by Jason Ross
At the end of Episode One, Evan and Jason wandered in the dark, miles from base camp.
They’d finally caught sight of a dozen elk, just three hundred yards out, as the sun dipped below the horizon. Every last one of them was a bull elk, and the guys had only cow tags.
Evan was suffering mightily, carrying his heavy OBR rifle through the snow without snowshoes. The campfire at base camp could be seen from their position, but one dark canyon after another spanned the gap. They’d have to either loop around, logging a dozen miles or more to avoid the canyons, or punch straight across the canyons and suffer the deep snow.
Many hours later, the boys emerged from the dark, completely wet and totally smoked.
This “easy” hunt was going to be much tougher than they’d planned and they’d have to re-set their strategy.
For one thing, Chad Wade had underestimated the difficulty of killing an elk with a compound bow. With fewer elk in the area than anticipated, the chances of a herd wandering into the bow’s sixty-yard range seemed slim. The elk were spooky and the snow was crunchy. After the previous day’s experience, he was beginning to think it’d be damn-near impossible to walk up on an elk.
Evan felt like he’d done enough endurance hiking. His new strategy included snow shoes and a spike camp. Rather than hiking in and out of his remote hunting area every day, he and Jason would pack in and set up a camp just on the other side of the ridge line where they’d seen the bulls the day prior.
Jeff and Tye continued to pin their hopes on staying close to camp, figuring that at least the wall tent had plenty of stew and whiskey. Since elk weren’t showing up way out on the edges of their hunt area, why wander about? If the elk were going to come, they'd just as likely show up near camp, they figured.
Much like the first day, the sun went down on Day Two without a single sighting of cow elk.
Out on the eastern boundary, Evan and Jason had again spotted a big herd of bulls. Apparently, the bulls weren’t the kind of bulls that enjoyed female company — not saying anything about sexual propriety — but those bulls seemed to like bulls. There were dozens of them and no cows.
At the spike camp, nestled in a hillside hollow, Evan and Jason tucked in for the night.
Jason was testing a new MSR Dragontail four-season tent. Evan set up his “bivvy” sack — where he made himself into a human taco between a couple survival blankets, the bivvy sack, a sleeping pad, and his sleeping bag. All together, the system weighs in far
lighter than a tent. All would’ve been well if he hadn’t borrowed his sleeping pad from Chad — who in typical Navy SEAL fashion, had used it hard and left it leaking. A leaking sleeping pad equates to no insulation, particularly on ice. Indeed, Evan had a rough night out at the spike camp.
Chad, Jeff and the other outdoorsmen boys were living it up back at the wall tent. They busted out the guitar, booze and good food and then fired up the shepherd stove.
Day Two left the boys with plenty of elk sightings, but not a cow elk to be found. As the days allotted for the hunt ticked down, they were left wondering: would they get skunked on this “easy” hunt?
ReadyMan Challenge 5, Episode 3. The final showdown. Stay tuned.