As in the days before, the alarm was beeping and we were up. To our surprise Jodi and I were not the first ones awake. Joe Senior was already getting everyone's coffee ready and hollering down the hall towards Josh and Joe Jr. to get out of bed. "We have to leave early to beat the Elk out of the field." He said. We were going to leave in 15 minutes and head straight across the field in front of the house and up the hill to a freshly made natural gas well pad. Then from there, we would follow the road to the east for about a mile to another well pad. This pad was only about 300 yards from the alfalfa fields and we would split up there. Once we all converged on the well pad, we would have to tippy-toe like a mouse through a room filled with ping-pong balls towards the 3-foot high barbed wire fence that surrounded the field. Joe Senior and chuck would head towards the Miracle Acre to catch them after they ran, while Joe, Josh, Jodi, and I spread out along the fence.
With still plenty of time to spare we headed out. The day before, Chuck had marked the trail with some Fire Tacks so navigation was no problem. Those things stuck out with Joes green LED light like a sore thumb and allowed us to make it up the hill with minimal noise. I don't think that Chuck knew how well these tacks worked. He must have put them 3 feet apart and the woods were glittering like it was Christmas time.
Once out of the woods we headed down the road and made it to the 2nd well pad in no time. After we spilt up, we got in a single-file line and slowly walked through the woods. Once we were within 30 yards of the fence, Josh and Joe split off to the left and Jodi and I headed straight. We set up next to a big cedar tree and waited for enough light to see.
With the Nikons in hand Jason scans for elk.
The air was crisp and the wind was all but non-existent. As the sun started to rise in the east the visibility was increasing. I glassed the field from left to right and saw nothing. As I looked to the right, over on Fred Eichler's place, I saw them. There were about 12 elk in all and the same two small bulls were chasing each other around the field. The problem is, they were moving away from us and were about 1000+ yards away. With seeing that, Jodi pulled out our Video camera and started to film the elk. We have a Canon XL1 and had no problem zooming in on them. Once the elk disappeared into the dark timber Joe and josh came over to us. "Isn't that our luck," Joe said, "They must have read our minds from last night." We all laughed and tried to figure out what to do with the rest of the morning.
Jason, Joe and Josh plan strategy.
We went over to where Joe's dad and Uncle Chuck were and formulated a "drive" type of plan. Jodi and I would head up to the area that the elk come out of the Miracle Acre and head up to bed, while Chuck, Joe, Joey, and Josh would split apart and work their way through the acre towards us. The sun was not even above the horizon, so we had plenty of time for the morning hunt still ahead of us.
With everyone in place, Jodi and I sat there waiting at the crossing. We were actually sitting right on the edge of one of the roads that the gas company had made through Joe's place. It was a beautiful morning. It had dipped well below freezing the night before and there was a fresh coating of snow on the Spanish Peaks only 10 miles away. Jodi was admiring the beauty as I watched the trail leading out of the Miracle Acre. I sat there like a cat ready to pounce on a mouse, not moving for a solid three hours. With the hope fading that anything was going to come, I started talking about how a great big cup of coffee would taste. That was all it took for Jodi and I to conclude the hunt was over, so we headed back to camp. Joe and I have hunted so many times together over the years that we could almost read each others minds. I figured they took a detour and were heading a different way.
Once back at the house there was no one there. Jodi made some coffee and we sat out in the gorgeous mountain air sipping away. After about two hours Jodi and I figured we would head out on the four-wheeler and take a look at some sign. We headed over to where the "Super highway" was and there was Joe Junior sitting there taking a rest. As we pulled up you could tell he was worn out. I asked him what happened and here are his words. "When we got to the top of the ridge where we all jumped the spike the first day, we let out a bugle and were answered by a bull from one of the valleys over here. My dad and I looked at each other and started down the side of the hill. About half way down, here comes Josh right behind us. We got to the ridge where we thought that we heard the bugle and let another bugle go. Right then Jason I thought the ground was trembling under me. The bull and his cows were only 35 yards away right over the ridge and scared the hell out of us. Josh took off after them in a 'running with the bulls' attempt. He came to a road and took a knee. The elk started filing across the road and that is when a bull stepped out. Josh came to full draw, but a cow stepped right in front of him. Not wanting to shoot a cow, Josh waited and waited. Finally as if there was a magic force, the cow and bull walked away at the same time and jumped the fence into Fred's place disappearing into the trees."
