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.

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