Elk/Mulie trip SW CO 2017


Jan 24, 2012
It has been awhile and I have been busy. We had a second daughter diagnosed with Epilepsy at the age of 21 months and I accepted a new job with a new employer so we are moving again... ( 7 homes in 12 years). I am a glutton for punishment. With life getting in the way of everything else I haven't posted. A house sold, a house under contract, both closing on Nov 2nd... not much time to do anything else but try and breathe.

Anyway I gave my 2 weeks notice on Sept 5th, I was terminated 10 minutes later, and on the 6th I headed west for Albuquerque NM to meet up with my great friend and Wilderness hunting partner " Bob" ( names withheld to protect the innocent). Drove the 15 hours straight through and arrived at Midnight that night. Season opens on the 9th so we planned on heading north 5 hours from ABQ, parking the trucks and leaving civilization for 9 days ( two days of scouting and 7 days of hunting).

Our destination is sworn to secrecy as we have found a pretty good spot on public land that no one seems to hunt. Two years ago I stopped along the road during the middle of September and hiked in 1 mile high on a ridge and within minutes I had located 3 different bulls 2-3 miles away, inside the Wilderness Boundary. Last year my partner hiked in 4 miles with his brother ( who had an archery elk tag) and glassed up a lot of big mulies, and they saw elk every day. His brother arrowed a nice 5x5 on the third day and they spent the next day packing him out. This spring and summer "Bob" took the family up into the hills and did some scouting and every time up there he saw both mulies and elk.

He put in for a muzzleloader buck tag and I put in for the same, along with a cow elk muzzleloader tag. He drew the buck tag ( with one point), I did not ( zero points), but I did score the cow tag. CO here we come!

We left the trucks at 3:00 PM and started up the truck was at 10,500 feet and we were set to camp at 11,300.


At the Wilderness Boundary only 3.5 miles to go. My Mystery Ranch Crew Cab loaded down at 65 pounds and the TC Omega in the Kifaru Gunbearer. I have to say that Gunbearer is the slickest thing I have bought in a while. Makes carrying a rifle a non issue with a back pack on. One can easily slip it out of the harness in about the same time it takes to unsling a rifle from your shoulder, but with less movement.

We got to camp at roughly 6:30pm and I have to say I think my lungs were left somewhere along the trail. Since our designated glassing spot was another .60 miles up the mountain and 1,000 more vertical feet I elected to stay in camp, set up, get firewood cut and "Bob" took off with his 15X binos and his tripod straight up the mountain. He came down after dark reporting that there wasn't anything up there. We ate well and hit the rack. A full day of scouting was awaiting us in the early morning.

At the lookout before dark and my lungs were screaming. Checked the GPS and our hideout was at 12,300 feet. We sat down and basically didn't leave until dark. We were both behind the glass all day long. I was using my 15x56 Vortex Vultures as was Bob, on Silk pro II tripods. Awesome combo. The end of the basin we were glassing was 1153 yards from out spot ( verified twice with Leica rangefinders). The Vortex had zero issues identifying animals even beyond that in all aspects of light. Bob and all his colleagues use this same glass and the one downside they claim from the 3 and 4 times more expensive glass is the edge is not as clear. Eye relief was fine, tripod attachment flawless, and no eye strain.
We glassed up 16 different bucks that day and not a single other human being except for a bowhunter chasing elk who sat and talked to us for a bit after the sun came up.

This pic is at the end of the basin bottom about 900 yards away under phone ( Iphone 4) zoom. Yeah Colorado doesn't have any big bucks left on public land... This one had just started shedding velvet and as we watched him for over an hour in his bed we thought he had a drop tine! We guessed him right about 180 inches.

Different buck here:

This next buck you will get a better pic of later :)


Saw elk as well. 4 different rag horn bulls chasing cows on the opposite end of the basin. Heard a couple bugles throughout the day.

Unzoomed pic at around 900 yards:


zoomed in with the phone:


A couple cows that the bull was on. 8 cows total in this little group. Looks like opening day may be a little interesting.


I didn't get any good pics but at dusk we saw three absolute giant bucks at the end of the basin as they walked up diagonally through the timber. One had blood red antlers as he had obviously just shed his velvet. We heard 4 bugles down below us and close, but figured it could be hunters trying to put a bull to bed... we were wrong.


