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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Elk, and Fall Game Warden Fun

September and October! It’s always special time of year in the mountains. Cool evenings and warm days, grass turning. And the Aspens! Wow, not just the colors, but the smell! Wildlife loves it too. Everything seems to come alive with a burst of energy that will be required, to get them through the cold months ahead.

You can do things in the fall that you can’t do the rest of the year. Like interact with the Wildlife. Yesterday I stopped to ‘help’ a beaver, as he was dragging a branch across the Tarryall Road toward the river – winter food to be stashed underwater ’till later. His tail was covered with ice- white in the headlights of the truck.

You can interact with elk…if you have the nerve. Elk are doing their rutting ritual: bugling and fighting and squeaking and snorting. Quite an experience. I like to go out at night, with a bright moon, and sit and listen. You can quietly walk down among them too, but THAT takes courage! It’s frightening, really. They are big animals and you’re out there with them fighting and yelling. No place to hide, if you are suddenly detected and challenged. I had a fellow police officer from town with me on one such occasion, and when we got close, and the elk were filling the night with their music, I turned and he was gone! No where to be seen. I couldn’t call to him, so I slowly made my way back to the truck and there he he was- in the truck. “No way!” was all he could say. “No way!”

One such occasion found me sitting in a grove of mature aspens, moon shining brightly. The archery season had ended and we were waiting for rifle to begin. I was in a 12,000 acre property that was closed to the public, awaiting ‘development’ as a Park. The elk were lucky enough to have it all to themselves. I was sitting against a large Aspen, bugling just to see who answered. In a few minutes I saw a movement in the trees. Was it…? No, just my imagination. I waited, and bugled again. There it was! It DID move! Something did…. What? It wasn’t an elk. Bear? Na…

It waited. I waited. One more quick cow call, and it moved again…angling toward me. When it stepped slowly into a flash of moonlight, I could make out an silhouette! No, couldn’t be…..

I felt, to make sure I had my pistol on my hip, rolled over on my stomach, slipped around behind the tree, and crawled back to my truck that was parked behind me about 30 yards, in the dark. I slipped behind the wheel, quietly took it out of gear, and rolled silently downhill very slowly. About 20 yards from the silhouette, I turned on my spotlight and lit up a man! Dressed in full camo, head to toe, almost invisible. He was carrying a crossbow! I had bugled in a HUNTER! Well, not a hunter, A poacher!

Later that night, in handcuffs, at the sheriff’s Office, he explained to me how he and a friend had decided to kill an elk on the State property, out of season, because they were sure they would never ever get caught. With the crossbow, a silent and deadly weapon, it was as easy as picking flowers.
We never did find his friend that night – but he was back at the cabin at first light. Both men appeared in court and paid their fines. I still see them around occasionally, and we have a good laugh. Or, at least I do. Theirs is more of a controlled grimace.

Ah, yes, fall colors. Brings out the best in man and animal alike.

 “The shortest distance between two points is riding with a good friend”

My sister lost the breast stroke swimming competition…..learned
later that the other swimmers cheated – they used their arms!

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