Elk hunt ends with great geological find, memories of comradery
Rick Taylor | Contributor
Editor's note: Read two previous installments of contributor Rick Taylor's elk hunt experience here: An elk hunt to remember starts with a detour for fly fishing and An elk hunt to remember includes a magic moment of being surrounded by a herd
The rock band U2 has nothing to do with hunting but the narrator in their most recent documentary (From the Sky Down) discussed why men group together to form a band. Whether it's a rock band, football team or a group of hunters, one thing is for certain; there's an undeniable kindred spirit among men who group together with a common goal in mind.
This may have something to do with that whole "Men Are from Mars" thing that we've heard about our whole lives. Whether it's native Indians grouping together to form a hunting party eons ago or a group of guys hunting at the Moriah Ranch today; we were meant to bond together.
Perhaps it’s why Deer Camp is so important to families and why they love to pass on their passions to their children and friends.
Ok, back to the elk hunt
I had walked to the top of the Pinto Mountains to see if I could get reception in the hopes of calling my wife to give her the good news of my hunt. I finally made it to the summit, and there's about a 20-yard area that's fairly level, with a grouping of about a dozen boulders that anyone could easily sit on.
I looked at those rocks and wondered if native Indians ever sat on those boulders getting ready for a hunt. I stood there imagining what they would have been wearing, what language they were speaking and what they were saying to each other. These Indians could have been here 200 years ago or 10,000 years ago.
I pictured them eating dried meats, discussing strategy and spending a great deal of time making arrow heads commonly referred to as flint knapping.
I sat down on one of those boulders to catch my breath and looked down; a little to my left and a little to my right. I saw a rock about the size of a quarter that had no business being there. It had been cleaved; purposely cut by using another rock. I picked up this rock and immediately knew a native Indian had indeed worked on making an arrow head at this very spot.
It moved me emotionally, because I felt their presence on that mountain top. There we were, two hunters from a different time but both having the same spirit on that mountain top. I looked around a bit more and found other cleaved rocks and brought them back to the ranch. I would never take them back home without asking Stu permission first; thankfully he said yes. What a treasure, arguably the best geological find in my life.
I wasn't the only one who had an amazing hunting experience. There were eight other guys who also had a very personal connection to this magical ranch. Every single hunter with an elk license eventually tagged out; simply unbelievable when you think about it.
But, elk wasn’t the only thing we were hunting here. A few of the guys had Pronghorn Antelope licenses they hoped to fill. The pronghorn antelope is the fastest land animal in North America. They don't hide in the woods or draws; they prefer to hide in plain sight.
They'll rest in the wide open plains and won't let you get within a quarter mile before bolting out of there. They know how fast they are and it's very difficult to get close to them. And, man when they run they’re going 45 miles an hour.
Three of the fellow hunters did, indeed, fill their antelope licenses, but it wasn't easy. I had the privilege of watching two hunts unfold before my very eyes. I wasn’'t able to get an antelope license this year, but you can bet I'll try next time should the opportunity present itself.
We spent more time fly fishing for trout and had a great time passing the time by doing so. I also brought along my .223 caliber rifle for some prairie dog hunting. Prairie dogs are similar to ground hogs but are about half the size. Prairie dogs burrow holes in the ground, and this ranch had no shortage of them.
Prairie dogs are problematic because livestock like cattle roaming the ranch can break their legs by stepping into these burrows. A cow’s life expectancy pretty much ends right there if it breaks a leg from a prairie dog hole. Ranchers waste no time in shooting prairie dogs given the opportunity, and I was happy to try out my long distance shooting myself.
I didn't have to remind myself that I was doing the ranch owner a favor by shooting these creatures in order to save livestock. However, I must admit that shooting prairie dogs from 50 to 300 yards was a heck of a fun way to spend an hour or two in the field.
There were so many prairie dogs out there that I'd shoot one and another would pop up right next to it. I could see dozens of their heads popping out of the ground as far as I could see the entire time I was out there. Let’s just say the .223 did the job efficiently, and I happily went through four boxes of ammunition.
The time at the Moriah Ranch was slowly coming to an end. We had spent over a week here but soon began preparing for the long drive home. Gary, Stu and I finally packed up all our gear and said our goodbye’s to the last few guys at the ranch. It was day nine when we finally hit the road in Stu's Hummer and tow-behind trailer.
We had one last stop before hitting the interstate, and that was the meat processor that had butchered our elk a few days earlier. We filled up both chest freezers in Stu's trailer with elk and hit the highway.
Stu, Gary and I knew this drive was going to be a long one; especially towing a trailer with a lot of weight in it. We joked that driving through Nebraska was like driving through Dante's inferno. But seriously, who needs a state that long?
We each took turns driving and had a few laughs along the way. Gary hit the lottery when he found a radio station that covered the MSU football game. It was a long game for me personally but Gary was in his glory when MSU threw a Hail Mary pass at the end of the game to win it. As my dad always said, "I’d rather be lucky than good!" Just kidding, Gary.
I felt so blessed to finally see our state sign welcoming us back home; it felt good knowing we were just a few hours away. I put the hammer down and nobody complained about my driving; we all wanted to be near our loved ones sooner than later.
The sun began to come up as we made our way through Albion; what a glorious morning. I called my wife soon after and asked her to meet me in Chelsea.
We pulled into Stu’s driveway and our trip was over just like that. We were unloading the trailer when I looked up and saw my beautiful wife pulling into the driveway. Man, did I miss her. This trip never would have happened without her selflessly watching our kids for 10 days. Shelley came out of the car and brought out our year old daughter Ava.
She didn’t recognize me in the beard I was sporting, and that was all I needed to shave it off later that day.
Gary, Stu and I shook hands and thanked each other for an amazing time. I waved goodbye while driving away when my wife looked over at me with that beautiful smile and said, "Welcome home, honey." Boy, don’t you know it.
Rick Taylor can be reached at 734-223-5656 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.