Friday, October 24, 2008

Colorado Trip - The Last Part.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Well, it’s Sunday. We’ll be home tonight. The adventure has been the greatest but it’ll be nice to be home with family. Mike was really tired last night so I let him go back to sleep and I keep driving through the next tank of gas (about 8 hours). Once we’ve traded off again and I’ve had a quick nap we start talking about our trip. I spend a little time putting all the pictures I’ve taken together and use my laptop to burn them onto a DVD for Mike to take home (all 782 of them). He’ll do the same with the video he’s taken once he has some time to put them all together. After another round of switching drivers, Mike gets out his gear and we start taping a segment for his Podcast on the It’s a lot to talk about, our whole trip and our experiences, so he has to change tapes half way through it. Unknown to us, the second tape is bad and we don’t have it later when he’s getting it ready for his show (episode #77). Even with all the pictures and video we have, one of the things we wished we done was take a lot more. As we’re discussing each day, we remember little things that we’ve forgotten and wished we’d taken a picture of some video of it. So just a note to anyone thinking of taking a trip like this, or just a trip with the family…take lots and lots of pictures and video. You’ll only get one chance.

We get to the Michigan border around 2 pm. It’s like crossing a magical line into your home country… This is our home turf and familiar things are recognized as we get closer to home. We first drive to my nephew’s to drop of his quad with my many thanks… Paul, without your quad my hunt would have been a nightmare at times and much, much more difficult. Huge Thanks. We then head up to Mikes house to unload and get my stuff loaded into my Bronco for my final leg of the trip. At Mike’s house the unpacking and re-packing goes fairly quickly. For a couple of guys, we were pretty organized in loading our stuff. Mike’s wife and kids drive up as we’re unpacking and you can see the excitement in everyone that he’s home. I’m looking forward to the same when I get home.

One thing I’m really excited about (and Mike was too) is that while we were in Colorado our new bows showed up. They were both shipped to Mike’s house because we were hoping that we’d have them in time for the trip. Unfortunately, they showed up Monday after we left. While my Hoyt Trykon did its job and did it well, I was really hoping that I could have had my new Bowtech Guardian to use in Colorado or at least set it up and “play” with it during the day. Bowtech has been a huge contributor to our youth bow review and when Mike and I joined the Mossy Oak Pro Staff they stepped up and helped get us into the Guardians. (Both of our Hoyt’s are in the Real Tree pattern and not offered in Mossy Oak…so…). I guess we’ll just have to plan another big hunt so we can do a story with the Bowtech Guardians (in Mossy Oak Obsession pattern). You know, just to make sure they’re good for say….maybe Alaskan big game…maybe even a trip back to Colorado to make sure they’re good for Elk even… hmmmm… yup, I think that’s gonna be a requirement for testing them out. I’ll write a post later on how the Guardian shoots; let’s just say for now that… I Like IT!
Anyways, it’s one more farewell to my “brother” Mike (although my spouse calls him my second “wife” cause we talk so much) and I’m on the road. We made good time so I’m about an hour ahead of schedule and I’m looking forward to surprising the “girls” when I get home. I pull in the drive and before I can get to the door, TJ is running towards me… (TJ is my 2 year old Australian Cattle Dog)… Geezzzz, let me get in the house you crazy thing! Then it’s hugs and kisses from my girls (Mindy, who just turned 12 (happy Bday!) and (Ka)Trina my “first” wife). Unfortunately, Megan (my oldest daughter) is at college so I’ll have to call her later. Trina has made my favorite roast and potatoes…yum! After all the greetings and hugs and kisses and hugs…and diner, I call my mom to come over and give me a hand finishing up processing my venison (Trina does NOT process venison…Mindy helped though). Since my vacuum sealer was broken, Trina bought a new one…which only worked for the first couple of packages before it quit working… so it was back to freezer bags. Steaks, roasts and the rest are now in the freezer (thanks Mom), a sure sign of a successful hunt!

Back to work on Monday.

Writing this blog has let me remember and re-live a lot of our trip and experiences. From the long drives to the license fiasco and seeing the beauty of the Colorado Rockies. Meeting new people, hunting in a new and exciting environment and learning about different ways of doing things outdoors. Getting to finally hunt in Colorado, which is something that I had been wanting to do for as long as I can remember, and getting to experience the hunt with my best friend and “brother” Mike. It’s been great. Thanks to Aneal from Bowcast for meeting with us. A special thanks to Bill (Insane Willy) for providing the hunt! WOW! Big Thanks to Mike for asking me to go! A very dear thanks to my wife Katrina, for supporting me in going. I also want to thank my Dad. Without his help this last minute trip would not have been possible. Thanks Dad!

And thank you, for sharing my hunt all over again with me.

October 1st is Deer Archery opener in Michigan…oh boy!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Colorado Trip - Part 8

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Saturday morning, Mike’s in a funk but we’ve got work to do. First, we need to get my deer quartered up and in the coolers. We get the camera out first because it was dark last night when we finally had a chance to look her over. Unfortunately, with the cold last night, she has stiffened up in such a way as that it was very difficult to take a decent picture.

Now, it’s been 20 years since I cut up my own deer. With my hectic schedule I usually just take my deer into the butchers and pick it up when it’s done. Mike is the teacher here. We get the doe hanging in the barn and Mike helps me get her skinned. Once skinned out, Mike points out the different muscle groups that will provide the “guides” for cutting out the various different sections of meat. Cutting out the back straps we observe that this doe was in perfect health, the meat looks clean and we see no indications of disease. I had brought a vacuum sealer to process any meat we harvested but unfortunately it was damaged on the “Insane Willy” drive. We decided to cut out the back straps and loins and then quarter out the shoulders and hind quarters. We wrapped them all up in plastic bags and got them in the cooler with ice. After we clean up we jump on the quads for the last time and head down to see if we can pick up the trail of Mikes doe. We locate the last spot were we found an indication of blood and canvas the area. No luck. This doe is long gone and running around some place. We spend about an hour looking and then head back to the camp. It’s time to load up.

