“You’ve got to be kidding me. Another?” I mumble under my breath as I bump into yet another Under Armor, orange clad hunter sitting under a pine tree. I tip my hat towards him and reel Sage in closer to avoid an unwanted interaction between the two.
I reckon I should have taken a look at my calendar, now realizing this was opening day of Colorado’s second season for elk.“Well, I guess I have as much right to be here as they do.” I tell myself to justify my presence. I think this and try to believe it, but regardless a pang of guilt hits me. These guys have been waiting all year for this hunt and I know having some guy and his mutt zig-zagging through the woods is not the scenario played out in their heads while sitting in the office, praying for this day to come.
I decide to move into the woods a little deeper, as everyone I see so far has an ATV parked off the road, not a hundred yards away from where they sit and wait for a lazy elk to tromp by. A little over a month ago I was after the same quarry, although perhaps looking for them in a different way, but hunting the same animal none the less. I felt it peculiar however that I felt such a disconnect with these hunters.
Sage and I dig in deeper and we see not a soul. The tension in my shoulders melts away. Grouse hunting in the fall, just a man and his dog, this is the way God intended us to dawdle away our time. My thoughts are pointed inwards towards how the minutes of my life are being distributed, when as per usual, Sage kicks up a bird not 20 yards from me. A huge male takes flight.
“Sorry boy.” I sheepishly apologize to my hard working pup. I always feel guilty when this happens. And make no mistake about it, it always happens.
“Promise, I’ll pay more attention to ya.” I plead with him, hoping this doesn’t steal his motivation to find me another.
He accepts my apology and kicks up the paired female. The top barrel in my over-under cracks as she falls from the sky. Sage is on her, mere moments from when she hits the ground.“I see you accept my apology.” I say to him as he heels up, waiting for me to take the bird.
“Let’s go find her mate."
He’s off. He saw where the male flew to and leads me that direction. I slow him up, wanting to give the big bird some time to leave the safety of the trees he’s been chased to and hit the terra firma.
The plan works and he blows out of an old mining road tucked deep into the woods. He choses the path of least resistance, down a perfect opening in the pines. He choose wrong and my #8 shot catches up to him and makes him pay the ultimate price.
When Sage comes back with the bird in his mouth, I take him along with his female counterpart and lay them in the snow together. I know they’re not monogamous creatures, (I’m sure this rascal has seen his heyday) but they seem to just fit together. I’m happy in an over-thinking and weird way that one doesn’t have to go on without the other.
“Alright buddy, we got what we were after. Let’s head out and give these elk hunters a fighting chance.” I say to Sage as we flip a 180 and head back to the truck.
We drive down the dirt road as the hunter orange trees appear at regular intervals. Hoards of ATVs kick up dust as they peel down the road looking for the elusive ditch elk. I smile at Sage and he returns it, nothing needed to be said.
// I have be writing a short guide to hunting Dusky grouse that I plan to release soon. Sign up to the newsletter to make sure you get it when it comes out.