Continuing from HERE:
Charlie took the boys to the road nearby and showed them how to pluck the birds without getting down all over the campsite while Jason saw to the trout as I fired up the Coleman stoves, and got the fire going in the ring. The fire ring is a bit of a story in and of itself.
When we discovered this tiny piece of land that pierced the private property into national Forrest the fire ring was there, but nearly buried. As Charlie and I dug it out we noticed that several of the large stones that made it up were carved into. Most simply had name cut into the stone, along with dates. A couple of them were really surprising though; One said Jim Thom (son, I think, it was pretty unreadable), it was dated 1836 and said “I killt a Silver bar here” sic. Meaning, a Silver-tip, or grizzly I surmise. Another said a name that I do not remember, but said “Good beaver area, but the Indians are pretty bad.” Dated 1842, others had names and dates all the way up to 1942. So much for “discovering!”
The stoves heated up, and I was stoking the fire to roast the grouse on when all of a sudden the boys let out a shriek, Charlie screamed for me to get the rifle and I instinctively looked in that direction. At the same time I heard a loud snort, and a large black bear came tearing through camp and cleared the stream in a single leap… To this day I’m not sure who was more afraid, the boys, or that 300 pound bear!
We got the crew fed and watered, did a last check on the gear,and turned in… I know the boys didn’t sleep a wink, not after the bear and the excitement of their first high country hunt. Four A.M. came early, and both boys were blurry eyed, but fired up and ready to head out. Breakfast was out of a can, corned beef hash, and Texas Toast Colorado camp style. meaning hobo bread cut thick, and more or less burnt on the stove!
Then we headed out. Jerry decided to head up the near side mountain alone. It is almost straight up, but, if you can make it to timberline the chances of getting a shot at a Colorado Classic Timber Buck are pretty good, and if things didn’t work out that way on the hike back down you would be on top of where a herd of does tended to congregate. (He had tags for both sexes.)
Charlie took Michael down the road to the trail that led toward the Great Muddy Slide (Do a web search) intending to get Michael onto a Bull Elk as the big fellas tend to use a saddle near there to cross between the parks in the area.
I tossed our tree branch bridge across the stream, and took Jason with me. I looked at him and told him to unload the rifle. he asked why,and I told him that after crossing our “bridge” that he would understand, I also told him that, with this being his first hunt that he would shoot the first legal animal that he had tags for… That there were plenty of future hunts when he could look for horns that he couldn’t eat. With an OTC Buck tag, and an Elk tag to match he had also drew a doe deer tag. I felt confident that he would at least have a decent chance at bringing home some freezer food.
I wiped down my rifle, and told Jason to go and get a change of clothes on, and we would try again. Yes, he fell into the stream… I told him that he scored a solid five for form and demeanor. That’s right, at one time or another each of us has taken that ride! ( My best score, as assigned by Charlie, was an eight. he refused to allow me any extra for cursing etc. After all, he has the Championship at nine…)
Jason’s second attempted crossing went much better, and we headed across the scrub meadow to the gate that gave access to the forest, the fog was settling now, and I knew that would be good for hunting. It seemed to confuse Deer, Elk,and Bears, and that gave us two legged predators an edge. Jason asked, is this why you call it the enchanted forest? Sure is I responded. ” Jason, this fog gets pretty thick at times. If we get separated for some reason, stay put, don’t go wandering around. It will burn off in an hour or two, and we will hook back up. He acknowledged what I had said, added that he had been told of sudden drop offs, and that we had better start whispering because the fog would carry our voices. I nodded to his wisdom, chambered a round quietly, and motioned for him to do the same, and follow me.
I call it the enchanted forest because in the dense fog anything, and everything can, will, and just might blow your mind as it happens. After about going a hundred feet, I shifted off the trail went to a blow down, and sat, getting acclimated to the surreal environment. Jason whispered to me about the scope covers,and I told him to keep them on for now, that the fog would probably mess with things. Just then the boys eyes got really wide as he looked past my shoulder. Thinking that the bear had decided to exact a little revenge for the earlier fright that had been put into him (or the peanut and honey sandwiches that were in our backpacks!) I slipped the Ruger 41 Mag from the holster at my hip,and slowly turned… Jason, sat there as quiet as a church mouse, and popped the covers from the scope.
