After receiving my Bachelors Degree and my Army commission from ROTC at St. Mary's University, I began a 21 year career in the Army.
During my career, I served six years in Germany--three as liaison officer to the German Army in Schwaebisch Gmuend and three on the staff
at the US Army-Europe Headquarters in Heidelberg. In addition, I served on a missile site near Spokane, Washington, was sent to graduate
school at Stanford University in California where I obtained my Masters Degree in Engineering, served at NORAD in Colorado Springs,
served on the faculty at West Point in New York and served one year in Vietnam. After retirement from the Army in 1980, I moved to Colorado
Springs, where I worked for 18 years as an engineer in the Aerospace Industry. I am now retired and living in New Braunfels, TX
In earlier articles posted to this website, I discussed hunting Bull Elk in the beautiful mountains of Colorado. In Part 1 of this article, I discussed my successful hunt for a Rocky Mountain Bighorn Ram. In this Part 2, I will cover my quest for a Rocky Mountain Bighorn Ewe.
Shortly after returning home from my Ram hunt, I came up with the idea of hunting for a Rocky Mountain Bighorn Ewe. I planned to do a shoulder mount of the ewe and hang her next to my ram in my trophy room. Knowing how the lottery drawing for Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep was conducted in Colorado, I felt fairly certain that I could get a ewe license. In talking to personnel at the Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) Colorado Springs office, I determined that they issued about twenty ewe licenses annually for the entire state. Most of the applications for ewe licenses were from ram hunters who selected ram as their first choice with ewe as second choice. Since I already had my ram, I would apply for ewe as my first choice for the 1983 season. As expected, I was selected for a ewe license in Sheep area S6 where I had harvested my ram in 1982.
My preparation for the ewe hunt was different from my ram hunt where I used Dan Aubuchon for a guided hunt. I would do my ewe hunt on my own.
Whereas most of the rams lived at lower elevations such as on Sheep Mountain where I bagged my ram, most of the ewes, lambs and young rams lived along the Pikes Peak Highway and the Pikes Peak Cog Railway, both of which run to the summit of Pikes Peak. DOW has an agreement with City of Colorado Springs to allow sheep hunters to camp overnight along the Pikes Peak Highway during the sheep hunting season. Every day after he closed the restaurant on the top of Pikes Peak, the manager drove down the highway and noted where my truck was parked near the highway. The next morning as he went up the mountain to open his restaurant he noted whether my truck was still parked in the exact same spot. I could not move my truck nor turn on my truck lights between the times the manager made his trip down and up the mountain. During the rest of the day, I could drive up and down the highway as desired.
Since it is too dangerous to hunt alone on the mountain, I always had a hunting partner accompany me on my ewe hunts. He was just along for the adventure, and he assisted me in locating sheep. I never had a problem finding someone to join me.
The sheep hunting season was several weeks long. Therefore, I would only hunt on the weekends so that I did not have to use up my vacation time.
On opening day of the 1983 sheep season, which was a Saturday, I made the trip in my short bed GMC 4×4 Pickup with a topper up the Pikes Peak Highway, stopping occasionally to search for sheep. We only searched areas above timberline which started near the Mid Point Rest Stop on the Highway and extended to the summit of the Peak. The sheep have a white rump and are easy to spot as small white dots in the brown colored tundra on the side of the mountain. After finding these white spots, we would set up my 60X spotting scope to determine whether the group contained a ewe that I wanted to pursue and whether I could see a downhill route to the highway or a trail for me to retrieve the carcass If I were to kill it in the area it was located. We did not want to have to carry it uphill. After about two round trips up and down the highway without seeing any sheep, I decided to set up camp at a level area known as “Top of the Ws” above the multiple switchbacks along the highway.
In an earlier article posted to this website, I discussed hunting Bull Elk in the beautiful mountains of Colorado. In this article (Part 1), I will discuss my hunt for a Rocky Mountain Bighorn Ram. In Part 2, I will cover my quest for a Rocky Mountain Bighorn Ewe.
