By 4:45, the temperature was falling, and just before 5:00 I spotted a couple more deer. This helped boost my confidence that I could spot any elk that might wander by, because elk are generally easier to spot than deer.
By 6:00 it was getting sure-nuff cold and the wind was pretending it might actually lay down and give us a break. At 6:12 my old friend the radio doe was back in view nearby, with two other deer.
At 6:21 I began to hear some cow elk talk. I hit the Hoochie Mama call, but got no response. I heard bugling at 6:36, 6:42, and 6:45... and at 6:53 there was a veritable bugle-fest - but I never did lay eyes on the critters doing all the talking. By then it was nearly dark, and time to head on out. As we did so, we encountered two porcupines in the rough dirt road - the first ones I'd seen in the wild.
Between the camp and the hunting property, we passed a little house with a small yard. Larry revealed that it was the very house where his grandfather had raised a mess of young 'uns - two girls and seven boys. Pretty cool to live close by such a special place, rustic-looking as ever but still occupied and being used.
Bending my Poor Brain
After supper back at camp, Bill befuddled my already-taxed brain with an interesting card trick. Just what I needed - to feel even more stupid. Thankfully, he took pity on me and revealed its secret, which had cost him dearly to learn, years before.
By 9:50 I was crawling into the sack, looking forward to sleeping in the next morning. We'd decided to hunt near camp, since we figured it would be hard to do any worse than we'd done on the other property...
I was up at 5:54, cussing the bedside lamp. Something loose in its guts made it unpredictable and aggravating. But hey - good morning anyhow!
Breakfast was designed to please this ol' country boy: Bacon, hash browns, and eggs. Sure is hard to beat that.
At 7:05 we headed out. The sky was overcast, and a strong wind was blowing from the southeast - mostly above the trees. I have no idea what the temperature was, but it was a good bit warmer than it had been early in the hunt.
Larry situated me on a hillside overlooking a grassy bottom, and went slipping off to see what he could find elsewhere. As I watched, mule deer strolled down the opposite slope as I unsuccessfully willed them to transform into elk. They were soon feeding in the grassy bottom. When they got antsy and left in a hurry, no elk appeared - dang it.
Bill Makes Contact
Larry soon returned, and we moved and watched in a couple different locations. Then, at 9:26, we heard a shot that almost had to be Bill. He had gone up to sit near the upper corner of the property. At the sound of the shot, Larry and I grinned at each other and exchanged an enthusiastic thumbs-up. Bill soon called on the radio to tell Larry he had a cow elk down.
Turns out, two cow elk and a calf had come by very close to Bill, possibly pushed that way by Larry and me. Bill took the trailing cow with a single well-placed shot from his Browning BAR 30-06. She had started to spook upon seeing Bill raise his rifle, and then paused quartering away. Bill aimed and fired, and she went about thirty feet before piling up.
When we got there, Bill was ecstatic. Wouldn't you be? It was this third consecutive year hunting with Larry, and he'd gotten an elk on each trip - one of them a bull which he'd shot while hunting the same spot. I was almost as happy for him as I would have been if I'd gotten her myself.
After we gutted the elk (my role was anchor - holding a rope to keep it opened up so Larry could work more easily), it was decided that I ought to hunker there and hunt, assured by Larry that the gutpile wouldn't bother any other elk that might come by.
A Red Kool-Aid Toast
The elk was soon lassoed to Larry's ATV and on its way back to camp, where Bill could begin boning it out and packing his things, as he needed to be on his way early on Thursday morning. Before we parted ways at 10:51, we three each took a shot of red Kool-Aid from Bill's bottle to commemorate the occasion.
The wind couldn't make up its mind what to do, and it was clear that if I sat where Bill had been hunting, there was a good chance any elk following the usual route would wind me, so I took a chance and moved.
The sun poked its nose out intermittently, but for the most part it was windy and overcast - and eventually it got cold as well. My GPS indicated an altitude of 8520 feet.
I managed to spook a couple deer by being careless, which told me I'd better move less and look more. By 12:15 something odd decided to fall from the sky upon me - tiny snowballs! I learned later it was sleet - which was new to this Florida boy. The sun was shining as the first batch fell. The precipitation continued for quite a while, alternating between little snowballs and regular ol' raindrops.
Around 2:00, a couple lines of poetry formed themselves in my head. Strange, because I hadn't written any poetry for more than twenty years. Anyhow, I decided I needed to record it in my notes and see what came of this new inspiration, so I pulled out my iPod touch and got busy typing.
I'd been sitting there for hours, thinking thoughts of roaming elk and mule deer, and of Bill happily boning out his elk meat at the camp down below. Anyhow, here's the result:
I'm a-sittin' in the aspens, just a-waitin' for some game;
next to Mr. Schinski I'm a-feelin' sorta lame.
While I'm crampin' and a-squirmin' he's a-bonin' up a storm;
it's a-rainin' and a-snowin' but I bet he's dry and warm.
Yes, it's true that Mr. Bill has gone to where I want to be;
he's a-packin' and a-grinnin', thinkin' "Better him than me!"
Well, I'd better put this thing away or hear my conscience nag:
"If you keep composin' poetry you'll never fill your tag!"
And so I did (put it away). But I couldn't help giggling a bit as my hunt continued.