We get my quad loaded into the back of Mike’s truck and then hook the trailer up and start loading all our gear. After we’re done we grab quick showers and clean up the cabin. One long last look around, our thoughts quietly reminiscing about what we’ve experienced here and then we get in the truck and reluctantly pull away from an Adventure we’ll never forget.

We’ve got a long drive in front of us but we’ve got a plan. We’re going to head north to Wyoming and then across to Nebraska, stop at Cabelas in Sydney to return some of the items we purchased for elk hunting that we didn’t need and then it’s homeward bound.

We get into Wyoming and get on highway 70. We stop in Encampment, a little sneeze of a town, population 100. A couple restaurants, a gas station and a party store. In the party store we pickup some snacks for the road… Imagine the late 60’s early 70’s, the owner is a weathered, long hair in a pony tail, beret and denim vest wearing fellow whom we’d guess grew his own medicinals…polite and easy mannered. After a short conversation about local hunting and fishing we get on the road again. As we head towards the mountains we start seeing herds and herds of pronghorns. They are everywhere.
When we get to 130 we’ve got a choice of staying on 70/130 north until we get to interstate 80 or we can turn East on 130 and go through Medicine Bow National Park and get to I-80 at Laramie… I told Mike to flip a coin. Heads we turn and tails we continue north…Heads. I think that coin was exactly what Mike needed. We head into the National Park. We notice that it seems like every turn off has trucks and campers parked in them. It’s the start of Elk gun season on Monday and hunters are packing in to the park in droves.

We also note that we’re still in the free ranging cattle area…they are all over the place, including right next to the highway with no fences…careful driving is required since our cooler is full.

Our first stop in the National Park is at The Continental Divide. Another photo opportunity. Mike has to call his mom from the top of the Divide…she’s not home so he leaves a message. We’re standing on the top of the Divide, In the Rockies, what a view.

We continue driving through the beautiful and winding roads until Mike sees a park stopping area and decides to stop. It’s Lake St. Marie and if you ever get a chance to go through Medicine Bow National Park you need to stop and look around at Lake St. Marie…It’s inspirational and can provide a little peace for your soul.

We walk down to the lake and simply stare at the sight of the water and the immense mountain cliff on the other side. Snow can be seen on the peaks. The water is crystal clear and cold. Fish are surfacing all across the lake making ripples, moving the water. Unfortunately, it’s overcast. You can imagine what the view would be like if the sun was shining down on the lake and reflecting from the snow. Reluctantly, we climb back into the truck and continue on our journey.

After we stop for gas our next major stop is at the Sydney Nebraska Cabelas. We return some stuff and pick some goodies up for the kids. We gas up again and we’re on the road. Now if we didn’t mention it before, as we’re coming down in elevation from over 10,000 feet in Medicine Bow National Park to 4000 feet in Eastern Nebraska…it’s nothing but corn fields and corn fields and corn… and corn. We run into rain again but it’s short lived and the sun puts in an entrance for the rest of the afternoon.

It’s been a busy, stressful, aggravating, exciting, emotional and wonderful trip. The drive home is a long one but helps us put into perspective our thoughts and feelings we’re experiencing. Tomorrow, we’ll try and put together a podcast for the UpNorthJournal. Tonight we’ll take turns driving and putting our thoughts together on what this trip has meant to each of us and what we’re taking home from it.

Next – Sunday, Home and Final Thoughts.
BTW : HAPPY BIRTHDAY MIKE... you caught up to me again!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Colorado Trip - Part 7

Friday, September 19, 2008

The last day of our hunt.

Mike and I wake up this morning with the understanding that this is it. It’s the last day of hunting. Tomorrow morning we’re going to have to load up and start our 25+ hour drive home and work starts on Monday.

This morning Mike and I decide that since I’ve not been seeing any deer I’ll follow Mike in and head to the other side of the valley. Mike’s at least been seeing deer. So, we load up and head down towards his water crossing. The only difference with Mike’s water crossing is that we have to do this one on foot. The quads get parked on the trail and we hike down to the water. We’re hoping that our boots are tall enough that the water won’t be soaking our feet… We made it across, in the dark and stayed dry. I walk with Mike to his stand and then continue on until I get to the edge of the valley and the mountain. I follow the valley line until I come across a stand of old pines that are on the slope but spaced about 4 feet apart in a circle. It’s perfect. The ground is bare and I can lean up against one tree with two trees in front that are slightly apart. The side trees provide cover to keep me concealed. After getting all arranged and my gear set out within easy reach it’s time to sit quiet… within a few minutes I can hear some scratching sounds… I watch a large field mouse to my left. He’s come out of his hole and is thinking about heading my way… Every time he starts towards me (he’s only about 2 feet away) I move my hand a little and he dashes back to his hole. We keep this up for quite awhile. He’s getting bolder and bolder each time. Eventually, he dodges around my hand and behind my back. Guess I didn’t see his other hole in the tree I’m leaning against. Now I can hear him running around just behind the bark. Getting ready for winter I guess. Well, it was a perfect hunting morning, cold after last nights rain but clear with almost no wind. Unfortunately, 10 am rolled around and no deer. I packed up and slowly made my way to Mikes stand. He didn’t see anything either. He only heard the coyotes calling but they’ve been calling almost every day and in several packs too. We didn’t see any though except for that one I missed on Monday night. Back to camp we go.

