Yes, this is what we do. We take to the woods and hunt. We stalk huge animals in Big, cinematic Country. We bed down at 11 and rise at 3:30 to begin hiking well before sunrise. We sweat and cuss to ourselves as we bushwhack through dense underbrush, and then laugh and soak up the view God gave us up top. What a week.
4:30 am. day one.
This past week was spent in Steamboat Springs, Colorado on a Great American Elk Hunt. Matt, Chris, Jason and myself set out each day to stalk these huge animals. It is hard to describe the amount of country we covered and the views we witnessed. Hopefully the photographs convey a sliver of the experience.
Starting out so early, hours before daylight, it really pushed my equipment and my steadiness to a new level. I was shooting in near pitch dark conditions for the first hour and half each day. But it was a good challenge. Having invested in some ideal prime glass this summer, mainly my 35mm 1.4 and 85mm 1.2, I was able to capture some acceptable low light images. And actually, they might be some of my preferred shots. Here is a series of low light shots over the course of the week. (the ones above obviously fall into this category)
The second and fourth day of the trip we ascended Steamboat Mountain, the actual ski hill. We climbed 4 miles up before sunrise, hiking with head-torches and starlight only. It was great waking up and immediately getting your body going, looking out over the valley as it slept. God. I’d do it everyday if I could.
Anecdote: the 1st day we hiked to the top, it took us an hour and 50 minutes. 2 days later, we hiked it in an hour and 20 minutes! We got strong, quick.
I did a NOLS semester in the southwest during my college years, and it engrained in me certain outdoor skills. Hunting is the antithesis to many of these rules. I constantly found myself being “Mr. Safety” on this trip. The biggest challenge for me was all of the bushwhacking. NOLS engrained Leave No Trace ethics into my head, and I still agree with them. Stay on the trail. It’s less hazardous, you can cover much more ground more quickly and it allows your mind to slow down and enjoy the country. Hunting, was all about bushwhacking. And I get it. I can appreciate it now. You get access to where the animals really live, their Living Room per se. And that is cool. But bushwhacking can hurt, and it can take it out of you.
We got up close and personal everyday with Elk, but only the last day, when I slept in because I had to catch a flight home, did they arrow two. Luckily, cell phone service was excellent a couple miles into the mountains, which is interesting because I can’t even take a call at my home in Charleston the service is so poor. Come on AT&T. So they text me about 7:30 am and I pushed my flight back 2 days and headed out to meet up with them.
Here are some other good times and scenes from the trip.