“It’s only by God’s grace…” I kept reminding myself as I followed the illumination provided by my headlamp in the 4am crisp darkness. I could walk from Durango city limits all the way to Silverton and still not see any game. I came close to proving this to be true last year. With two hunts a day and about five miles of hiking per hunt, I hiked for about 40 miles without filling my elk tag. Coming home with meat is only possible by God’s grace.
This hunting season was a little different than previous years. I am a newly married man and now on full-time ministry staff. I had more time to hunt, yet the need for meat and to lift a finical burden was greater than ever before. Can you imagine how much hunting would boost my prayer life? Hiking many miles in silence through indescribably beautiful nature opens up time to connect with the Creator. God is great, and it is only by Him that we can even breathe (Isaiah 42:5) and are able to come across one of His many gifts—elk.
A storm moved in two days before opening morning. That storm followed me to the shooting range. The conditions included flurrying winds and low visibility. If I could get a tight grouping on the target with my 30-06 Savage in these conditions, I knew I had nothing to worry about in the field. I drove away from the range cold, wet, and confident.
Hunting in the snow just makes me excited. It seems that the elk are on the move, easier to see, and easier to get close to. It adds a fun element to stomp through the aspens and timber before daybreak. With a sense of adventure and a decent pair of boots, it feels as if nothing could hold me back.
In the past, my dad filled his elk tag close to six out of seven hunting seasons. Fellow hunters, especially out-of-staters, always asked him for pointers and advice. “Well, pick the tallest-nastiest mountain and keep going up,” responded my dad honestly and ambiguously. Like a chip off the old block, that was precisely our plan as we drove up to the base of our hunting area.
The rest of the elk hunt was surprising simple. One of my college roommates, Chris, and I headed up a hard-to-find trail that I am rather familiar with. About five minutes up the trail, elk tracks were everywhere and the “mew’s” and bugle’s were close enough to get our hearts racing. I spooked a bull elk hidden in the thick timber and thought I blew my chance at the herd we snuck up on. Soon after, having an either sex tag, I was able to get a shot on a cow elk. Three out of four of our Master Plan hunting party filled our tags that morning. The rest of the day included two heinous back pack loads of meat back to the car.
My deer hunt isn’t as exciting. It was nice to be able to hunt more from the Jeep, many times accompanied with my wife. It was great to see her excitement and eagerness to find a buck. When the time was right, I came in front of a 4x5 point buck and got a clean shot. Anne and I did all the processing ourselves. We even went as far as making deer sausage for the first time! After the rich experience, Anne is looking into taking her hunter safety and going big game hunting next year. So keep your eye out for more stories to come