- Dave Rasmussen - Experienced Hunter
There are many styles of guided hunts I have experienced half a dozen hunting elk and mule deer for over 20 years in Colorado and Montana.
The Wilderness Tracks Outfitters excels at what I call a “Gentlemen’s Hunt”.
Their family has three separate parcels of land that have been in the family for 4 generations. They know where the game animals like to hang out depending on changing weather and hunting pressure. Their land is on the edge of where the animals leave the safety of the mountains to migrate to their winter grounds on the plains. The game animals also leave adjacent areas where there is greater hunting pressure to look for food and water and a place to hide out. We daily see elk and mule deer and search for legal sized animals during the various Colorado large game seasons.
The parcels vary in terrain, elevation, vegetation and shooting distance. Some is farm land and some is covered in aspen trees or scrub oak. Some is flat and some is the south face of Round Mountain. All can be accessed by riding in elevated four door Jeep Grand Cherokees or walking, depending on your fitness levels and skills.
Fresh cooked food is prepared for breakfast and dinner in the main lodge. We pack our own lunch bag to take with us to snack on during the day.
Cabins are decorated with historical family photos, clean and have running fresh water for cleaning up. Comfortable mattresses are provided ready for your sleeping bag and pillow. Hot shower is available after heating water on stove. Wood stove heating is needed only on cold nights. Cabins are well insulated. The lodge is where most activity takes place during meal times. It is log sided from property harvested trees and has a high ceiling where many trophy elk and mule deer are displayed to motivate hunters. There are mountain lion, black bear and coyote mounts too.
We are to arrive the afternoon before the season opens. We then get acquainted and fill out final paperwork. The owner’s family assists with dinner and we get to meet our guides. Typically guides are family members who have grown up hunting the land.
The main lodge is off the grid, as are all cabins. Solar power provides lighting at all locations. Wood stoves provide heat, if needed and fresh water is always available for washing up at all locations.
Bottled drinking water and coffee is available in the lodge at all times. The air is dry and staying hydrated is important.
A basic review of the hunting locations, safety rules, each hunter reviews their rifle caliber, sighting distance, experience and equipment are reviewed with guides. The guides also discuss where animals have been sighted is discussed before the season opening eve’s dinner.
We eat dinner and breakfast at the same time each day. Power is available to recharge phones and a good cell signal is available near or at the lodge. Modern log sided latrines are available for men and women.
Best to retire early after supper as the first day of season is usually active.
Typical first day:
We awake about two hours before daylight. We get dressed and organize personal hunting gear as we leave for hunt about 15 minutes after finished with breakfast. Personal hunting gear is best laid out before going to sleep.
A complete list of necessary gear is provided in the contract but a refresher includes:
Binoculars-8x42 or similar on a neck strap is suggested to help you partake in the locating and evaluating potential target animals. Guides have high quality binoculars with laser range finders out beyond shooting range so no need for hunters to do ranging.
Your rifle does not need to be in a case while riding in vehicles and clip can be in magazine but no shells can be in chamber at anytime, for safety reasons, until guide tells you it is OK. No shells can be in clip or rifle if rifle is indoors.
Follow safe gun handling at all times before, during and after hunting. Check rifle bullet status often to avoid having shells in gun or chamber when not allowed. If you have any questions, please ask your guide!
Each hunter or pair of hunters will be assigned a guide. The guide will review daily your scope sighting range (recommend zero at 200-400 yards) depending on caliber. Give extra shells and clips to guide as backup. You need to focus on aiming and finding animals and not being distracted by fumbling thru pockets or backpack for more. Your guide will set up a quick adjust tripod to help steady your rifle. You just need to sit next to your guide in the four door Jeep Grand Cherokee and listen to what they say.
We arrive at the selected property before sunup or sunset and drive in the Jeep vehicles in search of the resting animals.
Your guide will site the available animals, find a legal bull or buck and point it out to you. The guide will set up the tripod to help steady your rifle and your job is to place your rifle in the stand and find the animal in your rifle scope. The guide will tell you the range and will tell you where to aim, depending on the type of scope and bullet you have. Your job is to remain calm and sight carefully. The animals are usually standing still, so no need to rush a shot. Watch Youtube videos on long distance shooting before you leave home to help be prepared.
Your first shot is always the best as once the animals hear the noise, they tend to move away. Again, take your time on the first shot and aim at body center of mass or the vital heart area. Be careful to not have any other animals standing in front of your selected animal. You don’t want to hit an animal that you don’t have a tag for!
Your guide will watch your first shot and tell you where to aim if you miss the first shot. Listen to the guide and think about what changes you need to make for second shot. The distance will likely increase.
Most all guided hunts will allow you to shoot once and if you miss, you go home. Wilderness Tracks Outfitters will let you continue to hunt (with the gold option) until the end of season. This is a huge advantage of selecting them as your guided hunt outfitter and why hunters continue to return year after year!
Once an animal is killed, the guides will cease hunting and work to get the downed animal gutted and transported back to the main lodge site. They will hang the animal to cool and age. It is the hunter’s responsibility to get the animals to town where it can be butchered or let you butcher it at the main lodge site. Animal heads can be shoulder or head mounted after being caped or prepared as a European mount. Wilderness Tracks Outfitters maintains priority relationships with overnight butcher shops and taxidermist’s to keep costs down and get priority service.
After you have filled your tag, you are then to be highlighted at the night’s dinner. There is a brief ceremony, known as the “dirty dish rag”. Your get a memento to celebrate filling your tag and you get to eat first until the next hunter fills their tag.
It is as much about the memorable experience as it is about filling your tag and eating that delicious natural grass fed non gmo game meat.
Don’t forget to tip your guide! That is how they are compensated.