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Smoke Signals

July/Aug 2011

 

HOWDY DAVIS

Guest Writer

 

 

COLORADO PRIMITIVE HUNT

ALL MY YEARS COMING TO THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS TO HUNT I HAD TO RELY ON OUTFITTERS TO HAVE THE AREA SCOUTED AND HAVE A GOOD IDEA WERE THE ANIMALS WHERE LOCATED. IT WAS A BIT AWKWARD FOR THESE PEOPLE SINCE WE WERE EITHER BOW HUNTERS OR BLACK POWDER HUNTERS AND WISHED TO HUNT PRIMITIVE BRING ALL OUR OWN GEAR AND CAMP AS A GROUP NEAR SOME GOOD WATER AND CLOSE TO THE OUTFITTERS CAMP.

WHEN WE FIRST SHOWED UP OUR OUTFITTER HOLLIS ATWOOD AND HIS SUPPORT TEAM WHERE A LITTLE ASTONISHED. HE KNEW WHERE THE GAME WAS AND HE HAD THE HORSES. WE WHERE ALL PRETTY FAMILIAR WITH HORSES AND AGREED TO GIVE US FREE REIGN. WHAT CONVINCED HIM TO OUR SERIOUSNESS WAS THE FIRST MORNING WHEN WE ALL APPEARED AT THE FIRE IN OUR BUCKSKINS. WE HAD SEVEN HUNTERS AND ONE WAS MY WIFE VALERIE. TWO OF THE GUYS WERE BLACK POWDER HUNTERS. SO HOLLIS PUT THEM OFF IN AN AREA BY THEMSELVES WHICH WAS ABOUT TWO MILES FROM THE BOW HUNTERS.

EACH EVENING AROUND THE CAMP FIRE HOLLIS AND HIS HELPERS WOULD GATHER AROUND WITH A MILLION QUESTIONS ABOUT WHO WE WHERE AND WHAT WE DID. AT THIS TIME WE WERE ALL PART OF A GROUP OF PENNSYLVANIA LONG HUNTERS AND TREKKERS, WE WERE ALL BLACK POWDER COMPETITION SHOOTERS BUT MORE OFTEN THAN NOT WE CHOOSE TO HUNT WITH THE BOW. WE WERE ALL KNOWN FOR OUR ABILITY AFTER SPENDING MANY YEARS WITH THE WA-XO-BE ARCHERS OF MILLTOWN NEW JERSEY AND MOST OF US HAVING WON MANY CHAMPIONSHIP TITLES. THE WA-XO-BE- RANGE IS NOW LOCATED IN SOUTH BRUNSWICK NEW JERSEY.

ON THE FIRST MORNING, WITH THE ADVISE OF HOLLIS WE ALL FANNED OUT ABOUT 500 YARDS APART ALONG THE BASE OF THIS MOUNTAIN CALLED SAW TOOTH. WE WERE TOLD THAT AT THE TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN WE WOULD FIND A LARGE ROCK FORMATION THAT WAS FORMED LIKE A SAW TOOTH. WE WERE TO HUNT TO THE TOP AND ABOUT 4 PM WE SHOULD START AND RE-TRACE OUR STEPS BACK DOWN THE MOUNTAIN AND THEN WALK SOUTH WEST ALONG A TRAIL BACK TO OUR CAMP. THIS WAY WE HAD A CHANCE OF PUSHING GAME INTO ONE ANOTHER.

IT WAS A BEAUTIFUL DAY AND AT AN ELEVATION OF 8000 FEET WE WHERE ALL SLOW GOING. NONE OF US WHERE ACCLIMATED FOR THIS ALTITUDE. WE FIGURED IT WOULD TAKE US 3 DAYS TO ADJUST. I HAD EVERYONE CONVINCED TO EAT TUMBS, THAT WOULD HELP PUT OXYGEN TO THE BRAIN AND PREVENT HEADACHES. I DO BELIEVE THAT IT WORKED. NOW THIS TACTIC WAS PUSHING THE DEER AND ELK ALONG THE MOUNTAIN AND ALLOWING EACH OF US TO SEE MANY ELK AND HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY OF HARVESTING AN ANIMAL.

UPON ARRIVING BACK AT CAMP THAT NIGHT WE HAD 3 GUYS WHO HAD SCORED TAKING ONE BULL A 4 BY 4 AND TWO COWS. ON OUT TRIP TO THIS HUNT WE HAD 2 WAGONS THAT WERE EQUIPPED WITH HOME MADE COOLERS. THE OUTFITTER HAD A COOLER SET UP TO HANG THESE ELK. SO WE HAD NO CHANCE OF OUR MEAT SPOILING. IT DID TURN OUT TO BE A VERY MILD SEPTEMBER.

