I don’t know how to describe the pain I feel that it’s over. I have learned so much and got to experience so many things in such a short time that it feels a bit overwhelming now trying to emotionally process it all. I have been blessed with amazing mentors who have taken me under their wing, and sometimes I think, even worried that they were overwhelming me! How kind people can be.
I am used to being on my own, doing things independently, even hiking and backpacking, I do most of these things solo. I hiked eleven 14ers with just Breeze and I for a post bar trip. I studied solo in law school even though they told us we would never be successful if we didn’t have the right study group. Though I have learned from others before and taken classes, i.e., how to be part of a roped team for mountaineering and how to be avy aware and safe in groups out in the backcountry, I have never experienced as much selflessness and love for a way of life and a happiness to share one’s love as I have from my hunting mentors. I am still learning, I will always be learning, but I hope I can give back and pass on my knowledge and skills to others, the way my mentors have done to me and continue to do for me.
So a quick TL;DR of the season: no tag filled, saw my first public land bull elk (~15 yards!!), field dressed my first animal (antelope, I didn’t shoot it), learned more about myself as I did last season, and began chipping the very very very tippy top of the iceberg of mental fortitude required to bowhunt elk.
Anytime I tell someone I’m new to hunting, they inevitable question follows, what are you hunting? I respond, I’m bowhunting elk. Half of the time I see eyes widen and a “hell yeah!” excitement exude from that someone. The other half of the time I see skepticism that I’m in over my head and that I have no idea what I’m getting into. “Have you even killed anything?”
No. It leads to a question that I do struggle with a lot, if the shot presented itself, Could I take the shot? I finally answered that question this season.
Opening Day – August 25, 2018
Opening day, my husband and I left Denver around midnight to begin our 2.5 hour drive to my spot. We had scouted this area before and we ran into a cow elk, a cow moose and her calf, and a bear during our scouting trips. It seemed promising and was my number 1 spot to try. I had never hiked off-trail in the dark before so I gave us ample time to get to my spot. The hike in was not nearly as bad, scary, or complicated as I thought it would be, though we did run into a fairly fresh sheep carcass. Nevertheless, we arrived with 3 more hours to sunrise and neither of us anticipated how cold it would be.
As we shivered and wrapped ourselves in space blankets, my husband nestled me in a hammock and I drifted in and out of sleep between small shivers. I’d come into consciousness and see the stars fade slowly, and finally I roused myself, fell out of the hammock, grabbed my bow, and nocked an arrow.
It was uneventful as the morning broke and I called and nothing answered. After about an hour and a half we decided to head out. As we were exploring the area a little more we found freshly shot tin cans (no rust, super shiny), so we figured maybe the area is a bust. On our way out Alex fell into quicksand-mud, i.e. mud that acted like quicksand. One of his legs was quickly sucked in, he threw his backpack to me, and slowly extracted himself. It was terrifying to say the least, since it was something we had no idea existed and the area looked like a normal marsh. Ah, the things you learn.
On the way out we found another piece of the freshly eaten sheep, and a bunch of grouse. Too bad grouse season didn’t start for another week and I didn’t have the right arrow tips. So onward.
We walked around aimlessly and because I’m ridiculously impatient, we decided to head into town for a bite and reevaluate our plans. As we were heading back we ran into redic fresh bear poop, which confirmed our nope-ing out of the area. After some rousing McDonald’s and getting service to download a few new maps, we drove to a parking lot in the woods and took a nap (running off of 2 hours of sleep, ayyeee).
After our nap, we went to the new area……..where we found the herd of sheep. From what I’ve researched, elk absolutely hate sheep. But we were already here so we went around and looked at things. Randomly, a speed goat popped out of the woods, ran in circles, ran directly towards us, saw us, and made a mad 90 degree turn.
I….didn’t even know they could be up this way, so that was exhilarating. #themoreyouknow
We went up a hill . . . walked around the woods more.
Glassed, and glassed, saw a moose, some deer, and then it was over.
Couldn’t hunt until 2 more weeks, so til then, it was research time.