This blog is intended to chronicle the time and preparation before and through the Colorado archery elk hunt. I reserve the right to alter, embellish, edit or otherwise change this blog at any time as I see fit!
August 1, 2009
The elk hunt is just under a month away and my fitness level is not where I want it to be. I’ve been hiking and camping quite a bit throughout the summer with my family and our scout troop, and even completed my third 50 Miler Award, but my cardiovascular is severely lacking and my eating habits have sunk to a new low. Time to set goals and get hopping! I ran (mostly!) two miles this morning and it felt great to get moving, but terrible to see how bad of shape my lungs are in. I am also starting back on my weight lifting program of 3-4 nights per week.
August 3, 2009
The running is starting to get a bit better. I actually made the two miles without walking at all; progress! My walkman charging cord that was missing has been found and Operation: Mindcrime has become the music of choice while running for now.
August 4, 2009
I’m feeling brave today so I decided to time myself on the two mile run. Results: 19 min 57 seconds. Just barely under ten minutes per mile and pretty pathetic, but it’s a start. Timing the run definitely puts the mental pressure on!
This afternoon I made some (hopefully) final tweeks to my Elite Envy to get it fully setup for hunting. The quiver is mounted, the poundage has been checked and double checked at 70 lbs, the strings are in great condition. I changed out the 100 gr. field points on my ST Axis 340 arrows for 125 gr. This will bring the total arrow weight to 450 gr. and boost my FOC to just under 13%. Fletchings will be the white FOBs that I fell in love with last year for shooting broadheads.
Chronographing with my hunting setup showed an average speed of 303 fps over ten shots and a kinetic energy (KE) of 90 ft-lbs. Easily enough to blow through an elk on a good shot and take out bones and other obstacles on a less than ideal shot. Now I just need to get some 125 gr. G5 Montecs to trade out for the 100s I used last year.
August 7, 2009
The scale doesn’t lie; I’ve been losing an average of about a pound a day since getting on the fitness bandwagon and cutting out most of my bad eating habits. I started at almost 185 lbs (6′ 0″ height) and my goal is somewhere between 165 and 170, depending on when the love handles are gone and the six-pack shows up! (one can dream can’t they?) I even started a chart to track my running and weight so I can keep my eye on the goal. Against my possible better judgement, the chart will be posted below for the morbidly curious and to keep myself honest.
August 10, 2009
I’ve been slowly adding an extra block or two to my morning runs. That’s almost three continuous miles with no stopping or walking. More than anything it is a mental game. My body seems willing but my mind is struggling with the will to keep going. There has never been a time in my life where I have enjoyed running, but the end goal is keeping me going. The key thus far has been picking the right music to go with the exercise and to pick a different running course every so often. By changing courses I don’t know the exact mileage I have run and I tend to focus less on how much is left to go.
August 12, 2009
After shooting my Ultra Elite with a bunch of different lighted nocks for the review I’m currently working on, it was time to fine-tune the Envy. I started with bare shaft tuning and made one minor tweak at 20 yards. Walk back tuning was up next and everything looked great all the way back. So far there are no equipment surprises this year; just how I like it. Shooting your hunting equipment throughout the entire year is a huge benefit and can sure save some headaches as hunting season approaches.
August 14, 2009
After going through my humongous box of bowhunting goodies, I found that I had far too many broadheads that I no longer used. I ended up selling off a dozen new Thunderheads, a three pack of nearly new Rage expandables and traded a three pack of SpitFires plus some cash for ten Montec 125 gr. heads. That’s the last piece of my equipment that I needed and now I’m good to go after polishing up the blades and tuning them for good flight.
August 16, 2009
I just couldn’t resist breaking out the bugle and watching my three shih-tzus run for the hills. I’m sure PETA and ALF will be knocking on my door any minute. Note to self: my wife does not appreciate the bugle in the house either!
August 17, 2009
The challenge has been thrown down! My 14 year-old son is in the middle of high school soccer tryouts and they have certain time goals for two and three mile runs. To be considered for the varsity team you must run two miles in under 14 minutes and three miles in under 24 minutes. If he can do it, I can! Right? I’ve got my work cut out for me.
