Day 5: Wednesday, Oct. 27th.
The snow is still covering everything. If this keeps up, the first day of actual hunting should be pretty easy, since we'll be able to see where they've been recently, and where they were going. Also, we'll be able to see where they've peed, since it apparently looks like anti-freeze. Neon colors tend to stand out well against a solid white backdrop. It's 28 degrees, feels more like 30. The sun is shining and the air is still. Ate breakfast and heard the obligatory dad speech, "anybody have to go before we take off?". The day had already started heating up by the time we got all our snacks, emergency supplies, and weapons packed.
We came across some heavy elk tracks just up the road from camp, after crossing the drainage, but it was all muddled up and difficult to make out which way they'd gone, or how recently, so we kept going on the road, instead of following them. Through the barbed wire gate, followed the "leave it like you found it" gate policy, and made our way up to a rock outcropping at the top of a hill nestled between two, more heavily wooded, drainages that we were certain elk would be running through any minute. First wild-life sighting: two little ground squirrels... or maybe chipmunks. I don't know. They stopped their game of tag to look at us for about five minutes and then, presumably, run off and tell all the elk where we were.
Sneaking through the snowy forest like we were, my dad in front (because he had a gun, and didn't want to have to aim around me if an elk suddenly came into view) saying things like "We can stop and wait here, or keep moving. Your call.", and occasionally asking if I saw anything, kept reminding me of those levels in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare where your character is following his C.O. through a snowy forest, trying to make their way past Russian military. Slightly different though because, in the game, both characters have guns... and they're hunting people (and dogs)... and I was wearing a big blue back-pack. So it was kind of CoD4:MW mixed with Monty Python's Holy Grail, with me playing the roll of Patsy, my dad being Arthur, son of Uther Pendragon, king of the Britons... and those squirrels being the French guards. In fact, I'm pretty sure I heard one of them call me a silly English Kunigit.
We followed a game trail along the creek, through a thicket (I also kept picturing scenes from Bambi all day which, unfortunately, makes me the villain in the scenario), and found more relatively fresh elk signs, but no elk. Why don't they ever just hang out where we can see them easily... and wear blindfolds... and be tied to a tree or something? That would make hunting much more convenient.
These boots were not made for walking, but that's just what they'll do. I'm in favor of any sport that includes walking through the forest, sitting for a long time, and not talking much. I should have used the bathroom before we left, like all the Dad's said. Will I never learn?
Went back to camp for lunch, and went out on a second excursion. This time we came across a lot of elk tracks and some deer tracks. The elk prints looked like a large bull and a cow. I could tell because my dad told me so. Haven't heard many shots (which is surprising, with it being the first day of the season) so maybe they're still alive and waiting for us somewhere. We followed the tracks to a stock pond that looked pretty well used. Big deep prints in the mud all along the bank, and cloudy water around them makes me think it's been visited recently. There's a good view of the field below from inside the tree line. Even without the binoculars I can see a decent number of beds out there. This will be a good place to start out in the morning. We set it as a way-point on the gps and headed back to camp. Tonight will be another night of sleeping on a mattress of shirts, but it's actually not as bad as it sounds. I don't know what all those homeless people are complaining about all the time.