Colorado Elk Hunt Report by Ron Arnold

Hunter: Ron Arnold
Date: 10/21-10/16
Hunt Taken: Rifle Elk in Colorado

I had a terrible time making contact with anyone from this outfitter and the only time he contacted me was about two months before the hunt to make sure I knew I still owed him the remaining $2,250.00 and his bogus contract which absolved him of everything –possibly including heavenly intervention. I had no idea where I would be hunting until one of the guides met a group of us in Meeker and we all followed him to the hunting destination.

Also, after I got home, I looked up the information for the ranch I was on. It just said it was 12,000 acres in the middle of some of Colorado’s best elk habitat. What it DID NOT say was that the ranch was not one 12,000 acre parcel but numerous parcels of land, interspersed with large tracts of B.L.M. lands. It was rare that we did not see other hunters on the B.L.M. lands not far from where we were hunting. As you know, I took a shot at a bull which ended my hunt, not because I killed the bull but because my guide said I hit it.

When I first set up this hunt, I talked to Erin and I related to him that this was my first hunt in well over 20 years due to a very serious accident. One of the lasting effects of that accident was being fused 3 levels in my neck and associated nerve problems. My ability to turn my head or look up or down is quite reduced and I wanted the outfitter/guides to be aware as obviously this lessens my ability to get properly behind my scope for a good sight picture. Since I never really had the opportunity to talk to the outfitter first-hand about this just prior to the hunt, the guides where I ended up hunting were oblivious to my situation. When I found out who my guide would be, I told him about my neck issues but in all the hubbub of getting everyone paired with guides I don’t believe he really understood.

Now back to my shot at that bull. I spotted a group of animals down by the White river while glassing from the truck. There was a legal bull in the group and when asked I said yes, I would like to try for him. My guide, Quinton, grabbed a cow elk decoy, the shooting sticks, and we worked our way down toward the river. The elk were on our side of the river in thick willows. Cows had started crossing the river and as we got closer, Quinton had Harry-the second hunter and I get directly in line behind him as he had the cow elk decoy held high in front of him. As we got near the river Quinton said the bull was crossing and plunked down the shooting sticks. The sticks were too high for me to take a knee and too low for me to get properly behind my scope with my inability to bend my neck. The bull was just coming out of the river on the other side so I tried to squat somewhat to better align myself with the scope and I was not very steady. I got as steady as I could in such a short time and as the bull reached high ground I fired.

Because of my awkward position, the recoil took me completely off target and as I looked up the bull was going into the willows and disappeared. From the time I got on the sticks, acquired my target as best I could and fired could not have been more than a couple of seconds. I saw nothing on the bull as it went into the willows. Harry said he did not see the hit or blood. Only Quinton, who was holding up a cow decoy with one hand and holding the shooting sticks with the other said he saw blood on the bull. Because the bull was on the other side of the river, Harry and I took a walk down stream a ways and hunkered hoping to watch for any movement by my bull or for Harry to get a shot at another bull, should we see one, while Quinton drove off to retrieve a boat.

After an hour or so Quinton returned with a 12 foot aluminum boat and canoe paddles. Not oars, but canoe paddles. The White river at that point was moving right along, too fast and way too deep to wade even with chest-high wader. There was only one spot where we had access to put the boat in and we were washed about 100 yards or so downstream to about the point where the bull stood when I took the shot. We had about an hour of light left before dark to look. There were numerous trails leading into the willows near that point and we found no blood and no hair on any of them. We followed them into the maze of thick willows but still found no blood, no hair, and no bull. Because the river current was so fast along that stretch and we had only the one spot to land the boat, we had to drag the boat as far upstream as we could and because of the willows growing right to the edge of the river in places, we had to wade in order to accomplish this, flooding our boots in the process. Then to make matters more interesting we still got washed down past the take-out and was nearly washed under a cut bank with overgrown willows.

We got up and hunted with Harry on the gun the next morning, which was only fair as Harry had helped look for my bull the evening before. Once the sun was up in the morning sky and having seen nothing for Harry to try for, we went back over the river to continue looking for my bull. With the added assistance of another guide, four of us spent a number of hours crashing and tripping through the willows where we found numerous beds and even a wallow…….but absolutely no blood and no hair and no bull. Absolutely no evidence that I had hit the bull at all except for Quinton saying he saw blood on the bull before it disappeared into the willows. They came up with all kinds of theories as to how I had hit the bull but left no evidence. All I know is, if in fact Quinton saw blood on the side of that animal in only the one or two seconds from the time I fired until it disappeared into the willows, then it had to be bleeding pretty profusely which should have left some kind of a blood trail! At this point it doesn’t matter because I was told that I could continue hunting–but only for that bull that Quinton said I hit. On top of that I found out the day that the four of us looked for my bull that a hundred and fifty to two hundred yards from where he stood when I fired was a fence and on the other side was private property, on both sides of the river. So if in fact I had hit the bull and he were to make it over that fence, I couldn’t hunt him anyway.

By this time I was so upset and angry that I could not continue to stay there. Besides, by leaving I hoped it would give Harry a better chance to find a good bull. That was fair in my mind as Harry had spent as much time as the rest of us looking for my bull and didn’t complain for a second. As an FYI, Harry complained to me that he was told more than once that there would be no more than four-possibly five hunters in camp and we had nine. In the time since the hunt I have calculated that with the price of the hunt, all the gear I bought after 20 plus years of not hunting, gas there and back, motels and meals, that one call by my guide saying he saw blood was worth about $8,500.00. I have seen hunting programs on TV where a shot is taken and blood is clearly drawn and a blood trail leads to no animal, by virtue of a video camera, they later believe to have found that animal walking around (at least they think it is the same animal) and the hunt continues–and not necessarily for that same animal.

Will I ever do this again? No. I will never put my hunt in anyone else’s hands but my own. I am still angry—not because I didn’t bring home a bull elk, I know no hunt is a guaranteed animal, but because of one person’s statement but no evidence ended my hunt three days before it should have ended. Any way you slice it, this was not a well organized or equipped hunt. People could have been injured or drowned crossing the river in that goofy boat and canoe paddle set-up–no one was wearing life jackets and even if you had survived possibly being sucked under a cut-bank and overgrown willows in the dark, hypothermia was certainly a real possibility. I am not a young man at 65 and Harry was older than me by three or four years, and what elk we did see seemed to be around the river bottom. Never again!

  • Overall, my trip was not so great. Get a better boat with oars in oar locks and life jackets for those times when the guides have to ferry hunters across the river to look for bulls—whether hit or not. Have a better range to check rifles for sight-in. There is no table or platform to set up on. Shooting off of sticks is fine if the rifle is already online but if there should be a scope problem you could go through a lot of ammo trying to sight in off of shooting sticks.
  • My outfitter’s communication before, during and after the trip was terrible.
  • My guide was fair.
  • Physically, the trip was difficult.
  • The food and accommodations were fair.
  • My consultant’s communication before, during and after the trip was good.
  • My consultant was good enough.
  • Would you book another trip with us in the future? No. As I said earlier, I only talked to the outfitter once when he called me from somewhere on the rodeo circuit, and that was about four months before the hunt and I had to contact my consultant, who contacted him to get that call. I was never able to make contact with anyone else except for just before the hunt, his wife emailed me at my motel in Meeker to let me know who would meet me in Meeker and where. That is the only contact I had with the outfitter.

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