I got turned, my eyes focused on the front sight and did a hasty search of the area that had been behind me… No, no bear was in sight. I glanced at my watch; legal hunting time was ten minutes past. I whispered; Jason, he’s really close, and hes facing us almost straight on, I want you to aim at his nose, right between his nostrils… I think I heard an “Uh huh” and the Remington shattered the strange quiet of the Enchanted forest… “Jason follow me!” I yelled we ran a scant ten feet and I told him to “rack a round, get up next to him, and put it right where his front leg joins his chest, point at the same spot on his other side, and pull the trigger!” ‘Okay, he said, then what? Do it again, then get back behind me and reload!” The boy did as I had said… for the first shot. He turned and asked, the fear in him very apparent; “Is he dead?”
I yelled ” I don’t know, now shoot him again like I told you to do!” He did, and got right behind me and loaded three more rounds into the rifle that has earned the nickname “Mister Death.”
The smell of Elk urine was more than apparent, as in death the huge Bull Elk died. I looked at Jason, and told him. “You just did something that few life long Elk hunters accomplish Jason, say a prayer.” Jason’s first big game animal was a Branch Antlered Rocky Mountain Elk Bull. A Basic six point, with a seventh nub point. After the required drying period, it scored 370 even. I told him that Charlie would be one of two things. Pissed, or really proud. Why is that Jason asked as he stared at the noble beast that would be used for food and many other things. ” Because, I think this is the Bull that Charlie fell out of a tree a few years ago trying to arrow it!”
As we went about the real work involved in a successful Elk hunt I noted that my time in Africa had payed off in spades. The very first bullet had hit dead center under the Bulls chin, and broken it’s spine at the second cervical vertebra. Still, I was glad that I had had the young one shoot twice more. “It’s the dead ones that kill you.” I don’t know how many times I have heard that. I don’t know how many times it should be repeated. But? It is a truth of truths, and must be passed on.
By about ten in the morning we were ready for the first phase of the haul back to camp. The Bull was quartered and tagged as the law required. I had showed Jason how to make a pack frame of his basic backpack. We heard two shots in rapid succession from the west. That would be Charlie and Michael.
“Why are the horns, hide, and other quarters strung up in the trees? And why double looped? He asked” Because you made a “friend” last night son,and, because it’s just good sense to keep your meat cool. We headed back to camp,and no, he didn’t get any style points for crossing…
We hung the meat after putting the pieces into bug bags, and prepared to head back up when we heard a shot. It was close, within two hundred yards. Then we heard Jerry’s voice; “Hail the Camp! Anyone there? I could use some help, I got a Doe!”
On our way Bro! I yelled. I looked at Jason and said. “He don’t know it, but he just became a Mule!”
We hiked the distance…. About fifty feet… Yelled to Jason to get his butt over here, dragged the doe away from the road. Gutted her, and as Jason arrived I told him? “Nice shooting! Now, let’s get her back to camp, and then the real work will start!” We did a quick and dirty field dress of the Doe. Got her back in Camp, and hung her on the Camp Tree. I told him then; “You ready to work now?” he looked at me like I was dumb stupid… Your Son did better than you, me,Charlie,or any of the guys at work have ever friend. Three more loads Bro. You up for it?”
“Lead the way Ranger.” Now,that, is the sort of response that I expect from a Marine. After all, I am a Marine Corps Brat!
I am ending this thing now, but, it didn’t really end there. There was a First Fish caught on a fly. A lesson in making wet wood burn. A bear cub that decided that our camp was home, and many other things.
Oh? Those shots that we heard off to the west? Charlie finaly got his elk, and Michael got his first Deer.
Cross posted to Hunters Central in Yahoo groups