Elk Hunting, Meeting a Foxy Lady

January 12, 2015

Recap of 2nd Rifle Season:

  • Hiking and backpacking over rough terrain is not a low impact activity. After 10 days of it my back and joints ached morning and night, with increasing intensity, and I had begun taking Tylenol and Ibuprofen several times a day. I had 70+ miles off-trail that week.
  • The elk that normally hang out and stare at your car as you drive past during other seasons have become ghosts. While there were signs of them, the pressure from the hunters that season had made them adapt to avoid human sounds and smells and to come out only at night.
  • My red woolen clothing is warm enough for the cold, and repels the sleet and snow well. It is not light but I like the vintage look. It is also effective camouflage to creatures with black and white vision.

2014-10-19 16.02.16-2IMG_3556

Last week Zack and I had hiked into the upper end of Woody Creek and set up a spike (or temporary) camp. From there we were able to look down at almost the entirety of Woody Creek.

full map season 3 low size test


Last week Zack and I had hiked into the upper end of Woody Creek and set up a spike (or temporary) camp. From there we were able to look down at almost the entirety of Woody Creek.

This time I decided to try to enter Woody Creek from the far end. Emily and Max helped me pack up camp . Having packed lighter Emily, Max and I set out late in the afternoon hoping to make the 2-3 mile trek and set up camp before dark.

We found a cramped site 100 yards off the trail surrounded by dead fall. In every direction we looked there was nothing but crisscrossed fallen trees.

The 3 of us did a poor, tired job of collecting wood. We used a small hatchet and saw to split open some wet logs and we started a fire with a single match.

11-2-14 (Day 12)

zoomed in map radjusted draft
Max and I set out with Emily sleeping soundly at camp. In the dark progress was slow and involved lots of yoga positions.
We had to duck, jump, straddle, and carefully walk across countless dead trees.

We arrived at the first clearing and saw some stone markers and elk tracks in the snow from this week. A lone individual. We both unslung our rifles, layered on our coats and waited. A steady snow had started to fall. I heard snarling but it was just max sleeping with his rifle on his lap.


We moved on a quarter mile to the next clearing on the map. We found a game trail with old scrape signs – signs that a bull was here marking his territory by scratching the bark. We both went very quietly the last hundred yards into the clearing. As we came into the open we both saw a little orange fox trotting around. Max and I grinned.

We watched the fox hunt in the golden alpine grass. The fox had some inkling that we were there watching it, and it watched us back between eating mice.

The fox caught a few mice and circled back into the woods. We didn’t see it for a while. Then, I looked behind me and there the fox was, a bit out of arm’s reach! I froze, unbreathing. It sniffed the air and rotated its head left and right. I couldn’t hold my breath any longer and just then it was gone without a sound.



The snowfall stopped. We crawled, climbed and scratched the half-mile back to camp. Emily was still sleeping. We woke her up, and all shared breakfast. By the time Emily and Max said goodbye to me and headed back to Max’s car, the snow had begun to fall heavily.

I tidied up camp and went to bed early rather than trying to find my way around the woods with the snow falling heavily.


11-3-14 (Day 12)

I woke up, feeling each day less enthusiastic about this expedition. I started the stove, took my advil, kicked the godforsaken snow off the tipi walls and marched out of my snowy camp.


I visited the same two parks above camp and came upon the fox again. I noticed it wasn’t eating all of the mice and was trotting back into the woods and coming back to pick up more and returning with the catch. I suspected the fox was a vixen and she was taking care of pups.


I watched the fox a while longer, then headed further up towards unnamed peak 12,090. The grade was slight, but my left knee began to ache more than it ever had on this trip. I limped along. Near the tree line I crossed a rock field and spotted fresh elk tracks – many animals, from this morning.

I inspected my rifle. Soaked and frozen, the scope was fogged and wet on both ends. I removed it off its quick release mount deciding to use the iron sights to aim it.


I snuck up to the tree line following the tracks. I stalked forward, each step carefully looking for elk shapes in the sparse tree line. After a few hundred yards a cow elk jumped up out from behind a tree about 15 yards ahead of me Then another elk, and another, a small herd all took off downhill away from me. I had aimed and cocked my rifle, but with the adrenaline pumping in me and my slowness I failed to get a bead on any of them. I decocked my firearm and surveyed the elk herd’s bed down area.


The open top of the mountain, allows the hunter and the hunted to see one another from a great distance.


I began to notice elk tracks, pee, scat and bed down sites from this morning. I walk slower and more cautiously.


Within 15 yards a cow raises her self and bolts. I am to slow to cock and aim my rifle.


As a consolation prize, I climb to the summit cairn of peak 12,090. I added the biggest stone I could to the top.

I followed the herd’s tracks for a mile back down the mountain and flushed them again deeper into the dense choked timber.

I return to camp with wet, cold feet, a bit disappointed; but at the same time I had found the elk and actually pointed a gun at something. I started a fire and tried to keep my butt dry while sitting next to it and drying my feet.


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