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The Hunt

Coyote Luck ,an epic Colorado adventure

Preparations for next hunting season for my son (Kevin) and I usually starts with the drive home from the current one. And the 2011 Colorado big-game season was no exception, as we brain stormed across country on application deadlines, unit statistics, draw odds, hunting locations, preferred outfitters, etc. It sure makes the drive from Colorado to our family home in Virginia much more pleasant when you’re filled with excitement and anticipation about next years hunt.

When Winter gave way to Spring and April rolled around, we were ready. We knew what, when and where we wanted to hunt. My son’s passion is mule deer hunting, so this year we would focus our efforts on harvesting a big public land Mulley. My job was simple; complete the big-game applications, acquire landowner vouchers, contact DOW Offices, speak with local outfitters about their services, and yes, do some pre-season scouting during the Summer. In other words, I was to do all the work, Kevin would show up when it’s time to go hunting, harvest a buck and yes, get all the credit. Well…I suppose that’s what dads are for. But maybe, I should purchase an elk tag…you know; just in case.

Now that the hot Summer months had passed and the leaves were turning there autumn colors our excitement grew as we knew that hunting season was just around the corner. Kevin was going to fly from Toronto to Virginia. Then we would drive across country, some 1700 miles, to Colorado. The truck was packed…to the hilt I might add, final preparations were made, it’s time to head west. WHOW…what an exciting time of the year.

Upon arrival we were to meet with a local outfitter who had agreed to pack our camp and supplies into the high country a few days before the hunt. We prefer to pack in early which allows time to do some pre-season scouting and let’s our bodies acclimate to the altitude. On arrival the outfitter informed us there was snow in the high country where we wanted to hunt. But he could take us to another location, below snow line, if we wanted. Since Kevin had not seen the location that I had scouted and planned to hunt, the decision was mine. Do we stick to our original plan of hunting a location that I had previously scouted and yes, really liked? Or, do we play it safe and go to a location that we hadn’t seen? Somehow, the decision was easy. I told the outfitter, let’s stick to our original plan, to pack our camp into the high country the next day and we would hike in later.

The weather report didn’t look favorable. There was already a foot of snow above timber line, the season starts on Saturday and the forecast was calling for lots of snow above 9,000 feet the following Tuesday. We would be hunting above 11,000 feet , so we knew there was only a small window of opportunity for success. If we get snow, lot’s of snow, the outfitter wouldn’t be able to get back to the top of the mountain to pack us out. We could hike out, but the camp would have to stay, maybe until thaw, and that could be Spring. These rocky mountains are unforgiving if you’re caught off guard or unprepared.

With back packs, firearms, water and a few supplies, the eight mile hike in was grueling. By far the toughest one that we had made into the high country. We gained over 4,000 feet in elevation in a matter of hours. Our bodies were feeling the effects of the altitude, and I was questioning my decision to make the trip. But I knew what lie ahead and how promising the area looked for big bucks. And we had taken some nice bucks in this Colorado unit in past years. By two o’clock we had survived the hike and commenced the arduous task of setting-up and organizing our spike camp. This unit is tough hunting. Known to have a few trophy deer, with a below average elk population. However, I did purchase an elk tag…..just in case.

After setting up camp Kevin quickly dons his binoculars and heads to a high vantage point to glass for deer. He reported seeing a bull elk with a couple of cows, nothing to get excited about but sadly, no deer. Early the next day we were up early glassing - absolutely no movement…again. Had I had made the right decision? It was so gorgeous here…there must be game.

On opening morning, well before daylight, we were awakened by the howling of coyotes nearby. Their distinct cries filled the darkness for over an hour. That is, until the howling was answered by a familiar sound usually heard in September. I ask Kevin, who was tucked snuggly is his sleeping bag, “did you here that…an elk bugle?“ This was late October, elk are not suppose to be bugling. The coyotes would howl and the elk would then bugle. This exchange went on for a couple of hours before dawn. We then decided to hike to a point where we could decifer where the titillating exchange was coming from. We had just stopped to remove our backpacks when we heard a bugle. Much closer this time. My son you might say, is a savvy hunter. In most hunting situations he inherently knows what to do and when to do it. Kevin looked at me with a sense of urgency and said, “let’s go, and leave the backpack“. So off we went across the snowy draw in the direction of the bugle.

By now the cold light of dawn had arrived. The bugling continued. Much louder this time. The anticipation of what we were hoping to find had reached a climax. Kevin tempered, “I don’t mean to excite you, but he sounds big“. We again moved another 200 yards to a large bolder at he edge of the draw which concealed our position. We suspected we were close enough to see the bull, maybe within shooting distance, but still not sure. It took no longer than a minute until our suspicions were realized, we look up and see him crossing the draw, some 350 yards away. Finally….the majestic animal that had serenaded us for hours. Kevin quickly glasses his antlers and proclaims, “He’s a shooter!” With no indecision I calmly fix my crosshairs on his shoulder and fire…the elk stands motionless seemingly unaffected by the shot. Then he walks slowly behind a small pine tree, concealing the front-half of his body. I again fire, this time center punching him through the ribs….now you could tell he was hurting . He does an about face, turning across the draw to follow his harem. A third shot, it sails harmlessly over his back. Obviously, I rushed it. A final and fatal shot thrust through the shoulder, splintering his heart. When the firing ceased, Kevin quickly jumps from behind the bolder, his binoculars fixed firmly on the hillside, and SHOUTS…“He‘s down!”…. and you’re not going to believe it!”.. All we could see were antlers sliding down the steep incline. A stillness came over the mountain; no wind, no barking cows, no bugling elk, a monarch lay lifeless.

While hunting for a big Mulley, in a game unit known for it’s deer, we were rewarded with a giant 7x7 bull elk. What a wonderful twist of fate. If not for the persistent howling of the coyotes that likely scattered the cows, there would not have been the harvest of a great trophy bull. I guess you could say a bit of……COYOTE LUCK.

Thank you Lord for giving me the health to pursue such a majestic animal, and for a wonderful, caring son to share this awesome adventure with. The sacrifices are many that a young man makes to hunt with his aging father. “Thank you Kevin, I am blessed.”

Author: bill

Hunters: bill & kevin

Location: Colorado, 2011

Weapon: 300 wsm




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