Scouting Elk In Colorado

Scouting Elk...What A View

Scouting Elk... What A View

Elk Crossing The Ridge Effortlessly

Elk Crossing The Ridge Effortlessly

The temperature in my boots raised dramatically as I aggressively put one foot in front of the other on the dusty, rocky mountain trail at 12,000 feet. I could feel my heart beating faster than normal, and the sweat rolled down my cheek falling to the ground, just missing the medium-sized ant who calls this Colorado mountain his home. As the air thinned, so did the skin on the back of my heel reminding me that scouting for elk in the high country is blistering hard work.

33 Miles In The Backcountry - Blistered

33 Miles In The Backcountry - Blistered

I adjusted my 50-pound backpack on my shoulders and waist, looked around and took in some of God’s greatest creations. The mountain tops rumbled with excitement as a storm was forming on top of them moving fast in my direction. I wasn’t the only one scurrying to find my rain gear and waterproof pack cover. I was joined by six of my best buddies on this mountain quest I call “ManFest.” For the past five years I have put together some type of “ManFest” for all of my friends joining us together for a multi-day, man-only trip. We have seen some awesome country in the past few years, caught some high country fish (well, most of us have), pushed and pulled oversized garden wagons and refrigerator dolly’s into the wilderness filled with gear, coolers and of course some adult beverages (dolly’s and wagons – I do not recommend doing, by the way)! But, what we haven’t done as a group as of yet, was pushed our personal limits in the Colorado mountains carrying everything we need on our back like a pack mule. Every year my brother, our friend Kevin and my Dad hunt the backcountry with reckless abandon and my non-hunting friends ask about the grueling episodes that occur every hunting season. So, instead of talking about it and trying to explain what the adventure is like every year, I proposed we make our “ManFest” this year a mountain climbing, elk scouting fest!

Man Crue - Erik, Kevin, Josh, Dave, Greg and Vinny

Man Crue - Erik, Kevin, Josh, Dave, Greg and Vinny

With some surprise my friends agreed that tagging along with my brother, Kevin and I was something they wanted to do. I insisted that they all start a rigorous training program in December of 2008 in preparation for the scouting trip and surprisingly, once more, they all agreed. I have been accused in the past that I make these “ManFest” trips seem easier than they are going to be, so this year I spelled out every detail I could think of – from sleeping bag options to a four day food menu. You name it, I was divulging it and recommending it. It wasn’t that I was worried that once again I would be accused of not “giving all of the (sometimes gruesome) details,” it was that I understand how grueling and life threatening the backcountry can be if you’re not mentally, physically and emotionally prepared, and I wanted to implicitly communicate this over and over again. Prior to the trip, I know my friends privately cussed me out after our many 6-mile-runs uphill with temperatures in the 90’s, steadily gaining 1,000 feet of elevation on some of the mountain trails near our houses. The funny thing was that I would rather they cuss me prior to our trip than when we hit the mountain for our 4 day “ManFest” at the end of July.

Greg & I Preparing For Our Trip

Greg & I Preparing For Our Trip

Well, most of us were ready as that storm rumbled and gathered rain, hail, thunder and lightning. Most of us confidently put on our rain jackets and took the storm head on. Most of us had this “rain jacket” thing nipped in the bud. All of us, that is, but my good friend, Erik. As he confidently reached into his backpack and pulled out his supposed “rain jacket” in preparation for this nasty, early, mountain storm, he soon realized that his rain jacket was not that at all. “Oh sh*t,” echoed against the mountain walls as Erik showed his displeasure, standing there dumbfounded in the pouring rain, holding a pair of rain pants in which he thought this whole time was a rain jacket! Since the storm was peppering us with a mix of hail and rain and the situation was serious enough that heckling couldn’t start until we found a solution to the now absent rain jacket, Kevin handed Erik a spare poncho that was going to have to suffice for the duration of the trip. I yelled out to Erik showing my displeasure, “You didn’t try that on before you bought it?” He, of course said, “That must be a rhetorical question” and gave me the “you’re #1 sign” and snatched Kevin’s clear poncho like a kid snatching candy from a baby. Now that the situation was under control, the heckling started and made a crappy weather situation into a funny next couple of miles.

Surviving A High Country Storm... Nice Rain Jacket Erik

Surviving A High Country Storm... Nice Rain Jacket, Erik

I calculated that we walked about 33 miles in the 4 days we spent scouting the high country. At different points on the trip, we were standing at 13,000 feet wondering when the top of the ridge would near. As we would approach the ridge tops and meander along the ridge lines you couldn’t help but feel like you were at the top of the world. The worst part about trying to crest the ridge lines is, trying to crest the ridge lines. And the best part about cresting the ridge line is seeing new country on the opposite side you were just on. It gives you a sense of accomplishment and adventure you never get while sitting at home or running around the city. I believe that trips like this not only bond a group of close friends, but also, reminded us that getting closer to nature is the grounding affect we are all after. I know my friends feel like they learned a lot on this trip. But as any teacher will tell you, you learn the most while teaching others.

It Doesn't Get Any Better Than This

It Doesn't Get Any Better Than This

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I was reminded by my friends how lucky I truly am for getting the opportunity to be raised hunting the backcountry and living amongst the stars. To see the glimmer and the sense of accomplishment in each and everyone of their eyes is relearning why I love the wild outdoors and hunting so much. I never take for granted the beauty of an elk walking along the edges of timber searching for their next meal, and I never forgot about the sunrises and sunsets at 12,000 feet, but I did forget a little bit about what it’s like to see all of this for the first time. For that guys, I thank you for letting me experience the backcountry through the view of a first timer. This year instead of trying to explain to my friends about my rigorous archery elk hunt, I will only have to explain to them which ridge line, alpine basin or open meadow we harvested our elk. Now that they have walked in my shoes for four days, their memories will do the rest!

The Man Crue

The Man Crue

My Brother - Dave

My Brother - Dave

Hunting Partner - Kevin

Longtime Hunting Partner - Kevin

Cousins - Vinny & Josh

Cousins - Vinny & Josh (my brother-in-law)

Brothers - Greg & Erik

Brothers - Greg & Erik

About the Author

Marc Montoya

Marc Montoya

Marc Montoya is a dedicated Colorado bowhunter who cherishes the challenge and mental fatigue that bowhunting presents. Marc has a passion for backcountry pursuits with his bow and arrow and wants to share that passion with the world.