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

 

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!

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Hunting in Colorado: Day 3

10/19/15

Once again we chose to ignore my hunting tip #8 and arrived at our pull-off below Weston Pass even earlier than on Day 2. As it was pitch black and I was uncertain of my footing, Mike carried my rifle in his pack for the steepest section of our approach until dawn broke and it was time to chamber a round. He’s the awesomest husband I know.

Dawn breaks over the snow-tipped clearing above tree line on Weston Pass.

Dawn breaks over the snow-tipped clearing above tree line on Weston Pass.

KIND bars have been our snack of choice for a few years now, and although Mike has never been an early morning breakfast eater (I must eat in the morning or I become an ogre), he snarfed a couple down before our ascent. The resultant gastric consequences provided hilarity soon thereafter.

“Did you hear something?” he whispered to me with a big smile halfway up the hill. “It sounded like bugling!”

I rolled my eyes as I did numerous times over the next hour while the nutritious bars wreaked havoc with his digestion. So much bugling. But I don’t blame him for scaring away our potential dinner.

I blamed the monkey crow. I wish I’d thought to tap “record” on my iPhone when we heard him. Snow flurries were soft in the tree line, and because my ankle was feeling pretty good, I decided to stay with Mike as he traversed the higher grounds rather than loll about in the meadow where our elk really should have been.

We know the elk are hiding behind the trees, chuckling at our persistence, sneaking away when I pull out my camera-phone.

We know the elk are hiding behind the trees, chuckling at our persistence, sneaking away when I pull out my camera-phone.

The crow’s laughter was an even closer imitation of monkey chatter than Mike can make, and we stopped to enjoy the merriment for a moment before continuing our stealthy trudge through and over thick and downed pines. Soft little Christmas trees with snow-sprinkled new growth sprouted where the old had fallen long ago, and well into our ascent, Mike stopped for a break. He’s always thinking of me, but I could tell he was also beginning to get discouraged.

Within moments of hitting the trail again, I paused for a familiar routine. I knew he’d spotted a sign. Sure enough, there it was. Fudge-brownie-fresh poop.

Fudge-brownie-fresh elk poop! A sure sign that elk are no longer in the area ;)

Fudge-brownie-fresh elk poop! A sure sign that elk are no longer in the area ;)

We had already traversed too far for my comfort. My ankle was beginning to ache (I’ve been telling myself that hunting is good physical therapy after surgery, but at that point I was questioning myself) and I started praying to Diana, Artemis, Orion, all of the hunting deities, to hide the poopers.

Because “they” listened to me, we hiked and hiked, and hiked and hiked, until we came to another huge clearing far beyond and above the meadow I suddenly wished I had stayed in.

“Look. Classic elk terrain,” Mike whispered. “This is where it says they should be.” We’ve repeated this same message to one another in several locations already. It’s become a joke.

“I know, but elk don’t read,” I whispered back.

“Racist,” he replied. Muffled giggling ensued.

Rambo Mike, in a place where our elk "should have been"!

Rambo Mike, in a place where our elk “should have been”!

We crept around the enormous open space and I realized that not only were there no signs of elk anymore, but my ankle was seriously unhappy. And we were seriously far and high above where we’d parked. And we’d been out for hours and hours and I was ready to become a pescatarian. I like to fish. I like to eat fish. Fishing is easy. I can sit down while I fish. Fishing rods aren’t that heavy. I can drive really close to where I want to fish.

“You stay here and rest. I’m going back into the trees over there and if I don’t see anything, we’ll head back.”

Last smile during elk hunting day 3 before our wicked descent from Weston Pass.

Last smile during elk hunting day 3 before our wicked descent from Weston Pass.

I was all about the heading back, but also truly concerned about the terrain. From where I stood, I couldn’t see over the edge of the field. I had no idea how steep our descent would be. So after having him take the last photo in which I could smile that day, I leaned against a downed tree with my feet uphill and did my best to remain optimistic. And that’s when I had a most unexpected visitor.

An elk? Not a chance. But at the spot where I landed in the acres and acres of terrain we’d covered that day was one little ladybug. For the next half hour as Mike searched for our elusive prey, she and I visited. I marveled at her resolve to stay with me, figuring it was because my body was far warmer than anything in that wind-whipped field. She made me smile, and by the time I had to set her free, I had steeled my mind for the final trudge.

Ladybug ladybug, fly away home . . . and take me with you!