In September 1980 when I retired from the U.S. Army after almost 21 years of active service, my wife and I settled in Colorado Springs, Colorado to begin my second career as an aerospace systems engineer. Several of my co-workers were avid big game hunters and were very familiar with hunting the various species of Colorado big game.
They told me about hunting Rocky Mountain Bighorn Rams but warned me that you could only get a Bighorn hunting license through annual lottery drawings, and it was difficult to get drawn for a ram license. For the entire state of Colorado, only about 90 permits were available per year. One of my co-workers had been unsuccessful in the drawing for 11 straight years. However, they convinced me to enter the drawing.
I followed the advice of my co-workers and applied for a Ram license in 1981. Unfortunately, I was not successful in that drawing. I tried my luck again in 1982 and was lucky enough to get drawn for a ram permit for Sheep Unit S6 which included the Pikes Peak Mountain and the surrounding foothills.
Knowing that the sheep habitat was mostly between timberline (about 10,000 feet) and the top of Pikes Peak, which is at 14,110 feet above sea level, I knew that I had to be in excellent physical condition to be able to successfully hunt the sheep. At that time, I was working at Ford Aerospace Corporation with offices in a 15-story office building in Colorado Springs. Every workday, I would make at least one round trip up and down the 15 flights of stairs in the morning, at noon and again after work.
One of the first tasks, after I received my notification that I was successful in the drawing for the license, was to find a highly recommended qualified licensed guide for the hunt. I got in touch with Dan Aubuchon of High Park Guide and Outfitters from Trinidad, Colorado. Dan was familiar with Bighorn Ram hunting in my sheep hunting unit and had successfully guided Ram hunts in that unit.
Included in his guide fee, Dan provided an 8 day one-on-one guided hunt in September and 4 days of scouting the sheep habitat during the summer. Dan would personally guide me on the hunt. He provided me accommodations in a tent base camp just below timberline near the area he expected to conduct the hunt. The hunt included all meals, lodging, riding horses, a pack horse to pack out my ram, plus skinning and capping of the ram. I agreed to these terms, paid him a deposit, and was all set for my hunt.
On June 19, 1982, my youngest daughter, Debbie, and I drove my pickup to the top of Pikes Peak to get the lay of the land. The view from the top was awesome. We saw no sheep that day.
On July 31, Dan and I made our first scouting trip to the area where Dan expected to find Bighorn Rams. He concentrated on an area called Sheep Mountain. We saw some beautiful country but again no sheep. We saw several large water storage reservoirs owned by City of Colorado Springs, in the foothills surrounding Pikes Peak. The reservoirs collect melted snow and rainfall which is then released, as needed by the city, in streams and pipelines down the mountain to the city water supply system.
Our second scouting trip on August 7 & 8, included two nights of camping at the proposed camp site for the actual hunt. The site was just below timberline at the base of Sheep Mountain. On this trip we saw numerous sheep. One flock of 11 sheep included three 1/2 curl rams and eight ewes and lambs. Another group included four 3/4 curl rams and one 1/2 curl ram. We also saw several individual rams but no trophies.
Our third scouting trip occurred on August 20 to 23. We again stayed in the proposed base camp. Although we had great clear weather on our first two trips, this trip proved to be more challenging. We scouted in different areas for the other trips. We saw some very rugged country and saw sheep every day. We also saw lots of different animals, including elk and mule deer. We even saw a lone wild white burro (donkey). The burro probably descended from the burros used by gold prospectors during the Cripple Creek gold rush of the late 1800s and now lives in the wild. We also saw several ptarmigan, which is a large bird (grouse) that lives year-round at and above timberline. For camouflage the ptarmigan is white in the winter and brown in the summer. The ones we saw were in transition–part white and part brown. These beautiful birds are only found in this type of mountain environment.
We concentrated on observing a group of three rams–one 1/2 curl, one 3/4 curl and one almost 7/8 curl. Using Don’s 60X spotting scope, we decided that the largest ram was a true trophy. It had unusually heavy bases and was beautifully symmetrical. It also had a distinctive mark on its left front chest for easy identification later. The mark was probably the result of an earlier fight with another ram. I told Dan that if we could not find a larger ram, I would seriously consider harvesting this ram during the actual hunt.
