By: Bears Butt


It is Sunday, November 10, when the alarm clock goes off at 3 a.m. sharp!  My feet hit the floor before I even have my eyes open all the way.  The fire is lit under the coffee pot and I know we are going to need a lot of it before we leave the camp.  My mind is on the big bull I missed last night and hope to find it in a heap this morning.

We have had about 5 hours of sleep and have a full two hour drive ahead of us to get to the area before first light.  Our decision last night was to drive both vehicles up to the beginning of Salt Creek Mesa and then all get into the pickup for the rest of the day.  By doing this, all will be in the warmth of a vehicle for the two hour drive…that’s a good thing…Some will be able to get some more sleep…a good thing as long as the driver doesn’t think he is one of them…We can travel a little faster because we don’t have to worry about the “frozen chosen” in the back of the truck.  All are good things.

There wasn’t a whole lot of talk as we prepared the vehicles to leave camp.  Everyone knew what had to be done and we did it without a lot of fan fare.  Out of camp around 4 a.m. and down the road we went.  Weasel driving the pickup and Wapiti driving his Yukon.

Try as I may I could not keep my eyes open the entire way, neither could Night Fisher as his head kept “bonking” against the side window.  Tracker, as well, did his best impression of “staying awake”, but caught a lot of shut eye.  About half way there I felt like telling Weasel I would drive, but then I found that suddenly we were at the gate.


(That is not snow in the picture…I had a dusty lens)

The crisp morning air seemed to get us all going again as we took a short break after going through the gate and then we continued on our journey to the beginning of the Salt Creek Mesa road.  Here the plan was to park the Yukon and all get into the truck for the remainder of the day.  I was secretly hoping the day was going to play out by finding the big bull down and cutting it up for the trip back to camp.


Our timing was perfect in our arrival at Salt Creek Mesa.

We got to the spot where I had taken the shot the evening before and found the herd of elk almost immediately.  They were out in a chained clearing about a half mile away feeding contently.  There were a few bugles but pretty quiet for the most part.  We could see approximately 60 cow elk and 5 nice bulls in the group, Whitey was the one in the middle of everything and he dwarfed the others.  It was obvious beyond obvious he was not injured. I was a little bit disappointed in one way, but very glad that he was not injured at the same time.

They were feeding in the general direction of where we had spotted them yesterday in the late morning.  A quick discussion as to a possible ambush on them was had among us all and a consensus made that Tracker, Night Fisher and I would go down and around a small depression in the terrain and try to work our way up toward the herd.  If the herd was to turn and feed down hill we would be in a perfect place to make a fairly close shot.  Night Fisher would carry my 7 mm, while I still maintained to kill the bull with my muzz.

We moved quickly and quietly and covered the almost mile distance to the base of a mesa and then began working slowly up hill toward the herd.  We kept seeing the tips of  Whitey’s antlers through the dense stand of cedars and oak, but instead of coming our direction they were going straight away from us.  There is a saddle between two mesas and it appeared that was where they were intending to go.  We tried our best to catch up with them, all the while being very quiet, but to no avail.  When we finally got to where we last saw Whitey, we were in hopes that we would find him bedded near by.  We only saw a couple of cows and felt it best to back out and hope to find them in the clear cut later in the day.

Our trek took us away from the rest of the gang for about 3 hours and when we got back they were in various stages of nervous, anxious and tired.  They had tried to entertain themselves while we were away and all the while kept hoping to hear a shot ring out.  That didn’t happen.

Upon our arrival we all decided a nice mid morning snack was in order and so out came the Kipper Snacks and Smoked Oysters, packs of Ritz and other crackers, candy bars and jerky.  We talked about our trek and the general direction we felt the herd had gone.  Perhaps we will encounter them up the road a piece.

