Bow Madness in the Elk Country of Southwestern Colorado

Article contributed by  J. Darland.

My phone chirped, I picked it up, and turned it over so I could read the screen. The text message was from an unknown number, “Bull down. 5 x 4 down in creek bottom, below camping spot.” That is the message you wait impatiently to see when you are stuck working for Cooperate America while your Dad and buddies are out mingling with the Elk of Southwest Colorado.

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I had helped my Dad hunt this area weeks prior and had come across much more sign of an Elk presence than could you imagine. While looking at the signs, all I could think was that this was going to be a good year for hunting.

It was the beginning of September. I had just gotten off work and hit the road to meet up with Dad before we went off the grid for two days of Elk hunting. We met at the side of highway close to where we would hunt. I parked and got in with him and we drove up the Forest Service road for about 10-12 miles. All of the conversations centered on the excitement of taking an Elk down with a bow.

Dad had already been up to the area, prior to my arrival, to get the cabin tent set up and the firewood piled up. Basically, all that was missing when I showed up was a mint on my pillow. He had prepared everything so that we could focus on hunting. It made me feel like I was paying a fancy guide service to take me out hunting. Let’s just say life was good.

IMG_2282We cooked dinner over the fire and then looked over the maps of the area that we would be hunting during the next two days. I noticed that there were many open meadows that covered the main mountain we would be traversing the next day.

If you’ve ever hunted SW Colorado, you know that meadows are a very positive and promising aspect to your hunt because they give you a more level, open area to hunt. The San Juan mountains are some of the steepest in the country which is great for backcountry skiing but tough for hunting, to say the least. Seeing the meadows throughout these maps indicated that the terrain was going to be slightly more graceful than most of the terrain we have hunted previously.

Those two days went by quickly. (As any day in the great outdoors does). We came across more Elk sign than we could even fathom. There were rubs (where an Elk rubs the fur off of his antlers) on trees at every edge of the meadows we walked through. There were plentiful sources of water and many tracks around the water holes, belonging to both Elk and Mule Deer who called this area home.

We setup in several different locations to use the Elk call but we didn’t have any responses to the calls which were let out. Honestly, it was too early for the rut to be occurring anyway but it was worth the try.

IMG_2260We ended that trip on a high note, coming across a couple of secluded meadows that were tough to access due to the ridges around them. This was promising to us because it is possible that the Elk would feel safer in this hidden area. Dad marked the coordinates on the GPS and we headed back to the truck and back to the real world.

Fast forward three weeks…..

It’s 9:30pm and I receive a text message from a number I hadn’t seen before. After looking closer I realized message was from my Dad’s GPS. The message read, “Bull down. 5×4 down in creek bottom, below camping spot.” My only reaction was a heavy fist pump.

All of those miles in the woods with him had paid off. We had walked up and down and all around that area for two days. We found many areas that would hopefully be prime when the Elk became more vocal.

I was excited because Dad had finally bagged his first elk and with that being said, his first elk was killed with a bow at 39 yards, pretty impressive. Out of my brother, my Dad, and myself, Dad had been the most dedicated to getting an Elk on the ground, since our move to Colorado in 2010. I couldn’t wait to hear the whole story on how it all played out.

I immediately replied to his text message, “I will meet you at the highway at 6 in the morning to help give you a hand packing it out.”

I was stoked! I had to be at work by noon that day but I didn’t even consider it at that time. I was going to get up there and help pack his Elk out regardless of my schedule.

The definition of a trophy kill, varies between hunters. Yes the most popular definition of a trophy kill is one that is a larger than life and is mounted on the wall due to the animal’s insane mass and/or features. This Elk was, by no means, a state record but it’s no scrub either.

Once I laid my eyes on the Elk I was overcome with joy in knowing that he had finally taken an Elk down with his bow.



Read part two of Bow Madness in Elk Country

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