Mar 10, 2014

Thinking about going Out West for a hunt?

By: Randy Williams

When I was younger some friends and I went out west a few times hunting elk and/or mule deer. We did it all on our own and spent countless hours preparing for whatever might come our way. Meals, tents, and places to stay are major obstacles on a do it yourself trip. Our success rate as far as animals harvested was not very good and I always returned home worn out, tired, and hungry. 

We did not have local “out west” knowledge, which is usually the key to a successful adventure out west. Also, and just as important, are some safety issues. Once we were elk hunting up on a plateau in Colorado and it started to rain. By chance, I was close to the remote road we had driven up on. A local hunter in a truck came by and that driver looked at me in disbelief. He said, “Why are you still hunting?” I looked back at him in disbelief and asked him, “What was the problem with that?” He said, “It’s raining and this road is clay; the wetter it gets the more treacherous it becomes. If you don’t get down now you will be stuck here.” We took his word, packed up, and headed down the road. That was when we discovered how very scary it is sliding sideways down a steep clay road with drop offs of several hundred feet.

Now that I am older I have gone on a few hunts at ranches out west. What a treat that has been! A ranch hunt provides an abundance of invaluable local knowledge. First you get great meals, transportation to and into the hunting areas, and you will be hunting with a guide, your best bet for getting close to the game. Also, your guides are there because they love it. This means you get all the thrills of the hunt without any of the hassles.

One ranch I have been to is called the Louisiana Purchase Ranch (or LPR) located in northwest Colorado.   This area is home to the White River elk herd where the largest migration of elk in the North America takes place every fall. Forty thousand elk make this migration, including some bigger bulls from the Flat Tops Wilderness area. A healthy mule deer population lives right on the ranch. Colorado offers a bow season, a muzzle loader season during the elk rut, and four separate rifle seasons. Elk permits can be purchased over the counter for the second and third rifle seasons.  

 

The Louisiana Purchase Ranch is located 43 miles southwest of Craig and 27 miles northwest of Meeker. The ranch hunter success rates run much higher than the state average offering semi-guided rifle, archery and black powder five day hunts. For example, this year, during the third rifle season, the ranch hunters shot seventeen bulls for nineteen hunters.

After booking a trip there, my hunting success out west went from not so good to great. On my first trip to LPR, the three of us harvested a huge 6 by 6 bull elk (see Steve’s picture) and two mule deer. My second trip was last year and the 4 of us returned with 3 elk and some stories about misses and no bullets in the chamber.            

Rick Tingle is the owner of the ranch so either call him at 970-272-3006 or his Midwest contact, Steve Jordan @ 920-427-4039. You will need to get information about licenses and hunting units. Also check out the pictures of successful hunters on the ranch website. www.shootelk.com. There have been at least five hunting shows filmed there, which makes you realize this place must be special. Bring a camera because the scenery is stunning with some very unique rock formations. Some of the formations have holes that wild Canadian geese actually have used to nest in. 

We found ourselves staying in quaint efficient cabins with beds and showers. When sighting in our rifles, we had to chase the mule deer does off the range so we could shoot.

Early in the morning before your hunt you will get a full breakfast served by one of the pleasant Teresa’s. Teresa one is Rick’s wife and Theresa two is Rick’s stepson Roy’s wife. Then you are taken to the hunting area in a suburban. Depending on where you are hunting you might walk or you might ride the side by side up the mountain. There is a vast variety of areas to hunt. You have sage brush flat areas, rolling hills, hay fields, water holes, and of course, the mountains. Elevations are between 6,800 and 8,200 feet.  Therefore altitude sickness has not been a problem. If need be, there is productive hunting available for those unable to do much walking. 

You might come back to the ranch for lunch or you may stay in the field and eat a prepared lunch. If you were one of the lucky hunters, you might need help retrieving your animal. They provide help in many ways. Sometimes they can get close with a vehicle. Sometimes they use horses and once I saw them use a rather tricky procedure. They put a strap or “mule tape” down one side of a steep mountain to the elk then put the other end of the strap on a 4-wheeler. Next they drove the 4-wheeler down the other side of the mountain. This actually worked to bring the elk up. After your animal is back at the ranch they hang it on the meat rack and skin it for you. You can cut it up yourself or they will get it to a meat locker in the town of Meeker for you. 

Finally, after your hunt, comes supper, which could be late depending on your hunt. You would think that trekking through the mountains would help you lose weight. However, the meals were so wonderful that we all gained a few pounds. At supper, hunters compare notes about the day’s adventures and animals they saw. Animals include bears, mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes along with the numerous elk and deer. That is also where the bologna can start to fly. Once when we got Rick and Roy going on stories, I laughed so hard my gut hurt and I needed a towel to wipe away the tears.

For your return home, a steep treacherous mountain road will not be an unpleasant surprise like it might on a self-guided trip. In fact, Rick watches the weather for you and will find you safe passage back through the majestic mountains of Colorado.