- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 3, 2004

For Bob Troup and his hunting friends, the first day at the 8,500-foot elevation Douglass Pass in the Colorado Rockies dawned clear and cool.

“The temperature was in the low 50s,” said Troup, a general contractor from Seabrook, Md. “We dressed in camouflage clothing, had some cereal and coffee and prepared for our elk hunt.”

Elk. Great big ones.

With a bow yet. Some hunters have trouble taking one of these huge animals with a gun — never mind a bow.

Troup and five others from the East had booked the hunt with the 4A Mountain Outfitters, run by Aaron Dembowski of Rangely, Colo. Dembowski also owns a ranch in the high country that draws hunters from all over.

The way Dembowski operates, each hunter gets his own guide. In Troup’s case, it was a grizzled, long-time elk professional, 62-year-old Abe Meline.

“We drove seven or eight miles by pickup truck, arriving in the area we were to hunt around 6:30 a.m.,” recalled Troup, who said the rarified mountain air took some getting used to.

“We started walking through a bit of sagebrush toward a canyon and immediately saw four mule deer bucks. Boy, my adrenaline was pumping. Then we reached a dense stand of pines that the locals refer to as dark timber. We spotted elk signs everywhere — broad walking trails, elk droppings, tree rubs where the bulls had shredded the bark with their antlers.”

Meline, who owns the Abe & Sons Game Call Co., started calling the elk, first making the sounds of a cow, then a calf, telling Troup, “It’s herd talk.” But then Meline switched to another call that chillingly reproduced the male elk’s bugling.

“It’ll give you goose bumps,” said Troup.

Meline got the answer he was waiting for. From across the canyon, a bull elk cut loose with a challenging call. The hunt now entered the serious stage.

What Easterners generally are not aware of is the elk’s extreme sensitivity to strange odors. Troup swears it’s as bad or worse than with a spooky whitetailed deer.

“Meline used a clever gadget to let him know which way the scent would travel so we could avoid being detected,” said Troup. “It was a small aerosol spray gizmo called Smoke in a Bottle that, when pushed, emitted a tiny stream of odor-free dust. It would instantly tell him from which direction the wind blew.”

The scent question settled, from across the canyon the guide and Troup now spotted a whole herd of elk.

“At least 30,” remembered the Marylander. “And they started running downhill toward us.”

Once on the hunter’s hillside, the elk stopped just below Troup near a small canyon opening. Meline, using one of his own calls, began to bugle again and instantly received an answer. He told Troup to move ahead of him and get ready. For Troup, getting ready meant nocking a high-tech arrow with a hand-sharpened broadhead on a 70-pound draw weight compound bow.

Without warning, the herd changed direction and moments later stood directly above Troup and the guide. They were no more than 30 yards away, and a big bull elk was among them.

“I thought I’d be nervous, but I wasn’t,” said Troup. “I was too worried about placing a good shot. But there was too much brush between us and the animals. Meline, who really knows his stuff, started scuffing the soles of his cleated football shoes against some logs. It sounded just like the clicking made by a deer’s hooves when it scampers across a hard surface.”

Meline now made a “lost calf” call, a forlorn bleat. Two elk cows responded. The guide bugled once more, and the bull that stood concealed near Troup must have worried that the cows might fall to the charms of another male. He began to follow his harem girls.

“The bull came by me about 27 long steps away. When he stopped, I let my arrow go,” said Troup, who then mentioned matter of factly that the arrow destroyed the elk’s lungs. He ran 100 yards or so, then bedded down and never arose.

“He weighed 600-odd pounds,” said Troup who was exhausted but elated with his success. His elk was described as a 6X6, a 12-pointer in Eastern parlance.

Incidentally, Troup’s brother, Glenn, shot a large cow, subscribing to the old adage that you can’t eat antlers. A friend, Lee Zimmerman, also got a fine 6X6 bull. The others in the party missed bulls so had no complaints.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday, and his Fishing Report on Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com.

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