From Italy to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado

In 2017 we bowhunted with Travis from Westernsky Outfitters in the mountains of Durango. Believe me it was unreal! We will be back soon this year!

Aug 28 2017 - Sep 14 2017

by
Michael Rubner

First posted Aug 20 Last updated Aug 22

Freedom lasted three minutes, maybe only two. It started in the wilderness of New Zealand, more precisely in the Karangarua Valley, on the west coast of New Zealand, where I met Travis. Travis, a guide from Colorado who was hunting Thar with a friend, these long maned animals, which actually come from the Himalayas but were released in New Zealand more than a hundred years ago. Like Sebastian and I, Travis was hiding in a hut. It rained continuously all day. So we've had enough time to get to know each other. We exchanged our experiences and told each other hunting stories. Above all, Sebastian and I were inspired by mountain hunting with bow and arrow in Colorado, his home state. Two years later. At the end of August, Peter, a friend of mine and a passionate hunter, and I were on a plane to Durango, a small town in Colorado. Travis had become a friend to me on that rainy day in New Zealand. He had promised to take us home to a remote area to hunt Wapiti. For months we had prepared for this journey - daily training with our compound bows, mountain runs, long hikes. Finally, this adventure should begin. Esben, our Danish hunting friend, had already travelled to Colorado three weeks before to help Travis prepare for the hunting season. Arriving at the airport he was waiting for us and showed us his mule deer full of joy. He had shot this massiv buck the day before with the bow. He proudly told us that he had stalked for two hours except for the ideal shooting distance. He was about twenty meters away. Then it all happened very quickly, he said. The stag stood up and lighted in his direction. As he turned away, Espen placed the arrow just behind the leaf. The deer fled only fifty meters and died. The story alone electrified us. That was exactly what we wanted to experience. We still needed food for the next twelve days in the wilderness of San Juan National Park.

So Ebsen took us to a shopping centre, where we stocked up with canned delicacies and dry food. Then we went to the ranch of Travis. One last time we had the opportunity to shoot our bows. With the pickup truck and a huge trailer for the horses we drove into the mountains. Horses and mules were loaded with tent and provisions. Sean, an American bowhunter and hunting guest of Travis, was the lucky one who was allowed to ride to the camp. All guests were accommodated in the camp and it was very comfortable. An oven warmed the hunters even on the coldest hunting days. But Travis took us even further, to a remote place. He said it was the best view of the surrounding hills and valleys. On the first evening Esben showed us the place where he had killed the stag a few days ago. It was a wide mountain basin, partly wooded, partly large open areas with a few bushes stretched up the mountain landscape. A wilderness that takes your breath away. It wasn't long before I saw a big black bear. He went after the remains of Esben's deer. Otherwise we didn't see much that night, just a piece of wild boar. Sean was more successful than we were. Travis told us about it the next day. Sean had been able to stretch a large black bear with a bow and arrow five meters away in the early morning hours. I could tell you about quite a few nice moments and probably write a little book about the adventure, but I just want to tell you about a very special day. It was the third day of our hunting trip. We split up to have more chances. I had positioned myself on a hill where I had a good view of the surrounding area. Travis had told me that it was a first-class place for hunting mule deer. But I wasn't lucky. After an unsuccessful residence I returned to Peter and Esben. Unlike me, they had seen a large mule deer, but it had escaped shortly afterwards. Not long after that a single Wapiti deer changed left of us over the ridge into the next valley. It was a rather young deer, but still good enough for us, because Travis had warned us: "Ripe, old deer are rare on public land. "Every stag that is shot with a bow is something very special." Public land - that's what people in Colorado call a significant part of their country, over 35 percent is public, including national parks, forests, natural monuments, wilderness, in short: land that is there for everyone.

So we shouldn't be so choosy. So we decided to take the long march and follow the stag into the next valley. After two hours we reached the place where they had last seen him. Our plan was to lure the stag by imitating wild boar. We suspected him in the shadow behind the ridge. From far away we could already see a huge wallow and the mighty barriers. There definitely had to be more Wapiti on the way than we had expected. We positioned ourselves about 30 meters apart and Esben began to lure gently. Pulse went up. But apart from a squirrel running across the forest arch, we could not see any movement.

