Where are my PEOPLE?? – by Deb Ferns
SHOT Show 2017, held in mid-January, had just finished and I was on my way to do an elk hunt in the far southeast part of Colorado. I’d been looking forward to the hunt on this 30,000 acre private ranch as my family had hunted there at Thanksgiving. While we saw several elk we never had the opportunity to shoot one and our permits were close to expiring so time for one last try!
I was packed, ready to go, when I received a call from the rancher/guide letting me know his mom had passed away and he wouldn’t be able to guide me on the hunt after all. What to do when your “people” can’t make it? First thing is I rented a SAT phone since I knew my cell phone had zero reception on this remote area 2 hours east of Trinidad. Second, I started asking all my guiding friends if they had a spare person they could send with me; which unfortunately yielded NO people! Third, I bought a Bushnell tracking device called “Back Track” as once I got into a remote area I wanted to make sure I could get myself back to the ranch house again. All this in hand I started sending out smoke signals to more of my friends, even those who don’t hunt, to come with me on this long road trip. Again, with short notice there were NO people who could drop everything and take off into the boonies with me, which included my husband.
With my husband shaking his head in dismay I took off driving up to Colorado in a rented Dodge Ram 1500 with 4-wheel drive, my only companion being Otis (my 175 pound Mastiff.) As extra incentive I decided to rename Otis as “Lassie.” I figured if I was stuck somewhere on the 30,000 acre ranch that Lassie could run for help. FYI – The attached photo of Lassie aka Otis will give you an idea of how well this new work scenario went over since he rarely left his bunkbed.
While on the drive up my Babes with Bullets partner, Kay Miculek, reached out to me and said she couldn’t handle the idea of me going alone. She met me in Amarillo and we finished the drive up to the Colorado ranch together. Suffice it to say Kay is my hero! Once up at the ranch house it made us both feel much better to see our gal pal/ranch owner, Sherri, waiting for us. While Sherri is not a guide she was an extra set of hands to help and had at least a working knowledge of where the many ranch rough roads ended up.
The first morning of the hunt, in very cold and windy Colorado temps, I donned my new Smartwool socks; praying they would deliver in keeping my Arizona feet warm. I’m happy to report they worked great even though the mud frozen on my boots was outrageous! Kay also had on a pair of Smartwool socks and admitted her feet stayed warm as well; high praise from this Louisiana native who is often cold in anything under 60 degree weather. Check them out at www.smartwool.com and be happy as they are made in America! So while we didn’t see any elk the first day, nor did we see any people, at least our feet weren’t cold.
The second morning of the hunt we spotted a herd of elk cows, about 20 of them, about 90 minutes before first light and no one was able to get a shot. That afternoon we decided to go on the east side of the ranch, do hours of glassing and moving forward by slow degrees. About 4:30 pm Kay spotted a big cow and yearling making their way up a mountain side. While the yearling covered the back half of the cow’s body I had a perfect opportunity for a 220 yard “heart lung” shot, so I took it. We all knew from the solid WHACK that she was hit hard though she leaped behind a set of boulders out of sight.
Trudging up the mountain we saw no blood trail however about 10 yards away the 500+ pound cow elk was already dead. It was at this point it dawned on me that the work was just beginning. Sherri left Kay and I on the mountain side while she went back to the ranch house, about 5 miles away, to bring a forklift tractor back to help us. Here’s where it gets interesting as I looked at Kay since I had never gutted an animal (and she hadn’t done that necessary service in about 20 years) and asked her “where do we find people to help us…” Kay, in her very pragmatic way, replied “stop asking for people, WE ARE the people, and help me get this cow ready to be dragged down the mountain.”
Now I’m not the biggest wimp, nor the strongest woman, but that was HARD work quartering that cow elk out to be dragged down the mountain and thru a creek bed. Sherri came back with a tractor to help us load up the meat so we could make it back to the ranch barn for further skinning. We finished up around 10:30 pm that night and I was still hoping PEOPLE would show up to help. The next day the elk was frozen solid, hanging in the barn in game bags, so we backed the truck in and loaded the quarters up to head to the processor, Miller’s, about 12 hours away. Luckily the weather stayed very cold and the elk was still frozen as we pulled into the processor. And of course I had to explain to the guys taking in the elk that we had no guide, and no “people” to help us so don’t expect a great butchering job. They smiled, looked at the custom game bags I had made, looked at the elk and said “you did fine without extra people.”
As we drove away from the processor, Kay pointed out that while we weren’t prepared for success we made it work through pure tenacity. I agree with her 100% and I’m determined to be better prepared on my next big game hunt and have PEOPLE!