column By: Brad Fenson | September, 19
Thousands of men and women take to the field every year to enjoy the beautiful scenery on public lands, spend time with friends and, hopefully, provide meat for their families. When Foster Bartholow was asked to go on a DIY elk hunt in Colorado with good friends, he jumped at the chance. After accepting the invitation, he toiled to create a checklist, buy the right camping and hunting gear and, most importantly, train for hunting at close to 11,000 feet in elevation.
When the day finally rolled around to head into camp, Foster made the eight-mile hike to where he and his buddies would set up base camp. The rest of the day was spent cutting firewood, organizing and preparing for the hunt and trying not to get too excited. With the warm fall weather, bull elk were still fired up and bugling in the mornings, afternoons and throughout the night, giving everyone hopes for success.
Foster enjoyed two days of scouting before the season opened, and both days he found a beautiful white-tipped 5x6 bull with six cows. The novice elk hunter woke up at 4:25 a.m. on the opening morning and started his journey to where he had seen the bull. As soon as daybreak hit, the hunter heard the bull screaming over the next ridge. Not sure what to do, he didn’t push the elk, waiting and hoping the ivory-tipped bull would come to him. After an hour of quiet, Foster got a radio call that another hunter in his camp had shot a bull. Preparing to leave the area and help with recovery of a downed bull, the hunter took no more than three steps when he saw a different bull running toward him at 100 yards.
Dropping to a knee, Foster turned the scope magnification down to the lowest setting, knowing any shot would be within close distance. The bull came straight to the hunter and stopped slightly quartered at 14 yards. After counting the points to confirm it was a legal bull, he squeezed the trigger on his .300 Winchester Magnum. The bull buckled before taking off but only made it 7 yards before falling.
Foster’s first elk will always be a fond memory, as well as the two days it took to haul all the meat from both elk back to base camp.
Foster is looking forward to hitting the mountains in 2019 with his elk-hunting buddies, who told him: “Throughout the whole hunt, you’ll hit times where you feel like you can’t go any further and you want to give up. It will be one of the toughest hunts you’ll ever go on, but looking back, you won’t remember the struggles and pain, you’ll just remember the good times with memories that will last a lifetime.”
Foster believes everyone who has been on a public-land DIY elk hunt can relate to that advice. The only things that are remembered are overcoming challenges, the beauty on the other side and creating an experience with others that will never be forgotten.
Charlie Butz has been hunting public lands in Colorado for 46 years and is proud to say he has only hunted public land, never private. Charlie and his long-time hunting buddy Sam have been on many elk hunts together, and Sam usually tags rag horns for meat. Charlie, on the other hand, has passed up lots of bulls while looking for a “big one.” The hunters have a favorite spot in the high country where they prefer to hunt open meadows during the morning and evening, and they never push elk in the woods.
As luck would have it, Charlie would usually see small bulls, and when Sam heard the stories back at camp, he would get upset with Charlie for not shooting. Unfortunately, Sam passed away a month after the last elk hunt they shared.
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