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    First High-Country Bull

    First High-Country Bull

    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 Bartholow shot his first bull elk on public land in the Colorado high country.
    Foster Bartholow shot his first bull elk on public land in the Colorado high country.

    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.

    Trophy Bull with Sam

    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.

    Charlie Butz is happy with the largest elk he has taken in 46 years of hunting public land.
    Charlie Butz is happy with the largest elk he has taken in 46 years of hunting public land.

    Charlie hunted the next year with his son Scott and a friend. He made plans to go to the meadow he’d hunted for 30 years. His son came with him, in case Charlie passed up bulls, and as luck would have it, a big 5x5 came out of the dark timber walking right toward them. There was no way Charlie could move or shoot over his son, so he insisted that Scott take the bull, which he did.
    Shortly after the elk was down, the pair heard a shot from their hunting buddy’s location and confirmed he also shot a nice 5x5. It took the hunting crew several days to get all the meat and antlers from the bulls off the mountain.
    On the last night of the hunt, Charlie went back to his meadow, and 10 minutes before dark, 70 or 80 cows and small bulls strolled into the meadow. The wind was blowing right at the elk, and some of the cows knew something wasn’t right. Before the cows could leave, a bull bugled from just inside the dark timber. A strange feeling came over the hunter as if he knew his old hunting buddy Sam was with him. Scott was with his dad and pointed out the bull as it stepped into the meadow. Charlie found the bull in the scope, confirmed it had nice antlers with ivory tips on each point and held steady. At 300 yards, Charlie shot the bull, but it never flinched. The hunter shot again and the bull dropped, sending the rest of the elk running everywhere.
    Charlie truly believes Sam was with him and would be proud of his buddy taking the big bull. “I’m not religious,” he said, “but too many weird things happened when thinking of my buddy Sam. A breeze on my neck was a weird feeling – like Sam was with me. It is just eerie that Sam was there and helped get the biggest bull I’ve ever shot.”
    The bull scored 365, which is a trophy on any public-land hunt. Charlie is 71 this year and thinks he will struggle to make it up to his meadow. The loyal elk hunter loves his close-knit hunting group and camp life, and he plans on going back for as long as possible.


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