Tag Archives: elk hunting

What’s the Best GPS for Hunting?

With summer just starting in Leadville, Colorado, it’s hard to believe hunting season is just around the corner! We haven’t yet learned if we drew tags for this year (fingers crossed), but I’m already brushing up on my harvesting skills. We’re down to just a few packages of fajita meat in the freezer from last fall’s roadkill, so I’m looking forward to restocking soon!

If you’re a hunter or hiker (hunting for breathtaking scenery), you should consider purchasing and learning how to use a GPS (Global Positioning System). It will help immensely when you need to remember where you left your tasty meat, or if you’ve lost yourself in the excitement of the hunt, it will help you find your way back home!

Sally, a fellow hunter and writer, recently provided me with a Top 10 list of GPS devices and a link to an article with more information about each. Here’s what she sent:

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In the books I read as a child, the hero, well anyone who was hunting, did so with a bow and arrow. They navigated from memory or by using the sun and the stars (not at the same time naturally). Today, it’s a little different, but a large part of me loves the idea of ditching technology and going out, me versus the moose mano a mano or well, womano a moose.

Now we have small children and I have a tech obsessed husband, the question has not been what technology to use, but which type of each gadget available. One of the ones he loves most is the GPS device, as someone who is great at navigating without a map, using one is a disaster in the making, so I’ll give it to him, GPS are useful because they tell me where on the map I am and how to get to my destination. So, after a bit of trial and error, we’ve worked through and reviewed the top 10 available right now, which are:

  1. eTrex (Garmin)
  2. Montana 680 Touchscreen GPS (Garmin)
  3. Rhino 750 (Garmin)
  4. Oregon 650t GPS (Garmin)
  5. Garmin 64st
  6. eTrex 10 (Garmin)
  7. eTrex 20x (Garmin)
  8. DeLorme InReach SE
  9. Back Track G2 (Bushnell)
  10. Foretex 401 (Garmin)

That’s just the list. I’ve put together the pros and cons of each as well as a review in this article covering the top 10 handheld GPS devices.

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Please check out Sally’s article for lots of info on this very important tool! I know that after some of my hunting expeditions, I could benefit from knowing how to use a GPS (but so far, my husband hasn’t steered me wrong)!

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If you like my writing, you might enjoy my books! Check them out here, and thank you!

Hunting glamour shot. Weston Pass. Waiting and waiting for Mike.

 

Harvesting Roadkill

When Mike’s phone rings at 2:30 a.m.—or any other cold, dark hour—I anticipate the worst. His official job title is Lake County Emergency Manager, but he also volunteers for our county Search and Rescue team. Someone’s probably lost in the mountains.

“What’s that again?” Mike’s oh-dark-thirty voice sounds confused. He flips on the light and I pull the covers over my head like a vampire recoiling from a sunbeam. “Let me ask the wife,” he continues, and now I’m confused.

“Hey, dear, you wanna go carve up some tasty elk?”

You’ve got to be kidding me, I think. It’s 2:30 in the morning and it’s cold outside and it’s warm in bed and it’s 2:30 in the morning and it’s cold outside and I’ve never carved up an actual whole elk before and I’m a little bit scared and it’s 2:30 in the morning.

“Ahhhhh . . . yeah, I guess, you wanna?” I steel myself for his response. Maybe he doesn’t wanna, and then I could say, “We could’ve had elk meat this year, but . . .”

But he says “sure.”

We stumble into warm, unimportant clothes and Ranger looks at us dazed, he stretches, shakes, turns in a circle and plops back onto his bed.

We added our names to the Sheriff’s Department Roadkill List last year after discovering it was “a thing” from another hunter and had already turned down a couple of previous calls for side-of-the-road deer when we weren’t available for a speedy response. We had no real excuse this time, and we were told it was a cow elk about a 15-minute drive away. It was my hunting season. I had a tag for a cow elk (not necessary for a roadkill) and hadn’t seen a single sign of one, probably because I was hunting up in the mountains during daylight, not along county roads at night.

As we approach the mile marker we were told she was near, Mike slows his truck and I strain my eyes to find her. My butterflies wake up. My time has finally come to put my YouTube and book-learnin’ to practical use. For the past couple of years I’d watched and re-watched Fred Eichler’s YouTube video on the “gutless method” of harvesting meat from an elk until I knew I could do it when the time came.

