Laura encouraged me to go hunting last weekend with my new friend Josh. As it turned out, I really needed the break. I'm not eligible for a resident hunting license until Thanksgiving (6-month waiting period), but I went along as camp cook, driver, spotter and advisor. We camped the first night at 10,200 feet, just outside of Fairplay, CO, not far from the world's highest incorporated city, Alma, CO. After setting up camp, we did some scouting. We saw a lot of elk sign, including fresh tracks and fresh droppings, but not even a hint of deer. (Josh had a mulie buck tag for that area.) When we returned to camp, it was a little breezy, but the wind settled down about dusk, allowing us to light a charcoal fire and cook up some sirloin steak, foil potatoes and green beans. It was a little chilly, but overall really nice. Josh really appreciated my four season tent!
Before dawn on Saturday we hiked up to an aspen meadow we'd found the day before and settled in within view of a game trail to watch and wait. We sat there for almost an hour, not seeing anything more than some nice birds and a beautiful sunrise.
We looked around a little more, then decided to have breakfast, break camp, and drive up to NW Colorado where he had a doe tag and we knew we'd have better luck.
We got there about 3 in the afternoon, and under cloudy skies drove out to the public land where he'd shot all of his deer the previous couple of years. Not much later, we spotted two mulies running up a hillside 600 yards away. (I've got to get me one o' them fancy range finders like Josh has - 598 yards, to be exact!) We drove around the rest of the afternoon, saw lots of hunters, including one dragging a deer out, but no deer. Then the weather moved in... It began to snow and blow - the first snow I'd seen since moving to Colorado. I was ecstatic. I was even more grateful for Josh's GPS, which led us back to the spot he'd camped the year before despite the disorienting snow and twists and turns of the wagon rut trails we were on. (I've got a Garmin eTrex HC - Vista, Summit or Venture on my Christmas list!)
We set up camp in the blowing snow, got a fire going, and heated up some water to make Ramen noodles. My leather gloves were quickly soaked, and my pants, which I'd sprayed with Camp Dry were starting to get a little damp. We warmed ourselves by the fire, which helped, but then decided with the blowing snow we weren't getting any drier, and we needed to get in the tent and get some dry clothes on. With two sleeping bags (one inside the other) dry clothes, my Z-Rest pad and a couple of Josh's hand warmers, I kept mostly toasty all night. We had great cell phone reception, so I was able to talk to Laura and the kids and pray with them. They were having a late night since Laura's friend Charlene and her niece had flown in to Denver that evening.
We woke up again early and found ourselves under four inches of fresh snow. It was beautiful. I love the cold crisp air when it has just snowed! It reminded me why we moved from Texas in the first place. I love the mountains, the outdoors, and the snow! Josh decided to take a walk, and I volunteered to break camp while he was gone. He took a radio with him, and before long I heard a couple of gunshots in the distance. Josh had shot at some does, but was out of ammo. I ran some out to him and tried to help him find a blood trail, but we couldn't, so I went back to camp to finish cleaning up. Josh set out again (this time with his ammo box!) and before long I heard a couple of more shots, then Josh on the radio saying "meat in the freezer!" I finished packing up, then drove down the closest part of the road to where he shot the deer, then walked up to meet him. Josh shot the deer about 3/4 mile from the road, and I helped him drag it about half that. I was so grateful for my new Vasque hiking boots (Goretex, to which I added mink oil to the leather) and a pair of gators. With heavy wicking hiking socks on, my feet didn't get cold or wet in the slightest, even pulling the deer through brush covered in four inches of snow! (Side Note: I've given up on Timberland boots with their cheap plastic lace hooks. I broke one pair in 12 months and the replacement pair they sent me in only 8 months. I'm not a heavy hiker by any means!) By the way, click on the picture and check out the herd of pronghorn hanging out on private land...
Our drive home was interesting. We went through the Rabbit Ears Pass in chain-only conditions. I got re-acquainted with winter driving, and later stuck in traffic on I-70 with all the Coloradoans also getting re-acquainted with winter driving. I think I picked it up faster (after a 10 year hiatus) than most of them did. What a bunch of knuckleheads!
We got home about dusk on Sunday, and found that Colorado Springs had a couple inches of snow. I missed the kids having their first snowball fight, and was sad about that, but it was wonderful to be home with my family, to see Laura's old friend, and to have great memories of my first Colorado hunting trip. I can't wait to go next year, license and rifle in hand!