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"Backcountry Fun"
A Story About Tony Erickson's 2006 Elk Hunt

Backcountry Fun
Tony Erickson's 2006 elk hunting trip began on a pack trail with a bear tag and a bull elk tag in stow as his hunting party made their way four hours into his favorite wilderness area. The elk are abundant and the fishing is outstanding. Rugged snow covered peaks surround the camp with plenty of open country above timberline to spot elk. The horses, Nike, Mattie, Larry and Poncha were familiar with the journey since they made two fishing and scouting trips during the summer. Tony's accompanying riders, and two good friends, Mark Kohler and Andy Duffy, were along for the experience and to catch a few fish.

Opening morning came with a little snow, freezing temperatures and the sound of Mark scratching the tent wall as he stood outside. Quietly he said, "You better get out here." Tony asked if he saw elk. Mark whispered, "No, it's a big bull moose." Within 20 yards stood Bullwinkle and he seemed intent on checking out the horses before moving around the backside of the lake. Bullwinkle left without further incident.

Backcountry Fun
Breakfast was made and everyone decided to go fishing for a while since the fish were rising on the water. The trio could fish and watch for elk moving around the lake. Within an hour, rocks were falling on the ridge behind Tony as he cast his lure into the water. Tony looked up and saw a good sized bear in a crevice above timberline. He scrambled to bring in his line and sprinted for his rifle at the tent. Tony returned to his prior position to scope the bear, but the bear was gone.

The morning and early afternoon passed quickly as it was brought to everyone's attention when the sun was heading into the mountain horizon. The enjoyment of fishing, friendship and mountain splendor has a way of relaxing a soul and releasing the cares of the day. The temperature was dropping as cloud cover was moving in from the west. Tony immediately made the arduous climb alone and on foot to the mountain saddle where he expected the elk to be grazing. The horses deserved a rest from the previous day. Mark and Andy were busy fishing.

Backcountry Fun
Within a half hour, Tony crested the top of the saddle and blended into the bushes. About 300 yards above him and 1500 yards to the south, were thirty-three elk that were moving east while on a west slope of alpine terrain. Tony could see a magnificent bull squealing in the middle of the herd. The bull's rack extended to his rump and he would surely be a trophy. Tony waited for the elk to go behind another ridge between them to make his stalk. He expected the elk to follow the backside of the ridge and drop into the alpine meadow to the northeast. Tony knew that he would be working against good shooting light if he did not traverse the mountain terrain quickly.

Tony moved about 800 yards into the rising terrain and was caught on open ground when, to the south, he saw a cow elk grazing on lower ground about 300 yards away. Tony dropped to a prone position and two more cows rose up out of the incline. A symmetrical 5x5 bull elk with a massive body followed and his bugles filled the valley. Five more cows came up the incline. Tony considered passing and going after the larger bull that was on the higher ridge. Tony lowered his Ruger 7X57 and examined the bull further. The bull was broadside and facing west. The cows were around the bull and a shooting lane appeared. A progressive squeeze of the trigger sent the shot ringing through the high country and the bull buckled. Briefly confused, the cows ran in circles before running into the tree cover below. The bull ran downhill from where he came before coming to rest forty yards from point of impact.

Tony admired his harvest and tagged his bull. Tony returned to the mountain saddle and radioed his friends. He instructed his friends to saddle the horses because, "Elk will be served tonight."