The time had come.

“There she is,” I point to the body conveniently lying on her side just off the road. Mike parks his truck so the headlights illuminate the scene. It’s about 3 a.m. and not as cold as it could be. She’s gorgeous. She’s young.

And she’s still warm. Her open eyes, lovey long-lashed soft brown, disinterested, nonjudgmental, show no sign of fear or struggle. I stroke the so-soft fur along her neck and thank her for what I’m about to do. A knot catches in my throat and I can’t look into her eyes again.

With two short-bladed knives at the ready, my Havalon and Mike’s Gerber, I raise her right leg.

“Here, hold this up,” I direct Mike. I take a deep breath and visualize Eichler as he makes short, fast cuts until the shoulder peels away from its blade. It works, and Mike deposits our first quarter on a clean tarp.

The right hind quarter is more difficult because of its size and the bones involved and the fact that I’m cutting near the gut. After another deep breath—I’m sweating at this point—I do exactly what I’ve burned into my brain, find the hip socket, think briefly about Mike’s new titanium hip, shake that thought from my head, and with Mike holding up the weight of it, after several more slices along the curvature of the butt bone (that’s the technical name), we have a beautiful hind quarter.

“What’s next?” Mike asks.

“Backstrap,” I say, “and I’d like to keep the pelt.”

After cutting the hide up the belly, I have Mike pull back on the pelt while I release it with quick slices from the warm body. I’m surprised by how easily it peels away. When I get over the backbone, I’m ready to liberate the first backstrap, that long, tender meat along the length of the backbone. Piece of cake.

Now I’m nervous because I want the tenderloin. To do that, I’ve got to make an incision below the bottom rib, reach my hand inside, grab it, and cut it on either end from its connective tissue. I’m afraid of puncturing the gut with my knife. Despite the headlights, we’re really working in the dark, and I can’t seem to feel what I’m after.

My hand slides between the gut and the ribs and I marvel at the warmth and silky smoothness. I push back against the abdomen and continue my search for the most prized piece, but to no avail.

“Let’s roll her on the other side,” I tell Mike, though I feel guilty I’ve failed this task. As we roll her over, a car creeps by and then speeds off toward the pass to Aspen.

“Bet they’ve never seen something like this before,” Mike says, and we laugh at what a sight we must be—nighttime knife-wielding roadside butchers eerily illuminated in the headlights. “At least if they call the police they’ll already know about the road kill notification.”

By the time the next two quarters and backstrap are liberated, I feel like I’ve just competed in a wrestling match. I’m sweating bullets. I’ve used muscle fibers that have been dormant for years. I must get the tenderloin from this side.

I reach my hand in again and hear the sound of air escaping.

“Oh, shit!”

“You didn’t cut the intestines, did you?” Mike jumps back with an expression of foul anticipation.

But there’s no smell. My hand probes up higher into the rib cage and I feel something flat. “I think it was a lung. You should really feel in here,” I tell him, and he does. “I think if you’ll use both hands and pull back on the gut, I can find it.” He pulls the now-bulging gut away from the backbone and my hand finds the treasure. I cut out the large-baked-potato-size tenderloin.

After bagging and storing the meat and pelt in the back of the truck, we look at what remains on the side of the road.

“We should probably pull it farther back into the brush,” Mike suggests, and this turns into no easy task. Even with all we’ve removed, it takes the two of us with arms around the weighty head to pull what remains of the cow into a place she won’t be spotted from the road.

It’s still dark when we get home and we’re stupid tired. Our garage is cold. We work together to hang the four quarters from hooks in the rafters and the place is transformed into the freezer scene from Rocky.

Ranger is happy to see us and even happier to sniff our blood-stained boots. I shower and fall into bed, knowing my real work—skinning, butchering, packaging and freezing all that meat—is just beginning.

“Bet you never thought you’d be doing stuff like this 33 years ago,” Mike says.

I had some practice butchering "leftover" quarters last year. Not the same experience!
I had some practice butchering “leftover” quarters last year. Not the same experience!

“Nope. Never in a million years.”