One afternoon as we were riding down the mountain toward our base camp due to a lightning storm moving in, we spotted a young 1/2 curl ram who was standing watch on top of a rock outcropping above timberline. His task was to watch for predators and warn his partners of danger. According to Dan, this is a relatively common sight in this sheep habitat. When lightning struck near us, the young ram left his post to seek shelter. Dan and I could feel the electricity in the air from the lightning and were seeking shelter as well.
Our fourth and final scouting trip occurred on September 5 – 6, one week before the sheep hunting season opened. We again saw some beautiful country and some sheep but no trophy rams larger than the one I had selected on our previous trip.
Now I was ready for my actual ram hunt. The season started on Saturday, September 11, 1982, and I had a contract with Dan that could last as long as eight days of hunting.
As it turned out, September 11 was my Dad, Adolph Scheel’s 70th birthday. My nine siblings and I were giving him a big birthday party with dinner and dance at Bexar Social Club in Zuehl, Texas near San Antonio. My Dad told me to go on my sheep hunt rather than come to Texas for his party. However, I felt obligated to celebrate this important milestone in his life. I decided that I would delay my sheep hunt for one day and start my hunt on Sunday afternoon. Dan told me that would not be a problem.
My wife and I drove by car to Texas to celebrate the birthday on Saturday evening. Early Sunday morning I took the earliest flight from San Antonio to Denver, Colorado where I arrived at about 7 AM. A few days earlier I had taken my hunting truck to the Denver Airport to facilitate getting to my hunt as early as possible. On Sunday on my way to the hunt, I stopped by my home in Colorado Springs to pick up my hunting gear. At about 2 PM on Sunday afternoon I joined Dan at our base camp.
Dan told me that I had not missed anything. It had been snowing heavily all-day Saturday and Sunday with blizzard conditions on the mountain. I settled into camp and had a delicious dinner which Dan had cooked for me. Dan and I reviewed his plans for the hunt to start as soon as the weather cleared, hopefully by Monday morning. We set the alarm for 5 AM and went to bed early.
When the alarm woke us at 5 AM, the blizzard conditions continued so we stayed in bed. At about 7 AM, we woke up to bright sunshine. Dan asked me to fix breakfast while he saddled the horses and loaded our equipment. By 8 AM on Monday morning, we were finally on our way up Sheep Mountain to begin my hunt.
When we got to timberline, our route took us through a deep snow drift. Our horses were belly deep in snow. We continued to the top of the ridge on Sheep Mountain where it was bitterly cold and windy with no cloud in the sky. We decided to ride down the western slope of the mountain to some large rock outcroppings to get out of the wind. We could see the area where we had spotted the large ram on our scouting trips. It was now covered with about one foot of snow with deeper drifts.
After about an hour of looking, I spotted three rams about 1/2 mile away on an adjacent ridge. Dan set up his spotting scope and lo and behold we spotted the big ram with the scar on his chest. That was the ram I was looking for.
There was a deep sheer cliff canyon between our location and the rams. We rode our horses to the top of the main ridge on Sheep Mountain and worked our way to the top of the ridge where the rams were located. We then rode down that ridge to within about 500 yards of the rams. We tethered our horses and carefully walked down the ridge toward the rams. At about 300 yards, we spotted the three rams. Slowly we worked our way toward the rams, sitting on the ground and sliding downhill on the seat of our pants. At about 200 yards Dan set up his spotting scope to ensure that I was in fact looking at the correct ram. We confirmed my ram by the scar on his chest.
I then got myself into a good prone shooting position. The adrenaline was flowing but I calmed myself down and took careful aim. As I slowly squeezed the trigger, the 180 grain Nossler partition bullet from my Remington 700 BDL 30.06 did its job. My quest for my Rocky Mountain Bighorn Ram was over. The ram was down.
After the mandatory photo taking, Dan began processing the ram. He field dressed the ram and propped the cavity open to cool the carcass. He then skinned the ram and placed the meat into the panniers on our pack horse Spook. Dan then carefully caped the head ready to deliver it to the taxidermist. After he methodically did all his tasks, he loaded the cape and skull with horn trophy on Spook and we were on our way back to our base camp.