Since this is the last day I want Mike to see the view from the High blind. So we pack up (never know if you might get a chance at a shot) and get the quads heading towards the peak.

We make sure we’ve got plenty of pictures of crossing the river and Mike films me crossing and vise versa (even though each time I go across I hope I don’t get stuck or stall out!).

We park about 100 yards from the high blind. Mike spotted a doe between us and the blind when we had to stop and cross under a fence line just before we parked. She watched us pull up so there is no chance of a stalk and shot on this one. Once at the blind Mike can now understand what I was talking about when I discussed the difficulty of using the blind as an archery blind and what a nice snack shelf it makes for the bears… Some video and a few pictures later we’re standing there wondering how we can ever leave, it’s incredible up here!

Being from Michigan, we’re pretty much flat landers and we rarely get to experience this type of beauty. Eventually, we head back down and get the quads moving.

Since this is the last day, Mike and I need to get some fishing in. So after lunch we load up some fishing gear and drive down to the creek, past where I hunted my first night. The river is running cold and high, the weather is perfect with only a few storm clouds off in the distance and the sun high and warm. We can see the fish along the banks…and they’re huge! Now comes the interesting part…

Mike has a fly rod, which he’s never fly fished before and I have an ultra light spinning rod… spinning rods are just not made for using flies! I have to wade into the water and let my bail stay open until the fly is down river among the fish and then play it across the top. After doing this for almost an hour I hook one! Hot Diggity Dog! I finally get the monster towards shore and we realize that we don’t have a net! I let him back out to tire him out some more and that was a mistake… within a few minutes he’d had enough and busted the line…spiderwire 8lb test! Dog gone it! …Mike still hasn’t hooked up yet. They’re just teasing us under the surface. Even the eagle that flew by seemed to be laughing at us. Finally, we load back up and head back to the trout pond by the cabin. Surely we can hook up with some nice rainbows from the trout pond… right. After a few minutes at the trout pond, I hook a monster again! Again Snap! What do we need, steel leaders!?! Mike finally hooks up with a beauty after another hour of fishing and just drags it up the muddy banks.
Good thing there was all those rocks in the way when he washed it off…it sure was a lively bugger.

Mike graciously loans me his fly rod (which I’ve never used either) and before long I’ve hooked another rainbow.
This time, I follow Mikes lead and drag the silly thing through the mud instead of letting him break the line. If nothing else, we’ve got something on this trip… a couple large rainbows (and they were only about middle size from what we could see in the water!). We clean them and ice them up back at the cabin.
It’s time. The last Hunt. Mike and I load up our packs and with a few final words we head the quads down towards the water. Crossing on foot sure is easier when the sun is up. I wait while Mike gets up into his stand, wish him good luck and head for the final time out to my hidden tree ground blind. No mice tonight. I make sure my gear is set and my camera is ready just in case. Around 5:30 I hear Mike shoot and I hear the arrow impact! I never would have thought that you could hear a bow from over 200 yards away! I watch in his direction and quickly see a nice doe moving briskly but confidently towards the mountain. My guess is that Mike got a shot at his little buck again and that was the doe that he was following around. Since we forgot to bring out the radios (they’re at the cabin) I know that Mike will sit still until my hunt is done. Boy, am I excited for him. At least one of us will be taking home a deer. I think about how loud his bow was and how easily I heard not only the bow but also the impact with the deer’s body. I range find his group of trees and it’s easily 225 yards + away. While I’m thinking about that I glass the valley in front of me and to the sides. While I’m glassing to my right, through the trees, I see a shape that doesn’t look quite right. Sure enough, it’s a deer body (can’t see the head), browsing on the bank of the river about 150 yards away. I watch “her” browse and head down out of sight. I’ve seen another deer!!

Shortly after, I’m glassing straight in front of me and see a doe and young one following the edge of the river away from Mike’s location. I get to watch mom and young one browsing for almost an hour. As they’re making their way towards where I saw the other deer heading towards the water, I glass through the trees to my right and immediately spot a deer 40 yards away right at the edge of the field and the mountain! It looks like the same deer that I earlier saw disappear towards the river. She, I can see her head now, must have came back up and was following the edge of the valley right towards me. I shift my position and get my bow ready, turn on the risercam and wait. I think she heard me move because she suddenly moved away from the tree line and back out into the field strait away from me. While she’s spooked from some noise, she can’t see me and soon calms down again. However, instead of walking 5 yards in front of me she is now almost 40 yards out.
She starts walking from my right towards my left, strait away. I range her at 36.5 yards and get ready. She stops, looking towards me (still can’t see me) in a perfect broad side position. I calmly (I don’t know how I was…) draw back and anchor. I pick my pin and a spot over her heart… exhale… WHAM! The release lets go and the arrow is away… THWACK! Solid hit! She squats, kicks and bounces off… She’s not bouncing all out (Mule deer seem to bounce more than run) and starts to walk soon… At about 100 yards I watch her just fold up and collapse!

I have just got my very first Mule Deer! Not only that, but this is my very first Archery Harvest ever! Ever! WOW!!! Talk about excited! I know Mike has shot a deer and now this! Ok, no twigs on its head but I’m cool with that. Sure, it would have been nice to score on a buck but that’s not why I hunt. I m grateful for being able to harvest venison and I have no problems harvesting a doe when it’s available. And this is my FIRST ever with a bow! I know to let her lie for awhile just in case I didn’t make as good a shot as I think I made but I just can’t sit still. I get up and slowly walk out of my hide to see if I can spot her were she fell. I look around and see the other doe (with the little one) watching me… So I freeze. I stand still for almost 10 minutes hoping that the doe will stop staring… and staring… and staring… nope. I decide to slowly walk backwards back into my hide. When I get back the doe is still staring at me (or more likely where I disappeared). After what seems like hours, she starts walking towards me! What a silly deer! She ends up following the same path that I shot the doe on right in front of me. If I had 2 tags and she didn’t have a little one with her, she would have added to the cooler. I took some pictures and finally stood up.

