With hunting season growing closer, I want to help speed it up for all my fellow hunters out there in media land, especially those of you who enjoy out-of-state hunts as I do.
Often, I am reminded of an elk hunt in the majestic mountains of Colorado, near the western town Collbran about an hour’s drive from Grand Junction.
It was to be the third of four hunts I would make out there, with this one being the most thrilling in my being a hunter and, Lord help us, the hunted!
It was 2004 that had my neighboring pastor and cousin by marriage, the late Rev. Kenneth Rockco, and me cocked and loaded for yet another free-range elk hunt.
We arrived a day early so as to do some scouting, and lo and behold, right behind the lodge we were to stay in we spotted a nice herd of wapiti grazing along on a slope nearby.
On opening morning, we split up and went after the “gift herd” in a stop-and-start stalk hunt.
I was making my way up a game trail slowly and methodically, stopping often to look and listen for the elusive large game.
After a couple of hours, I came upon a large clearing with one lone, large sagebush in the middle, so I made my way to it and sat down to rest.
Only a few minutes later, I looked back down the game trail I had come up on, only to see the largest black bear I have ever seen lumbering along, tossing his nose in the air, winding me.
For a few moments I was in a panic, then remembered I was the hunter here and held a 7mm magnum high-powered rifle in my hands.
Hunkered down behind that bush, I propped that heavy and powerful 7 mag on my knee and placed the crosshairs on the bear.
He was about 50 yards away when I spotted a large boulder about halfway between us and marked it in my mind saying, “Oh boy, I don’t have a tag. but if you keep coming and come to that boulder with me on the menu for breakfast, I’m going to blow your heart right out of your big old hairy chest!”
To my relief, it was as if he read my mind, and a few steps from the boulder turned abruptly and began lumbering off.
He looked like a big black sofa on four feet, a giant of a bear and an easy take for me, but I was not interested in starting an in-house jail service out there in Colorado so I let him walk.
I did grab my camera and managed to get some good pictures to show my friends back at camp.
I finished out the hunt that day having never spotted the elk as most probably the presence of the mammoth bear had pushed them away.
After going into the nearby town, I had the roll of film processed and later showed the pictures of the bear to the outfitter, who was skinning out a much smaller one for a client.
The outfitter whistled and said, “Man, why didn’t you pull the trigger? He’s a Boone & Crockett we’ve been hunting now for a couple of seasons.”
I made him laugh saying I would do my preaching back in Mississippi, not evangelizing behind bars there in Colorado! They take game violations seriously out there.
Bro. Rockco had a mule deer tag and shot a legal-size buck, and after dressing it we had the meat iced down in a large saltwater ice chest and placed upon the porch of the lodge.
The next morning, we found the heavy ice chest had been dragged off the porch with bite and claw marks all over it and opened and all the meat dragged up the road and buried in a shallow grave covered over with twigs and leaves.
No average size bear could have pulled the feat off.
Apparently, my big old bear had returned with his menu revised to enjoy Bro. Rockco’s deer.
The rest of the hunt had all of us sleeping with our loaded guns nearby. I slept with mine in my bed!
I did manage to harvest my first and only free-range bull elk the second day of the hunt, the greatest thrill I can ever remember afield.
But that’s a story for another day.
The day the hunter became the hunted.
God bless you and God bless America.