Ladybug ladybug, fly away home . . . and take me with you!

Without going into great detail, suffice it to say that my husband once again was my hero. He took my weapon from me and found a hiking stick to assist with the worst downhill journey of my life so far. I had to do several sections on my butt, so instead of crying (which I almost did several times), I gave thanks for the up-and-downstairs-butt-technique I had mastered in our house while on crutches just weeks before. (see crutches)

Mike found a stick to assist with my mile-long 60ish-degree downward slope back to the 4-Runner.

Mike found a stick to assist with my mile-long 60ish-degree downward slope back to the 4-Runner.

The descent was grueling, but the day was filled with beauty. And I had spent it with my man. We had no elk for all our efforts, but we were still together, still able to smile at the beauty of our surroundings, and still confident that . . . Day 4 would be “the day.”

Hunting in Colorado: Day 2

10/18/15

We heard that Weston Pass was the place to go to find our wily elk for sure. So instead of heeding my tip #8 for Day 1 prep (See tip 8), we drove up to a spot on the road below Weston Pass way before the sun rose.

The hike up to where we knew the elk would be was arduous (for someone like me with a gimpy ankle), but we made good time and got to enjoy the sight of dawn breaking over the cold Rocky Mountains. After a while, we hunkered down in some pine trees. We’d wait a while and watch the herds pass by. We’d have our pick of tasty future meals.

Dawn in the Rocky Mountains, hunting day 2 up Weston Pass.

Dawn in the Rocky Mountains, hunting day 2 up Weston Pass.

After about ½ hour, Mike decided to move farther up the hill. I stayed below. We’d have different vantage points of the same open area through which the elk would meander…at any minute. I drilled myself on the gutless method of removing the tenderloins. Dinner.

Suddenly I saw wild gesticulations from above, and when I followed Mike’s pointed finger, THERE THEY WERE! Although difficult to see from my position, a cow, two calves and a spike were walking through a small clearing between thick pines on the far, far side of the meadow. Mike gestured for me to come up to where he was already in a firing position, but I think we both knew that the tiny window of opportunity and the distance were too challenging to overcome in the split second between seeing them and watching them disappear.

“I should’ve taken the shot,” he said, “but by the time I had the elevation adjusted, it was too late.”

“You did the right thing. You want a clean shot.” I told him what he already knew.

“You stay here. I’m going over to see if I can pick up the trail.”

Meadow grass up Weston Pass, hunting day 2.

Meadow grass up Weston Pass, hunting day 2.

For the next 90 minutes, Mike hiked and I lay prone in the meadow grass by a large, dead tree trunk. Maybe he’d scare them out and I’d get my shot. Instead, I waited and lounged and peered through the grass, remembering my 5th grade teacher at Archie T. Morrison Elementary School in Braintree who had us do something quite similar during our poetry unit, but without rifles. I think she might have been the one who sparked my interest in writing.

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

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

While Mike hiked, I shot photos, something my friends tell me I should be doing rather than shooting “poor innocent animals.” I took my hunting glamour shot and visited for a while with a nosy lark bunting. I really do like shooting photos, but I’d like to know I could feed myself during the zombie apocalypse too.

By the time Mike returned, he was beat and I was ready to head home.

“There are tons of signs over there. It’s like an elk highway. We’ll come back tomorrow, okay?”

I would have agreed to anything at that point. We were silent as we drove home, tired and hungry, and our reward for our efforts on Day 2 was a glorious rainbow embracing our little Leadville.

Rainbow over Leadville. End of hunting day 2.

Rainbow over Leadville. End of hunting day 2.

Clearly, Day 3 would be “the day.”

Hunting in Colorado: Day 1

Here are some tips on what to do before charging out on Day 1 of your hunting season:

  1. Read last year’s hunting blog and laugh about how inexperienced you were.
  2. Tell yourself, “This will be the year!”
  3. Review videos on the gutless method of harvesting your kill, preferably while you’re eating something. This is my favorite one: Gutless method
  4. Tell yourself, “I can do that in 10 minutes, 15 minutes max.”
  5. Don’t worry about losing sleep the night before Day 1. You won’t have any trouble sleeping after 8 hours of moving, sweating, waiting, and shivering.
  6. Assure your non-hunting friends you do realize you’re stopping a beating heart when you shoot an animal.
  7. Practice whispering with your hunting partner. Start with little messages like, “They’re waiting for us.”
  8. Ask everyone where they bagged their elk. When they tell you, go somewhere else.

