When two good friends are hunting together in a duck blind, what do they talk about? Answer, everything. I have spent enough years in a duck blind that I know that hunters usually have plenty of time to talk about everything.
So it was with two great hunting buddies, Brett Kloepping and Brook Stanbury. Their down time in the duck blind brought about many topics and finally it landed on the subject of an elk hunt. That was about three years ago and it developed into reality last fall.
In early September, Brett and Brook left Bureau County and headed for Colorado to Unit 19, which is north of Rocky Mountain National Park. They had made arrangements through a Colorado outfitter and were on their way to make this dream a reality.
At Fort Collins, they packed their necessary items on horseback. After about a four and a half hour trip, they arrived at their base camp. This is where they would call home for the next 7-10 days. The outfitter would return to get them in 10 days unless they called in an emergency on the radio phones.
The first afternoon, they basically walked around getting their bearings. The next morning, they started with a little more serious attitude, but by noon, they hadn’t seen any. That evening, Brook had a shot at a bull and scored a hit. But try as they would, they couldn’t find the elk. They followed the blood trail for several hours into the dark. Finally, about 1 a.m., they called it quits and went back to camp.
Due to the late hour tracking, the next day of hunting didn’t start until late morning. Brett and Brook hunted most of the afternoon seeing nothing. Then shortly after 5 p.m., they separated about a quarter mile to sit and wait in a good hiding place.
Shortly after 7 p.m., Brett witnessed a cow and two calves walking up the hill toward him. When she got about 30 yards from him, she stopped. A short distance behind them was a bull. The calves bumped into the cow causing her to move forward. Then the bull walked into the same spot and stopped. Brett’s heart was in his throat but he was ready. He released the arrow and it found its mark. The bull turned 180 degrees and ran about 30 feet near some bushes and fell over.
Brett called Brook and soon they were together ready to find the bull. Brett had seen him fall and it had been a half hour, so they went after him. Sure enough, there he was. He was huge. Now reality began to set in and Brett was shaking all over. He knew it was big, but NOT that big. His buddy Brook shared his enthusiasm.
Then they began to field dress the bull. They quartered it, caped it and got it ready to travel in the morning. They headed back to camp and called the outfitter who would bring pack horses the next morning to cart it out. Brett and Brook stayed 4-5 more days. Then it was back to Fort Collins.
The outfitters at Fort Collins told Brett that this was the largest elk taken by bow in Unit 19. By Pope and Young standards, it scored a whopping 353 points. The butcher who processed the rest of the meat said he thought the bull would have been 1,000 pounds on the hoof. Matter of fact, the outfitter told Brett that this elk beat those taken by rifles in their unit.
A lot didn’t sink in right away, but the modest Brett Kloepping was thrilled.
“The fact that my long time friend and hunting partner got to share it with me. That’s what made it special,” he said.
Lee Wahlgren is the BCR Outdoor Columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org