Mia & the Little Gal: On High Country elk hunting and ‘tag sandwiches’

Quality time in the outdoors is so rewarding. The Little Gal and I have been working our tails off the past nine days, as well as forming an amazing bond and memories that will never be forgotten. She had a license to hunt a bull elk, so we headed out to public land to find her first bull. We spent many a morning up at 3, 4 and a couple times 2 in the morning. Hank would load our horses and we trucked through the darkness to the High Country.

girl on horseback for Colorado elk hunt

Always optimistic, there goes the Little Gal … again! Photo courtesy of Mia Anstine

It was some tough hunting. The year has been excessively hot and dry. The bulls were not grouped up and this late in the season they were not coming to calls. We rode our horses through the darkness up a rugged mountain trail. I let out a short bugle to locate something. I was immediately answered by bulls. The thing was … they sounded very high on the mountain.

We continued our way up the trail to a meadow. I unloaded the Little Gal and we sat, shivering in the cold as the sun rose. I chirped on my cow call as daylight filled the meadow and I heard a chirp back from the timber just north of us. The Little Gal pulled her neck gator over her nose and hunkered down on her shooting sticks, ready in case something came to the clearing.

Mia Anstine and daughter elk hunting

Mother-daughter time is always precious. Photo courtesy of Mia Anstine

We remained still, silent and shivering as we waited. It wasn’t long when we both saw movement. One cow elk appeared and then another cow. I looked out the corner of my eye at my Gal. She sat wide-eyed and watched. We both looked and waited for more, but that was it.

The remainder of the day we rode horses farther up the mountain. We saw another cow elk. She stood there and stared at us as we stared back at her. Then we retreated into the timber and she made her way up the mountain.

That afternoon, we decided to sit and watch another meadow. We ate lunch and napped. Suddenly, we heard a rock come crashing down. I told her to be ready, and she already had her rifle up on her sticks. A flash of brown moved through the trees on the hill. It surely was an elk. I followed it through the trees, looking through my binos. As in came into the clear, I whispered to her “Nope. It’s a spike.” She smiled as she looked at him and said, “Mom, He’s beautiful!” We watched as he traversed across the hill and then up to another meadow.

We finished day one with four elk within shooting distance for her, but without seeing a single legal bull elk to shoot. We bundled up as darkness approached and rode our horses back to the truck.

Colorado insects in High Country

Kinda yucky looking, but fascinating! Photo by Mia Anstine

Day two, three and four consisted of seeing NO elk, but many other hunters. All of which asked if we had seen any elk and said hunting had been rough. Each day we were up before dawn, shivered and glassed and mid-day baked in the near-70 degree sun. We spent time talking quietly about hunting, school and many other things. We examined bugs, birds, rodents and other Mother Nature creations.

We rode our horses up mountains, down mountains, across timber and meadows. We hiked across the dry, crunchy terrain, but only minimally. We weren’t going to be able to sneak up on much in that.

There were many other hunters out, but it wasn’t until day five that we finally heard any gun shots. Mid-day there were two simultaneous shots. We never heard a “whop,” but someone was finally slinging lead. I saw a frown on the Little Gal’s face as we heard the shots, and told her it was important to be excited for other hunters as well. She said she knew, but she was determined to get a bull herself.

I finally let her sleep in when on day seven a snowstorm came in. We made it out that afternoon and spotted two bulls and a spike. They were on private land. We decided to come back the next morning, day eight and see if they moved over to the public side.

Wind, rain, snow, freezing cold.  That’s what we encountered on that second to the last day of the hunt. The Little Gal again woke up without a fight. She bundled up and headed out the door. We found a herd of 30 elk at the very end of the day. We looked and looked at them, just 80 yards away. We tried and tried, but never could put enough antlers on any of them. All cow elk and a single spike, which didn’t have a five-inch eye guard so he was not legal to shoot. The next morning we had similar weather and not a single elk that entire day. We smiled and told stories of our hunt on the way home.

elk tooth Colorado

Well, she found a tooth. That counts for something, right? Photo courtesy of Mia Anstine

I am proud of the Little Gal. Each evening, as we drove home, exhausted from the day, I would ask her if she wanted to go tomorrow. She never hesitated before she answered, “Yes.” I’m so proud at how tough she’s become. She never griped. She never complained. I remember when I used to have to coax her out of bed to hunt. I used to have to sing songs to keep going. I used to have to work at keeping her pumped up. I am now amazed at how much determination she has, and how much FUN we had together, in the outdoors, hunting and not even getting anything.

The freezer may still be empty, but our hearts are full.

Follow Mia Anstine’s outdoor pursuits at her blog, My Many Outdoor Adventures.

Mia and the Little Gal wear Prois Hunting Apparel, camo for the real woman hunter.

 

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