Autumn

I have elevated camping to an eccentric high. Bow hunting elk in the Rockies is just an excuse to practice the art of camping. It’s an opportunity to dwell in my tipi amongst the aspens, Dutch oven cook on an open fire and laugh long and hard with friends and family at every politically incorrect moment. These are quintessential ingredients of a superlative hunting camp.

Dwelling in the tipi is a primitive luxury, its happy sleep with a touch of class; it’s what I call inhabiting sculpture. The adorned canvas filters sunlight casting pallid shadows upon my blankets. Nights are cozy, propane heat and gas lamps set the canvas aglow.

It’s all about the food. Cilantro chicken with hot Italian sausage, elk tip roast in burgundy wine au jus, green-chili pork posole, hot biscuits and cherry pie, all conjured in a Dutch oven before a roaring fire. It’s about cowboy coffee mornings and zinfandel nights.

Hunting is a diversion from camp pleasantries, pushing ones physical and mental limits to the point of exhaustion, only to revive with a hot nature shower amongst the ferns under a canopy of blue sky. It’s watching an ocean of aspen trees turn from green to gold their leaves lofting on the thermals before blanketing my camp with trappings of autumn.

It’s about nurturing the spirit to never loose sight of the important things, a favorable breeze, the warmth of an open fire, the caress of a loved ones hand; these things that bring so much pleasure to those in concert with life.

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Hunting Reflections

Do you know what makes a great hunter? It’s having the ability to stay focused for hours on end looking for that which doesn’t belong; that which doesn’t fit into a landscape cluttered with foliage and deadfall, a horizontal line, the flicker of an ear, the shape of an antler amongst a menagerie of sticks and branches, these are the clues that reveal a well camouflaged quarry. I came to this conclusion one day while hunting — day dreaming instead of concentrating on all of the above.

It’s a wilderness hell out there; it’s steep, it’s thick, there are but few paths, it’s what I refer to as the zoo; when the animals hold up in this terrain they are as safe as if they where in a zoo. Hunting it is difficult, not impossible. One wrong move in here though and your toast. A compound pound fracture could prove fatal and they may never find your remains.

So why do I hunt there you ask? Because no one else is fool enough to go in there, I have the whole place to myself, and the elk are hanging, It’s like this . . . hunters flock here from out of state and everyone wants to kill bulls, that takes desire, but few have the desire to hunt the zoo.

The bull let out a thunderous bugle shaking the pit of my stomach; it was like standing in front of a pipe organ in a grand cathedral. When he wasn’t bellowing for his cows, I could here him breath, he was a mere 20 yards in front of me now, hung up behind some small pine trees. I still couldn’t see him though, a five second visual was all I needed, five seconds to draw my bow and shoot. The wind swirled slightly teasing the erect hairs on the back of my neck. Crunch time; the moment of truth had arrived. I had to make it happen, so I let out a seductive cow call attempting to move him into view. The atmosphere erupted with a thunderous calmer of hooves as he gathered his cows and ran them into the next county. Oh well . . . such is the nature of bow hunting elk in wilderness hell.

Nothing is certain. However, when the snow piles deep in the high country and the hoar frost clings to the oak brush, these elk will migrate, many will eventually show up at the ranch and when they do, they will to pay.