Western Classic: Colorado Elk

Heading for our Colorado elk hunt we traveled through the Salt Lake City airport. The connecting flight is just a short hop down to Grand Junction then a two-hour car ride to where our adventure began.
Typical blue skies heading to Colorado. While we had one 24-hour stretch of rain (sturdy rain gear is a must--the brush shredded my rain pants), most days were sunny and warm. Despite the gorgeous weather, we heard elk bugling every day.
Sorting gear (and cutting down on weight) was critical the night before. Outdoor Life's Greg Gatto and I used Mystery Ranches' Long Bow packs. They are super comfortable and made the near vertical climbs in some spots manageable. Only thing I wish I had brought more of was socks.
Making sure your bow rig is still sighted in where you left it is a must once you arrive at your destination. We shot at 20, 30 and 40 yards to check all of our pins the evening before we headed up the mountain to camp.
Eric Barnes has taken several elk with a bow. With his point of aim confirmed, he's ready to rock.
A portable target, picked up at the new Cabela's store in Grand Junction, helped build everyone's confidence once each of us confirmed our bow sights were right where we left them. Nothing got bashed in transit.
Outfitter, Terry Commander, put us all up at her place the night before our hunt started. The view up the canyon toward the trailhead was spectacular the next morning.
Checking cinches before saddling up helps avoid problems down the trail. You want it tight enough to just be able to slip a finger between the cinch and the horse's belly.
Adjusting stirrups for the length of your leg ensures a more comfortable ride. If you can place a fist between your bottom and the top of the saddle (when standing up in the stirrups), your stirrup length is correct.
Photographer Luke McComb had not spent a lot of time on a horse. Fortunately, all of Terry's horses were very gentle.
Here I'm just getting ready to jump onto Friday, a feisty Arabian who just loved to climb. Note how nice Terry's tack and saddles are…the sign of a good outfitter.
Bushnell's Mark Schaefer gets ready to ride. Matching horses to each riders' ability level helped everyone get up the hill safely and comfortably.
Scenery along the trail was spectacular--much of it following streams. The aspens and cottonwood were just turning color--a perfect time to be in the high country.
Several bridges along the trail made fording streams easy while presenting some great photo ops.
Outfitter Terry Commander is tireless. She runs an exceptional camp--well organized with good guides and equipment. You can forget the diet; too, she loves to feed hungry hunters!
Here's a typical setup for dinner--right down to the wine on the table. Dinners included prime rib, pasta, steak and more. And her homemade desserts (cooked on a camp stove) were nothing short of heavenly.
This is what greeted us (along with steaks and baked potatoes) our first night in the cook tent. Nice presentation Terry. Want to book a hunt? Contact Terry Commander at Commander & Company, Ltd., or call: 970-929-6202. Make sure to check back at outdoorlife.com for the rest of the story.