This past November, a group of NAHC Life Members came together at Winterhawk Outfitter in the Flat Top Wilderness area of Colorado to experience a true Western elk hunting adventure. The hunt began with a 5-mile drive into camp from the main road, which on the surface doesn’t sound like a big deal except for the fact that it takes more than an hour. No, there aren’t a lot of stop lights along the way, but there is a lot of mud, rocks and gullies.
Outfitter Larry Amos, his right-hand man Bob Shellum, their seasoned guides and camp hands made us feel right at home from the get-go as we settled into our wall tents, complete with king-sized cots and barrel wood stoves. And the wall-of-fame photos of bulls taken by previous clients hanging in the dining hall had everyone in camp fired up for the opening day of the season.
It doesn’t take long to spend a night at Winterhawk because the 3:30 a.m. wake up call comes around mighty fast. A hot and heavy breakfast got our engines started and fueled us up for the day and then we were off on our horses for an hour-long ride into the wilderness. As our mounts crunched along snow covered trails, groups of guides and hunters separated and scattered across the basin below Dome Peak. And just after first light, shots began to echo off the hillsides.
I hunted with “North American Hunter-TV” Producer Terry Boeder and guide Mike Dill. Terry was tasked with the job of capturing the story of our hunt for an upcoming episode of “North American Hunter-TV” later this summer. Thirty minutes into the opening day of the season, cracking twigs and pounding hoofs alerted us to a herd of cows and three 5×5 bulls trotting through the timber. When their path brought them to within 50 yards of us, I centered one of the bulls in my crosshairs and waited for the green light from Terry to pull the trigger. It never came. When a hunt is for TV, all of the stars must align and the producer is the one who calls the shot. It wasn’t a big deal because we had a full week to get the job done.
The ride back to camp at the end of each day was full of anticipation because everyone wanted to see who had filled their tags that day. And as the week progressed, many nice bulls and bucks were hung on the camp’s meat poles. The big bull of the week fell to Life Member Emil Hegbli and Life Member Ed White claimed bragging rights for being the first hunter in camp to fill both his elk and mule deer tag. Lucky for Ed, his son Nick was nice enough to let his father shoot first! The rest of the Life Members in camp—Tim Berner, Skip Clark, Larry DeVoy, Mike Farnesi, Allen Johnson, Brad Kolb, Paul Salerno and Shane Snedeger—also filled their tags or at least had shot opportunities.
The hunting was great at Winterhawk Outfitter and although I never did kill a bull, the experience as a whole was superb. Sitting on a knob at 10,000 feet, watching a herd of elk cross a valley, spotting a mule train with a full load of meat and antlers creeping along a distant trail and listening to coyotes yip and horses snort as the moon rises—it just doesn’t get any better than that! If you’re looking for a true Western hunting adventure, Winterhawk Outfitter will give it to you.
Sept. 18-23, 2007, are the dates for the NAHC’s next Life Member archery elk hunt with Winterhawk Outfitter.