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 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