Monday, October 27, 2008

Deer Hunting in the Rockies pt 2


But it was pretty.

This is the railroad just a mile or so before it enters the Moffat Tunnel, which cuts under that 12,000 ft mountain and comes out the other side. They had signs up asking you not to park by the rail yard, but there was a small forest road in good condition just off to the side and presumably off railroad property as well, so I camped out there.

If you have never been to the Moffat tunnel and you have a chance to check it out by all means take it. This tunnel is LONG and sees a lot of traffic. After every train goes through it, enormous fans turn on to blow out the bad air. The sound of them is impossible to describe correctly... At first you think it is an air raid siren, but in stead of cycling once it's reved up it hangs for a few minutes at the same pitch. Some folks might not exactly expect that on their alpine camping trip but I thought it was rather novel.

Looks kinda like a Batman movie or something, huh? All I can say is... that is pretty fucking goth-industrial.

There were many aspen trees for fires and they burned warm but the air was rather cold. As well it became rather windy at night. There was also an old, leaning over, abandoned house, and an old mine. The mine was open but was flooded. Still, neato.

In this area there was a lot of deer sign, and freshish tracks in the snow. In one area the snow was melted in three areas near each other where maybe deer had slept?

The other place I tried this out, also in the front range, was by this lake. This is the front of Mt Eva.

James peak is not visible but North (right) a little bit out of the frame. There were no deer here but there were a lot of bighorn sheep. One day there were three, crossing the front of this mountain right where you can see pathways. One had a radio collar on. The next day there was a herd of a half dozen or so up in the basin on the right, eating grass. I can now very well tell the difference between what deer poop and what sheep poop looks like.

More mountains:

It snowed in the middle of my week long permit. Driving back to Denver at that time the clouds looked like this:

While we are on the subject of front range mountain photography, here are pictures from attempt no 2 on Bard peak. According to SummitPost:

"At 13,641 feet this high thirteener is the 176th highest peak in Colorado and the 12th highest in the Front Range. Due to the relatively low peaks that surround Bard the views from the summit are excellent in all directions. Another advantage to Bard is the lack of people that climb it. For being so close to the interstate it’s rarely visited. The neighboring peak to the west, Mount Parnassus, sees about three times the amount of hikers on its summit, plus Bard provides better views than its neighbor. The only complaint I could think of about this wonderful peak would be the freeway noise, but from the summit the noise was nonexistent."

Not the steepest or most glamorous by some standards, it is a very nice mountain, and access to it is pretty easy, though you have to bushwack near vertical terrain for two miles from the highway to the summit, undertaking 3,840’ of vertical gain. Quite similar to my first attempt on Bard peak, I got about 500 feet from the summit, got tired, and took a nap. Then I walked back down. As this is not the most sought after peak I guess it doesn't matter too much, besides, this way I have a reason to come back later. There were plenty of deer trails up the pine forest and some are better walking than some human trails I have seen. Also, from the meadow at the base of the summit I saw elk on the very top! Elk are pretty cool.

Anyways, the coolest part was coming back down in the evening, and seeing the beautiful views of kelso ridge (left) and Torreys' Peak (right) with fresh snow through the pine and fall aspen.

I was on top of that thing!

Other highlights...

Trying to hunt deer with a shotgun out west is a a difficult idea. They ought to allow that during archery or black powder season because you have to be almost as sneaky and get close.... but I'm not the one deciding those things. So I guess you just gotta do what you gotta do, and I cannot afford a proper deer rifle at the moment. Yet this was quite an experiance. I put a scope on mine and sighted it in for hollow point rifled slugs at about 70 yards. By the time that was done I tell you my shoulder was pretty sore. A slug for 12 gauge is the equivalent of shooting a .69 caliber rifle, and the kick is pretty rough. On the brighter side, shotguns with shorter barrels and scopes on them look awesome.

So on the way back from the last day of not successfully hunting big game, there was small game running through the forests. Luckily with shotguns you can pretty quickly just pop in a lighter load of shot and there you go, meat in the pot. Anyhow I guess I did my counting wrong. I was looking forward to the nice quick pop of a 7 1/2 shot target load I brought along for the purpose. Yet a slug was in the chamber. So here I was all relaxed with no worries of a flinch and pointing this thing at about a 70 degree angle into a tree taking aim and off it goes. Man that was a bit of a nasty surprise. Thank god it missed what I was aiming for because I doubt there'd have been much left had it hit.

Anyways, no harm done, except to my shoulder. But once again the lesson here is that you never point even an unloaded gun at anything you do not intend to kill because sometimes you count wrong and it is loaded, or at least loaded in a different way than you had figured.

So that's that for deer hunting. Were there any deer in the forests? Ironically, yes. On pre-season looking around at about 6 am a very nice large buck ran past my car on the streets of Alice, a sleepy collection of cottages in the high foothills. Then on another day en route to the Moffat tunnel area about three deer were eating grass just off the road, but they were doing it in someone's yard and it would have been really bad form to pursue...

Maybe next year I'll have money and go out to Craig or Meeker... or even the San Juans... I think this scouting for deer in the basins of the high country is a little over rated, especially when it has snowed and my boots are not waterproof. If things get really bad I could probably just drive up and down country roads for a while and hit one, but I hesitate as the car has had enough abuse for a while. Recently the electrical has been acting up again and the break and yellow front parking lights stay on even when they are switched off and the key is out of the ignition. So I have to use this wrench to pull a fuse out of the fuse box each time I park and then put it back in again.

I tell you what though... I had a good time nonetheless. It was fun, and very beautiful out there. I'd have done it again... though preferably with a Remington 700 in 30-06!

Next time: Denver, a party, signs, Sexy Pizza, and songs...

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