At 2:50, I spotted an interesting buck deer. Its antlers, face, and white throat patch were whitetail-looking, but it had a mule deer's butt. I bleated at him, and he got interested and came closer. Then I grunted, and he got nervous and left in a hurry. It didn't do the pogo-stick routine when it left (bouncing on all four legs like a mule deer), so it may have been a hybrid.
By about 3:30 I had given up hope that any elk would approach from the way Bill's had come, because the wind was pretty much spreading my scent all over those woods. My only hope was that an elk would come from the south, but as the hours crawled by, more and more elk failed to appear.
I wasn't always bored... I experienced an eerie moment when a large number of aspen leaves turned loose of their trees simultaneously and descended on me like Hitchock's "The Birds." I hadn't spent much time around aspen trees before.
I did hear some elk cow calls, but none of my prayers - nor the noises I made with the Hoochie Mama call - resulted in my seeing an elk.
The Day is Done
At 6:45, I was back at camp, trying to thaw out and unwind. Another day of elk hunting was behind me - and only one more lay ahead.
Bill had prepared a supper that soon left me with a contented gut. An after-supper recitation of my poem was very well-received by Bill and Larry, and by 10:35 I was in bed listening to the Rocky Mountain wind howling outside. It seemed to bemoan the fact that I lay snug in bed while the wind itself was being given little rest, night or day.
I was up at 5:42, listening to the wind still howling outside. I stepped outside and noted with a thrill - though not exactly a happy one - that it was raining as well as blowing. Goody.
Breakfast was prepared by Bill, and a happier chef you will never find. Eggs, bacon, sausage, and hash browns provided a good, solid, and simply delicious start to the day. It was decided that I might as well hunt the same place again to begin with. I was hunkered in place by 7:27. My notes say, "Cloudy, windy, spitting rain lightly most of the time."
At 9:00, having seen nothing, I departed. Larry and I headed over to the 840 - the piece of land where we'd done most of our hunting.
On the way there, we spotted a line of elk on a mountainside, heading somewhere with a purpose. I counted twenty, and more were obscured by brush along their trail. Larry said they were headed towards the 840, and we both hoped they would arrive there before long.
At 10:45 I was situated in stand seven, with the insane and sometimes rain-driving wind pummeling the elevated box stand and myself. I hunted there until just after noon. Saw some deer, but no elk.
We headed back to camp to try still-hunting the pine patch, which is kind of a last-resort honey hole. Unfortunately, no elk were observed - and there was no sign that any had even been there recently.
A Final Move
By 3:20, I was sitting in stand eight. Nobody had killed an elk from that stand before, but the elk were known to feed out of the aspens in the afternoon, and there was a chance that I'd get a shot at one. I planned to be the first to get an elk from there.
Hey - guess what? The wind was whipping and roaring. No surprise there. It was now certain that I wouldn't get even one calm hunt in Colorado... but worse things have happened, I reckon. It was shaping up to be the warmest day yet, and the sun beat on me through the open windows of the box stand, making me more conspicuous than I wished to be.
Now I See it, Now I Don't
At 4:24, I spotted an elk - a long ways out there. It turned out to be beyond the rangefinder's 400-yard reach, but even at that range it must have spotted me when I grabbed the rifle to ease it up and take a better look, because it bolted. I tried to stop it with a couple squeaks from the Hoochie Mama call, but no dice. Within a few steps, it was gone behind a screen of aspens.
I kept spotting deer, many of them within range, but of course they refused to become elk. Some of them even celebrated their non-game status by gamboling and playing on the ridge in front of me. They knew deer season was closed.
At 6:04, I looked up and spotted an elk! One ridge ran almost straight away from me, with a cleared strip along its top. At the far end of that strip stood a feeding elk. I glassed it, I scoped it. It seemed to be a cow, but it was very, very far away - much farther than the earlier elk had been.
As I watched, I saw at least four more elk there, feeding around. Squeaking on the Hoochie Mama call did not bring them my way, although it did get their attention briefly. At 6:15, they left, disappearing into the thick brush as finally as if they'd been swallowed up by the earth itself.
At 6:16, I spotted a small (non-legal) bull and then a cow, left of that location but just as far away. They were simply too far for a shot - although I had a rogue thought of lobbing one out there. At 6:24 they turned on the haul-ass and went the way the other elk had gone. Shortly thereafter, I heard some cow calls and answered with some desperate Hoochie Mama music, but they didn't come my way.
Skunked, Ethical, and Slightly Insane
The final hours of the hunt slid away like elusive phantom eels. As darkness approached on that last day, I had had a chance to "sling one out there" at an elk, and had successfully resisted. I had no way of knowing the range to those elk, nor did I have the experience or knowledge to take a confident shot even if I had known the range - they were just too far away.
I was disappointed to end the hunt elkless, and looking at those last elk gave me a "so close but yet so far" kind of feeling. I was a bit frazzled at the time. Before leaving the stand, I made this entry in my notes: "Mantra: 'I'm still an ethical hunter.' Repeat often to regain sanity."
At 6:49 I called it quits and began packing my gear.
Back at camp, supper was BBQ beef, au gratin potatoes, and biscuits with those delightful layers. It was mighty good - the best one yet. Not a bad way to end the last day of my first elk hunt.
I did some arranging and packing in preparation of departing the next day, and finally got to sleep around midnight.