Until today I've been backpack camping with guns during hunting season. Not that I haven't filled the freezer before, but since I've been backpacking for elk, the elk have been elusive... until today.
Friday I got a late start. I'd just hit I-70 when my wife called and reminded me that I'd forgot to sign my mail-in ballot. Doh! Turn around and head back to the house to take care of civic duty before fun.
An hour delayed I still had time to get things set up before dark. I happened to find poles in convenient lengths to set up the new tent using a tripod and the hang loop.
Right at dark I heard a bugle... and thought to myself "no... that must be some deranged hunter... they should be done bugling by now."
Saturday morning I set off in the direction where the bugle had come from and I heard what I thought was someone on horseback on the ridge above me. I thought it was a horse because it sounded like sticks rubbing on fabric. Then I heard a bugle confirming in my mind that it must be a hunter. I had just entered the trees and I heard it again and close. I took five more steps and spotted a 5x5 or small 6x6. He was backlit and I couldn't get a real good look. There were also a couple of cows with him, but with the tough light and the trees I couldn't get anything lined up before they disappeared over a rise. I followed, but as I approached a clearing I saw the bull staring at me from behind some trees. I sat down but it was too late, he turned but wasn't in a real hurry. I took a chance and crossed the clearing and about the time I got to where he had been the hillside erupted with the sound of thundering hooves... It sounded like there must have been 30 or 40 head going in all directions.
I sat down for a bit and let things settle. I headed in the likely direction the went and did hear another bugle after 20-30 minutes. By this time I'd realized that I'd forgotten to grab my lunch packet so I headed back to my camp before venturing further.
While back at camp and regrouping from the morning excitement I took time to gather some trees to cut for firewood. Then I sat down and snacked while deciding how to approach the herd I'd busted earlier. While I was sitting there there was the thunder of hooves and 30 or 40 head burst off of the ridge on the north side of my camp!
Where's my gun!!! Behind me, I grab it, shoulder, pick up a target, pull the trigger, nothing! Damn, safety, flick the safety off, pick up another target, pull the trigger, click... damn, made safe for camp. Load a round and pick up the last cow in the group... boom. She disappeared into the draw. I watched the rest of the herd head about face and head up the lower section of the ridge they'd just bailed off of. I thought better of myself and picked up my stuff to go look and see if I'd hit the cow on my first shot.
I got close to where I'd last seen her when I caught movement headed up the hill to my right. She was on the move and disappearing into some thicker trees. I had a brief glimpse of a patch of fur and I took another shot. I saw her limp and then disappear. I climbed the hill in search, and she was laying down with her head up. I fired another shot into her neck so she wouldn't get up.
I thanked her.
Then set about to work using the gutless method for the first time. I'll try it again given the chance.
Back at camp with tenderloins in the bag hanging from the pole.
Yum! tenderloin for dinner.
Sunday: Personal satisfaction in hauling out a load on my back! Today I am a backpack hunter.
I'm also quite pleased with the LLBean pack. It was easy to keep things contained and reasonably distributed.
However my feet paid the price. I swear my feet must still be growing. I've had different problems over the years with heel blisters, or with toe problems, and this year I had both.
I made arrangements with an outfitter to pack the other half of my cow, the hide and the head. He was supposed to get my gear too, but he didn't show on time so I'd reached my drop dead time for making the hike out. Every step hurt. Three hours of backpacking, >1000 feet up and down over a ridge to the car with what felt like someone pounding on my toes with a hammer on every step and jabbing a poker in my heels.
My luck was good though, the outfitter had been running late and still had grabbed my cow. One of his hands passed me with the rest of my cow with about 3/4 mile left to the car.
Painful but successful and satisfying. I'll do it again next year. In the meantime I have a list of todos and at the top of the list is some new boots.