Friday, November 9, 2012

The Third Time is the Charm for Elk

With great determination and full of hope, the trip was made to Hayden, Colorado and Smith Rancho for an Elk hunt.   Leaving on Saturday at noon and driving to Sidney, Nebraska was the first stop.  Here a giant steak was devoured at the famed Dudes Steak House, known for fine beef and good drinks.   Rather than spend the night at the hotels just off the interstate, right across the street from Dudes is the Americas Best Motel.  The price was really low and it worked out fine.

The owners of Smith Rancho had given excellent directions to the ranch so  it was easy to find by merely following their directions.  As you move into the mountains it is really hard to get lost.  I arrived at the ranch and the Smiths were very hospitable.  At 3:30PM everyone was getting ready to go hunting.  I was introduced to my guide who I really enjoyed on this trip.  My gear was stowed in the bunk house and it was off on the hunt.

My guide wanted to know my hunting background and experiences hunting elk.  If we got one this time it would be the first for me.  He assurred me that the ranch had a 90% plus success rate and nice size bulls.  This was not a horseback trip.  Instead we mounted the "iron horse," as it was called.  A Chevrolet 4 wheel drive suburban was our method of transporation.  We drove on a dirt road up the mountain.  To my left was a really big open meadow.  The guide said that the elk would come down from the mountains just below the snow line to the meadow in the evening.  We moved up to a vantage point and studied the terrain for sign of elk.  They were everywhere.  It was almost like being in Estes Park where they roam the city. Using a spotting scope we could study the movement and determine location before we started down for a shot.

Looking down to the meadow where the elk come to feed in the evening.  To the left elk were either lying down higher up or slowly grazing as they moved down to the meadow.  We needed them to get down to the road or just above for a shot. 

A distraction from some traffic took place as we were just off a county road that cuts through the ranch.  The elk started moving down toward the meadow, but when a pickup truck came by, they stopped and headed back up the mountain.

Some of the scenery off in the distance.

The elk were just below the snow line when they started down to the meadow below.

The next morning we were up well before daylight.  At first light we headed back up the road where we were on the evening before.  The elk were thick in the meadow and were running toward the high country.  As we came around the corner where the road was very crooked, there stood a group of 10 to 15 cows with a nice bull just slowly starting up the hill.  Immediately they took off up the mountain.  Out of the vehicle I jumped and laid the rifle on a fence post.  The cows were in the way, and the opportunity was beginning to fade quickly.  All of a sudden the bull turned to the right and a space opened up for a shot.  Meat was on the table.

My first bull elk. He made it over the crest of the hill and died within 20 feet of the top after cresting.

I had not even been at Smith Rancho 24 hours before I harvested a nice bull elk.  This was a truly amazing experience.

With my guide Scott.  He did an outstanding job of putting me on the game.

For more information on Smith Rancho go to their website  As for me, it is time to start hunting ducks and there are some turkey tags to fill.  With all the issues taking place with deer, I am going to pass this year.  Anyway, the freezer is almost full of elk.

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Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck.  Hank



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