Well, we are on the road this week having come home to Colorado for a visit with the fam. Had a long plane ride yesterday because some genius at an airline I won't name thought it was a good idea to get from Northern California to Denver by going to Phoenix first. I am sure there is a perfectly good rationale for why it had to be that way, but frankly, I didn't much care after the 3rd hour in the air.
Colorado is indeed home, a place I still love. It has changed a lot since I left 20 years ago - mostly due to the population growth. Apparently the secret got out that Colorado is a beautiful state to live in and a bunch of Californians picked up and moved east. The hunting and fishing opportunities are indeed legendary. They are as good as the ones you read about in your favorite outdoor magazine.
I still love coming to visit every year. I try to come back elk hunting with The Dad, The Brother, The Brother-in-law and The Nephew. It is an annual tradition, although after living at sea level for 20 years that 8,000 foot base camp gets harder and harder to acclimate to every year. We usually hunt in an area about 45 minutes from the famous Vail Ski area. A beautiful setting of majestic mountains nestled deep in the Rocky Mountains. The hunting has been declining over the years and we're not sure why. Dad says it is because of the explosion of mountain lions that are decimating the elk herd. I know we have seen more cat tracks over the years. His other theory is that there just aren't enough hunters in this area to push the animals around and get them out of the black timber. Seems like years ago we would always run into a couple of other guys on opening weekend, but now we're lucky if we see hunter orange besides our own. Whatever the reason, we just haven't had much success the last few years.
This year we are going to try a new area farther up north and west, by the other famous ski area, Steamboat Springs. It will be near an area that The Dad, Brother and I hunted many years ago when I was just a little shaver. The Dad said that they went on a scouting trip three weeks ago and saw a lot of big, healthy cows. Unfortunately, there was still a good deal of snow so they couldn't access the entire area. But that's ok, seeing something is a good sign.
We are meat hunters so we all put in for cow tags annually. Usually we will average roughly 60% or so who draw a cow. The rest of camp then buys a bull tag. Don't get me wrong, we would all love to pull up on that monster bull and down a wall-mounter. But that's not the focus of our hunt. Mostly it is to try and secure some meat for the supper table and enjoy the time together.
Sitting around the campfire at night (if it's not snowing!) shooting the breeze and resting our folded hands on our full bellies are precious times. Dad reminded me this morning during breakfast that he is going to be turning 75 in a couple of weeks. But he's not just any 75 year old. Two years ago he went to Alaska for three weeks on his first-ever bear hunt. He not only harvested a real monster, but hoofed it in the Alaskan wilderness keeping pace for pace with his guide for three weeks. But I also know that the simple math of life is playing a game of catch up, so it makes sitting around elk camp sore and tired a little more special every year. This is why I hunt, eat and live life!
PS - Look for my Colorado fishing report later this week. We're heading up to The Cabin to stalk some big rainbows and browns on Saturday. The Boy and Daughter are really excited, mostly because they know they have a good chance of out-fishing their old man!