THAT NIGHT AROUND THE FIRE WE ALL HAD SEEN ELK AND SOME DEER. SEVERAL HAD SEEN BADGERS THAT WERE THE MOST UN FRIENDLY ANIMALS ON THE FACE OF THE EARTH. ABOUT HALF WAY UP THE MOUNTAIN I CAME ACROSS A FENCE MADE OUT OF REALLY LARGE ASPEN TREES. IT STOOD A GOOD NEAR 6 FOOT HIGH. THIS EARLY IN THE MORNING THEIR WAS A FOG ON THE MOUNTAIN AND IT MADE VISIBILITY QUITE DIFFICULT. I COULD MAKE OUT ANOTHER FENCE MADE OF THE SAME MATERIAL ABOUT 40 YARDS OR SO UP THE MOUNTAIN AND AS I EXAMINED THIS FENCE IT SEEMED TO BE A CORAL OF SOME SORT. IN THE TREES AND HALF WAY UP THE MOUNTAIN. SO I CLIMBED OVER THE FENCE AND STARTED HEEDING TOWARDS THE NEXT FENCE WHEN I SAW MOVEMENT OFF TO MY RIGHT. GOOD LORD IT WAS A BIG BRAYMER BULL, OH MY TWO OF THEM. HELLO - I TOOK OFF AND RAN LIKE HELL AND CLIMBED OVER THE NEXT FENCE. I LOOKED BACK AND BOTH OF THEM WERE ABOUT 10 FEET ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE FENCE THAT I JUST CLIMBED OVER. WOW. WHAT'S WITH THAT I WONDERED. MAYBE SOMEONE STOLE SOME BULLS AND HAD THEM HID ON THE MOUNTAIN. LATER WHEN I TOLD THE OUTFITTER HOLLIS HE TOLD ME TO KEEP MY MOUTH SHUT. THEIR WAS A BUNCH OF COWBOY'S WORKING COWS ABOUT A MILE DOWN THE TRAIL FROM CAMP.

ON ABOUT THE 3RD DAY GEORGE ALPAUGH CAME OFF THE MOUNTAIN WAY OFF ON THE RIGHT OF OUR HUNTING AREA AND RAN INTO A BUNCH OF COWBOYS WORKING CATTLE. THEY HAD ABOUT 10 RATTLESNAKES LAYING OVER ONE OF THE FENCES. THIS SPOOKED GEORGE TO NO END. GEORGE HATES SNAKES. SO THE REST OF THIS HUNT MADE HIM A BIT UNEASY.

THAT EVENING FRANK ANDERSACK AND MY BROTHER TED BOTH CAME IN WITH NICE BULL ELKS. BOTH 5 BY FIVES. EVERY TIME WE SCORED YOU HAD TO GO OUT WITH THE HORSES AND BRING YOUR GAME IN TO THE COOLER. WE WOULD CUT OFF THE HEAD AND SPLIT THESE ANIMALS DOWN THE CENTER. CUT OFF THE LEGS AT THE KNEE AND PLACE EACH SIDE OVER THE SADDLE. CUT A SLIT IN THE HIDE TO PLACE OVER THE HORN AND TIE THE SIDES OF THE SKIN TO THE STIRRUPS. THIS MADE TRANSPORTING PRETTY EASY.

VAL MADE IT KNOWN THAT SHE WAS GOING TO HUNT ON HER OWN. I MADE IT A POINT TO ALWAYS BE WITHIN SHOUTING DISTANCE JUST INCASE. AFTER A NUMBER OF YEARS BOW HUNTING SHE WAS PRETTY SURE OF HERSELF. I ALWAYS MADE SURE THAT SHE HAD A LOUD WHISTLE IN HER PACK. BESIDES I MADE SURE I WASNíT TO FAR AWAY.

