A Change in Elevation

elk

Upon arriving in my new home of Denver Colorado, I wasted no time getting out and into the beautiful scenery that would be the setting of many adventures yet to come.  But, what I didn’t realize, at the time, was that my true intentions were to drown the fear of leaving my home and more crucially, my hunting buddies.  I would now be alone a thousand miles and sixteen hours from the life I had known since my Dad introduced me to wonderful world of the Sportsman’s Paradise.  I wasn’t afraid of being on my own just afraid of missing out.

Rocky Mountain National Park

On the thousand mile drive up my mind rushed with thoughts of the endless opportunities that awaited me in the Rocky Mountains but, what also lurked in the often repressed subsurface of my consciousness was the thought that the monthly expeditions into the wilds of the South with my best hunting buddies would be dramatically decreased if not eliminated.  There would be the occasional three and four day weekend back home and we would be meeting on the ski slopes of Breckenridge soon but, gone were the days of spur-of-the-moment hunting trips to the flooded native pecans of Mississippi River backwater, Texas Hill Country or any of the hundreds of other weekend getaways that my hunting buddies and I had taken for granted for so long.  See, I was leaving a job as the General Manager of a small company where I had enjoyed the luxury of hunting any morning or evening that I chose and where there was no one counting my vacation days.  This arrangement left open the possibilities that most sportsmen could only hope to experience in a lifetime.  At 28, I had done it all.

My first Colorado trout. Arkansas River caught on Charlie Craven's Elk Hair Caddis.
My first Colorado trout. Arkansas River caught on Charlie Craven’s Elk Hair Caddis.

Our wives would express mild irritation at the endless “traditions” that we established.  Anytime a wild goose chase turned successful, we would deem it a yearly tradition.  There was opening day of dove season in West Texas at Benny Prince’s place, opening day of teal season in the South Louisiana rice fields,  last weekend of September Elk Hunting “the deck” in Idaho, the October long quest for another Pope & Young Whitetail anywhere and everywhere, fishing the spawn run of big brown trout on the White River, duck hunting the Mississippi River flooded timber, Mississippi and Kansas turkey hunts, and warm summer nights in Green Canyon 100 miles offshore filling the boat with yellowfin tuna.  These are yearly adventures that my new job would not afford.  I would have to pick and choose which adventures I would participate.  And, the anxiety was getting to me.

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My two best hunting buddies, Albert Tucker (dad) on the left & Matt Leerkes on the right.

Most people would call me spoiled and I really couldn’t argue.  Most of my success is afforded by a loving wife who understands my need for adventure and as long as I passionately pursue her when I’m not pursuing game, she is happy.  (It doesn’t hurt to drop a couple grand on jewelry every now and then either.)  But, do not misunderstand, these adventures are hard work.  We are not just paying our way to success.  It has come from the sweat of our brow and the endless pursuit of understanding.  Other than the few hunting leases that we each contribute to the common good, we hunt with friends or on public land.  We camp and drive countless hours to be in the right spot at the right time.  This is not too say that there have been and will be in the future empty hands at the end of our hunts but, what we do not gain in meat for the freezer we gain in knowledge an understanding of the quarry we seek.

Although there is much yearning for the old days of fun in the sun with my Louisiana hunting buddies, now I am experiencing something that I have not felt since I was a child trying to make the long strides to place foot step for foot step with my dad.  I am now faced with being in a new place without any knowledge of the animals and area that I hunt.  As we would say in Louisiana, I am starting from scratch.  And, life is as exciting as ever.  This blog is the story of my attempt to overcome the uncertainty and the sheer challenge of hunting and fishing the Rocky Mountains.  I also thought it would be interesting to parallel the ongoing adventures of my hunting buddies back home.  So, at least I can live vicariously through the recreations of hunts and adventures in the form of pictures and accounts from state called the Sportsman’s Paradise.

Matt & I with my lab, Buddy after a hunt in the flooded timber. 4 man limit.