She bounced off directly towards the other doe. I walked out and she bounced up the ridge. That took about 30 minutes. Time enough and it the other doe was not down for the count I think she would have been back up and gone with all the action. I walk out to where the doe stood when I shot and very easily find my arrow a few yards past that point… completely coated in red! I decide to play it safe and start following the blood trail instead of just walking to where I saw her go down… A blind man could have followed that blood trail. Sure enough, when I got to her she had bled out from a perfect pass through heart shot! It’s about dusk time so I drop my pack and start walking towards Mike’s stand. I get to Mike only to find out that yup, he shot, looked like a complete pass through but there is only a little spec of blood on the arrow. I tell him that I’ve got a doe down half way between us and that I heard his shot. He heard mine too and was fairly sure that I’d gotten something because he could hear the impact sound as well. We decide to not try and track his doe yet, let her lie down and relax. We’ll go back and grab my gear and head back to the cabin to unload stuff. Then we’ll come back with the quads and load up my deer and start looking for his.

It’s dark now, so we pack up what we’ll need to get my deer loaded and track Mikes. We have bottle of Bluestar ( which is a blood revealing agent for tracking. Looks like a great chance to see if it really works. We also have some samples from illumitacks from elusive wildlife ( that we can try out for marking our trails. In addition to those, we’ve got our GPS units and our sidearms, just in case. Now, getting the quads over is a chore in itself. Earlier in the week we had to do some repairs to Mikes stand and to get the tools over we had to cross the creek up stream on a barely visible trail (had to turn around a couple times trying to find it). This crossing is even tougher on my 2 wheel drive quad than were I was normally crossing, talk about crossing my fingers! Now, we had to cross in the dark and find the trail!

We got across and found our way through the slashings to the valley. Mike stopped to tack the first illumitack to the tree by the trail (very smart move) before we continued on to my doe. We parked the quads around my doe to help discourage coyotes and such while we tracked his doe. Mike placed the next illumitack on the grip of his quad (another smart move). We mixed up the bottle of bluestar and sprayed it on the tall grass around my doe to test it…. You have to use this stuff in the dark so we turned our lights off and WOW! It looked like I’d shot an alien! Glowing all over the place! I think you could read by all the light. Ok, we’ve verified the stuff works so we walk over to where Mike shot his doe and turn off our lights… Mike sprays a little in the air and within seconds there are glowing spots on the ground and leaves. It’s obvious that it’s a pass through, the glow is from both sides of the trail she took out. We start following the glowing spots… to the edge of the valley were I saw her… up the mountain… across the mountain… down the mountain (only a 150 yards from were she went up)… through the thickest bunch of slashings you could find… found were she bedded down… to the river. Now, up until this point we’ve been finding blood with the Bluestar spray fairly easily. It’s not been much but it’s allowed us to track her…to the river. Mike crosses first, then I cross (I don’t have my rubber boots on this time…) only getting mildly wet. Within a couple of minutes, Mike has found blood with the spray, on the rocks coming out of the water. We spray the trails heading into the slashings but can’t find any more blood. The spray runs out. I look at the GPS and we realize that we’ve gone in almost a complete circle from when Mike took the shot. We decide to call it a night on tracking and try to find the trail tomorrow if she’s gone down. Personally, I think the amount of blood we’ve been following is the same as if you’ve cut your finger. Sure, the arrow did a pass through but it went over the lungs and didn’t hit anything but skin. A little blood, a scar and she’ll be back next year.
After crossing the river again, we head back to my doe. She was easy to find with the illumitack blinking like mad. We load her up on Mike’s quad and strap her down. We can see the first tack Mike placed which worked out well since we wouldn’t have been able to find the trail back to the water in the dark. Back across the water we drive and head back to camp. I dress her out on the back of the quad and then we put her in the back of Mike’s truck for the night. It’s in the 30’s so its cold enough and we don’t want the coyotes getting to her.

Back in the cabin, Mike is certainly depressed. I can understand how he feels, it’s a hunter’s worst fear that he’ll wound game and not be able to recover it. We talk about the shot and the amount of blood. How it was probably just over the lungs and really didn’t do any damage. She’ll scar and be fine. We’ll go out again in the morning to look on this side of the river just to make sure, it’s the ethical thing to do, but I’m sure she’s running around someplace eating and looking for a place to sleep. Deer are tough critters.

I could almost forget that I took my very first archery deer. Mike is worrying about his shot and I’m worrying about Mike (in 25 years I can count on one hand the times I’ve seen him this depressed). There’s not much I can do but be there. I call him a few nasty names, because that’s what friends are for.

It’s a long and restless night for both of us.

Next – Saturday, We Look, We Load, We Leave and New Discoveries

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Colorado Trip - Part 6

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Well, hopefully, this morning’s hunt will be exciting, but not like last nights…

I’m back in the ridge blind this morning. Things are looking a little overcast, clouds in the sky so no full moon lighting up the hills. It’s quiet and cold. One thing we haven’t talked about is the weather changes here. At night the temperatures are in the 30’s and very low 40’s but during the day the temps have been in the 80’s! Talk about a temperature swing! It’s all about layering your hunting cloths so you’re not too hot or too cold. Anyways, it’s below 40 degrees out but the sun is coming up on an overcast day. It’s one of those mornings that you just feel like everything is going to connect for a perfect hunt… Guess my feelings got hurt. Nothing. No deer, just one small Rabbit.