August 18, 2009
I took lunch at the archery range today to shot the broadheads in the sand pit and make sure all is well. At 20 yards things looked good; at 30 yards I was a bit left on all three shots; at 40 yards all three shots were 3-4” to the left! I repeated the shots at 40 again to verify the results and it was the same. The bow hadn’t changed it’s overall setup since last year’s hunt, so I thought maybe something had gone out of tune. Earlier in the week it had bare-shaft and walk back tuned beautifully so I was at a loss.
Right as I was getting out the wrench set to move the rest a tad, it hit me, same thing as last year! For whatever reason, when I first break out the broadheads, something snaps in my head and I get a little punchy on the release. The mental game can be killer! I put the wrenches away and took the time to remind myself to use my back muscles properly. This resulted in three broadhead tipped arrows going through the target in a 3-4” pattern dead center. Mission accomplished. Several more shots later and I was feeling good about how my hunting setup performs.
Now to spin test every head with every shaft and pick the best of the best for one last quick shooting test, sharpening and then into the quiver to wait for the great wapiti to be in the right place at the right time.
August 19, 2009
Ten days until the elk hunt! I quit shaving and started growing my “camouflage.” Somehow this does not please my wife. I’m going with the “it makes me ruggedly handsome” defense but so far she’s not buying it.
August 20, 2009
The “check engine” light is lit up like a stop light on my 4Runner. I knew things were going too well up to this point.
August 22, 2009
This morning was spent checking error codes and reading truck repair manuals. It would appear that the air to fuel mixture is off and that would explain the check engine light and the noted loss in mpg lately. Unfortunately, I did not pin down the source of the problem and will have to investigate further. The good news is that the early morning run showed continued progress in my times and I’m almost enjoying running…almost.
The evening was spent out with my new hunting partner, his son, and my second oldest son doing some clay pigeon and target shooting. It’s hard to find any fault in a day that ends with the smell of gun smoke in the air. The downside is that I was outshot. I was shooting terrible and if there is one thing I don’t handle well it is getting outshot using any weapon! The only consolation is that I was outshot by a very good shooter.
August 24, 2009
Today was the day to time my three mile run and I had slept horrible. Nightmares of not being able to pull my bow back on a bull elk haunted my dreams. It’s always something like that, or my shotgun falling apart when I’m pulling up on a flock of geese, that really messes up my otherwise pleasant hunting dreams. Anyhow, it was off to run and another improvement in time! The weight is still dropping as I have stuck to my guns on improving my eating habits. I’m feeling like I have a lot more energy and can’t wait until Saturday to put my feet to the mountainside.
August 26, 2009
Tuesday night was our annual handball tournament with our scout troop that we played at the local roller hockey rinks. Talk about a workout! Not to mention the nicely bruised ribs I got in a rather nasty collision. I did my 3+ miles this morning then headed to the local range to shoot my broadheads at the longer ranges. At 40 yards I was hitting a 3″ square of styrofoam more often then not and at 50 yards was hitting it about 50% of the time, without any flyers. This gave me a good chunk of confidence and I feel my equipment and shooting are ready for Friday.
I gave blood at work, then ran a sprinted mile for kicks to see how much it affected me. It was definitely draining but I still made the mile in under 7 minutes so I didn’t feel too bad about it. We’ll see how tomorrow’s run goes.
August 29, 2009
Today the elk hunt opens! Unfortunately things did not work out with my hunting partner for the day as he had some business emergencies to take care of so the elk are safe…for now.
September 3, 2009
The hunt got off to a slightly rocky start as the makeup of the hunting party went through some last minute changes. Marc had business to take care of and David ended up coming at the last minute instead. We left for the two and a half hour drive at about 10:30am and arrived in time to get in an afternoon hunt. Because Marc was the only one who had previously been to this area, David and I were going off of second hand information and did our best to interpret how to approach the hunting.
We started around an elevation of 10,700 feet and headed downhill then across a couple of nice ravines and bowls, ending up at around 10,000 feet. There was a lot of sign, but all of it older than few days and the bulls were silent. A nice little four point buck ran up the trail at me then did a u-turn upon scenting me but that was it for large animal encounters.