Mike and I started our Day 1 hunt before sunrise on Mt. Zion because we heard that’s

Hunting day 1, morning break. Still feeling pumped!

Hunting day 1, morning break. Still feeling pumped!

where our next meal would be hanging out. Despite my initial dread of spending a day beating the brush after re-reading my post from last year’s hunting adventures (Hunting with my Hubby), I geared up and we got to our parking spot before sunrise. Mike knew my mobility was limited since I just ditched the crutches a week ago from ankle surgery six weeks prior and convinced me we’d move at my speed.

It didn’t take long before we found our hunting rhythm, which truly illustrated “a snail’s pace.” Although we saw some signs (signs=poop) of elk having been there, we were not convinced they were still hanging

Pee break. "Stack... arms!" (that's an Army command)

Pee break. “Stack… arms!” (that’s an Army command)

around. I don’t know what it is about constantly scanning the ground and surroundings for signs and movement, and perhaps it’s just our own constant movement at high altitudes, but the need to pee is far more frequent while hunting. I’ve said if before and I’ll say it again: There’s nothing quite like peeing in the wild. Anyway, after many hours and much hiking (and peeing) and discovering beautiful places where they “should have been,” we returned home at midday. We knew when we went back out that evening, we’d find them.

Driving back to a different starting spot on the mountain, still full of adrenaline and eager to fill our tags on Day 1, we discussed what would happen if we came across a “twofer.” Mike has a cow tag and I have a bull tag, same season, so the idea of walking into a pasture and catching a little bull-on-cow action was just too funny not to consider.

"They SHOULD be here!"

“They SHOULD be here!”

Alas, our anticipation adrenaline wore off as the sun set, and we returned home again home again, jiggity-jig, to a dinner of mac&cheese and early to bed. Clearly, Day 2 would be “the day.”

Here’s a link to my hunting epilogue from 2014 and there are several other daily posts before it. Just search “hunting” for more:

2014 hunting epilogue

Hunting: Day 9 Epilogue

Here’s my epilogue
They were somewhere, I was naught
Never heard a herd

Although I never pulled the trigger, no one can say I didn’t give it my best shot. I ended this hunting season as I began it—elkless—but richer, still, for the experience.

Mike and I watched another magical morning bloom across the sky as we moved through our last hunting area of the season. Knowing that this was our last day, my last chance to do something I’ve lost sleep over these past several weeks, we walked more slowly than ever. Even so, the “scrunch” of dry snow and ice under our boots was too loud.

Day 9 morn

We agreed that if we saw nothing this morning, we’d call it quits for the day. We whispered little. When we did, it was the usual, “This would be a great place for them to hide,” followed by, “Yeah, I know, they should be here,” followed by, “They’re probably peeing on our car right now,” followed by muffled chuckles. It really was comical, or sad, depending on your perspective. I’ll go with comical.

Day after day of prodding poop piles (a band name, perhaps?) made me recall a story my dad used to enjoy telling, the one about two little boys sent to play in a room filled with horse shit for a day. When they got home, the mom asked about their day. One boy cried and complained about all the poop. The other boy gleefully exclaimed his willingness to return the next day because “with all that horse poo, there must be a pony in there somewhere”!

The only real “signs” we saw today, however, were signs of disrespectful hunters, and Day 9 morn 4that made us both angry. I’ll never understand why anyone would think it’s okay to leave beer cans and bottles littering the outdoors. I hoped they went home elkless as well.

When we reached the farthest point in our search, it was time to head back home. We both decided there was no need for stealth, and had we been the hunted, we would have made easy targets. It was a bizarre thought, I know, but it did cross my mind as we hustled back noisily to the 4-Runner. Too many “Hunger Games” movies, I suppose.

By the time we returned home, I decided I would return to a close-in site for the last few hours of the day.

“I’ll go by myself,” I told Mike, not wanting him to feel obligated to watch the ball drop, so to speak, on my first hunting season.

“Why would you do that?” he asked. “Of course I’m going with you,” he continued, looking at me as if I had grown an extra nose.

So without going into the step by step details, the most exciting moment of the evening was when I caught movement in the trees behind us. I spun around and put my scope on the biggest rabbit I have ever seen.

Day 9 end2“Don’t shoot the rabbit with the .308,” said Mike matter-of-factly.