(You'll have to look hard to find the little guy).

Even overcast it’s a wonderful place to be in the morning…no cars, no desk, and no phone (in the stand). Oh well, I pack up and head down the mountain. On the way I decide to do stalk on this side of the creek, we kicked up a deer on the “Bill” tour and there are lots of deer sign. I slow walk the ridge edge of the open field (by where I parked the quad) and head down the 2 track that leads to the high blind.

Where it cuts up the ridge I turn towards the water and move slowly out… Nothing.

I do have a nice size Hawk circling overhead letting me know he sees me. I head back along the water, walking quietly and looking for movement…Nothing. Seems like today is going to be the “Nothing” day. I’m almost back to the quad when I realize that the broadhead is missing from my arrow! It was on tight when I was sitting in the blind… I took the picture with my bow just before I started my last stalk heading towards the quad. I did have to push through some fairly heavy slashings on the way to the quad while I was stalking. I held my bow behind me to keep it from being caught.

I guess that the broadhead must have run up against a couple of limbs and spun off. I tried to find it but talk about a needle in a hay stack! I’m more upset about leaving a sharp broadhead on the ground or stuck in a limb than I am about losing it. Not looking to be a good day so far… On the quad, over the river (through it), through the woods and back to “grandma’s” house we go…

After meeting up with Mike, who didn’t see anything either, we decided that we’d take a drive down the road the other way on the quads. While we were driving, we watched a storm coming across the mountains. After a couple miles and seeing lightning, we decided it would be smart to turn around and head back (we don’t always do the smart thing…).

We got back to camp and within a couple minutes it began to pour…hail! It started dumping marble sized hail! …and I had left my gear on the back of the truck… After running out and being pelted to no end I realized I left the keys (with the remote for the truck) on the quad…here we go again… ouch. I should have worn a helmet. Mike and I watched it hail for a good 30 minutes then it turned into straight rain for another 2 hours. Thunder! You have got to experience thunder in the Rockies!
(The sunny spot on the mountain is about were my blind is... now to get to it...)

Talk about sticking your head in a cannon barrel! Now, we figured that we could still have an opportunity to hunt. A couple of the blinds even have roofs over them. Our biggest concern was for the level of the water in the river… We picked out 3 rocks we could see from the cabin window and as they quickly disappeared under water we realized that crossing was going to be out of the question. Lunch was Venison hamburgers, might as well sit and enjoy the weather… The rain stopped around 3 o’clock so I convinced Mike that we should take the quads down to the crossing I have to use to see how bad it was. A bit of information… Quads are a requirement (or at least a life saver) in this type of hunting. The right kind of quad makes a difference… Mike’s work horse style quad works great, especially in the mud and getting through the river… My nephew’s racer style quad is a different story… It’s a 2 wheel drive manual transmit ion, high sprung suspension speed machine, great for the sand dunes and Michigan’s trails. When we picked it up it was completely coated in mud. I should have used that as a clue. I don’t have mud flaps. That’s what the body on top is for…to stop the flying mud… get the clue now… yup. It was an interesting drive down to the water. A mile of mud. Flying mud. Good thing we were just checking and I didn’t have all my gear on! Did you know that small tires with neat little “H” symbols are excellent for throwing mud up over 8 feet in the air? .. me neither. How about that mud from the rear tires can fly forward over the back of the quad and hit you in the face? … me neither. At least I had my Gortex coat on and could just turn the hose on that to clean it. My hat was another story. Ok. We’ll be taking a break tonight. Time to catch up on some writing and looking at the pictures I’ve taken so far. (I spent an hour with the water hose getting all the mud off my quad and I was nice and rinsed off Mikes too)

Next – Friday, the last hunt.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Colorado Trip - Part 5

Day 5 – Wednesday September 17, 2008

Wednesday starts out with me heading to another location. Since I’ve not been seeing any deer from the valley I decide to head to the first blind that Bill showed us, halfway up the mountain. The cabin is at about 6300 feet and this blind sits at around 7100 feet. I had my GPS on when Bill gave his tour so I feel confident that I can find where I need to go…. I hope. I jump on the quad and drive until I get to the water (about a mile). I didn’t think about what crossing the water in the dark on the quad would be like… I remember big rocks and this quad is only 2 wheel drive. I cross my fingers, try to spot the best path to cross at and give it some gas… made it (not without some moments of, shall we say, renewed energy levels). I park the quad down a trail by the water and start hiking towards the stand on the ridge above me. Luckily, I’ve got a pretty good sense of direction and after a few minutes of huffing and puffing (I’m not used to the elevation yet either), I get to the blind. Just a note; this is were Bill was telling us not to worry about the bears, even though the blind is built in a stand of berry bushes, “it’s been a good year for them and they shouldn’t bother you, it was last year we had a problem”. Bill said that smoothly enough that you had to think about what he said or you just forgot that little bit of information. It’s a good blind though so I’m not worried. Besides, another item that Bill suggested we carry with us was our handguns. Just in case. Anyways, I settle in and watch the sun come up for another beautiful memory. Just about 7:30 while I was glassing the ridge in front of me, I spot a little bit of white that looks out of place. I steady the binocs and watch as a nice muley doe is nibbling on some leaves. I watch her for about 30 minutes as she wanders back and forth while heading towards me. That is until she disappears in the thicket and never comes out. At least I’ve seen another deer. As the morning hunt comes to a close I look around and think about how fortunate I am to be able to experience this tranquility in the outdoors. It’s quiet; there are no cars, no planes or trains and no voices. Just the sounds of nature, the birds, the wind and the sound of the water in the creek below me…

I should have brought lunch with me and a sleeping bag. Oh well, I pack up and head back to the quad for another adventure in river crossing.

