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Hunting in the Sea of Orange

I’ve always dreamed of going elk hunting. Listening to the elk bugle and being out in the wilderness. And it was finally going to come true. It all started when a friend gave me some info on a location where they had been successful in harvesting an elk. Good ol’ Colorado was the place to go. The first year was pretty much spent learning the land, seeing how the animals moved through the country and…seeing all of the orange hats everywhere I looked. It was hard to believe that so many people were in one area, all hunting for elk.

That first year was something I’ve never experienced before. I was in disbelief about how many people were out in the field. Based on my other experiences hunting, some people might say I’ve been spoiled. I might’ve see a couple hunters here and there, but nowhere near the amount I saw while hunting elk. I believe there is an unwritten rule of the woods, that if you see someone in an area, you try to go somewhere else. WOW! I had an eye opening experience. I experienced people that came and sat literally 30-40ft from me and start glassing the same hillside. I accepted that this was the situation, because I was there. I didn’t end up harvesting any game that first year, but I did learn a lot and knew a new game plan would be needed for the next trip.

For our next trip, I knew we had to try and get as far away from the hunters on foot as we could, so we loaded the truck and were off to Colorado. The plan was to have a main camp, then hike in and stay in the backcountry for several days at a time. This would mean our primary competition would be the guides and their hunters on horseback. With less people, I felt like the odds were a lot better and the likelihood of harvesting an elk was higher.

As we hunted, the elk seemed to move all around us. I knew it was going to happen this trip. After a night of thunderstorms, I got up the next morning and was ready to hike to the backside of the mountain I was camped on. The morning was slow and I never laid eyes on any elk; early afternoon, here comes a small group of bulls.

If you’ve hunted elk, you know that you only get so many chances of seeing them in the open. The bulls ended up going into some brush and were out of sight, but I knew they had to come out in a small open section. I sat there waiting and waiting, as I felt like my heart was going to pound out of my chest. My eyes focused on that opening, and just then—out comes a bull. I had what seemed like a split second to shoot. I got ready, aimed and shot. The shot felt really good, and I knew I hit it. I couldn’t wait to get across the canyon to find it. Talk about adrenaline pumping…I felt like I ran over there! I couldn’t find it when I arrived, and suddenly heard my friend yell out “it’s over here,” and I took a deep breath in relief. I couldn’t believe how beautiful this animal was and how big it was in person. I can’t describe the joy I was feeling. I was overwhelmed. But now, the work begins.

We quartered the elk up and prepped it to be packed out. It took my friend and I multiple trips over 2 days hiking in and out of the backcountry with loaded pack frames to get everything out. When everything was back at camp, we had to rest for a few days just to recuperate. Talk about a workout! The following year after I harvested another elk, we quartered it and hiked out to find a guide with horses to ride in and pack out our meat. Horses are definitely the way to go when you have to pack out such a large animal.

Follow Kelly Cohen on Instagram at @kellycohen4202.

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