THE FOURTH DAY WE CHANGED AREAS AND NOW WAS AT THE BASE OF BEARS EARS. THIS WAS A MOUNTAIN THAT FROM A DISTANCE REALLY LOOKED LIKE THE HEAD OF A BEAR WITH IT'S EARS STICKING UP. ON THIS HUNT GEORGE GOT A BEAUTIFUL 5 BY 5 ELK . ON THE SAME DAY WE MADE OUR WAY DOWN THROUGH CACTUS PARK. WE STAYED TO THE TREES AND FOLLOWED A BEAUTIFUL COLD STREAM. I FOUND VALERIE SITTING ON AN OUTCROPPING EATING HER LUNCH WHICH THE OUTFITTERS WIFE MADE FOR US EACH DAY. I MADE NOISE SO AS NOT TO SCARE HER AS I APPROACHED. AFTER LUNCH AND A SHORT QUICK NAP WE BOTH STARTED DOWN THE TRAIL THAT RAN ALONGSIDE THE STREAM. AFTER GOING ABOUT A HALF OF MILE VAL HELD UP HER HAND AND ABOUT 50 YARDS IN FRONT OF US WAS 3 ELK BROWSING IN A SMALL MEADOW ON MOUNTAIN GRASSES. I KNELT DOWN AND WATCHED VAL AS SHE PUT A STALK ON THESE ELK. SHE MOVED SLOWLY A LITTLE AT A TIME UNTIL SHE WAS ALONGSIDE THE MEADOW AND WAS ABLE TO STAND UP. I WATCHED HER DRAW HER BOW AND LET AN ARROW FLY. SHE QUICKLY KNELT DOWN AND BLEEPED ON HER ELK CALL. ALL THREE ELK STOPPED AND LOOKED AROUND. I WATCHED VAL NOCK ANOTHER ARROW BUT JUST KEPT KNEELING. I DIDNíT WANT TO MOVE FEAR OF SPOOKING THEM. I COULDNíT UNDERSTAND WHY SHE WASNíT TAKING ANOTHER SHOT. SINCE THEY WERE ONLY ABOUT 25 YARDS AWAY. JUST THEN I HEARD HER BLEEP AGAIN WITH HER ELK CALL AND ALL THREE ELK STARTED WALKING TOWARDS THE OTHER END OF THE MEADOW. WHEN THE LARGEST ELK STARTED TO STAGGER AND THEN FELL OVER. SHE KNEW SHE HAD A GOOD SHOT. WOW HER FIRST ELK. SHE WAS SO EXCITED SHE COULDNíT STOP SHAKING AND AT THIS ALTITUDE CACHING HER BREATH WASNíT EASY. I NEVER FORGOT HOW EXCITED SHE WAS AND THAT LOOK ON HER FACE IS ETCHED IN MY MEMORY FOREVER. SO NOW WE GUTTED THE ELK AND DRUG IT INTO HEW WOODS TO A COOL SPOT AND MANAGED TO HANG IT IN A TREE WITH A SMALL HOME MADE COME ALONG THAT I HAD IN MY PACK JUST FOR THAT PURPOSE. SO NOT BEING SURE JUST WHERE WE WERE WE STARTED TOWARDS CAMP WHICH WAS QUITE A DISTANCE. WE USED MARKERS AND MARKED THE TRAIL SO THAT WE COULD SEE EACH MARKER THAT WOULD ENABLE US TO GET BACK TO THE ANIMAL. WE MADE IT TO THE TRAIL AT THE FOOT OF THE MOUNTAIN AND WALKED BACK TO CAMP WHICH GOT SOME, VERY CONCERNED ABOUT VALERIE. ME THEY COULD HAVE CARED LESS. THEY KNEW I WOULD BE ALRIGHT BUT DIDNíT KNOW THAT VAL AND I RAN INTO EACH OTHER. IT HAD BEEN DARK FOR ABOUT 3 HOURS WHEN WE GOT TO CAMP. EVERYONE WAS SO HAPPY WHEN THEY FOUND OUT THE VAL GOT A COW ELK. THEY ALL MADE A BIG FUSS OVER IT. RIGHTLY SO. THEY ASKED HER? WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE DONE IF YOU WERE ALONE. SHE REPLIED "THE SAME THING" AND HOW WOULD YOU HAVE GOTTEN BACK TO CAMP. " SHE SAID KENNY WOULD HAVE FOUND ME. I HAD NO DOUBT" SO IF I WAS GOING TO BE SCARED I WOULDNíT HAVE BEEN OUT THERE. ONE OF THEM COMMENTED "TALK ABOUT BEING ONE OF THE GUY'S" ONE OF THE GUYS BROKE OUT A JUG AND PASSED IT AROUND - WHICH WAS THE CUSTOM TO TOAST EACH HUNTER'S SUCCESS. VAL DILUTED HER'S WITH WATER AND TIPPED A LITTLE MORE THAN SHE SHOULD HAVE. THIS WAS GOOD OLD PENNSYLVANIA HOME BREW, NOW SHE COULDNíT SHUT UP AND WAS FUNNY AS HELL. WHAT A JOY.