As we enjoyed the snack, up the road came the DWR Conservation Officer presiding over that area…Mr. Dennis Shumway.  He was one of my contacts when I was doing my research of the area.  He was the one who told me that on any given morning I should be able to fill my tag by driving along Salt Creek Mesa.  I was honored and very pleased to be able to meet him in person and let him know about my “miss” the night before (I was not pleased to tell him I missed).  He had with him his boss (I can’t remember his name…sorry).  His boss was new to the area, as he had been transferred, I believe from Flaming Gorge, and was unfamiliar with the San Juan Unit.  Shumway was showing him the roads and sites.  We had a great visit with them and they are both great people.  I thanked him for sharing the information with me, especially about Salt Creek Mesa…I had my chance to fill my tag and if that is the only chance I have on this hunt, it wasn’t anyone’s fault but my own.  He asked that I send him a copy of the picture of my bull, should I get one and in exchange I asked him to check out!

When they left us, we cleaned up our mess and went on our way up the road.

About 4 or so miles up the road we came to a water hole just off the side of the road and decided it would be a great place to cook a hot dog, which we did.  We were all very tired, what with only a few hours sleep last night, a dusty ride up the road and now it is mid-day and the elk would for sure be napping themselves, we decided to save gas and leave ourselves parked right there until later in the afternoon.  We had not seen any elk sign higher up the road than we were parked.  We could get some sleep if we wanted and those not that tired could go wander around and look over the vistas.  And that is what we did.


This area of the San Juan Mountains holds its own beauty.  It is so very rugged and steep you have to wonder why on earth anyone would have ever decided to build a road into it.  But once you are on the ground, walking around and observing everything it has to offer, it becomes obvious that the first one who came into this land wanted to share what they had seen and so the trail gets wider and wider and the more people see, the more they want to see.  It’s truly an amazing place.  Millions of years worth of inhabitants have lived in these parts and left their traces behind as they traveled.  And the BLM, Forest Service and the Parks people are doing all they can to help maintain the traces that are there.  They can’t police all the visitors all the time but they have left reminders around for everyone to read.


We didn’t see any of the rock art, except for that at Newspaper Rock, but had we, we would have followed these rules.  It’s hard to imagine people who would destroy this art.

Well, we spent the next few hours around this spot and had a great time.  At least those who didn’t take a nap.  Soon it was time to get back down the road and hopefully run into Whitey and his herd again.

As darkness overtook us, we were unable to locate the herd and pretty soon it was too dark to see my sights….time to head back to camp…2 hours of drive time ahead of us.

Part of our conversation in the pickup truck with Tracker and Weasel, I asked them what their thoughts were about moving our camp up to the Salt Creek Mesa area.  We all agreed that we were seeing a crap load of elk and sign in that area and that the 4 hours per day drive time was killing us, not only with lack of sleep, but in gas costs as well.  Each night upon arrival at camp, the rig had to go into town and refuel.  It only makes sense to move camp.

Who will ultimately make the final decision?


I don’t think this picture was asking that, but it seems appropriate to put it in right here.  Most likely they are pointing at the Weasel because he had just done something only appropriate in a camp like ours!

We were all sleep deprived at this late hour and we still had our Pork Chop meal to prepare and eat.


WapitiAndSoftballEnjoyPorkChopsWhere’s Tracker?

During the meal we discussed the moving of the camp the next day and also our plan to go down and hunt on Uncle Bob’s in the morning.  Night Fisher had the option to stay and hunt with us, but had to be back to work on Thursday.  Should we not fill the tag by Tuesday night, we would be forced to break camp and go home early on Wednesday.  He made his decision to go home with Wapiti, Softball and Edjukateer in the morning rather than interfere with the hunt through the following Sunday (the last day of the season).  I thanked him for that decision, as I was planning on staying the duration if need be.

Well, at least we get to sleep an extra two hours tonight.  Weasel was in bed by 9 p.m. this night and the rest of us were one beer behind him.

Alarm set for 5:15 a.m.?  Check!

Bears Butt

Nov. 20, 1013

Written on November 20th, 2013 , DREAM HUNTS

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Just some of my old stories, new stories, and in general what is going on in my life.