It was very disappointing to see just how bad the pine beetle infestation has become. Much of the area is covered with lodgepole pine and most of these were dead or dieing. There were stands of fir that seems more resistant to the beetle and hopefully they will remain strong. To counteract the ugliness of the beetle kill, a beautiful full moon rose as the sun set and made for a very bright night in the clear skies. Camp was setup at the top of the ridge we had been hunting off of.
September 4, 2009
The morning was filled with the bright moon and we headed downhill right out of camp. We intended to cover a slightly different area than the previous afternoon to try to find more recent sign. Unfortunately, we managed to find plenty of the same type of sign. At one point we heard a lot of movement across a small ravine and over the opposite ridge. It sounded like a heard of elk moving, but there was no vocalization from the animals. By the time I was able to move into a position to see what was there, they were gone, but we did find several sets of tracks.
After lunch back at camp and a nice afternoon nap in the grass, David and I decided to split up for the evening hunt in order to cover more area and hopefully find fresher sign and/or elk. I took a route the dropped off of the opposite side of the ridge we had been hunting that would loop around a plateau and back onto the side we had been hunting. Once again I found more of the same sign but no recent activity and no elk. However, there were a lot of the grouse in the area and I ended up taking a thirty yard shot and putting some dinner in the pot for the evening. A good mountain blue grouse is about as good of an eating bird there is and unless there are elk in the immediate vicinity, I can’t pass them up!
David decided to take off further down the same side we had been hunting, but at a different entry point. He ended up going down further, somewhere around 9,600 feet, and immediately found fresh sign and started hearing bugles. At one point he had a nice six by six standing at forty yards but offered no shot for his longbow.
September 5, 2009
Saturday morning brought more excitement as we now knew where to find the elk. We drove up to the top of the trail that David had come out of the previous evening (10,850 feet) and headed straight down hill to about 9,700 feet. When we hit the elevation we wanted to start at, we headed off the trail and got ready to set up and to listen for calling. David went off to one side to relieve himself while I started to move off to a small ridge to sit and listen. As I approached the ridge, a nice six point crested the ridge followed by several cows. I stood motionless in mid-stride about sixty yards from the bull as he took a few moments to decide what I was and what to do about it. After a few seconds, he decided that I was up to no good and turned around and headed back down at a fast walk. I immediately signaled to David that elk were here. Due to bad luck and timing, we had just blown a chance at a nice bull.
As the bull and his cows headed back the way they came, we could hear two different groups nearby and a couple of different bulls were bugling, as well as the bull that had just left us. We setup properly and began some cow calling to try to figure out exactly what the herds were doing and where they were headed. At one point we had a spike bull standing broadside at forty-two yards and a few cows milling around the same area. It seemed like the bulls had not yet rounded up their harems but rather that the herds were still rather random. Any calling we did was usually met with some answers, but no real aggression or aggressive calling was happening. For the next several hours we worked the hillsides where the majority of the elk seemed to be heading but were unable to ever get a bull to commit to coming into us.
During the evening we went into the area with the most sign in hopes that we could catch the elk on their movements between bedding and feeding. We found areas that were completely trampled with tracks and covered in fresh sign. At one point I had stopped between a couple of pines to glass and area. As I panned across the hill below and up to a small gully in front of me, my binoculars were filled with nothing but the head and antlers of a nice five-point that had silently walked up the gully. The shock of the sight caused me to quickly lower the binoculars and look at this bull standing merely twenty yards away staring right at me. We shared a few seconds staring right at each other without me being able to move before he bounded off right where he had just come up. I couldn’t believe it had happened again in the same day! Two shooter bulls had basically walked right to me and left me no opportunity to do anything about it.
As the evening wore on, the wind kicked up and made it very difficult to hear bugles and to have our bugles heard. We were unable to get any consistent calling going with the bulls. At one point we were setup about thirty yards apart and had a doe and two fawns feed between us, but otherwise did not see any further action.
September 10, 2009
Almost! I missed my 3-mile time goal by thirteen seconds. Soon, very soon! I mostly want to hit the time goals so I can quit worrying about timing and just running. Something about hitting that stopwatch makes the running a whole lot less enjoyable.
My weight seems to be stabilizing somewhere around 165 and I can be happy with that. At first I had to really watch what I was eating, but now my metabolism is back to where it should be and I’m feeling a lot more hungry and eating quite a bit more, but maintaining a fairly consistent weigaht.