Thats me very excitingly saying " he's right there, he's right there!!!!!!!" as quietly as I could right at the moment we were setting up a really nice sunset hero shot :). About 200 yards, just underneath the ridgeline where my pack is stood a magnificent 6x6 bull with 12 cows. Since our binos were packed away no good pics.

We made a plan to have myself perched on the lookout at daylight, and Bob would be 180 degrees opposite of me 1200 yards away. If there were bucks in the basin I would quietly try and push them his way. Well the bucks had other plans as just as the sun came up, three of them crested the skyline walking away from us. All morning no deer. No other Hunters. I watched as Bob crested the ridgeline and followed the bucks. I dropped down into the timber and stillhunted into the wind hoping to catch a group of cows lounging around in the cool dark timber. No luck.

Around 2pm I received a text: Again, big bulls don't exist on public land in CO anymore :)


Bob had not only found the elk above 12,000 feet, but he jumped what he described as " the 180" at 200 yards. I texted back a plan to work my way over to him but he told me to stay put. " They aren't spooked and there is no one around. By the time you get to me ( 3 miles away) it will be close to dark. We will make a play tomorrow on them if the deer don't cooperate". I made my way back to our lookout and glassed the evening until a thunderstorm pushed me off the mountain. Lightning cracking close to you above timberline has got to be the scariest thing ever. I don't think I have ever been as scared for my life than at that time.

The next morning we were back on the hill. Much easier on the lungs now. We spotted 5 bucks right away and two were good. Up in the green.



Long story short, once they started feeding, we made a decision and Bob made his way to the basin floor. After using topography to gain the advantage, I watched from 700 yards away as he smoked this old boy! A well placed 300gr Hornady HPB at 185 yards anchored him nicely. Complete pass through and broke the off shoulder on the way out.


Now it was my turn. I headed to the ridge top where the elk were the day before. I topped the crest and saw them! A ways away but there was enough topography between us that I had a route to sneak within 150 yards. As I took my time getting into position the phone began to buzz.. My wife was on the other end frantically explaining that our 2 year old fell down some concrete steps and broke her head open badly. She was headed to the E room. I had to make a decision that at the time was a no brainer. I stood up and hiked down to camp. I left those fat cows. I knew if I dropped one, it would be two days to get all the meat out, and then a 18 hour drive home. I had to get home NOW!! I fast hiked down to camp, packed my stuff, and by that time, Bob was down with the cape and meat. He helped me pack up, we packed meat on top of my pack and he came down with me to the trucks. I felt terrible leaving him to walk back up to camp to take down the tent, but we both agreed I needed to get home. Oh and did I mention we walked the 4 miles out in a complete and utter lightning/thunder and down pour! A quick change of clothes and i was on the road. I didn't stop. 1100 miles.

18 hours later I pulled in to home. Tired, on edge, scared to death. Our daughter was okay in the end, scans proved no damage inside or to her skull and her seizures have not gotten any worse. What a relief.

I don't know if I would have sealed the deal or not way above timber line that day. I can say with some confidence that with 5 days left to hunt I truly think I/we would have had a shot. We make a great team and even though we have only known one another for three years we mimic one anothers moves in the hills. Funny how two guys from Ohio can meet decades after leaving, strike up a friendship, and act like brothers.

I can close my eyes and see all those elk just relaxing in that basin. I can take a deep breath and smell the wonderful musk of a herd, But then I hear the giggle of little girls and feel a little 2 year old hugging my leg and deep down I know that the best trophies are the ones that call you "Daddy" and think the sun rises and sets because you allow it.

This fall I have a date with two little ladies, a blind, a muzzleloader and Northern Missouri whitetails late December. They are both fighting over who is going to shoot the biggest. I can only hope the deer don't mind an occasional giggle or two.

Rest assured I will be back in 2 years with a buck and a bull tag and the Omega will speak! Only takes a point to draw a NR buck and 2 points for NR bull... Again sworn to secrecy on the exact spot.

And to think if I hadn't pulled over in the fall of 2015 and walked in a bit and glassed.... Never would have known.

