The following Journal was kept by Brandon on this hunt in 2001. The Journal is written in his own words and was only edited for spelling. These are his thoughts and his words which amazed me at his age. As a father, I could never be more proud of the attention he paid to the hunt and the attitude with which he hunts. I don’t many adults who are as selfless and grateful just to go on a hunt even if they themselves do not fill their tag. I am proud to have raised such a sportsman.
BRANDON’S ELK JOURNAL 2001
On Sunday night, we packed up all of our gear for the trip. I could hardly sleep that night.
My Dad got up at 2:30 a.m. this morning and got showered and dressed for the long day ahead of us. My Uncle Dan got to our house at about 3:00 a.m. He and my Dad started playing cards. Then, I woke up around 3:15 a.m. I jumped out of bed knowing that this was the big day. We were finally leaving for Colorado! I walked into the kitchen, not one bit tired. I was excited and ready for the day. I noticed my Dad wearing his Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation shirt and my Uncle Dan wearing his Browning Shooter’s shirt. When the guys in our family get together to go on a trip, we all dress for the occasion and these signs bring the reality of the trip to my mind. By this time I can’t tell if I am hot or cold because the blood running through my body makes me feel both at the same time.
Since we still had to wait for my Uncle Brad, and everything was ready to go my Dad and Uncle Dan played cards for candy bars at the kitchen table. I took a shower and got myself ready. Then I sat down in the living room and thought about last year’s trip.
Last year, I made the trip to Colorado for the first time with my Mom, Dad and two Uncles. Although I was twelve years old when we went on the hunt, I wasn’t old enough to send in for a tag, so all I could get was a small game license. On the way out, we saw lots of game. In western Kansas and eastern Colorado, we saw every kind of game you could think of. Such as antelope, mule deer, pheasants, quail, fox, coyote, but no elk. When we stopped the first night, we had not seen any elk yet. But the next day, we pulled out of Colorado Springs early in the morning and headed into the mountains. It was the most awesome thing that I had ever seen at that time. Until then, I had only seen pictures of mountains, streams and snow capped peaks in magazines and hunting videos. I know now that until you see things like this personally, you can never imagine what it looks like or how beautiful it is.
Just about to Buena Vista, Colorado, my Uncle Dan called us on the radio from their truck behind us. He had spotted a herd of elk in the pasture. There were eleven elk with two legal bulls slowly walking across the pasture.
We scouted for three days and the only person who saw elk during the scout was my Uncle Brad. We hunted hard but nobody in the group saw an elk except for my dad and I. Unfortunately, the chance at getting this bull was foiled by a rotten road hunter. Even though we came back empty handed, I had a collection of memories, sights and experiences to hold in my heart and mind forever. I am hoping for a little something extra this year.
I snapped back to the present and realized that my Dad and Uncle Dad were still playing cards. So I played Nintendo 64 to pass the time. Then my Uncle Dan came in by me and gave me the chance to whip him in a quick video game. Finally, my Uncle Brad showed up at 6:14 a.m. I guess being a newlywed, it’s kind of hard to give up snugglin’ for a cold pick-up truck and an early morning ride. Dad told him not to worry and that after a few years it wouldn’t be a problem anymore.
We quickly loaded all of my Uncle Dan’s stuff into Uncle Brad’s truck. We left the house at 6:31a.m. topped off with gas uptown and headed west!
My Dad and my Uncle’s joked around on the radios while I daydreamed about that monster bull that I was gonna shoot. We crossed the Mississippi River into Minnesota at 8:40a.m. I spent a lot of time just thinking about how my big bull will look on top of the truck on the way home. My Dad reached into his pocket and gave me something for luck. It was one of the ivory teeth from his first bull! It was taken in the same area where we are going to this year. Here we are, four guys going hunting and we are all wearing Browning caps with the buckmark symbols on them. Proper attire since we are all carrying Browning A-bolt rifles. Only about 14 more hours to go!
At 10:50 a.m. we entered Iowa, we are all very excited. We took a short stop to use the bathroom and secure our straps for the coolers and bags in our trucks. The wind in Iowa was very strong, so we had to fight it with our trucks to keep our pace. The whole time we drove through Iowa we looked for pheasants. We did not have any luck and I think it was because of the high winds. So we had a long boring drive through Iowa. Now about 11 hours left.
