Supper is a relaxing meal followed again by a dessert of the beverage of your choice. Everyone is in their sleeping bags as soon as it is dark hoping to soon fall into a restful sleep that will not come. Everyone is thinking of the coming sunrise and another elk hunt.
Those who have slept join everyone else around the fire about 2:30 am. The horses are watered and fed while breakfast is being cooked. Breakfast is served and eaten with a healthy helping of ribbing and joking about the results of the upcoming hunt. Newcomers and less experienced members of the camp are paired with someone who has several trips under their belt to make sure no one gets lost in the dark while moving to the area we will hunt. We leave the camp a little before 4:00 am to start our climb to the top of the plateau and to each of our favorite hunting spots to wait for shooting light. The horses are left at camp in the corrals with orange and pink surveyor’s tape tied to their manes and tails to prevent some inexperienced hunter from placing tag on one of them.
Looking up to the plateau from our camp
The climb to the top is an ass kicker. We have to stop several times to catch our breaths before making it to the top. After everyone is accounted for, we break into smaller groups to move on to our hunting spots. I am lucky. I hunt in a small bowl just over the ridge and have the least distance to travel, but also have to put up with everyone else stomping through the area where I plan to shoot my elk.
As it becomes light enough to see, elk can be seen by those in several of the open areas. The camp members with bull tags will be shooting first. Cow tags are filled only after all of the bull tags are filled. The sound of a distant shot can be heard and the elk start to move about. As more shots are heard you can see large groups of elk moving in single file to the south toward a private ranch that is closed to hunting and lies about half a mile away. This is no longer hunting and is fast becoming killing. You sit still in the spot of your choosing. I sit on a large aspen log with my rifle resting on my day pack on top of the stump. I ranged the ridge line around the little bowl I am sitting in so I know the distance I will be shooting. I use my binoculars to view the passing lines of elk moving past my location until I find the bull I want to harvest. I wait for the bull to pass a spot of known distance and take my shot.
I sit in the little strand of aspens on the left and shoot my elk leaving the pond
By 10:00 am we have filled every tag in camp, usually 8-10 bull tags and a couple of cow tags. Now the work begins. Each animal is tagged, gutted, and skinned down the sides to start cooling. By 1:00 pm we are on our way back to the camp for lunch and an afternoon of rest. We do not butcher our animals out of respect to any other hunters that may be in the area on this first day of the season. It is cool or cold enough to leave the meat overnight. It will be easier to butcher and bone out after the meat has cooled anyway. Supper will consist of fried tenderloins mixed with a heavy dose of b.s. Tonight we stay up while everyone tells the story of their kill, and we all laugh at the screw-ups made. The pressure is off. All of the tags are filled.