“Oh, but…,” I protested. The sun was disappearing over the mountains and I was hungry. And did I say it was the biggest rabbit I had ever seen? It wasn’t elk-size, of course, but it would have made quite a stew.

I sure did want to end my hunting blog with a thrilling conclusion and photos of me elbows deep in the guts of my first kill. But it just wasn’t meant to be.

I did, however, confirm what we have known all along…that those wily beasts have been following us…and laughing.

Day 9 end

Day 9 end3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hunting: Day 8 Evening

Running out of ways
To say we’re elkless again
But still having fun

Or are we? Sure we are. And honestly, I can’t believe the weather we’ve had this week. Sadly, it’s weather that doesn’t motivate herds of elk to come out of the mountains for warmth.

Ranger holding on

Ranger did his best to prevent me from leaving this evening, and the text message I received from one of my four sisters—“Why don’t you just drink wine like the rest of us…wtf?”—almost made me reconsider our evening hunt.

 

But I can’t end this week saying, “I’ll bet we would have bagged one if we had gone out that 8th night.” And so off we went to a location near the death-by-hills area. I drove the trusty 4-Runner up inclines I wasn’t sure it could handle, white-knuckled the whole way up.

“If you have a long shot,” Mike whispered to me when we were close to the top of the world, “I’ll bend over and you can brace yourself on my back.”

I swear, the man really must love me.

“Um, yeah, no. Don’t think I’ll be doing that,” I whispered back as gratefully as I could. willowsAlthough we saw many perfect places for elk to hang out at the end of the day, like this swath of willows, we never saw a sign of habitation. Not even by a long shot.

Driving back down at the end of the evening made me realized just how far we had climbed on our previous hunts, and once I could release my death-grip on the steering wheel, I was able to bask in the glory of my physical accomplishments.

And now we’re down to one more day. So tell me, honestly,

Shadow selfie lastdoes this pack make my ass look fat? Oh, and thanks for enduring the endless chronicles of my hunting season.

 

Hunting: Day 8 Morning

Running out of time
One more hunting day remains
Elk laugh knowingly

Ranger looked up at me this morning with an expression that said, “Who are you and what have you done with my mom?” He has not been pleased with these days of pre-sunup excitement, and this morning’s 04:50 alarm was just too much. He skulked back to bed.

day 8 morning4

Mike and I were on site and I was ready to shoot even before the moment it would be legal.day 8 morning The moon was still high over the mountains, and it was bitter cold even though I was day 8 morning2dressed like an Eskimo. We thought we might stake out a place we had identified last night, but after standing motionless for almost 15 minutes, our toes started to freeze and even I agreed I’d rather be hiking.

We moved at a noiseless pace, and I finally felt like a “real” hunter. Having to control each foot placement helped to generate body heat. Moment by moment our surroundings unfolded with the nearly imperceptible brightening of the sky right before sunrise.

Two glorious mule deer sprang across an opening to our front, about 50 meters away, and my heart raced. I wondered if mule deer hung out with elk, but I hadn’t come across that in any of my pre-hunting-season research. Still, I took it as a good sign.

For two hours we scoured the forest and poked at poop-piles, “me and my shadow,” until we had completed a sizeable circuit ending back at the vehicle.

day 8 morning3

“I’d say we go home, get some breakfast, and maybe come back later,” said my shadow. It was unlike Mike to call it quits so quickly, but then he moved past the vehicle. “Maybe one more traverse down that way,” he said, and I felt like he had read my mind.

“Sounds good,” I said, still in a whisper.

“We don’t have to move as stealthily this time,” he whispered back.

Roger that, I thought. “Okay,” came out of my mouth.

We spent another half-hour hiking and hoping the herds of sleepy elk would somehow find their way to us and sacrifice one of their own to our cause, but I guess that’s just not how it happens.

Stay tuned for tonight’s episode of “Looking for Luck in All the Wrong Places”!

Hunting: Day 7

Lost my funny bone
“Signs, signs, everywhere there’s signs”
But that’s about all

Yup. If finally happened. I lost my sense of humor this morning.

Mike and I were back where we had hunted last weekend, where I had silently cursed the endless inclines, where a friend—just the day after we were there—harvested an elk. “Harvest: to catch, take, or remove for use.” Sounds far more acceptable than “shot,” eh?

