Quest for Wapiti – The Haul

Part 3 of 3

Packing out the elk.

I had the elk quartered out and covered up by nightfall using the gutless field dressing method. I didn’t have the resources to hang the meat so I left the hide on the quarters and covered them as best I could. Nervously I left the meat, with my shirt draped over the cover to help deter scavengers.

The only meat I could immediately take out with me was the backstraps and tenderloins. This amount of meat was manageable to hang at camp and pack out the 8 miles with an already full load. I was camping out of a pack considered by most to be day-pack. I would also have to leave my tent and a few other items behind for the next trip in.

Hunting alone is very different than hunting with someone else. There are pros and cons of each. I would say that the overall spiritual experience when by yourself is much stronger however, there is a great human drive to share experience. Today, with cell phones and the internet, we can twitter our revelations to the world in an instant. I however, could not call anyone to let them know about my need of help or my success until the following day. Me and my friend Evan got along quite well that night.

The next morning I packed out of the canyon. Something about packing a heavy load an extra three miles past the 4×4 parking lot solidified my feelings about my next vehicle being a truck. Subaru’s are excellent and an old forester can outperform any other car in it’s clearance level. Unfortunately, extra clearance and a low gear all too often make the difference in Colorado.

At the top of the canyon I was able to reach out to my girlfriend and organize a posse of friends, ready and willing for the pack out. With a weight off my shoulders, lifted by the best of friends, I felt like things were truly working out perfectly. Sunday morning, two nights after shooting the elk, was the planned extraction.

Two of my friends had trucks, which was going to take 6 miles off our day and about 1500 feet of elevation profile. Me, my girlfriend Emma and four of our friends all met up at 6am on Sunday morning (amazing friends!). My anxiousness to get to the meat and make sure nothing had gotten to it was like a devil on my shoulder.

As the sun rose and the mountains reached for the first rays, the day had begun. Not only were we getting an early start, but for the first time in months, there was a zero percent chance of thunderstorms. My luck had amazingly continued. As we got to the general area of the elk carcass, my nervousness was exaggerated by a large pile of bear scat. You can tell the difference between bear scat filled with vegetation and berries from that containing meat fairly easily, unfortunately this type was of the latter.

Starting off with an excellent morning view.

Once I was able to locate the elk, my fear turned away from scavengers to time and temperature; my meat was in the sun. Even though it was in very thick timber, sunlight was getting through and beaming my meat. Fortunately it was only for a short portion of the day and after a below freezing night, the meat was in excellent condition.

Deboning the elk

Deboning an elk

It took an hour or two to debone the meat and cut the head of the elk off. Hungry enough to eat lunch next to a pile of guts, hair and meat; we all relaxed and enjoyed the beautiful place we were in. On our way out, by guidance of my friend Daniel, we cut through a high-year avalanche path and saved ourselves an extra two miles of hiking. When we got nearer the parking lot, I was met by a lot of curious hikers. At the lot itself, we were all met by cold white wine and a successful end to the day. The sun was setting, and I felt like I was on the top of the world with some of the best of friends.

At last we made it!

I thought at this point I was surly near the end of my work load. But as a person who is so compelled to do-it-yourself, I still had a lot of hours to put in butchering this animal. It took me about two full days of processing spread throughout the weak in order to finish the job. Including grinding burger meat and making sausages.

Though the hunt is now over, and I am sitting on a freezer of elk meat, I still can barely believe that everything worked out so smoothly; from finding the elk, to the harvest, and packing it out. I truly couldn’t expect things to ever go so well again.

Thanks to all of my friends who helped me, if it weren’t for you, I might never have gotten all of the meat out safely!

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