By Mark Gardner
It was October and an acquaintance of mine from Indiana by way of California said he’d like to try elk hunting. I knew him from church and he was referred to as Crazy Dave. After some inquiry I found that he got his nickname after nailing a deacon’s toolbelt to the floor during a work party at church. Doesn’t matter if you’re a rocket scientist, have conquered world hunger or what you’ve done up to that point, one small indiscretion and the rest of your life you’re Crazy Dave.
Believing he was somewhat harmless (I would find out just how harmless later) I agreed to take him elk hunting. He would have to hunt in Colorado’s general over the counter season which is crowded. The success rates are dismally low especially for trophy bulls which he planned on shooting because of my reputation. He really was crazy!
I asked him about his general big game hunting experience and he related a tale of woe of the year before when his first hunt happened. Seems some “friends” took him on his first hunt. They used his tag, one of them caught himself on fire trying to get the nightly bonfire going with Coleman gas, and he went home drunk. Seems his wife liked me and told him if he ever wanted to go again he had to go with someone respectable and professional like me. Nice lady. Delusional, but nice.
I told Dave that respectable, professional hunters needed to scout. I took him to a spot I knew that got little hunting pressure. I hoped. It was raining hard enough to drown frogs when we got there. Great! As we drove the muddy fire road (an adventure in itself) a 300 class 6 point crossed the road with 20 cows. Dave inquired as to the suitability of this animal as a trophy. I stuttered that he’d do. When the weather let up I took Dave on a walk. I set up above an aspen pocket where there was a crack in the ribbon cliffs and called. When a 350 bull ran in like I’d called my dog I nearly died. Later, that very same day we glassed a far canyon rim and watched a book bull and his cows. We saw no other hunters. Being new at this Dave thought this was a normal day. I tried to explain to him that he was better than having a rabbits foot.
The season came and Dave and I went to camp. He was leery of staying in a tent until we unfolded it. He said it was bigger than his living room! When I moved in the kitchen and woodstove his eyes brightened up.
After cutting some firewood we went to scout for elk. A short ways from camp we found a book class bull. Not heavy but with long main beams and points. Only problem was he had broken off the left side above the third point. No worries, Dave said he’d be just fine for his first bull.
The first morning I put Dave out above where we’d spotted the bull and I went a half mile away to glass. The only other hunters came in about a mile below us and as luck would have it spooked the bull to Dave. I waited and waited. No shot? I went to Dave and asked him why he didn’t shoot. He said no bull came to him so I directed him to climb off the cliff and into the ravine in front of us thinking he was hiding there. About 20 minutes of glassing later I found the bull right in front of me! I tried to get Dave to come back but he thought it was a cruel hoax and that I wanted to see him have a heart attack. Finally he believed me and returned.
It took forever to get him on the bull. When he did see him he was calm and cool. The bull was lying at a bad angle to us so we would have to wait for him to get up. It was six hours before the bull stood and turned offering a shot. Being senior citizens we were amazed how long he could hold his water! Then it happened. I discovered that Dave couldn’t shoot. When he told me he had a semiauto Remington 7400 I should have had a clue, but I missed it. Nine shots later the bull walked over the rim and disappeared.
We looked for blood but found nothing. I trailed the bull for a mile or so but he showed no sign of being hit. I was so intent on the trail that I didn’t notice that Dave had disappeared. It was rugged broken country and I guess he just dropped off behind me. Later that night we found each other and went back to camp. Actually limped would be more accurate. We’re both card carrying members of AARP.
He’s a real trooper though. He insisted on cooking supper. It was entertaining watching him crawl on all fours as he cooked. The cramping in his legs preventing being upright for long.
After a good meal in front of the warm stove we went to sleep. The next two days proved uneventful but Dave’s already planning next year’s hunt. He’s got the fever now.
God bless and good hunting.