Opening morning came with the usual confusion of who was going to hunt with who and where everyone was going. Jeff and Weston decided to go out where Jeff had shot a spike during the archery hunt (read about that HERE) while Dad, Atley and I decided to go back into the area where Atley had gotten his cow on the muzzle loader deer hunt (read about that HERE). Jeff and Weston struck out, but they did hear some shots in the area. We heard some elk early on, but didn't see anything right away. We hiked over the ridge and dropped into the next canyon. The snow blowing in our face made it difficult to sit and watch the area we could see. Bear tracks on the trail made Atley a little nervous, but he agreed to check one more spot before heading back to the truck. As we made our way there a couple of shots rang out from across the canyon. I was the first out on the rock outcropping and spotted four cow elk 125 yards away. I didn't have a cow tag, but Dad did so I tried to get him into position to shoot quickly. He said he could've taken a quick shot but didn't feel confident. Probably the right choice. The elk moved out of sight back towards our first overlook so we ran the ridge back up hoping to get another opportunity but couldn't find them again. Atley's frozen feet prompted us to head back to the truck, I really need to get him some decent boots. We checked a couple more spots as the snow started to pile up but didn't see anymore elk. The road back to camp was bad enough that we knew we wouldn't be getting into this area again this weekend without running the risk of getting our truck stuck.
Back at camp Atley enjoyed playing with his cousins even though he had to stay inside because of his wet shoes. Del called with news that her grandpa had passed away. He was a great guy that made me feel like part of the family all those years ago when Del and I were newlyweds. We couldn't just take off for home because our camp trailer was boxed in by everyone else's. I felt awful for not being home for Del, but made plans to get out of camp ASAP in the morning.
Since we were forced to stay the night, I agreed to head out for the evening with Jeff into the same area that Weston and I had come close to getting an elk in the archery season. We hadn't seen much in there for the rest of the season, but hoped that the snow had changed their patterns. The storm was really laying down some snow as we watched a meadow, cursing the fog that limited our view. Took some pictures and a little video of the falling snow in-between light cow calling and a couple of location bugles.
I was about to suggest moving on when we heard a crack behind us. I called a little more and got ready. Across the meadow, in the opposite direction of the noise, Jeff spotted a cow coming towards us. I said, "Wait" to make sure the elk following had cleared the trees. I was really hoping for spike, since that was the only tag I had, but the second elk was a cow and Jeff let them keep coming until they stopped 75 yards away from us. Jeff took the lead cow with a well placed shot that dropped her in her tracks. Jeff was really excited but I wanted to make sure we allowed enough time to be sure there wasn't any other elk following them. I called some more and a five point bull elk with snow on his antlers came into the clearing. I pulled out my phone (didn't have the camera because of the snow) and watched the confused bull approach the dead cow. Even though we were excited about filling the tag, both Jeff and I commented about how sad the scene was. The bull hung around for a few minutes until the pressures of getting Jeff's cow taken care of made us enter the meadow, spooking the bull.
As usual, Jeff conveniently didn't have his pack-frame when we had success so the pack out was more miserable than it should've been. A rear and a front quarter plus backstraps went into my pack while Jeff carried the rifles and we had the other front and rear quarters in our hands. Not fun, but still worth it. Arriving back to camp when you've had success is a great feeling, and finding out that Jeff's wife had fed Atley and had taco soup waiting for us felt pretty good too!
Hope you're as lucky,