I awoke about 5 in the morning. Someone was trying to get the fire going in the kitchen. My sleeping bag was toasty, but my face was cold. I heard newspapers being crumpled and logs being loaded into the old wood stove below me. Burt began to thrash around on the other side of the loft. "Damn it's cold!" he said, "I's freezin' my baws off!". Being from the midwest, Burt's Louisiana accent was sometimes hard for me to follow, but I knew what "baws" were and was glad mine were not frozen. Burt scrambled down to help with the stove. His hasty and clumsy run down the stairs woke the ground floor residents, and began what would become a recurring morning ritual. One by one the complaints rolled out. "Man, your feet stink!", "Well, at least I don't snore", "Yeah, ain't your nose sore after all that racket?", "Shut up sleep talker!". Knowing my tendency for snoring, I relished in the fact that they were downstairs and I was almost out of hearing distance. The heat was now building in the loft, and I slipped on my long johns, flannels, outer layers, and headed down to meet the sleepy eyed hunters.
The boys from Vegas were world class hunters. Having hunted in Africa, New Zealand, and other imaginary places, you had to respect their experience. They were from Vegas however, and soon the generator was whirring, and the electric coffee pot puttered. These guys had brought a 3 burner camp stove and balanced it on top of the original wood fired model. I filled my stainless percolator and cranked the burner knob. The percolator took a long time to boil, but my coffee was done about the same time the electric pot was full. It was an interesting combination of solar powered lights, LP gas stoves, wood heat, fuel oil lanterns, and battery power that became very familiar to us for the next 8 days. We talked hunting and drank coffee until we heard an old truck rumble to a stop outside. "Dale's here", somebody said.
The location we were hunting was a mix of BLM property and land owned by Dale's family. He entered the cabin followed by his less coherent sidekick Jack. Dale was going to place us in promising spots on the mountain and after an elk pep rally, we climbed into the slick and frozen truck bed. "Here we go", said my buddy "Rooster". As the truck bounced over rocks down the 10 percent grade, we slid around in the bed and struggled to keep a grip on anything handy. There were lots of raised eyebrows, but other than Jack's constant muttering, nothing was said. We jerked to a stop and a lump of camouflage mumbling "Oh Lawd" slid into me. "Morning Burt", I said jokingly. Dale asked for the first volunteer to watch a large clearing. I was happy to egress the truck and was over the side before anyone else had the chance. I watched and listened as the taillights weaved on down the mountain.
As morning light began to take over, I found myself on a pond bank overlooking a 400 yard meadow between the aspens. Settling in, I placed my pack on the ground, positioned my rifle on top and I behind it. Some mulie does grazed 300 yards downrange. Slowly, I became aware of some noise in the trees 100 yards to my right. "It can't be this easy", I thought to myself. Since I was already well camouflaged, I just watched the tree line, waiting for an elk to come out. The crunching footsteps and cracking of limbs got louder until he broke through the brush. There he stood... It was Jack with a beer and cigarette in one hand and his rifle in the other. He seemed a little startled when he saw my hunter orange clad figure on the ground in front of him. Shrugging his shoulders, he turned and headed back into the timber. The sun was finally hitting my hunting spot, but before I could enjoy any of the warmth, I heard the truck coming back to pick us up. I glanced at my watch. 40 minutes? I had only been there 40 minutes?!? As you can guess, this was not turning out to be the type of elk hunt I had hoped for.