Hunting Elk Part 2

December 17, 2014

10-21-14 Day 5

I woke up at 3AM and walked for hours to reach the 400 Yard Park. I spooked a group of elk there in the darkness and they crunched away in the shadows.


Rain began to fall on me in the afternoon. I thought to myself that I should quit and go to town and hang out at a bar down in Aspen. There was a good brewery there. Wouldn’t that be nice… I had to ignore this thought many times that day.

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I woke in the night to the sound of rain, sleet and snow hitting the tent above me. The sound is a lullaby for any camper, even though he knows it will suck to walk through the following day.

10-22-14 Day 6

When I woke the next morning it was darker than usual inside the tipi. I reached for the zipper and noticed that as it opened snow began pouring in. I beat the tipi walls a few times to kick the powder off and opened it all the way. To my dim human eyes, the world had taken on the colorless black and white of bark and snow. About 3 inches of snow had fallen.

I took the morning off, started a fire and ate a huge breakfast. The snow melted that afternoon and I walked and set up in Hunter Flats to hunt the last light. By the time I returned to camp my pacboots had soaked through.

10-23-14 Day 7

My bag was frozen *sigh* again. I draped it over a bush to dry it off so I wouldn’t freeze to death the next night.

I head back up to Hunter Flats. The walk there unlike the day before was deafeningly loud. The snow had refrozen to ice in the night. Each step was a breaking pane of glass. The sound carried through the completely still spruce fir wood.

Zack messages me, saying he will be returning for the last weekend. I have been getting mental with so much stress, silence and cold. I’m glad someone will come out here with me.

I walked about Hunter Flats and Woody Creek until Zack got there in the late afternoon. I talked his ear off. Maybe there is some survival instinct in us to be more social when we are in a harsh environment. The cold, bad food and general discomfort may bring out a social side in all of us.

We get to camp and we make the largest fire yet to drive the frost back and make plans to try to hunt the 400 yard in the morning.

10-24-14 Day 8

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We get up at 2:30AM to get an early start up to the 400 yard park. Knowing the ground and snow are still crunchy, we climb slow, hopping rock-to-rock, log-to-log to avoid making too much sound. The wind is to our face as we climb up. Eight hundred feet away from the clearing we cross a large boulder field.

We layer up and dim our headlamps, but as we do we hear the tell-tale “Eeoww! Ewoow!” call below us in the darkness. Zack looks over at me and I at him. Shit, we are busted.

On the last hundred feet I slip and dislodge a large boulder and it rolls making a good loud noise. My heart sinks further.

We climb the last 800 feet and get into the clearing as silent as possible. In 30 minutes the sun rises over the large park. Zack 25 yards away from me shivers and I see him lay down his rifle to warm his hands in his pockets looking directly down. He is only wearing a thin synthetic puffy and two base layers. It is in the low 20s at 11,000 ft.

A small pine marten, a fluffy little weasel, comes out on our right, standing up on its hind legs to observe us before prancing across the park to hunting for mice and voles. It finds none as far as we can tell.


A few hours after light we hastily rush down the mountain, both chilled. It is relieving to move and get heat back into our fingertips.

Zack admits he did not anticipate weather this bitter cold. I am wearing two plaid jackets and loan him the thicker one. I tell Zack he looks like he’s from Minnesota with that red jacket and lever gun.

2014-10-24 18.27.05


We stoke up the fire at camp and decide we have pressured the elk in this valley too much need to move. We pack up Zack’s small tent, a day’s worth of food, and the Svea and we march. While crossing the creek Zack slips in and soaks his boots.

We march 5 hard miles, all uphill from Camp 1 to Spike Camp at 11,500. Spike camp sat bellow Peak 12,700 which we would hunt the next morning.


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10-25-14 Day 9

The alarm sounds, and I poke my arm out the tent and start the stove. I bring the pot of boiling water back in and we have coffee. As we put our boots on we hear a cow call out from our tent. “EOOW! EOOW!” We both sigh.

We walk out of the tent and by the flat white light of our headlamps we notice tracks and fresh droppings within a few yards of our tent. The elk were all around us while we slept. We decide to go after them but after a few steps Zack stops me.

“My feet are in bad shape.” Zack whispers to me.

“Blisters didn’t get better in the night?”

“I’m going back; I’ll just slow you down.” Zack says.

I walk the half mile alone up to the tree line and sit among the knobby, wind-shaped krumholtz trees of the alpine zone. The alpine glow illuminates the Maroon Bells in the distance.

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Hours after sun’s light I make the hike the rest of the way to the top of the Peak 12,700 of the Williams Mountains. It is barren of trees and its rocky top is covered in snow.

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The only signs of life are the tracks of foxes hunting for pika and marmots.

I descend and we close camp.

“If we had just opened the tent door and waited till sun up I bet we would have had better chances.” Zack jokes. The elk tracks crisscross our camp in every direction.

In the daylight we can see down Woody Creek and we see many open parks and remote possibilities for hunting grounds.

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“Next season I’ll come back up Woody Creek and give it a shot. If there are as many elk down valley as there are up here I’ll have better odds.”

We make the 5 mile snowy walk that day back into Camp 1.

That night we make a fire and go to bed soon after nightfall.


10-26-14 Day 10

We wake and make a short walk up Midway Trail to a large open marsh and wait in the darkness. There is nothing. Cold and disheartened, I try to convince Zack to hunt the last evening, but he’s worried about a long march back to the jeep with full packs in the dark. Reason wins out and we close camp and return to Aspen before dark.

Elk – 1, Me – 0.

To be continued.






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