The aspen leaves were in full gold. Only some of the large groves were starting to lose their vibrancy coming out of a dry summer. The weekend before we just had a dumping of 10 inches of snow – typical for early September in Colorado. This is also coming out of scouting in a t-shirt and shorts with 70 plus degree weather, I would have to pack the whole house with the kitchen sink included to stay warm at night now. Why do I do this to myself? Packed 10 miles just to see more moose and some hunters from Michigan than I did elk. I can’t believe I am wishing for days when hunters were lazy and just 3 miles in, you could leave them all behind. Now, I am finding more elk by working my way closer to the road. On foot, I can’t get back as far as the outfitters shuttling in clients on horseback. Even if I could, I would be spending the rest of the season backing out rotting meat. If I can hear the humming of UTVs, I am not far enough in by a longshot.
I am now in plan B for the third night of season. Plan A was a complete bust. However, I liked our new spot even more. Yes, we. My hunting buddy was in town to help me fill my archery bull tag in a limited unit (Semi-limited, as I call it, anyways). Just enough points to actually be able to hunt it within a dog’s lifetime, but takes long enough to keep the average joe out. I like those kinds of units. Elk will act like elk should during the rut. Anyways, I was trying my best to fall asleep. It was colder than it should have been and my sleeping pad felt like cardboard at this point. I think actual cardboard would have felt like a stay at the Bellagio. The high I was on from the anticipation of hunting this unit was starting to wear off. It wasn’t completely gone, but I was asking myself why I loved this so much. I was thinking about that as we hiked in the cold dark down the trail that followed this very large, very long creek bottom.
Daylight was starting to break and we were less than a mile from the trailhead, where we left the comfort of my warm truck. Decided to let out of soft cow call because what the hell, right? It took me a few seconds to recognize it. Nah, it can’t be… Sure enough, just about 200 yards out on the other side of the creek, two bulls let out breaking the early morning silence. Still in disbelief, we stood there like, “what now?” Breaking one of our rules of not calling from where you can’t kill, we had to move. He was coming! Well, kind of. Three rag horn bulls were coming and he was taking his time, reluctant to leave his cows. Unknown to us, we actually setup above a steep bank trying to pull him out of the open across a large meadow. Worse idea ever. Needless to say – he didn’t want to come, so he didn’t. The other bulls shied away from our aggression in our calling battle with the herd bull. They moved off into their bedding area and we moved on to bull number two, who had made his way further down the river bottom to the south. By the time we got on him, he was very shy and just had a handful of cows to keep track of. We let him go to bed and decided to make a game plan for that evening, knowing where he would be spending the day. The setup worked but with one slight miscalculation. We didn’t expect to have another hunter move in just past us, attempting to (what I assume was) lure in a bull elk and a goose simultaneously? At least that’s what it sounded like.
The bull came out into a small meadow right where he exited that very same morning. It was perfect – that is, until Tex showed up. I assume the other hunter was from Texas – any time a hunt is messed up, its always by someone from Texas. Hate the truth, but you know I am right.
Beyond that mishap we were in Gods county. I love the Cimarrons. The most underrated mountain range in all of Colorado, in my opinion. Most drive right on past to the photogenic range of the San Juan’s. Don’t get me wrong, the San Juan mountain range is stunning! However, this wild, rugged fingers of mountains and mesas just make you feel like you’re in a different time. Oftentimes I wonder what places looked like before man expanded into these areas. Parts of the Cimarrons often make me feel like I don’t have to wonder any more. Like it is as it has always been. These fingers of mountains stretch out to the north with creeks filled with willows, leading into lush, green valleys that stop at a rising ridge, towering above the infamous Black Canyon of the Gunnison River. Before visiting the Black Canyon for the first time I remember thinking “oh, I’ve seen canyons before.” Once again, underrated! Some of the best fishing in the country lies at the bottom of this jagged, deep, mystical place. It’s hard to believe
that anything could live down there, but bears, moose, and bighorn sheep can be seen on its clear water banks. Between the National Park of the Black Canyon on the Blue Mesa Reservoir (the largest body of water in Colorado) that feeds it, is the Curecanti National Recreational area. The Curecanti National Recreational area is assumed to just be the Gunnison River and while it is, it is also a series of 3 reservoirs, The Blue Mesa, Morrow Point and Crystal reservoir. What lies between the alpine mountains of the Cimarrons and the Black Canyon, are the ranches of the Cimarrons. So much history in those valleys along with some of the most spectacular ranches in all of Western Colorado. I’ve been quite blessed to have spent quite a bit of time on a few of them. They are diverse in landscape and wildlife. I think that in part is what makes amazing landscapes so amazing. Even in some diverse terrains and
vegetation, without life its empty, void. This is not the case for these ranches. Large herds of elk stretch across the Cimarron working their way down from their summer range of the high country of dense, dark timber through the groves of aspens into rolling hills of sage and oak flats before landing on green irrigated pastures. Even the occasional moose can be seen slushing through the willows in the creek and river bottoms. This country is big and full of life. The ranches that they call home are what dreams are made of. There properties are page turners with a new chapter over every hill, past every cluster of aspens, across every meadow. These are the ranches that make Western Colorado so iconic. Where legends are made. Where history was made. Where a wild heart finds its calling. Wild and unruly, the Cimarrons.
Reese Lovell – Ranch Broker – Conservationist – Land and Wildlife Advocate