That evening Dan prepared a wonderful dinner in camp. As the appetizer he fried a fresh Rocky Mountain oyster from my ram. That was my first ever experience with eating Rocky Mountain oysters. The appetizer was delicious. It started a wonderful tradition for me, and I have eaten Rocky Mountain oysters from several game animals ever since. Dan packaged the second oyster for me and told me to freeze it for a special occasion. I did as he suggested and took it with me on a subsequent elk hunting trip and shared it with my hunting buddy.
September 15, 1982, we broke camp and headed home. What a wonderful experience of a lifetime. I had just experienced a successful hunt for my Rocky Mountain Bighorn Ram which a small percentage of big game hunters ever are able to experience.
I will digress a bit about the taxidermist. When I first met Dan several months earlier, he suggested that I use a quality taxidermist and not trust any taxidermist to mount my Ram trophy. Dan had recommended a young taxidermist in Colorado Springs who had mounted several rams for his previous clients. I met this taxidermist and arranged to have him mount my anticipated ram trophy. Unfortunately, I do not remember his name. One week before my ram hunt, this young taxidermist lost his life in a Jeep accident on a pronghorn antelope hunt east of Colorado Springs. I normally hunted antelope in that area.
Dan suggested that I contact a mutual friend of his and the taxidermist who was killed. This friend, Rusty Phelps, was not a full-time taxidermist but had done some excellent taxidermy work. Rusty was well known, and is famous today, for his bronze western sculptures which are in demand around the world. As a favor to his departed friend and my guide Dan, Rusty agreed to mount my ram.
The first stop after I got to Colorado Springs with my ram trophy, was at the Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW). Mark Elkins from DOW inspected my trophy and assisted me in completing the mandatory questionnaire about my sheep hunt. Mark then placed a permanent small metal plug into the base of the ram’s horn. This permanent marker affords me a measure of protection from theft of the trophy and makes it more difficult for a poached animal to become someone’s illegal “trophy”. The next stop was at Rusty Phelps’ office where I turned over my ram trophy for him to shoulder mount. Out of a total of 93 rams killed in Colorado in 1982, mine ranked #9 from the top.
Today in July 2021 my trophy Rocky Mountain Bighorn Ram hangs in a place of honor in my living room in New Braunfels, Texas where I can enjoy it for the rest of my life. Now I can relive my once-in-a- life-time hunt on Pikes Peak for my Rocky Mountain Bighorn Ram. Knowing that the ram was mounted by world famous wildlife sculptor Rusty Phelps makes it even more special.
This ends Part 1 of my “Pair from the Peak” article. In Part 2, I will discuss my quest for a Rocky Mountain Bighorn Ewe.
In an earlier article, Royal Bull Elk from the Beautiful Colorado Mountains (Part 1), I wrote about my killing a beautiful Royal 6 x 6 bull elk in Colorado I will now discuss several successful elk hunts which took place in the same area of the ranch. In 2011, I had invited my life-long friend Melvin Kreusler from New Braunfels, Texas, to join me on my Colorado Elk hunt. We had prepared a ground blind overlooking a trail on the ridge which paralleled the ridge that my royal bull I wrote about earlier was located. We named that blind “Melvin’s Nest”. The two ridges are about 150 yards apart. On opening morning of the 2011 3rd elk season, I took Melvin to his nest and I decided to go to my favorite spot (appropriately called “Clarence’s Point”) overlooking the area where Melvin was sitting about 400 yards away. I could see across the fence onto the neighboring ranch and see whether elk were heading for our ranch and could warn via radio for our hunter or hunters on the ground to move to another location where I thought the elk would cross our ranch.