EARLY THE NEXT MORNING WE SADDLED UP AND HEADED OUT TO RETRIEVE VALS ELK. HOLLIS TOLD US ABOUT A SHORT CUT. SO WE TOOK IT AND AFTER AN HOURS RIDE WE LOCATED THE ELK. LOADED IT ONTO THE HORSES AND STARTED BACK TO CAMP. ONE OF OUR FELLOWS TEDDY HUDLAK HAD ALSO GOTTEN AN ELK AND WHEN HE GOT TO IT THE NEXT MORNING A BEAR HAD GOTTEN A HOLD OF IT AND DRUG IT ABOUT A HUNDRED YARDS. THE NEXT DAY TEDDY WENT BACK TO SEE IF THE BEAR WOULD RETURN. THAT SAME DAY VAL AND I WENT OUT AND CLIMBED UP TO SAW TOOTH. WE WERE SITTING ON THE TOP OF A LARGE ROCK TAKING IN ALL THE SCENERY WHEN I THOUGHT I HEARD A GRUNT AND A WHEEZING SOUND. WE LISTENED FOR A WHILE AND THEN VAL GOT UP AND WALKED OVER TO THE EDGE OF THE ROCK. LOOKING DOWN BETWEEN SEVERAL OTHER ROCKS THERE WAS A BEAR SLEEPING IN A WHAT LOOKED LIKE A LARGE BIRDS NEST. WE DIDNíT HAVE A TAG SO WE JUST OBSERVED AND IF I WAS ABLE TO TAKE A SHOT I COULDNíT TELL WHERE HIS HEAD WAS. HE WAS ONE BIG BLACK BALL. HE WAS ALSO ONE BIG BEAR. WITH THAT WE SNUCK AWAY.

THE NEXT DAY I WENT OUT ON MY OWN, MOST OF THE OTHERS INCLUDING VAL WENT INTO BAGGS TO HAVE A LOOK SEE. I JUST WALKED OUT OF CAMP AND WORKED MY WAY ALONG THE SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN AT A VERY SLOW PACE. IN MY IMAGINATION I THOUGHT ABOUT THE MOUNTAIN MEN WALKING OVER THE SAME GROUND. I WONDERED IS MAYBE THEY CAMPED IN THE SAME SPOT THAT WE CAMPED. SOMEONE HAD DONE SO BEFORE US, THE FIRE ROCKS WERE USED MANY TIMES AND YOU WHERE ABLE TO SEE WHERE OTHERS MADE LEAN-TOS. AS I MOVED ALONG I HEARD A LOUD SOUND THAT SOUNDED LIKE A DOG BARKING. NEVER HEARD ANYTHING LIKE THAT BEFORE. I DID STUDY ELK CALLS BUT NOTHING LIKE THIS. THERE WAS A LARGE COW ELK ABOUT 50 YARDS UP THE MOUNTAIN THAT SPOTTED ME AND WAS WARNING SOMETHING. SHE STARTED TO MOVE BACK INTO THE HEAVY TIMBER OUT OF SIGHT. I MOVED FURTHER UP THE MOUNTAIN AND LOOKING ABOUT 60 OR SO YARDS TOWARDS THE WEST I SAW A HERD OF ELK. ONE NICE BIG BULL. I COULD SHOOT 65 YARDS BUT THERE WAS A SMALL CALF THAT KEPT WALKING AROUND IN FRONT OF THE BULL. I STALKED BACK DOWN THE MOUNTAIN AND USING HEAVY COVER I MADE MY WAY DOWN ALONG SIDE WERE I FIGURED THEY WHERE, ALL THE WHILE BEING CAUTIOUS OF ANY BREEZES. SO FAR SO GOOD. I CRAWLED UP THE SIDE OF A FLAT AND EASED MY HEAD OVER THE TOP IN ORDER TO SEE. THERE WERE ABOUT 9 ELK ALL LOOKING DIRECTLY AT ME. HOW COULD THEY DO THAT. I WAS SO QUIET, I DROPPED DOWN AND LAID THERE FOR ABOUT 10 MINUETS. WHEN I LOOKED BACK UP THEY WHERE ALL GONE. ONCE SPOOKED THERE WAS NO CHANCE ON SNEAKING UP ON THEM AGAIN, UNLESS I HAD A SMOKE POLE.

