to break the other. At one point I was so frustrated from falling I thought there is no way it could get worse…WRONG! As I stepped over a down fall log onto another, my foot gave out and I came down almost leaving my manhood on a protruding limp. Let me tell ya, nothing like racking your nuts in the middle of a freaking jungle. The only reason I didn’t curl into the fetal position and give up was because I was so twisted and stuck in the logs I couldn’t move. Luckily now that I’m out alive with all body parts still attached I can laugh about it with you.
Getting back on his tracks he eluded me even deeper into his realm. That scheming bugger would take me across a giant side hill (keep in mind I can’t see more than forty feet in any one direction) and would loop around and get right back in MY tracks. Ohhhh, the nerve that elk eating machine had to tease me like it was a game! As the day continued he did this to me at least a couple more times before I ran short of daylight. I was so exhausted from the wolfing obstacle course through the thick I had depleted my food and water supply long before I gave up. Finally getting back to the truck…HAGGARD!!! I called my dad to tell him the story and he had some words that gave a great deal of comfort. He said, “Well, at least that bastard knows what it’s like to be hunted now.”
“Testosterone and a Snowshoe Hare”
As dad and I headed out for the last hunting day of the season, we were hunting as hard as ever, but no harder than we ever do. About forty five minutes into the last day we were blessed with two beautiful rag horns feeding through a park right in front of us. Deciding we would let them get a couple years on em’ we patiently admired them doing their thing. Like I mentioned before, when you pull the trigger all you see is smoke. After a couple minutes of watching them feed, the front bull which was a broken horned four point turned and locked antlers with the five point. If we weren’t blessed enough to walk into two legal bulls the last day…we got to watch their testosterone fueled duel for half an hour. Just plain cool…damn cool!
After getting too far back into the thick to walk out mid-day, we found a great perch overlooking the mountains and decided to build a fire. Collecting fuel from the trees it wasn’t long before I was sound asleep by the fire. Talk about the life…the good life! After spending four lovely hours by the fire it was time to make our move. It had come down to the wire…less than two hours before the season ending buzzer. As we made our way down the ridge I caught movement to my left. Looking closer I saw a blinding white Snowshoe hare scurrying to the edge of the trail in front of us. Dad said, “walk slowly and I’ll bet he just sits there.” We walked by him giving him as much harmless radiance as we could and he didn’t budge…we were within two feet of him. It is so neat how nature breaks down; the little fella knows how well he blends into the snow under his feet. It is experiences like this that will always hold my heart on the mountain.
As the day crept closer to its demise, the sky turned to an unbelievable pastel Easter egg purple with a pink border. Creeping along the ridge dreaming of a giant rack of horns in the final moments on such a gorgeous night it seemed to perfect to not happen. The next thing I knew it was too dark to see through the timber and the season had drifted away. The most bittersweet feeling a guy like me could ever have in this world…in a good way. I am thankful for my adventures this season has brought to me, I will cherish them forever.