Back at camp I meet up with Mike and we talk about the morning hunt. He’s seen so more deer but nothing shootable. Once again he is out like a light taking a nap… seems to be a trend here… Lunch today is venison spaghetti.

We’re now rested and fed…hmmmm, what to do? Mike wants to jump on the quads and take a ride before we have to go out for the afternoon hunt. We head up the road past Bills house looking at the mountains and following the river. We stop several times to remove the rattles from rattlers that didn’t quite make it across the road in the last hour. We watch one truck go by with a really nice elk in the back, looked to be at least a 6 x 6. I spot a mule deer down in a draw by the river and we stop to take some pictures. While we taking pictures my wife calls to see what’s going on. We’re chatting away when Mike say’s he sees what looks like sheep crossing the road down in the valley… He gets his video camera out to use the zoom and says they look like mule deer. From what I can see the color is wrong but close to what elk cows would look like… I say bye to the wife quickly and we get the quads moving quickly towards were we can see the “critters”. We arrive at were we saw them cross the road and don’t see anything until we look past the large stack of winter hay and see….
Prong Horns! A whole herd of prong horns crossed the road. Mike jumps off his quad (leaves it in the middle of the road) and tries to sneak up on them to get a better shot with his camera. Oops, big ranch rig coming so we need to move out of the way (it turned before it got near us…) so we drive past the hay and see the goats running up the hill. And then we see him… If you’ve ever been in Cabelas and seen the prong horn mounts they have…they’re not even close to the size of this monster.

Not only is he well over 15” but his horns are spread way past his ears. What a beautiful sight. We watch him move his harem over the hill so we drive around to the other side and watch him move them towards the public open lands. We haven’t even had our evening hunt and it’s already a day to remember.

Speaking of which, it’s time to head back and get ready to hunt! On the way back we stop at a couple of spots to take pictures. The views are incredible and every time we turn around we see something else that just makes you stop and stare. After a couple more stops and a little fun on the quads we get back to camp.

Tonight I’ve decided that I’ll head up to the high blind, it sits at about 7400 feet and is the highest hunting spot on Bills property. A new adventure (and boy was I gonna eat them words!), off again to cross the water. It’s about 2 miles to get to this blind, even though it is only a couple hundred yards up the mountain from the blind I was in that morning. After I park the quad about 200 yards away from the blind, I climb and get to the summit…I keep saying “what a view”...but, what a view!

Now, the blind is a bit different from the others. It’s only about 5 feet off the ground and has a low (about 2’) wall running around 3 sides. No top cover, but a large half circle of wood on the long wall to hide the silhouette of the hunter while he’s sitting. It’s sitting on a ridge that looks down a cleared path about 35 yards on one side and a short cleared path on the opposite side (short walled sides).

The front is blocked by large bushes and the back has the large half circle. Unfortunately, I realize that this is really a gun only style blind. The short walls are about 8 feet apart so you can’t get a good down shot with the bow and still cover the other clearing. There is a chair so I position it right in the middle. This allows me to see down the dropped path and also see the short clearing. I’ll just have to move to make a shot down either one. I’ve been sitting for about 20 minutes when I hear the sound of trees snapping and branches violently breaking from the upper ridge about 250 yards away. It’s either a bear or a bull elk thrashing some trees. This goes on for awhile and I can follow “it’s” progress as it moves about 150 yards parallel on the ridge. Shortly after it quiets down I hear several cow elk calling down from were I parked the quad! Shortly after that I hear bears fighting close to the cow elk… By this time I’m intensely scanning the ridge line and straining my ears to hear movement…. Any time I’m just positive that something is going to come into view… BAM! The bush 10 feet in front of me explodes! A red tailed hawk had decided that something in the bush needed eating… and hit that poor thing in full stoop at what seemed like 200 miles an hour! Talk about making a person jump! I couldn’t swallow my heart… I first had to pick it up and put it back in my mouth then swallow….whew! After it settles down for awhile and it’s getting close to perfect dusk… I’m quietly listening… SNORT! STOMP STOMP! SNORT! STOMP STOMP! Hol%* Cra*$! A bull elk! He’s gotta be 30 yards next to me just on the other side of a huge bush! …I’m busted! …..or am I? He’s carrying on like a freight train, stomping and snorting… he’s moved back a few yards but doesn’t seem to be running off. It’s more like he’s startled and pissed… yikes. But as my pulse starts to level out I realize that it’s not at me he’s making all this noise at. The wind is strong in my face so he couldn’t smell me and the bush is too thick for him to see me…hmmmm… then I hear what’s in the bush…. Did I mention bears fighting earlier…and did I mention that the bushes are berry bushes…. Did I mention that the blind is only 5 feet off the ground and open on one side…? Kinda like the food shelves at a grocery store….YIKES! I decided to become the perfect example of a statue and didn’t move! After awhile the elk has moved off, snorting all the way and the bush is calm and quiet… (maybe he walked under the blind….) and it’s now dark… I quietly get my carbon suit off and into my backpack (I always pack it in to keep odors off it). I get my arrow put in the quiver and my bow strapped to my pack. My surefire flashlight is ready and my gun strap is unsnapped…. Now to get out of the blind… it’s only 5 feet of ladder, thankfully, because halfway down it decides to tip over and dumps me on the ground…oh perfect I bet I sound just like a dinner bell... After a gold medal quality gymnastic move to get back up, I put my pack on and start carefully heading towards where I parked the quad… (it’s hard to hear anything with my pulse beating so load in my ears…). I make it to the quad and jump on, get it going and turned around… to realize that in the dark the trail is almost non existent and the grass is higher than the head light! And the moon is behind storm clouds that moved in… Yikes! All kidding aside, I don’t think I’ve ever been the type to panic, so I think about how I drove up and start looking for the little signs of passage. A bent over area of grass here and there and I finally make it back to the more worn trails heading towards the water. I can see how someone that is prone to panicking could end up heading in the wrong direction and get lost or worse yet, drive over a ravine or cliff. Always stay calm and think about what you need to do. At least now crossing the water doesn’t seem like such a bad thing.