Shortly after day break, I observed a large herd of about 120 elk, including two huge bulls and several smaller ones, milling around across the fence about 150 yards from where Melvin was sitting. I expected that the herd would eventually cross the fence onto our ranch and take the trail in front of Melvin to go uphill and bed down for the day on the neighboring ranch on the west side of our ranch. It was not long before some of the elk began crossing the fence and head for the spot where Melvin was waiting. I quickly called Melvin and told him “here they come”. The lead animal in the procession was the herd cow, then her calf, followed by another cow and calf, followed by a very nice 4 x 4 bull. When the bull came into Melvin’s sight Melvin shot and the bull dropped in his track. Then all hell broke loose. The part of the herd still on the opposite side of the boundary fence, including the 2 huge bulls, crashed like a giant brown wave down the south facing slope covered in scrub oak bushes. The elk that had already crossed the fence continued on the trail up hill in my direction. I saw several of the elk as they ran through the timber behind my stand but I had no opportunity for a shot.
As I was walking down the hill to help Melvin, I slipped on a patch of ice and dropped my rifle. I then helped Melvin field dress his bull. I was able to back my Ford F150 4×4 right up to the dead bull. We loaded him up and immediately drove to the butcher shop about 25 miles away to have it processed. The butcher agreed to butcher and quick freeze the meat and have it ready for us to pick up on Friday when we planned to go back to Texas. By 3 PM we were back at the ranch and I went out for the evening hunt.
While all the activity with Melvin was taking place that morning on the next ridge over from the large meadow, Charlie was sitting in his nest on the meadow. The only game he saw was a fairly nice 4 x 3 mule deer and two smaller bucks. Since I was the only hunter in camp with a mule deer buck license, Charlie allowed me to hunt his nest for the evening hunt in case the buck returned. Charlie then hunted my point that evening. Since we do not party hunt, my friend Melvin’s hunt was over and he could then only watch the wildlife and enjoy the beautiful scenery. I didn’t know whether I had knocked my scope off when I dropped it that morning so I borrowed Melvin’s 30.06 for the evening hunt.
Just about sundown that evening, I observed 4 cows and a large bull come down the trail at the top of the meadow in my direction. They stopped about 250 yards from me and began grazing. I had a clear shot at the bull so I put the crosshair on his chest and squeezed the trigger. I had never fired this gun before but I trusted that Melvin had it zeroed in. When the shot rang out the 4 cows ran away, but the bull just kept standing. After a few seconds, the bull began to wobble and finally just dropped dead on the spot. I had shot him right through his heart.
It was getting late so I quickly walked to the dead bull. While admiring my relatively young 6 x 6 bull, I looked down the meadow and about 250 yards away there stood the mule deer buck I was looking for. There was a tree stump nearby, so I quickly got behind the stump for a rest, took careful aim at the buck’s shoulder and squeezed the trigger. Now we had two bull elk, (Melvin’s 4 x 4 and my 6 x 6) and my 4 x 3 Mule deer buck, all killed with Melvin’s rifle. Not a bad day of hunting. We then field dressed my bull and buck, and loaded them on Charlie’s Dodge 4 x 4 pickup and took them to the butcher shop. The butcher promised to have all the meat processed and frozen by Friday. By 8:00 that evening we were back in camp for a well-deserved late dinner. As appetizers, we had fried fresh elk rocky mountain oysters. They were great with some Jack Daniels and seven.
Just a sideline about my large bull and the 4 cows. This was the second hunt that I recall where we had shot into and spooked a large herd with several large bulls early in the morning. In both cases, in the confusion after the shots, lesser, but still large, bulls would steal a few cows from the herd bull’s harem and separate themselves from the rest of the herd. This was the same thing my bull did that day.
Note that the G6 points are considerably shorter than those of my royal bull l that I wrote about in an earlier article. This bull was probably two years younger than the first one, but already a desirable trophy.
Now that Melvin and I had filled our tags, we sat in various blinds and observed, hoping to get Charlie in the right spot to get his bull. Unfortunately that did not happen on this hunt.
On Friday morning we loaded our gear and ATV and headed to the butcher shop to divide the frozen meat. Charlie, Melvin and I each got a 1/4 of the meat and Charlie took the other 1/4 share with him to Colorado Springs to give to the owners of the ranch. By sharing the meat with the owners, who do not hunt, we maintain good will and they allow us to come back year after year. Some years we have good luck as we did on the hunts described in these articles’, but then again, some years we go home empty handed. Either way, it is always a thrill to be able to hunt and enjoy the beautiful landscape of the mountains of Colorado.