Just as Joe was done with his story, Josh walked up and was shaking his head. He said, "You all already heard?" We nodded our heads and said, "At least you had that awesome close encounter." Jodi and I decided to let Josh and Joe take the four-wheeler back since they walked about 10 miles already. Jodi and I are always willing to take a hike together, and the house was only about 2 miles away. "Besides we might see your dad along the way," we said as they drove off.
Seeing nothing on the way back, we got to the house and Joey was already in his "hay bailing" clothes. I knew what this meant, so I headed inside and got changed. Jodi also changed, but she was getting ready to run 7 miles. You see this December she will be running a marathon in Dallas to support the research for breast cancer and has a stringent schedule she has to follow for training.
After bailing at least 100 bails of alfalfa and fixing the bailer twice, we where ready to eat lunch. It only took Jodi 60 minutes to run and she was back, showered, and ready to go by the time we got back to the lodge. Joey's dad had gotten back but had only saw the elk that Josh and Joey had seen. Chuck was passed out taking a nap on the front porch in the lazy boy, and I figured after lunch, I would follow suit.
The afternoon hunt was easy. I was going to drop Jodi off at the Super Highway so she could catch the elk coming off the mountain. I was going to hunt two canyons over from her in a new area. Joe and Josh were going to hunt the Double Bull by the water hole, while Joe's dad was going to hunt another water hole by the border of the state land at the end of his property. Chuck, who also owns property in the area, was going over to scout his place for a possible set-up for us.
We all headed out on the four-wheelers and saluted when we split apart. Jodi and I were just about up to the place where the Super Highway was when two bear cubs ran in front of us and climbed a tree right where I was going to drop Jodi off. We stopped and got some video of them, but Jodi and I decided it would not be a good idea to hunt there, because we did not see mama-bear anywhere around.
This bear cub was in a tree wondering who the camo clad guys were.
I figured Jodi could hunt the front of the canyon that I was going to hunt, while I went to the back. This plan would work out awesome since I was not able to see the front anyway. I took the Renzo Decoy and set it out at about 40 yards. To try to entice the elk even more, I put out the scent wicks with Elk Fire on them to solidify the deal. As the sun was going down I heard a pack of coyotes bark in the distance. Being at the back of the canyon, the wind kept swirling and I was getting frustrated. Just then, I heard a snap of a twig behind me. I started to spray some of the Elk Fire around to try to cover my scent. Then I heard the infamous "walking" sound that animals make. You could probably hear my heart beating two canyons over as I got ready to come to full draw and out steps a monster 4X4 Mule deer buck followed up by a 3 point buck. The animals had no clue that I was there. I had ensured that I sprayed down completely with some Scent Killer by Wildlife Research and used the Elk Fire as cover scent. The deer just came out, crossed the canyon, and headed out into the alfalfa field at the end. I thought to myself, "Man, I wish I had a Mule deer tag."
Jodi herself had a close encounter. She had a bottle of Scent Killer and had sprayed herself and surroundings when she got to her stand. She had two Does almost walk over her right before I picked her up. She was so excited explaining how the does came walking in from her right and were so close you could poke them with your arrow. It was so awesome to see her so excited.
Once back at the house, everyone was there telling the stories about not seeing anything but Joe Senior. About 15 minutes later, Joe pulls up with a frustrated look on his face. He explains it like this; "I was sitting by a pond by the State land, when I got a cramp in my leg. I knew that it was almost elk-thirty, but I had to stretch out my leg. I let my leg out and was getting relief when I heard the infamous walking noise behind me.
I looked up to see a 5X5 bull behind me, and I thought this has to be my luck. I pulled my bow up and drew back. The tree the bull was standing by was a tree that I had ranged at 35 yards. The problem was the bull was about 5 yards behind that tree.
Well, as you can guess the arrow went right under him, and he ran up the hill barking at me. " Everyone was happy to hear that someone else had a close encounter with a bull. With that, we ate dinner and sat down to watch the Truth 9 by Primos, but I don't think anyone made it to the first hunt.