The Elk Perch: Day Two

Steve Johnson

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Written by: Old Pole: The second morning of the official elk hunt had as high of expectations as we did on day one. The first day I followed a trail I didn't know I could find and walked farther and higher and spent more time in a Rocky Mountain Wind Tunnel than anybody else in the camp. And it was fun. I saw a ton of elk that first day, but during this late season cow hunt, I didn't have any that were in the range of my comfort level. So the second day, I was determined I was going to find the best cow in the herd, let the air out of it, and put her flat out in the knee deep snow. That is until I got out of bed.

You see, I got up and my head felt a little on the fuzzy side. The guys were all up already, telling me to get moving. I walked around in the cabin for a few minutes trying to get my bearings and clear my head. Then my stomach started to churn. I told the guide I didn't feel quite right, and he offered me a glass of water. Before I could grab the glass, I charged outside, in my flannel pajama pants, t-shirt, wool socks, and no shoes. I leaned on the picnic table outside in ankle deep snow trying to heave my guts out. Unfortunately my stomach was empty, and all it did was cause me pain. That's an eventful way to spend your first five minutes awake. I made it back to the cabin, changed my socks, and put my boots on. I was pretty sure this scenario wasn't over. I was right. Fever. Chills. Splitting headache. Tired. Nausea to the point of almost dislocating ribs. I’ve dislocated ribs before doing other things. Puking almost did it this morning. Five or six more time I made that trip to the picnic table that morning. The questions started….”What did you eat?” Nothing that everyone else didn't eat. “Did you drink the water out of the creek?” Not a chance on that. “You got the flu?” It didn't really feel like the flu. You see, the first ten minutes of this ordeal, I thought I was gonna die. The next ten minutes, I knew I was gonna die. The next three hours, I wished I was gonna die. That's the most awful sick I’ve ever had in my life. Bar none. Pick the worst case of flu you have ever had, and multiply it by bakers dozen.

The guide's hired hand made the comment that it could be altitude, or elevation sickness. I’d never heard of such a thing, and thought he was making a joke. The guys were trying to get out hunting, and my condition stabilized a little. I told them all to go get out hunting and guiding. I kept the two-way radio close, and the guide and his hand checked on me via radio regularly. They came back after the hunting crew was all dropped off. I slowly drank water, and went through a half-dozen packets of Alka-Seltzer just to settle my stomach. I took all the ibuprofen I could handle without giving myself an ulcer. I ate four saltine crackers for breakfast around 9:30. Believe it or not, that was as full as I needed to be. By noon I could stand up without getting dizzy. Around 1 o’clock, I felt pretty good and almost normal; whatever that may or may not be. I drank probably a gallon of water that morning. I found an article in one of the coffee table magazines about altitude sickness. Without any doubt in my mind whatsoever, I had nasty case of it. After lunch the guide asked if I wanted to hunt a little. I paid good money to come here and hunt, and by golly wasn't going to let a little something like this keep me down.

Ole the guide offered me an ATV and gave an easy route up the mountain and told me a spot I could find easily and watch over a valley. I drove up the hill, taking my time and enjoying the scenery. I figured I had 3 or 4 hours to hunt. I parked the wheeler, and walked about 150 yards farther up the hill and found myself a good scrub oak I could use for a backrest, and a perfect rock that my feet propped up against. This was a Rocky Mountain Lazy Boy. I had confidence in the spot, as I found several sets of elk tracks on the way up. Some heading into the valley. About a half hour after I got there, I saw a coyote nosing around and chewing on something. I watched him for a few minutes and he meandered off. I never did figure out what he was eating. I looked west and saw a snow cloud coming that was dead even with me. In seconds, I was literally in the clouds. I’d never seen a mountain snowstorm before, and I was pretty sure I was in the front row of the show. The two-way radios went off. “Pack ‘er up boys; you better start heading for camp. Sounds like she's gonna get tough!” I headed for the wheeler. By the time I got there and cased my rifle, there was 3-4 inches of fresh snow. It was coming hard. I made my way to camp, and checked my watch. I was out of the cabin for 2 hours, and I got to hunt for about 45 minutes. That storm hit with about 2 solid hours of daylight left. When it hit, the daylight disappeared in minutes. Every body made it off the hill. It took longer that it should have, but all of us flatlanders found our way back.

I’m glad I got to see that storm. I got me out of the house, as I was beginning to suffer from a case of cabin fever as well as the elevation sickness. The storms are a lot more impressive when you’re in them.

I drank another ton of water that night at the camp. My elevation sickness research in the magazine on the coffee table said water was a cure, as well as a preventative measure. The next time I go to the mountains to hunt, I’m gonna attempt to drink gallons of water a day for a couple of days before I even leave for the trip. My appetite for the most part came back that evening, and as I recall, I was pretty hungry. I’m pretty sure we had bacon wrapped pheasant and I know I ate my share. A hunter has to get fueled up for day number three, because one never knows what lies ahead.

Posted by Steve Johnson under Hunting on January 30, 09 08:27 AM | Permalink

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