It was almost noon and so we rested in the shade of a fir tree and ate a piece of tortilla with canned fish. At some point, bored Peter unpacked his hunting horn and whistled into his mouthpiece. "Nothing again," we thought, when after several minutes no answer came. But suddenly a wapiti whistles on the other side of the valley. I remember the amazed faces of Peter and Esben. We couldn't believe it. Immediately we searched the opposite side with our glasses. It wasn't long before Esben spotted a piece of bare game and soon afterwards another one and another one and at some point we counted 70 pieces, some of them knotted in the forest or snugly outside in the sun.

But where was the bull? After a while, maybe twenty minutes, we saw the cop. It was a young deer, almost smaller in game than some cows. But then the surprise. When we lured again and watched the bull closely, we noticed that it wasn't he who answered us. It had to be a young bull. So we decided to stalk near the pack. On the way there we came across two more packs with one or two weak young deer each. We approached the big pack up to 400 meters. Only one side valley separated us from the animals. The wind was blowing in the wrong direction. And it wasn't constant. We had to stay calm. We had to wait and see.

Then suddenly a strong movement in the pack. We reached for the binoculars again and there he was. Majestic and full of pride. It was a bull out of the countless Youtube videos we had watched in the past months. His poles were pitch-black and his 14 ends shone white. Slowly we moved forward. Because the weather conditions did not improve. Time was of the essence. The wild game was restless and kept clearing in our direction. After 50 meters we had arrived in the middle of the small valley. Now we had enough cover and could get into the forest inconspicuously. The wind was now perfect and went downhill. The deer and the bare game were only 100 to 150 meters away. Slowly we stalked. It didn't take long and we had found the place where we could face the bull. Esben, who was maybe 40 meters behind us, began to lure quietly. My whole body trembled with excitement. Then I noticed a movement in front of me. I could see the mighty forks of the deer carefully moving in our direction. Not 30 meters in front of us he raised his head with these capital antlers and it was as if he looked directly at me. I had already drawn the bow and hoped only for the last step that his hand would show. But I couldn't take the shot yet, the sheet was covered. I noticed the stag was suspicious. But I waited focused. I had no doubt he would take that one more step. It was quiet in the forest, only now and then one could hear Esben, who silently imitated the bare game behind us. The nerves were tense to tear. I don't remember how long it took, three minutes, maybe just two. It was indescribable, commanding, unforgettable.

But it was for nothing. The bull did not dare to take another step in our direction, but trotted back to its bare game. Since it was already late - it had begun to dawn in the meantime - we decided to walk back to our campground. After a few hundred meters the whistling of a deer sounded again. It was another deer, right under our campsite. Carefully we moved in his direction when we suddenly saw bald game and shortly after saw the deer itself. It was a young deer, probably second or third head. But after we had seen the capital, we didn't want to hunt the future deer and so we just tried to lure him. Less than five minutes later, he was standing very close, 15 metres away. What a special day.

But it was for nothing. The deer did not dare to take another step in our direction, but trotted back to its bare game. Since it was already late - it had begun to dawn in the meantime - we decided to walk back to our campground. After a few hundred meters the whistling of a deer sounded again. It was another deer, right under our campsite. Carefully we moved in his direction when we suddenly saw bald game and shortly after saw the deer itself. It was a young deer, probably second or third head. But after we had seen the capital, we didn't want to hunt the future deer and so we just tried to lure him. Less than five minutes later, he was standing very close, 15 metres away. What a special day. The days passed and astonishingly we could often still observe middle-aged to mature bulls with huge antlers. But either they were too far away, or the wind was wrong, or it was completely impossible to get close to them. And unfortunately, I must confess, we lacked it twice at the target water.

Altogether we spent twelve wonderful days in the mountains, at an altitude of almost 4,000 meters. On one of these twelve days, our Danish friend Esben was successful for a second time. For several days we had seen a stag in an almost inaccessible and distant corner of the valley. In the evening he watched his twelve-headed harem above the tree line. We hardly believed it when Esben appeared one afternoon with the massive antlers of the stag. His age was estimated to be more than thirteen years.

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