Just like I had luck on the two hunts I described in these articles, Charlie also had his successful hunts when I was left empty handed.
The most memorable successful hunt which Charlie had with me occurred in about 1983, before we had built the Charlie’s Nest ground blind. Charlie was hunting on the trail as it came out of the dark timber on the upper end of the meadow and his nephew Mike was hunting about 100 yards below Charlie at the edge of the wooded area. Both were overlooking the large meadow. I was sitting in a tree stand that I had prepared About 20 feet above the ground in a large Ponderosa pine tree on the ridge where we would build Melvin’s nest a few years later mentioned earlier in this article. From my vantage point I could see Charlie in his orange vest and cap. We were probably about 600 yards apart. At about 8 AM I heard a large number of shots coming from the meadow. After the dust settled, I remained in my tree blind until Charlie and Mike came to me and told me that both he and Mike had gotten bulls.
This photo shows Charlie approaching me sitting in my tree blind to tell me about the two big bulls which he and his nephew, Mike, had just killed. (Photo taken by Mike.)
I joined Charlie and he took me to Mike’s 6 x 6 bull which had travelled about 100 yards off the meadow before it laid down and Charlie had finished it off with a final shot. He then took me to the middle of the large meadow where his monster 7 x 6 bull was laying. Charlie had shot that bull at about 350 yards shooting from a standing position with no rest. Mike had shot his at about 250 yards from his position. Charlie explained that there were 3 big bulls in a group and they got two. What an incredible shot Charlie had made with his 300 Weatherby rifle. I field dressed two big bulls that day. On that hunt I went home empty handed. The next year we built a ground blind (known a Charlie’s Nest) on the north side of the large meadow at the point where the bulls had been when Charlie and Mike had killed them one year earlier.
Charlie’s Nest has been a very productive for all of the hunters on this ranch because the elk often enter the meadow from the bottom or lower end early in the morning and continue about 500 yards to the upper end where they enter the dark timber and continue their journey to their daytime resting area on our neighboring ranch. In the evening they sometimes reverse their travel coming down into our meadow shortly before dark and continue their journey to the large meadows on the two ranches downhill from our ranch where they graze during the night.
About two years later Charlie was sitting in his nest for the morning hunt during a heavy snow storm. At about 9 AM, he decided to walk around a bit. He crossed the 100 yard wide meadow and was looking down into the drainage on the opposite side of the meadow from his nest. Then he looked back to his nest and there he saw two big bulls right next to the blind where he had been sitting all morning and he had left about 15 minutes earlier. He killed the bigger one of the two. It was a 6 x 6. Again I went home empty handed. For me it was just as exiting If Charlie was successful as if I had killed a bull. We always considered it a very successful hunt if one of us got our bull. Only once in those many years that we hunted together did we both get our bull on the same hunt.
I am indeed grateful to my friends who own the ranch for making these hunts possible and above all, memorable.
I lived in Colorado Springs, Colorado for about 21 years–3 1/2 years serving with the Army at North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) from 1970 to 1973 and from 1980 to 1998 as an Aerospace Systems Engineer with several government contractors after retiring from the Army in 1980. During those years living in Colorado I had the opportunity to do a lot of hunting and fishing throughout the state, mostly on pubic land. I successfully hunted various species of big game to include big horn sheep, Rocky Mountain goat, mule deer, pronghorn antelope, elk and wild turkey. Mounts of several of those animals now grace my living room walls in New Braunfels, Texas. Although I had a 6 x 4 shoulder mount of an old bull elk, which I killed in 1985 I was never able to kill a nice 6 x 6 royal bull, which bothered me a lot.
