Monday, December 14, 2009

Elk Hunting in the Book Cliffs

I haven't posted for a few days because I was asked late Thursday night to go hunting with a few friends. It appears the guy who set the trip up had a death in the family (my condolences) and couldn't go at the last minute. I thought what the heck.

We drove to Roosevelt and spent the night at the Best Western, right next to the JB's. Since the elk have a particular habit of moving only at dawn and dusk and the hunting area was 2 and a half hours away (this wasn't explained to me until I was in the truck) we had to get up at 4:00 in the morning.

We get up, drive the 2 and a half hours down the dirt road, unload the quads in a hiding place because the thermometer in the truck read -15 degrees F and none of us was going to ride a quad in that weather, and start hunting before 7:30 am. We see a herd of about 6 elk but after tracking them for 2 hours they got away. Elk are wily animals.

The rest of the day we four wheel, shoot guns and generally play around until dusk. Then we get ready for the business of hunting. We set ourselves in position, remain perfectly still and wait. The it comes, our friend radios us that he has spotted five elk and they are moving toward him (we had a lot of gear).

I couldn't wait for the moment when we would plunge our hands into the still warm carcass to clean the innards in the process of harvesting an elk. There is something visceral about bringing down a big animal that goes way back. I don't mean trophy hunting, I mean the chase, the out-witting, the triumph over the animal to provide for your family.

Alas it was not to be. The elk came within 150 yards and the shot was taken. It just grazed over the animal's back. At that point all the animals looked up, said 'WHAT THE #$&@?', and ran like hell. I ran toward the shot to see if there was a blood trail (maybe he just wounded the poor thing) and as I was running full tilt the ground came out from under me. I had hit a downed tree and fell flat on my face. I was a good thing there was a foot of snow on the ground and I was wearing all the winter clothes I own. No harm no foul and no one saw me, therefore I could reasonably argue it didn't happen.

Well that was the closest we got to getting an elk. The next day was just as much fun, but without the result we were looking for and without the face plant.

There is something truly wonderful about being out with your guy friends. You have a quest, you are braving the elements, you forget the niceties, you don't eat well, you don't bathe and you continually think of ways to laugh at your surroundings, events and each other. I know I sound like a neanderthal but I feel the same sense of comradary when I am out motorcycling. We are hunting in a pack, although on our motorcycle trips the object of our quest is a little more ethereal.

Well now it is back to civilization and I am a little better off for the adventure. The tale would have been even taller if we had succeeded in our quest, although not as much fun for the elk.

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