Sunday, February 13, 2011

Planning Ahead, 2011 is "Year Of The ELK!

I recently had a birthday and I am getting really close to the ages that begin with 4 (I can't even begin to say the word 40's let alone describe myself as being in that demographic).  It is times like these that I become a bit more reflective and think back about what I have done and what I still want to achieve.  Growing up I read about the great adventures of Fred Bear as he went to Alaska, Canada, and Africa to hunt big game and I consumed a steady diet of hunting magazines and other hunting books that told tales of pursuing North Americas big game.  I just knew that I too would be chasing deer, elk, moose, caribou, and bears as soon as I finished school.  Well, life has a way of changing those plans with getting married, having children, going back to grad school, and a job that doesn't locate you near the mountain states or Alaska.  I have been successful at hunting whitetail deer, wing shooting, freshwater fishing, and I learned how to saltwater fish from a kayak, but I still long for wild places chasing really big game.  I made a resolution last year (about this time of year) that I would take each of the major North American big game species with a bow before I am too old to hunt.  I am excluding the varieties of big horn sheep and mountain goats because these animals require serious money to pursue.  So my plan is to take an Elk, Caribou, Pronghorn Antelope, Mule Deer, and Moose.  This is my bucket list.

I have done some initial research and decided that I begin this journey by pursuing Elk.  So why did I make that choice you ask.  Well there are reasons.  First, to go on a good Mule Deer hunt, you need to draw a tag in a high quality area of one of the mountain states.  This requires preference points and that takes multiple years of drawing.  So cross Mule Deer off the list for this year, but put in for preference points, check.   Caribou hunting is a major expense as you have to go all the way to Canada.  I will likely make this one my second to last animal to take off the list due to the expense and time required, so cross Caribou off the list and start saving, check.  Moose is in the really expensive category as well, but there are also tags that can be drawn in some closer states.  I will begin to put in for those as well once I research them more thoroughly, but this will probably be the last animal on my list, so cross moose off the list for this year.  Now pronghorn was a tough decision.  I can afford this hunt, the season is at the right time of year, and the success rates for hunting over water holes is really good.  All the stars are aligned, but it came down to this.  I really want a true wilderness hunt in the mountains chasing Elk.  Cross off Antelope this time, because it is the YEAR OF THE ELK!

With the species selected. now I need to choose a state.  I looked at New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Wyoming, and Idaho.  Not all the states had archery season dates that would fit my small window of opportunity due to work restrictions, distance is a consideration as I will be driving, and then there is the issue of drawing tags.  After reviewing all the information, I chose Colorado because it has the largest herd, I can buy and over the counter (OTC) tag and it is relatively close to where I live compared to the other states.  More to come on the actual area I have chosen to hunt.

Next decision is guide, no guide, or drop camp.  I have never hunted with a guide before so I don't know what it would really be like, but have always been a solo bowhunter and prefer being in the woods by myself.  I would like some assistance with packing deep into the woods and some help getting an elk out, so I have decided that a drop camp is the ticket for me.

My chances will be slim (probably about a 10-15% chance of success) and the conditions will be tough.  I am being packed into a wilderness area where vehicles and ATVs are not allowed.  I will be at significantly higher elevations so I will be out of breath and tired much quicker than I normally would.  I will need to be in the best shape of my life and then I might be almost ready for the challenge that lies ahead of me.

So, some, but not all of my future posts will be about my preparation for this trip.  Just off hand I can think of several things I need to do that I will likely write about as well, such as:

1.  Determining the optimum arrow weight and broad head selection for Elk
2.  Selecting the appropriate camping gear (back pack stove, sleeping bag, bivy shelter, etc.
3.  Selecting the food for the trip (I am leaning toward freeze dried backpack food)
4.  Testing the gear and food selections on a camping trip
5.  Researching Elk hunting strategies
6.  Learning to effectively call Elk
7.  Learning how to navigate in the mountains with a map and GPS and compass
8.  Chronicling my struggle to get into tip top shape for Elk hunting

I am sure this is not a complete list, but I am so stoked just thinking about it.  Now that the decision has been made, I must start with getting into shape.  I have been stuck behind a desk for the last two months and then there was the deep freeze of winter weather we have all been trapped in.  Yesterday was the perfect day to begin my journey to a more fit me with warm south winds blowing, it got up to 70 degrees and I had an afternoon hall pass.  I planned to go mountain biking, but after checking the web site for the trails I learned that they were closed due to muddy trails.  I opted for hiking instead.

North Shore Trail Link

My hiking trail of choice for a quick trip is Lake Grapevine on the North shore.  I took the west loop trail because it is has more rough terrain, rocks, and hills.  It isn't elk country, but it the closest I can muster up in North Central Texas.  I took the camera to take some pics of the more challenging rocks that mountain bikers make it over.

I am not an expert mountain biker and have to walk up some of these, but I can make it down most all of them.  It is a great work out and a lot of fun.

Although this is just outside many people's back yards, there are signs of wildlife.

So after I made two miles into the trail, I decided I should turn back.  After I had traveled the third mile, my knee began to hurt as I traveled down some of the more steep hills.  Later this soreness became real pain.  I had to just grunt through the last mile until I made it back to my truck.  I had bitten off more than I could chew by taking a four mile hike from a state of being completely out of shape.  This is a wake-up call.  Now I need to heal up and then get in shape.  As I write this post tonight, I have gone from limping around the house yesterday, to walking like frankenstein this morning, to looking more like a rapper with a limp in his gait.  I think by tomorrow I will be fine, but I will be more careful next time.  Now I will work up the miles more slowly so I don't repeat this event.  It really sucks getting old.

No comments:

Post a Comment