Sunday, September 16, 2007
Dave Shively's outdoors column appears Sundays in the Steamboat Pilot & Today. Contact him at 871-4253 or e-mail email@example.com
Steamboat Springs I knew seasons were changing two weeks ago at our final attempt at a summer lacrosse practice. As I walked to the parking lot with Big John, he stared up at the woods of Mount Werner longingly, and I noticed it looked like the clean-shaven professional was starting to let himself go a little.
"Are you growing a beard there, John?" I asked.
The response was instant.
"It's huntin' season," he fired back. "Idiot."
He didn't really call me an idiot, but the simple explanation should've been obvious. Most folks nationwide have only the weekend's "big game" to sublimate the primal instincts of the fall. Steamboaters, however, have relatively instant gratification when it comes to climbing back down the evolutionary ladder an eon or so and living out the ingrained right to hunt and gather.
Dave Summers told me he could barely readjust to getting back in the complex, motor-powered metal and glass box of his car after spending nine days bow hunting from a spike camp on Shield Mountain, living off the land and whatever grouse he could snag.
"It was like going back in time - you don't get that feeling too often," Summers said.
Hunters might not often get as good trophy opportunities as they will this season. I'm not saying that the "perfect storm" of ideal conditions - a thriving elk population, a mild winter and a wet late summer - will mean an epic harvest. But you have to listen when guides like Ray Heid, a fixture in the backcountry reaches of the Bears Ears elk herd since 1962, tells you his big game population estimates rival and exceed the best years he's experienced.
Edward Watson certainly never had a shot like the one he took Sept. 8. And he's been bow hunting since he was a teenager in Nashville, Tenn., where he was paid per snapping turtle he removed from a local golf course. Watson hunts solo and goes deep into the habitat because he knows "we're just part-time hunters and they're full-time elk."
So when he called in a 6-by-6, 329-point monster, he didn't hesitate to take the shot - even if processing/mounting costs meant he'd have to skip the new skis he had his eye on.
"It's just addicting - a big ol' game where you get yourself out there, see what trouble you can get into and how you can solve it," Watson said.
Deep in the confines of the Pilot & Today cubicles, we only have things like "No Shave November" to live out these Ted Nugent urges.
I am relying on you, the hunter in the field, to bring back the stories and pictures to reflect what is shaping up to be a tremendous season. I'll set the bar high, starting "Hunt of the Week" installments with Watson's harvest.
So, go get after it and bring back a trophy worth showing the town. I'll run one every week as long they keep coming in. Send one or two high-resolution digital images and contact information to firstname.lastname@example.org.