Our hunting journey began in a special place called Bear Mountain. Located in Northern Colorado and nestled in-between The Routt National Forrest and The Rocky Mountain National Park, we entered the woods on a piece of property that for the past 2 years has raised the majority of our grass fed bison. This would be my 5th time to visit and its beauty and richness never fails to take my breath away.
Here is where Kirk and I meet up with the third member of our team, Brad. Acting as our hunting guide, Brad has extensive knowledge of the terrain as well as a phenomenal instinct when it comes to animals. For the last 2 years, Brad has been the property ranch manager in charge of pasture raising the bison we use in our bars. He is the kind of guy who would rather be hanging out with a herd of buffalo than hanging out with humans in town. This ranch is Brad's home and he knows all 10,000 acres better than some people know their own front yard.
Elk are phenomenal athletes who are faster, stronger, and more powerful than humans. If that's not impressive enough, they have better vision, hearing, and smell. This species has evolved by inheriting amazing instincts to detect predators, danger, and disruption. It's not uncommon for hunters to struggle even seeing an elk in the wild. This is because these animals can detect humans from a quarter mile away. This makes rifle hunting challenging to get within the needed 200 yards of an elk to take a shot.
Bow hunting is an entirely different animal. Unlike rifle hunting, the flight of an arrow is best taken when only 30-40 yards from an animal. Getting within bow hunting range takes patience, instinct, luck, and athleticism.
For the past 4 months Kirk and I have trained for this hunt. As an archer, Kirk has shot his compound bow every single day. To best prepare for the unknown, Kirk shoots sitting, standing, kneeling, and in any other position you could fathom. To improve our physical fitness we have both trained with intensive cardiovascular conditioning. During the hunt we expect to hike between 6-8 hours each day and understand that our persistence is dependent on our endurance. Having the ability to cover large areas of land as well as challenging elevation gains is pivotal to increase our chances of success.
Outside of our cardiovascular training, we have both undergone months of strength training. If we are fortunate enough to shoot an elk, we must be prepared to carry out as much meat as we are capable. A large elk can weigh over 1,000 pounds and depending on our location, we might need to carry that animal over 3 miles to the nearest jeep road. Having the strength to perform this work is the difference between packing out the whole elk or only a fraction. It's our intention to utilize the entire creature and for that reason we have taken our training seriously.
I never considered hunting a "sport" because of my pre-conceived notion that the average hunter is an overweight hillbilly getting drunk inside a deer blind. What I learned before my trip even began was that REAL hunters are REAL athletes. Just as you would train for a Marathon, Ironman, or Spartan Race, this type of hunting requires unbelievable strength and conditioning.
The style of hunting we are doing is old school and a true challenge. We are hiking into the wilderness, reading the landscape, tracking animals patterns, and relying on instinct. This experience transcends time and space and connects us to our human ancestors as it was a foundational element for survival.
In Colorado, the average success rate for shooting an elk with a bow is around 7%. Out of shape and unconditioned hunters will have less than 1% success. Our months of training and attention to diet is purpose driven and we walk into the wild as finely tuned athletic machines. Although the odds are still against us, we confidently trust our bodies to perform as we push hard into the next week. I'm excited to be immersed in nature, exhausted, and humbled by the amazing animal that we will be chasing. At this moment, the spirit of the wild is radiating throughout my body and I love it!
To be continued...