Anyway, we both felt like this would be our lucky day. It was time, I reasoned. Sure, I knew statistics were against us and only about 25% of hunters successfully filled their tags each season, but we had been doing more than due diligence!

The day was clear and not too cold. I was surprised by the comfort of the pack on my back and the rifle in my hands. Day after day of putting in the hours was paying off.

After almost two hours of sleuthing, nature made an insistent call.

“I reeeally need to go!” I whispered to Mike after peeling off my top jacket. With the sun up, the day was growing warm.

“Did you bring paper?” he whispered back.

“No, I’ll just use a stick,” I said.

“Gross,” he responded.

“Baby,” I called him.

When I finished—one of those magical experiences that didn’t even require a stick!—I felt light on my feet despite the weight in my pack, which felt just a bit weightier than when I had donned it earlier. Nevertheless, we were back to sleuthing and still felt confident.

But hours passed. Yes, the day was lovely. Yes, I was spending time with my husband. And yes, regardless of the day’s outcome, I was in a place with no laundry to fold, no dishes to wash, no bills to pay. So why did I start to lose my sense of humor?

I did my best to accept Mike’s suggestions for which trail to follow next even though they inevitably led back up increasingly steep hills. I hate steep hills. I hate steep hills with a passion. I’ve lived at 10,200’ for eight years now and I still get winded climbing the stairs at home.

So I really tried not to resent his suggestions and his ability to climb steep hills like a mountain goat. But it was becoming more difficult. My head was telling me, “He wants to find an elk as badly as you do, so pull up your big-girl panties and drive on,” but my body was screaming, “Hello! I’m sending you signs! This is hurting me as much as it’s hurting you!”

Something ran across the crest of a hill when I was about to throw down my weapon and pout. That was all it took to get me moving again, even though Mike and I both agreed it was probably a deer.

Into the fifth hour of beating around the bush, however, in addition to the stabbing plantar fasciitis in my left heal, I started feeling like I was developing trigger-elbow in my right arm and stock-wrist in my left from holding my weapon at-the-ready for so long.

Five hours of being “at-the-ready,” of anticipating the moment I would crest the final hill and see a whole herd of elk just chillin’ on the other side, of studying each step before I took it, suddenly took its toll.

I used to think I might actually have a moment of hesitation before pulling the trigger if I were ever to get an elk in my crosshairs, but no more. I was ready to scream, “Make my day, wily beast! Make my frickin day!”

“My fun meter is pegged,” I whispered to Mike, and he agreed that it might be time to head back home for something to eat and maybe even a nap. We’d try again in the evening.

It seemed to take forever to get back to the car. Screw these stealthy steps, I thought, and practically stomped down one of the many hills we had earlier climbed. When we were almost out of the woods, we came across the elk bones we had seen frosted with snow the first weekend of hunting.

“I want the spine,” I told Mike.skull mask

“Seriously?” he asked.

“Yup,” I said.

“What are you going to do with it?” he asked.

“Probably hang it on a wall,” I said. And with that, he wrapped it in a plastic bag and carried it out for me. I packed away my petulance.

After a monster-sized brunch and a snooze, we followed a friend to a place he knew had roaming herds, and although we came home empty-handed again, the location was hill-less and I was happy. We’ll go back out tomorrow because…

There were lots of signs!

Hunting: Day 6

Day 6

Another peaceful
Morning alone in the woods
Wish elk would visit

Before the sun rose this morning, the full moon rolled over the edge of Mt. Massive with startling speed. After the confidence boost I got from my solo evening hunt, I decided to try my luck one more time before Mike returned. Not normally a morning person, I was proudHunting sun selfie of myself for getting up and out before the town awoke, especially since I had barely slept last night. I spent most of the night ruminating about what I would do if I actually saw a potential target, and if I was successful, how I would position myself for my “first kill selfie.”

I need not have ruminated. For three and a half hours I meandered through an area suggested by a friend, and although I spent most of the time in wooded areas, I never strayed too far from points I could identify. After all, I didn’t have my hunting buddy with me, and hadn’t yet learned how to use my GPS in the wild.

I enjoyed taking my time exploring things that caught my eye: the base of an old television, feathersa mysterious hanging bucket, a tin can cemetery, beautiful feathers left from someone’s meal, and although I came home without seeing anything larger than a squirrel, the experience left me feeling happier than if I had stayed at home and slept a few more hours, something I will do right about now.