After restring from active employment in 1998, my wife, Jean, and I moved to Garden Ridge, near San Antonio, Texas. We had been living away from the San Antonio area 39 years and we had decided to live out our retirement years near our families and life-long friends. Where ever my army career and government contractor jobs had taken me, I always had the opportunity to hunt big game animals. The only exception was my one year in Vietnam where I was the “hunted” rather than the hunter. Over those years I selectively had various species of animals mounted which resulted in a diverse collection of animals. In order to display those mounts, we built a large rec room in our Garden Ridge home where our 9 grandchildren could play and entertain themselves whenever they visited. The walls held my 17 should mounts and one full body wild turkey tom allowing me to relive the hunts where I harvested them in several states as well as in Germany. I was very satisfied with my collection, except for the bull elk. I swore that I would someday add a royal bull to my collection.
In 1999 I joined my father, Adolph, on a low fenced white tail deer lease in Zapata County in deep South Texas. My Dad and four Marbach brothers started hunting on that ranch in 1955 and he remained there for about 40 years. It was a joy for me to be able to hunt on the lease with him for several years before he quit hunting at the age of 92.. Over the years while I lived in Colorado my Dad joined me on several hunts and harvested several mule deer and pronghorn antelopes. He also went on a guided hunt for a bull elk in extreme western Colorado where he bagged a huge 8 x 7 bull elk. My daughter and son-in-law, Denise and Bob Staudt, now own my dad’s big elk and his mount graces their home in La Vernia, Texas. Seeing his trophy bull elk, strengthened my desire to add a royal bull to my collection.
My move to Texas did not cut my ties with Colorado hunting. In 2000, I made the long 800 mile trip to my friend’s ranch by myself. I met my long time hunting buddy, Emerson (Charlie) Bowman for the third elk season which started the first Saturday of November. On opening day, we had a light snow which was good for seeing signs that the elk were there. In years where the snow storms come late, the major herds are still in the high country above timberline. No signs of elk on Saturday. On Sunday it snowed most of the day and we saw a few big elk tracks in the snow which were probably made by some lone bull or bulls who were not members of a large herd. They probably lived on our ranch or on the neighboring ranches because they could feed on the south facing slopes where the sun melted the snow. They had plenty of water in the two streams which flow through the ranch. This is a good sign because very often these lone bulls get up during the day and feed. However neither Charlie nor I saw them; only the tracks.
That evening after the hunt on the walk back to camp, I slipped on some snow covered boulders and hurt my hip. I limped back to camp and had a miserable night trying to sleep with the intense pain. I was afraid that I might have broken my hip. To get it checked out by a doctor, I left Charlie at the ranch to hunt by himself while I drove my truck the 140 miles one way to Colorado Springs. When I got to Charlie’s home, his wife called their family doctor who was in his office. I got to talk to the doctor who asked me to perform several movements with my legs and back. He determined that I had no broken bones; only a badly bruised hip. He gave me a prescription for pain medicine and told me to go back to the ranch and continue my hunt. By 3 PM I was back in my blind on the ranch. I saw a few fresh signs, but no elk. No sign yet that a large herd had moved through our ranch.
On Tuesday morning I decided to hunt along a boundary fence overlooking a trail which came through the fence and continued though the dark timber on our side of the fence. Individual and small groups of elk like to use that trail as they come from their night time feeding areas downhill from our ranch because they can remain in dark timber without being seen in the open meadows as they move to their daytime bedding area on the ranch uphill from our ranch.
(Several years earlier, my brother, Elton, had brought his friend Elroy Penshorn as his guest on a hunt. Elroy owns the Penshorn Meat Market in Marion, Texas Elroy was hunting this trail one morning when a lone bull came through the fence from the neighboring ranch and he shot the large bull at very close range. Elroy butchered the bull on the spot and left the entire skeleton in the woods. Parts of that skeleton are still laying in the area after 25 years.)