Tomorrow, I’ll be back in the lower ridge blind.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Colorado Trip - Part 4

Day 4 – Tuesday September 16, 2008

Morning comes early in the Rockies… But the Michigan Hunters are up and ready to GO! (Ok, 5am in Colorado is 7am in Michigan…means I got to sleep in). We loaded up our packs, hopped on the quads and headed out. After I parked my quad and hiked over to my tree it was wait and watch…and watch…and watch…and watch…I watched a beautiful morning in the Rockies with the sun coming up and the temperature rising. I saw some birds. Birds, but not much else. It’s really hard to complain about not seeing anything (it’s only my first full day) when I’m not in the office, I’m in the Rockies hunting and the weather is perfect… there’s still time to see deer. Before I head into camp, I head over to the river and walk its edge looking for tracks and crossings.

Lots of tracks in the slashings along the river. I even found an elk skeleton (minus the skull) along the banks. Hiking and scouting is as much part of hunting as it is getting in a stand and waiting. It certainly helped give me an idea of what was behind the row of Aspens the runs between me and the river. Anyways, I end up following the water to where I parked the quad, so I load up and drive back to camp.

Mike’s had a good morning; he’s seen a bunch of does and little ones. We set up the block for some target shooting because Roscoby Risercams has been generous and loaned both of us a cam to put on our bows to tryout. We replaced our stabilizers and turn the video on (after reading the instructions – surprise!). Re-tuning is important as the risercam is a little heavier than my stabilizer and longer. Our 20 yard shots are quickly adjusted and we move the block to 30 yards. Again, on target now without further adjustments. Since I missed the coyote at 40 yards because I wasn’t tuned yet for 40, I move the block out again and it only takes a couple shots to get it in the money. I look at Mike and decide that we need to take a few practice shots at 50 yards, so once again I move the target out. One note, we’re both using G5 Montec 100’s but I’m shooting the pre-season practice blades and Mike is shooting the actual live blades… and there is no difference! At 50 yards I take my first shot… down and left a couple inches, but that was me … next shot….dead and I mean dead center! I’m set. Mike starts out with his first shot being a couple inches off. His second shot….nothing. No target, no sound of hitting rocks…nothing…! We look and look and look and look… (don’t forget about the rattle snakes…) and look……nothing. So we decide to take a break. Mike is not feeling to well, he is still trying to get acclimated to the altitude. So he lays down and is asleep so fast it’s scary. While he’s sleeping, I continue to look for his arrow, without luck. However, my brain catches up with me and I remember that we’ve been using the risercams while we’ve been shooting… I load the video up and start looking at it frame by frame. You can see the arrow leaving the bow and another frame shows it halfway to the target. I mentally visualize the trajectory based on the frame shots and walk out to the block and find the focal point of my imaginary line…and walk up, look down and there it is, just lying in a bush. I turn around and realize that it is about 80 yards past the block and half way up the road! Between the CE Maxima arrow and the G5 Montec broadhead, there is about $23 I just found, loosing arrows is never cheap. I remember that we’ve got a rattler in the back of the truck. I was going to cook it up but forgot it was there from yesterday. So, I decide that I’ll just skin it out for Mikey (jr). since he couldn’t come with us this time. I get it skinned out and salted. It’s time to get moving so I wake Mike up to give him back his lost arrow and get some lunch… Lunch today is Venison steaks on the grill, rice and apples…yum (somehow I think I’ve ended up the chef this week). We’re now rested and fed so it’s time to hunt!

We’re feeling positive as we load up our gear and head to our stands. “Positive” slowly turns into a quiet afternoon in the stand watching the sun go down, the moon rise and the deer decided to stay home… I did see the bald eagles flying along the creek again, Cool! Just about the late prime time for hunting I watch Bill drive his truck down the middle of the field and stop in front of me….???!?? It turns out that Bill thought I would be in a different location and decided to drive the river and feed some fish…. Oh well. Let’s go back to camp and wait and see what Mike’s done. Mike shows up with a look of distain… Seems he had an opportunity at a nice little 3 pointer and it didn’t turn out the way he wanted… His first shot went just under its belly, behind its front leg. He got another chance and his 40 yard estimate turned into a deer standing at 52 yards. Darn, he’ll be back. (at least he’s seeing some deer and some action!) Well, Bill says good night and Mike and I grab some leftovers and relax for a little while. Mike had his video camera going as well as his Risercam so we review the footage. The video camera was at the wrong angle and the Risercam doesn’t show up as clearly as we’d hoped. It’s been another day of memories so we turn off the lights and head towards sleep thinking of what we’re going to see in the morning.

Next – hunting the side of the mountain.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Colorado Trip - Day 3, Continued

Monday, September 15, 2008

(google seems to think I’m a spammer so you might not be seeing this blog as soon as I hoped…an actual person has to verify my account…)

Well, I’ve taken a mental break just in time for our story to continue with our driving break…we’ve arrived at camp! Bill tells us to get unloaded and ready to go in 30 minutes, he’ll be back to take us around the property and show us were we’ll be able to hunt. So, while Bill heads up to the house, Mike and I unload some of our gear, stretch and take a look around.