At 2:40 p.m. we crossed the Iowa-Nebraska state line and my dad and Uncle Dan were in one truck while I rode with my Uncle Brad in the other. My Uncle Dan and Brad drove while my dad and I rested. My Dad actually slept while I was awake looking for game and interesting sites. I saw a plane that looked like it was once used in a war. It was used to show a 3-D picture for a sign showing where a History Museum was. Now, all of us guys are wide-awake after we rested up. While my Dad and my two uncles were goofing off on the radios, I was thinking about what my reaction would be when I got my bull elk. Would I run across the field, as I imagine, and finally stop when I reached the animal? Would I cry because I was so happy and excited? Who knows, I guess I will just have to wait and see. It is 4:10 p.m. and we have about 7 hours of open road before we stop. At about 5:00 p.m. in Nebraska, we drove under the Great River Road Archway Monument. I think that it is pretty interesting that you can learn so much History in one trip. We have 5 and a half hours to drive and it is 5:30 p.m. now. At 5:40 p.m. we saw an Army Vehicle Museum. That place had just about every Army vehicle that there is. Just a little while after that, we passed several feed lots. A feed lot is where you pack a bunch of beef cows into a pen and stuff them with grain and ship them off after a certain amount of time. I also noticed that the Platte River zigzags back and forth along this stretch of road.
Finally at about 6:30 p.m. we saw some game. They were white-tailed deer, which we have plenty of in our part of the country. As we were driving along, I noticed that there are gates on the exit ramps along the highway. My Dad told me that they use the gates to close the freeway down when they get really bad snow and dust storms until it is safe to drive on them again. I saw a sign that said Pony Express on it. My Dad told me that it was the first mail delivery system that there ever was. They would take the letters and run them with horses for a certain distance, until they reached the next guy who had to take the letter. They would keep on switching off until the letter reached its destination. We even passed Buffalo Bill’s ranch! I bet that would be a cool place to go, if you don’t have elk hunting on your mind.
At 7:30 p.m. we entered a different time zone with only 46 miles to go in Nebraska. The time is now 6:30 p.m. I guess that’s one more hour that I get to stay up tonight. At 8:13 p.m. Wisconsin time and 7:13 p.m. local time, we entered Colorado. That’s quite a trip to make in just 13 and 3 / 4 hours. Now, it is three more hours to our hotel. When we stop we will have driven for 17 hours across the country! At 10:30 p.m. we entered Denver with a very low tank of gas. We drove through the whole city and finally found an exit for gas. We drove by the stadiums also. The football and baseball stadiums are right next to each other. I noticed that Denver is a very beautiful city at night. My favorite part of Denver was looking at downtown Denver from the freeway. Now it is only about an hour to an hour and a half until we get to the hotel.
At 12:15 a.m. we arrived at our hotel in Woodland Park, which us just outside of Colorado Springs. We are halfway up a mountainside. We could have gone farther, but we want to look for game in the wide-open prairie tomorrow when it is light out. These hills are nowhere near what they are like around our camp. Now that we are at the hotel, our trip has been exactly 1090.5 miles in 18 hours.
We got up this morning and took showers and refreshed ourselves at about 6:15 a.m. We got in the trucks and headed over the bluff around 6:30 a.m. We crossed a plain that was about 5 to 10 miles wide and about 15 miles long. There we saw antelope, buffalo, and a lot of cattle. We had no luck seeing any elk along that stretch like last year. We just entered Buena Vista at 9:00 a.m. and are topping of with gas. The mountains are so beautiful. I am looking right at the Continental Divide, which we will be crossing in a little while. The good news is that just over the Continental Divide is our destination. The camp is called Taylor Park.
We started up the Continental Divide around 10:30 a.m. About halfway up, it started snowing. At the top there was enough snow falling that the peak was about a half a centimeter thick, which I think is pretty good. On our way down, I was looking for elk, moose and mule deer. When we were almost to the bottom, I saw a doe mule deer standing in the downed trees. The coolest part about crossing over the Continental Divide is that on one side, which I will say is the East, all of the trees are just like what we are used to in Wisconsin. And on the West side, all of the trees look skinnier and taller, well that is how it looked to me anyway.