About an hour before daylight, I heard a faint bugle downhill from my position in the direction of the large meadows where the elk like to feed at night. I used my bugle to respond to him. He immediately responded to my bugle. I waited a few minutes and bugled again. He responded immediately. I could tell by the sound of his bugle that he was closer to me than the previous bugles and that he was heading in my direction. I again waited a few minutes and gave him another bugle. He responded again and by the sound I knew that he was continuing to get closer Since the bull knew where I was located, I did not want to overdo the bugling so I waited for him to make the next move. After a few minutes I was surprised by a very loud bugle, this time on the ridge about 100 yards from my position and on my side of the fence. I now knew that he was not coming on the trail I was watching. He was using the trail on the next ridge over from me. I carefully started moving down the fence line toward his position. The cows and calves were calling back and forth. Apparently they could not cross the fence where they were located. I moved down the fence line, the cows must have seen my movement and spooked. I quickly made a cow call on my “Cow Talk” mouth call. This calmed the cows and calves and they did not run very far. I proceeded down the fence line looking for an opening in the dark timber to my left to see if I could spot the bull. All of a sudden, I saw him about 100 yards away in front of a large ponderosa pine tree. He was looking directly at me. Since I don’t like to make quick off-hand shots, I spotted a thin aspen tree about three feet to my right; a perfect rest that I could use. I slowly took one step to my right. The bull did not move. I took one more slow step to the right and I was ready to bring up my gun when the bull spun around and jumped behind the tree and looked at me through the pine tree branches. I could see his head and antlers and his neck down to his chest. I put the cross hair on his chest and squeezed the trigger and the loud shot rang out and I could hear the flop as the 180 grain Nossler Partition bullet from my Remington 700 BDL 30.06 did its job. I could hear the remainder of the herd crash through the timber on the other side of the fence from me heading downhill away from me.
My buddy Charlie was in his ground blind, which we know as “Charlie’s Nest”, about 300 yards uphill from where the bull was located when I shot. He had heard all the bugling which the bull and I had been doing. He also heard my cow call when I calmed down the herd. He knew that the herd was moving in his direction because the trail crossing the fence led directly to the meadow he was observing. The moment I shot, a large brown colored black bear came out of the woods where the bull was standing when I shot and ran full speed up the meadow in front of Charlie and on up the hill into the dark timber at the top of the meadow. What is strange about this scenario is that the bull was in front of the herd and crossed the fence first rather than bring up the rear of the procession which is generally the case. I believe that he did this because He knew where I was at and thought I was another bull and did not want me to steal any cows from his harem. Other than this situation, I have never seen a herd bull leading a procession . The big bull has always been at the rear of the procession. Smaller bulls will be toward the front and middle of the procession, but seldom is the herd bull first, which my royal bull was.
Everything was quiet after I shot. I walked to the spot where the bull had been standing and I saw lots of blood in the snow. I tracked him down the hill back toward the fence and found him laying a few feet on the opposite side of the fence.
This photo shows the dead bull as I first found him. I probably shot him in the heart because he ran about 100 yards before he jumped the fence and died as he landed on the opposite side of the fence.
Charlie then joined me and we decided on how we would load the bull. We went back to the cabin to get our butchering equipment and an old toboggan and headed back to pick up the bull with my pickup. I was able to get within about 100 feet of the bull with my truck.
After the required picture taking, we butchered the bull on the spot he died, being careful to preserve the cape since I knew I would have him shoulder mounted. Using the toboggan, we hauled the meat to my truck. The toboggan made it easy to haul him uphill in the snow. By 11:00 we had the meat, cape and head loaded in my F150 pickup.
Me with my trophy
Another view of me and my trophy
This photo shows the antlers in the bed of my pickup as we prepared to take the meat and the head to the butcher shop.
By noon we had the meat, cape and head at the butcher shop about 25 miles away. The butcher promised to process and quick freeze the elk and have it ready by Friday. Friday morning we loaded our equipment and went to the butcher shop. We divided up the meat, I took 1/3, and Charlie took 1/3 each for himself and for the owners of the ranch. I then headed for Texas and Charlie went to Colorado Springs.
About four months later, I had my mounted Royal 6 x 6 Bull Elk hanging in the place of honor in my rec room to enjoy for the rest of my life. My quest for the Royal Bull had finally been fulfilled.
Bringing back a nice Elk trophy is the icing on the cake. The mounted trophy which now hangs in my living room in New Braunfels, Texas allows me to reminisce and relive that memorable experience of my successful hunt for my 6 x 6 Royal Bull Elk in Colorado.
This photo shows me admiring my Royal 6 x 6 Bull in my living room in New Braunfels, Texas in 2021.