I close my eyes and know I’ll never forget a single moment from the past few hours. I’ll never forget those lovely brown eyes.

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If you like my writing, you might enjoy my books! Check them out here, and thank you!

Hunting 3.0

Walk with me while I reflect on our third year of hunting the wily elk in a not-quite-stream-of-consciousness style. I’ll use punctuation, but I’ll make no effort to turn this into an essay. If I didn’t use punctuation, I’ll would look like Ill, and I’ll get to that next.

I return from a week in Maine in time for my hunting week and try not to think about how much it’s going to suck going from sea level to Leadville level. And I never-ever get sick, but I picked up a cold from a snotty-coughy-cute kid who sat next to me on the plane. I feel like I’m in a tunnel. But I will hunt the wily elk.

We’re up at 4:30 a.m. and I hate getting out of bed in the morning because it’s dark and cold and I have a cold and I’m in a dark cold tunnel in my head.

I’m less nervous this year, maybe because I already have two unsuccessful hunting seasons under my belt. Or maybe it’s my cold medicine. Mike hesitates, asks if I’m sure I want to go because I’m a snot machine and making noises like a grunting snorting bull elk. Maybe it’ll help.

We go. Our high sky is infinite black behind comets and constellations and a half-moon. The Big Dipper looms on the horizon spilling good luck onto our heads and under all of this majesty, I pee behind a bush. My cheeks are cold. All of them.

We climb. I’m happy not to be in too much pain, and what a difference a year makes after ankle surgery last year, but after a week at sea level, I’m sucking wind up the formidable Weston Pass trail, but once we get to the top, the sweet, cold, piney aroma of the waking earth fills my senses.

Spreadable, not edible.
Spreadable, not edible.

Blackness turns to purple turns to barely blue against a powerful pink before all fades to light, and when I can no longer see the stars, the moon overhead sparkles on the icy grasses we crunch upon. Mike is solely focused on the trail, finding tracks, finding elk poop—some even spreadable—that shows only they were here once but are here no longer. I’m focused on this blog and writing sentences like “Daylight greets us like a fond memory.”

No signs of anything alive but us. As much as I want to hunker down and wait for a herd to pass—because they should be here, they always should be in the perfect places we stealthily approach—it’s too cold for that. My nose runs in the cold and I’m a snot-rocket factory.

#22kill push-ups for 22 October.
#22kill push-ups for 22 October.

We each do our 22 push-ups for veteran suicide awareness (#22kill campaign) and head back to the truck, willing a herd or even just one tasty treat to cross our path. It doesn’t happen. We sigh, heavily.

In the evening we hike around Mt. Zion. “We’ll zig-zag,” Mike says, but I know how Mike zig-zags and how many punctuations of straight ups there’ll be and when we get to the fifth or sixth or seventh straight up and it’s starting to get dark, I pout. I struggle to think of an analogy for what we’re doing because it’ll take my mind off pouting.

Trying to find a wily elk in endless acres of forest and valleys and ridgelines and mountain sides is like trying to find the one sane almond in a nuthouse. It’s nearly impossible and quite possibly futile. Especially since almonds rarely talk.

There.

Acres and acres and acres and acres of nothin' but nuts.
Acres and acres and acres and acres of nothin’ but two nuts.

I want to laugh when Mike’s pack catches on a dead limb and its release results in a cartoonish “BOING” sound. And then we both hear a sound that stops us in our tracks. Suddenly all senses are on fire and I’m barely breathing. Even my snot stops running.

“Move r-e-a-l-l-y slowly now,” Mike whispers, and we head toward the animal sound. Half of me hopes it’s nothing because it would be a bitch to get something big out of these trees at night. The other half wants to get something big out of these trees. We move like molasses in winter toward the patch of trees waiting to hear our prey and there it is again!

Simultaneously, we look up.

No, no elk in the treetops, but the rubbing of one dead tree against another in the blustery breeze makes a sound much like a large, grunting animal.

We end the day—and every day this hunting season—as we begin it, with stars and various moons emerging against darkness, more beautiful than any painting on black velvet.

And “Darkness greets us like a black velvet hug.”

Elkless, but happy to spend time together!
Elkless, but happy to spend time together!

If you like my writing, you might enjoy my books! Check them out here, and thank you!