Bill’s hunters camp is a small (12 x 24) converted pole barn that now has a finished floor, a small kitchen, bathroom with a shower (very important), a small couch area and a separate bunk bed sleeping room. Very nice for roughing it… Ton’s of flies and Wasps inside though…good thing the fly swatter is handy. We unload most of the cooler into the refrigerator and get some of our hunting gear sorted out.

By the time we change into our hiking boots Bill is back and is ready to give us the “tour”. …Did I mention before that Bill is driving a rental truck… Bill starts out by driving us down a two track towards the southern mountain range on his property. We see some muley does in the brush and brambles on the way…good sign! Having already relayed Bills love of driving (like he stole it!), it comes as no surprise that he drives the same way no matter what the terrain… we soon come to the river, slowing only so that Bill can line it up in the right path to miss the boulders that are just too big…. Oops, silly me, he wasn’t aiming to miss any boulders, just checking out the views… Wham, bounce and slam …no problem, it’s a rental… We park just on the other side of the water and start hiking up the “hill” to the first higher elevation location. Did I mention that Bill may be old but he could kick our butts….guy’s hardly breathing and Mike and I sound like freight trains… It’s only a hundred yards up (up being the important word)…

What a view and we jump another Muley doe while we’re standing in the blind. Then it’s down the “hill” by another path and back to the truck… next stop, the highest elevation blind. Through the field by the river and onto another narrow two track, up… hey, a tree has fallen across the trail…no problem, we go around…the rental company must have some excellent insurance and really love this guy… About a mile (so it seems) of driving and we get within a couple hundred yards of the blind. We skip the actual walk to the blind at this time because we’re on a short time table to get everything checked out and into the hunt this afternoon… Back down the trail and we end up getting a little hung up on that tree we drove around before… just a few scratches (you can’t see in the mud later) and we’re back where we started from. Bill takes us over to the house to pick up some fish food for his stocked pond and then we’re off to check out the lower field tree stand and feed the fishes. We stop at the pond and Bill shows us how he wants his fish fed (it’s part of our agreement for staying the week – we feed the fish)… man are those Rainbow Trout huge! And they’re like piranhas with the fish food! He also feeds a section of the creek so we head that way which happens to pass right by the tree stand one of us will be using. We see another Muley doe standing directly under the blind as we drive by….excitement is starting to pump…. We stop at the creek to feed the fish and watch as two Bald Eagles fly down the creek! WOW! What a paradise to be enjoying!

Ok, we’ve seen and been instructed; now it’s time to get ready! Since I just got some new arrows and they’re heavier than my old ones, I need to re-tune my bow for them. Mike and I get our bows and set up the target 20 yards out. A few shots for Mike…right on target, he’s ready. I’ll be using the new Carbon Express Aramid KV’s with G5 Montec 100 grain heads. A few shots for me and some adjustments then a few more at 30 yards. I take a couple 40 yard shots but I’m not quite tuned in yet. I don’t have time to fine tune the 40 yard shots but since I’ll be starting out in the lower field tree stand I don’t think I’ll have anything farther away than 30 yards anyways. Mike is going to be using a tree stand that is just below the house that Bill said should be the best place to see deer. It’s Camo Time! We pack our backpacks with the necessities, get into our base camo (its 80 degrees out!) strap on our bows and hop on the quads. Mike and I look at each other and realize that our dream hunt is about to begin. I couldn’t even begin to describe the grins that spread across our faces and the excitement we both felt. With a quick “good luck buddy” we start our engines and drive in separate directions… it’s begun!

Both of our drives are fairly short but having the quads helps tremendously as we’re not yet acclimated to the altitude and it saves a hot sweaty hike. I parked my quad inside a small stand of trees (cut open specifically to hide a quad in) and start hiking towards my tree stand. Before I even get to my spot, I jump a nice doe. She stands broadside to me at about 30 yards but I decide to let her go. It’s the first hunt and I’d like a chance to take a nice buck if I can… I get into the tree stand and realize it’s more designed for gun hunters than bow hunters. It’s about 4’ x 8’ and you can’t move around because it squeaks a lot. I position myself so that I can get a shot either behind me or into the open field. There’s a metal chair but it’s a “metal” chair and not a quiet one either so I stand instead.
What a beautiful area. I stand there looking at the mountains and can hear the river. I watch the Bald Eagles flying down the middle of the field looking for dinner…just incredible. I got into the tree stand around 5:30, it’s been quiet and I’ve not seen anything at all except the Eagles. It’s now around 7:00 and dusk is starting to set in. I see movement across the field, directly in front of me… It’s a coyote! It’s a very large Coyote and its coloring is more towards a golden color as compared to the ones we see in Michigan. I watch him (or her) slowly make a bee line across in front of me. It looks like 40 yards is going to have to be the closest shot….and I’m not tuned in to 40 yards yet… I get set and adjust my aim to where I was hitting on the block, breath and release…. A hairs breathe in front of his chest! I little hop and he briskly jogs back the way he came and stops, turns and looks at me. I think the message was… this is my field, you missed and I’m now a ghost… good bye. Back into the tree line and he’s gone.

It’s time to head in. Back at camp, Mike lets me know that he’s seen 8 deer. Including a nice 3 point and a big buck that stayed too far out to count. He too let the does and the little one walk for opportunities down the line… We clean up and head to the house. Bill has steaks on the grill for us and we sit down to watch the Monday night football game, eat and chat about our first hunt. The moons well into the night sky when we make it back to the cabin and settle in for the night.

The first day’s hunt has come to the twilight of the crisp clean air in the Rockies. I’ve seen a deer, had an opportunity at a beautiful coyote, watch the Eagles soar and experienced a solitude that is hard to come by in Michigan.

Next - Day 4