September 21, 2009
After some time off of hunting and lots of kids’ sports and other assorted stuff keeping me busy, it’s time to get back in the woods! I’m all packed up for a week of hard hunting and ready to get going. I’ve got a full number ten can of gorp, a bunch of nut bars and several packs of pronghorn pepperoni sticks to keep me going. We’ll be packing in with horses for a week into an area that has produced a lot of bulls in the past, but somewhere that I’ve never been. I’ll be putting my trust into my hunting partners to point me in the right direction.
So here David shows me how it’s done:
September 22, 2009
Due to outside circumstances and issues, one of our group dropped out and another got delayed so I headed up to our spot alone. My plan was to hike in part way and hunt a few of the lower draws and sleep in my 4Runner at the trailhead that night. I hiked in the first couple of miles rather quickly and then began to hit some of the off-trail draws and other likely areas. At about two and half miles in I spotted a jet black spot on the hill that turned out to be a medium sized black bear.
Deciding to have a little fun, I sneaked within about twenty yards of the bear with the intention of getting some good pictures. Unfortunately I did things in the wrong order and didn’t get the camera out until I was close. As I tried to rummage (very quietly) through my backpack, the bear heard and/or winded me and took off. It was a good thrill but in the end I didn’t get any pictures.
As the evening wore on the wind kicked up and made it very difficult to hear much. Near the end of the time that I had before having to head back, I heard a couple of bugles up a large draw. Because of the wind I could not locate the bull exactly and was unable to get him to come to me. As the sun set I was forced to head back to the 4Runner for the evening.
September 23, 2009
David drove up early in the morning and we hiked the four to five miles back into camp with our hunting backpacks and a few supplies. A wall tent had previously been set up and there was food and cooking implements waiting for us. The plan was to help bring in the horses the following day but still get in a good hunt today. We hunted hard and found a lot of sign, but none that was fresher than a couple of days old. The weather remained cold with a few good snow flurries hitting us throughout the day.
The high point of the day was finding the kill site of an elk that was shot the previous week during the muzzleloader hunt. Sitting on the kill was a large boar black bear. We got within thirty yards and snapped a few pictures then decided to try to get closer. At about seventeen yards we were about to try to take a few more pictures when the boar noticed us and bounded across the river. He looked back at us with a lot of irritation then eventually wandered off. This was when I was really regretting not snagging a bear license!
September 24, 2009
This morning we hunted our way back to the trailhead to help bring in the horses and pick up a few more supplies. There were a few issues with the horses shoes and David stayed behind with Dave to help work them out. I have no experience with horses or how to take care of them, so they sent me ahead to get a little extra hunting in.
As I arrived back at camp a bull started bugling loudly on the hill behind camp. I cow called back and he continued to answer, but was moving rapidly along the hillside. He continued to move while answering, but refused to stop or move in my direction.
September 25, 2009
We left camp early in the morning with the intentions of hunting high into a cliff rimmed bowl that the elk often use. I took the high path and went through some absolutely gorgeous area that was covered with sign. The bad news was that all the sign was a few days old. I heard a few bugles hear and there that were distant but never had any real positive responses. The sign was there, the elk were there at some point, but not much was happening while we were there.
On the way back to camp I ended up shooting a grouse and also caught about twenty cut throat in the stream (keeping a few for dinner). We had a great meal of bird and fish but still had not found the elk.
September 26, 2009
This morning we awoke to ice on the stream and nice coating of frost everywhere. We had hoped the clear skies and prospect of a warmer day would get the elk talking in our area. David and I headed out for one more morning of hunting before having to break camp. Once again we found great sign, but it wasn’t fresh enough.
The elk had been in there and had been there recently, but for whatever reason where not there this week. It was and amazing week of beautiful sites and lots of wildlife sightings, just not the elk we were hoping for. Next year can’t come too soon!
We know the elk are there at times, and here is proof! This is the rack of the amazing bull that Dave shot during the muzzleloader hunt the previous week. We estimated it at 360″+ and a 50″ spread.
So until next year, the elk will remain safe!
Good luck to anyone else for the rest of 2009.