IT WAS NOW AFTERNOON AND I FIGURED ABOUT ONE OR SO. I MADE MY WAY TO THE TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN AND WAS WALKING ALONG WHEN RIGHT BEFORE ME WAS A PAIR OF ANTLERS. IT WAS A MULE BUCK WALKING TOWARDS ME, COMING UP AN INCLINE, I WAS CAUGHT OFF GUARD AND QUICKLY GOT DOWN ON THE GROUND AND STAYED CRUNCHED UP. THIS BUCK WALKED RIGHT UP TO ME. SO CLOSE THAT I COULD HAVE GRABBED HIS FRONT LEG. KNOWING THAT WASNíT GOING TO HAPPEN AND PICTURING THE OUTCOME - HE CHECKED ME OUT MADE A SNORT AND TURNED AROUND AND STARTED MOVING AWAY FROM ME. JUST AS HE WAS ABOUT TO GO BACK DOWN THE HILL I KNELT UP AND SHOT AN ARROW AND MADE A PERFECT SHOT. IT WAS ONLY ABOUT 15 YARDS. I LAID DOWN ON THE GROUND AND ROLLED OVER TRYING TO LET MY HEART SLOW DOWN. I THOUGHT IT WAS GOING TO STICK IN MY TROTH AND CUT OFF MY AIR. I THEN GOT BACK UP AND LOOKED INTO THE MEADOW WHERE HE CAME FROM. I DIDNíT SEE ANY MOVEMENT. I STARTED LOOKING FOR A BLOOD TRAIL - FOUND IT AND BEGAN TO FOLLOW WHEN I SPOTTED HIS ANTLERS LAYING SIDEWAYS IN THE TALL GRASS. WOW. MY FIRST MULE DEER AND IT WAS A BEAUTIFUL SIX BY SIX. THE FIRST THING THAT CAME TO MIND WAS THAT I WAS PRETTY FAR FROM CAMP. I DRUG THIS DEER UP THE HILL AND STARTED DOWN THE SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN. I COULDNíT BE BUT A HALF MILE FROM A TRAIL THAT RAN ON THE OTHER SIDE OF SLATER CREEK. I THOUGHT I COULD MAKE IT BY DARK. I GOT TO THE CREEK AND FIGURED THAT WAS AS FAR AS I WAS GOING. THIS DEER WAS HEAVIER THAN I FIGURED. ALONG THE CREEK WHERE SOME LARGE TREES. I FIRST THROUGH A HAND FULL OF PEPPER INTO THE CAVITY IN ORDER TO KEEP THE FLIES AWAY. I THEN GOT MY ROPE OVER A LIMB AND WAS ABLE TO PULL THIS DEER UP ENOUGH TO SWING IT OUT OVER THE CRAVES TO THE CREEK. THIS CREEK WAS RUNNING GOOD AND WAS QUITE COOL. I TIED ANOTHER ROPE TO THE FRONT LEG AND CLIMBED DOWN THE RAVINE AND CROSSED THE CREEK. I THEN PULLED THE DEER TOWARDS ME AND TIED IT OFF ON A TREE ON THE OPPOSITE BANK. THIS SHOULD KEEP ANY BEARS FROM GETTING AT IT. I STARTED OUT TOWARDS CAMP AND AGAIN ARRIVED WELL AFTER DARK. SOMEHOW THEY KNEW I SHOT SOMETHING. SO AGAIN THE DAY'S STORIES ABOUT SEEING ALL THE ELK AND THEN HOW I GOT THE DEER MADE FOR AN EXCITING DAY. I REMEMBERED BROTHER TEDDY REMARKING " THIS GUY NEVER DOES ANYTHING EASY " THEN VAL COMMENTED-- EXCITING, HE KEEPS IT EXCITING.

THE NEXT DAY WAS SATURDAY AND BEING THAT EVERYONE HAD SCORED WE DECIDED TO HEAD BACK EAST. WE HAD A 2000 MILE PLUS TRIP. SINCE WE CAME OUT ON RT.80 WE WOULD SWING DOWN THROUGH STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, HAVE LUNCH AND A LOOK SEE THEN GO BACK ON RT.70. SO WE BID OUR FAREWELLS TO THE OUTFITTERS AND THEY THANKED US FOR AN INTERESTING HUNT. WE MADE A RESERVATION FOR THE FOLLOWING YEAR IN A DIFFERENT AREA CALLED SLEEPY CAT. SOUNDS LIKE A DEAL.

I ALWAYS MISS THOSE DAYS. SPENDING TWELVE DAYS OR SO WITH GREAT FRIENDS. THE STORIES AND MEMORIES ARE PRICELESS.

ON THIS TRIP WAS, KEN DAVIS, VAL DAVIS, TEDDY DAVIS, GEORGE ALPAUCH WHO SET THIS TRIP UP. TEDDY HOUDLACK, FRANK ANDERSACK, AND GARY RINKER.

 

 

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This website may not be reproduced in part or in whole without the written permission of the North American Frontiersmen.

All Rights Reserved, Copyrighted 2005-2010.