Here's to DIY public land Wilderness hunting!!
WOW! Well you get my vote for Dad of the Year. Your wife and little girls are very lucky.
Great pictures and nice write up, thanks for posting.

You made the right call. There will always be another cow (or bull). That is not the case with your children. Still, an awesome adventure for you and "Bob." He definitely tagged a great buck, and you demonstrated there are some fantastic animals still wandering around CO. I pray God's goodness to your family and full health for your daughter.

I'm so glad your little one is OK and sorry you had to end your hunt abruptly. The absolute right call was made and believe me, this hunt was not a waste of time. You know the area better and those bucks/bulls will only be a year older!
PAT, I am also glad the little one is o.k. and thanks for the write up, as an aside Pat, you should have never left Harley lol without a doubt you have moved around a bit and obviously have a very understanding wife, wish nothing but the best for your family Pat
Pat, you made the ONLY call. Glad to hear your daughter is doing well, now as long as the seizures can be medically controlled, then all is well. My mother and dad received the same diagnosis 57 years ago and it hasn’t stopped me from doing anything except being a pilot or being in the service. But I have run the mountains of AZ , hunted in Quebec, and established a busy veterinary practice. I know this is getting off topic, but parents need a support system. Anything with your girls is possible. And with two caring parents, they will realize their potential, which with a few exceptions is unlimited! BTW, great story -well done!
Pat that was an epic hunt. Sorry to hear about your daughter. My son Jeff was diagnosed with Epilepsy (seizure disorder) when he was about the same age. HE was put on medication for a couple years possibly three, it's been so long ago now. He never had any more seizures and they took him off the medicine. He has remained seizure free to this date and has had no problems. I do not recall the percentage, but the DR. told us that if kids don't have any more seizures in that time frame they are on the medicine they find that something like 95% of them never have another seizure, ever! The DR told us that we all can have a seizure if certain things come to be such as a rapid spike in body temperature, or drop in temperature such as a person who has had a fever and is getting worse, or getting better. That seems to be what triggered my son's first and second seizures, the only one's he's had.

I hope and pray that this will be the outcome for your child also. Take care.

Pat, I am happy that your little one is on the mend. I am sure that one day soon you will get another crack at the Elk and Mulies.
This is just the kinda of post that makes me so proud to call you here on the Nosler site my brothers and sisters (y)!!!

So glad to hear that your daughter is doing OK. Only choice to make. I don't even want to think about how bad you would feel for the rest of your life if something had gone wrong and you weren't there. You will have another chance for a trophy. If you are lucky with your daughters!
That was a fantastic adventure while it lasted!! CL
Thanks everyone! This is our second child to be diagnosed with Epilepsy in two years. Her siezures are coming from her frontal lobe, but she has an abnormal part of her brain to the rear. She has already "failed " one medication, and we are 3/4 of the way through the dose ladder on the second. Her seizures have diminished considerably, but we are still seeing a 5-10 a week. She is a tough little girl and doesn't even flinch when her blood is drawn.

David we are hoping our 5 year old daughter will be a lucky one and outgrow the seizures. She has been seizure free since July of 2016. She still is on mess and will be for some time,but we hope to take her off someday.

I truly do love wilderness hunting for what it is. Testing myself against Mother Nature, the mountains etc...I only have a few more years left then the strategy will change as the girls will be joining us on the hill so a truck camp will probably be more like it.

I used some new gear this year and have come to the conclusion thatcI can no longer use a sleeping bag. My darn shoulders are so wide I am uncomfortable the entire time. I also get super hot in a bag so next time I am going to use a Quilt instead.

Thanks again for the thoughts and prayers!

I stopped crawling into a bag 20 years ago. I use them by opening one up and a blanket for covers. Works no matter the conditions. Up till last year I had a travel trailer and slept in a real bed. Now it's back to bunks which is great. Slept very well last November in an old army bunk on the Van Horn hunt. Took about 7 or 8 scotches in the evening to achieve "sleep ready" status........................................ :>)
Great hunt! Your buddy shot one heck of a buck!

And, you made exactly the right call, heading for home to take care of family

Thanks for posting the great photos and the info about your hunt. It's been a long time since I hunted at those elevations!

So glad to hear your kiddo was alright! Great pics as always and thanks for bringing us along!