View Full Version : Lessons learned this elk season

11-02-2009, 09:41 PM
Simon and I drew Wildlife Ranching tags for a spot here in Colorado, chasing cow elk. I've hunted it several times before, and always easily gotten an elk. My hunting party has evolved to the point where we alternate who hunts this particular ranch, so we're always "guaranteed" some elk meat to last the year. Little did I know that the hunt that normally takes me a few hours would be a little tougher.

This year was different. We arrived Friday afternoon, after I decided to start early, somewhat worried about what the snow would do. West of the divide, though, there was little snow, at least where we were. Some wet, heavy, snow, but nothing like what we got on the front range. It didn't look that bad.

So, we embarked Friday night on the east side of the ranch. We immediately saw a herd of elk on the top, and I do mean the top, of a mountain. A long hike up to where we could see the ridge at the mountain top, and we could see nothing. We waited a while. I was suspicious, and told the guide we didn't see anything run off, nor hear a herd disappear, so maybe they were still around. We waited, and went back down, only to see they had not moved.

Saturday morning, we went to another spot. We hiked for about an hour and a half to a spot called the Sanctuary, because they don't really allow hunting there. We immediately saw elk, at 487 yds, in a spot that would have been ugly, real ugly, to pack. Down timber and oak brush surrounding the spot, except for the insanely steep pack up.

So we passed. Notes at this time: the workouts are helping a bunch. I'm feeling good, and hiking well. Need to hit the inhaler once in a while, but I'm hiking up mountains.

Saturday night, we sit at a spot, awaiting elk dropping down and crossing a GMU boundary. They cooperate, but unfortunately after we can see crosshairs, so I might as well be throwing mashed potatoes at them.

Sunday morning, we hike up to the Hidden Meadow. True to form, I see a herd of elk at 700 yds. No way to get to them. And we see a 350 class or better bull on top of a mountain, with a huge herd, over a mile away. Shots are fired a mile away from them, and the herd immediately starts running, up to the top of the mountain. There's nothing good about the top of the mountain, steep slopes and hard hiking to the top.

Well, at this point what have I learned:

1. Light rifles are a lot more fun to carry up a hill than heavy ones. I took the 300 WSM for the first 2 hikes, and went back to the much lighter 270.
2. The Kifaru pants are really, really warm. Great for sitting. When I hiked in them, I cooked. The jacket is the most versatile outer garment I own. Warm and comfortable over a ridiculously wide range.
3. The 8 man tipi with the stove...wonderful, once again. 2 hour fireplace logs when you're car camping are incredibly nice. Put two in there, and cook....and you don't stoke it anywhere near as often as when you're using aspen branches. We could run it all night with occasional stoking, something I've never tried using wood.
4. Grilled chese sandwiches cooked on the Kifaru stove...yum for breakfast. Use meat, and some spicy mustard, with the cheese, and it's a good event.
5. The G2 late season fits me like I was born with it.

So, Sunday, we decide to hunt the evening and then, return home. The decision was to hike up the mountain we saw the elk on Sunday morning. Yes, the ugly hike up. Along the fenceline. We see elk at 3 pm, feeding on the top of the ridge, sentries already up. A brisk wind blows the wrong darn way, so we occasionally stop to wait it out. Eventually, we get within 300 yds of the top, and there are elk feeding everywhere. Simon and I set up, and try to get our signals straight so we don't shoot the same elk. He says he's shooting one on "the right" so I pick out one in the middle. He fires, and I shoot at a big, big blonde cow. Mine topples, and he shoots again, and his topples as well. The ridge they are on is so steep they both roll a bit. I find climbing the 300 yds to the elk to take a ridiculous amount of time, oxygen being about as scarce as common sense in Washington, DC.

We take them apart using the gutless method. One great thing about that...the tenderloins come up without being gunked up, like they are when you get the animal. And it's pretty darn quick. With the help of a couple of strapping young lads, we get the elk down the mountain, and head back.

Other lessons:
1. Don't give up. Keep hunting until the last minute expires at dark. One good minute could make the whole trip.
2. I tend to be very optimistic about my hunting trips and the chances of success. We put in more than 20 miles, on a private ranch, up and down mountains, trying to get a shot. I need to learn to be more realistic. Just because the hunt was easy last year doesn't mean it's going to be easy this year.
3. Your physical condition is important. I've been working out like a madman, and credit my personal trainer with getting me in shape for making this trip. Two people on the ranch, who didn't look like they were carrying any extra weight, puked their guts out on a ridge, and blamed the guide. Had I not been in hiking shape, I'd have been barfing on my ridge.
4. Yes, the 270/130 partition does the trick again, and the bullet looks just like the Nosler PR photos.
5. Fresh elk tenderloin is even better than I remembered.
6. Wolves are here. I saw a definite wolf track on the property. No doubt whatsoever. And no, I did not see nor shoot one.
7. Make sure your clothes work for backpacking. My clothes were fitting a bit loose, and pants tended to want to drop. Try picking up your legs when your pants want to sag under your pack. I ended up with one set hiking them up to where I could sing soprano, and then, tightening the belt on the late season to the point where my eyes bulged out. That worked, but I think I'm going to get some suspenders for my pants, as the belt buckles are not comfortable under the pack.
8. 40 year old scotch is a great way to celebrate a successful hunt.

11-03-2009, 09:09 AM
Nice job Kevin! Cheers to you and Simon on giving it what it takes. Thanks for the detailed report. Four questions:
1) Are your Kifaru clothes the "regular" or "Arctic" versions? I'm undecided.
2) What temperature ranges were you wearing them in?
3) Roughly where in Colo did you see the wolf prints?
4) Had your guides/ranch hands seen other wolf evidence/sightings previously?

I've been pondering trying a Ranching for Wildlife hunt, and appreciate you sharing the experience.

11-03-2009, 09:32 AM
Sounds like a good hunt. Congratulations. whether on public or private i find that hunting can still be unpredictable and tough. My brother swears by the 130 gr western silvertip in his .270 but winchester just discontinued that bullet so he cant even reload it now. he may just have to try the 130 partition. 150 partitions would not shoot at all in his rifle though so we'll see.

11-03-2009, 10:17 AM

I have the standard versions, and found the pants to be very warm. It was down to perhaps 20, with a serious wind most of the time. 20 degrees, in a 30 mph wind is pretty serious in the morning.

The wolf prints were in northern Routt County. I am told they have seen them before.

11-03-2009, 10:30 AM
Sounds like a great hunt Kevin. I'm glad to hear you scored. You definitely earned that one!

11-03-2009, 01:20 PM
As you said Kevin it pays to wait to the bitter end. Sounds like a good time with a bonus of meat.

William Clunie
11-03-2009, 03:27 PM
Good job! Thanks for the great hunting story. Gotta love those Noslers. I'm trying to drill a whitetail with some 165gr. NP's this month here in Maine.

Scoutin' Wyo
11-03-2009, 05:00 PM
I highly doubt a pea shootin .270 did any harm to an elk. I need photographic proof buddy!!!!;)

Congrats on staying in the game until the final buzzer! Keep some elk treats stashed away for the rondy. Mmmmmm!!

11-03-2009, 05:33 PM
Congrats on the elk.

As you may know, pictures are almost mandatory here, got any?

Three Forks?

Go with the suspenders, I did about three years ago and never looked back. Got tired of my pants ending up around my knees while packing.