Rocky Mountain Outfit — American Mountain Men (AMM) party of Colorado

Aux Aliment du Pays and an Elk to Boot

by Steve Chin
Posted August 5th, 2013

A nice big rainbow trout

And another rainbow

A few acorns

The green thing


Cattail shoots

Beaver swimming in Slide Lake

The sun going down

As part of my elk hunt during September 2012 in the Kannah Creek Basin I dedicated the first three days to complete my Aux Aliments du Pays requirement. As my hunting partner had obligations at work for the first weekend of the season this would be a perfect time to complete this requirement. On Friday morning the 7th of September I saddled up my mule, Sage and put a pack saddle on Candy, my horse. The ride to Slide Lake was uneventful and I arrived in good time. The weather was clear and warm, no sign of any moisture in the air. This summer being rather dry I was surprised to find Cotton Creek completely dry, something I have never witnessed in the last 12 years of hunting in this basin. The small creek where I camp was also dry meaning I would have to travel about a hundred yards to get water for myself and the stock. On the ride in I notice that there were no berries and few acorns or rose hips due to the lack of moisture this year.

I decided not to set up a shelter the first day due to there being no sign of rain or snow. After getting the stock situated on a high-line, I went down to the lake to find that it was as full as usual, and the fish were jumping all over the place. This year there was little moss on top of the lake so I thought the fishing would be good. I set out to catch some grasshoppers for bait and soon had a small one which I put on a forged hook tied to waxed linen thread. With a little help from a lead weight and a cork float I cast my line as far as I could from the beaver dam at the end of the lake. It didn't take long before I had a nice sized brook trout on shore. I cut a small willow branch and made a stringer out of it to hold my dinner. I caught another grasshopper, which were quite abundant, and as quick as I tossed out my line had another fine rainbow trout. Believing that I would not starve tonight I wrapped up my fishing line and cleaned the trout which were full of eggs. I pulled some cattails on the way back to camp to eat with my fish. There was plenty of stinging nettle around but I don't cotton to the results when handling the stuff so I let it be. I skewered the trout with a green aspen branch and cooked them over the fire. The tender roots of the cattails were eaten raw, pretty bland but not too bad. After dinner I loaded my rifle for the morning hunt and tucked it inside my bed roll to keep any moisture off of it.

Morning arrived clear and warm, the moon was bight throughout the night and it was difficult to keep track of the hour. I decided to hunt a small pond about a half mile above camp, or at least go see if there was any water in it. When I arrived, I found the pond was full so I took a seat in some scrub oak on a hill overlooking it. I could hear a few distant elk bugling but it was apparent that the rut had not yet started. I was looking at several herds of elk on the other side of the basin about a mile or two away when I heard some splashing in the water. I turned and could not see anything so I surmised that it must have been some of the ducks that frequent the pond. I returned to watching the elk and heard a slurping sound in the water again. I turned my head for another peak with the same results. I went back to watching the elk and when I turned around a fine chocolate colored black bear with a blond color around his neck and face was walking along the far edge of the pond. He must have come in to the inlet of the pond which was around a blind corner from where I was sitting for a drink. The bear was not aware of my presence so I took my time and took a solid rest from a sitting position. I thumbed back my lock and set the trigger. When the bear stopped walking I settled the front site behind his shoulder and touched the trigger. Through the smoke I saw no reaction from the bear other than to be high tailing it out of town through the thick brush. After reloading, I went to where the bear was when I shot and could not see any sign of a hit. I went to where the bear broke through the brush and found several trails he could have taken. I followed each trail for about 100 yards or until the trail disappeared and could not locate any blood. The shot being only around 80 yards I was confident I could not have missed. I went back to the pond for another look and as I was walking I glanced at my rifle and saw that the front sight was bent. I had not noticed this earlier and am not sure when it happened as I had sighted my rifle in prior to leaving home. I carry a pair of forged pliers in my shooting bag so I straightened the sight out as best I could and returned to camp.

On the return to camp, I picked up a few acorns and when I say few, I mean few as the bears have been pulling down the oaks and stripping them clean because there are no berries or other such food for them this year. Back at camp, I ate a few of the acorns after peeling the outer skin. I find that I like the greener acorns better than the ripe brown ones but this year I could not be choosey. I went back to the lake around noon and saw the fish rising toward the inlet of Sheep Creek. There being a sand bar out toward the middle of the lake and toward the inlet, I rolled up by pants and waded out to try my luck. I found a green caterpillar or grub looking thing that was almost a florescent looking green that I put on my hook for a try. No luck with the green thing so back to grasshoppers which caught my meal for the day.

That evening I hunted the opposite side of the basin and bumped a bear at close quarters who woofed at me then took off at high speed never to be seen again. No elk tonight but I was able to check out some new country to me. As I was heading back to camp I saw a cow moose making her way down to the lake. This was very exciting to me as I have never seen a moose in this basin before. After another fish dinner it was to bed under a clear and starry sky.

Sunday morning I rose and decided to go back to the pond again. As I started up the hill I ran smack dab into a cow and calf elk walking straight toward me. The elk being a bit faster than me, made a quick "U" turn and were in the thick brush before I could draw a bead on either one of them. Nothing more today other than some grouse but I decided not to shoot for fear of spooking any nearby elk.

I had fish again for dinner along with some cattails and a few acorns. My hunting partner would arrive tomorrow and I could have some coffee and some "proper" food. No elk tonight and I went to bed without even making a fire. This would end my three days of Aux Aliments du Pays, not bad but could have been better if there had been a berry crop this year.

Monday morning arrived and I decided to hunt an area that produced a bear and elk a few years back. Nothing moving but the bulls were becoming more active and pushing the cows some. I watched a couple of bulls across the basin pushing each other around for awhile before I headed back to camp. Around noon my hunting partner, Jeff, arrived with fresh vittles and I wasted no time in cooking up some bacon and eggs. The evening hunt was unproductive other than seeing several elk at a distance. We ate dinner around the campfire and planning for the mornings hunt, then to bed.

Tuesday arrived with a few clouds and the elk being more active through the night as we could hear several of them bugling. We hunted on a ridge across the lake where we had been seeing elk from a distance. This morning we saw elk again at about 500 yards and moving away uphill. We let them go as the brush was too thick and dry to try and sneak up on a whole herd but decided to position ourselves a bit higher this evening.

As the afternoon came on, so did the clouds, and with it a genuine thunderstorm with lots of rain. I decided this would make a good camp day and decided to stay dry. The rain continued through the night and I decided I deserved to sleep in on Wednesday morning.

The rain finally stopped in the early afternoon so we decided to get out for a hunt that evening. The sky still threatening to unload on us, we decided to hunt near the trail so we could get back to camp quickly if the rain came. As we were sitting on some game trails that night the elk really started opening up down toward Kannah Creek. Knowing that the brush was so thick and wet as to make any travel toward the elk near impossible, I talked Jeff into going with me anyway. What do you call someone who does something they know they shouldn't? STUPID! About half way through the scrub oak toward Kannah Creek the rain started with a vengeance. Here we were stuck in the oaks, branches bulling at every piece of clothing we had, getting soaked. As we fought our way down the hill I saw an elk across the river. Jeff decided he should try a shot and sent some lead at the elk. I watched as the elk ran up hill unscathed.

There were some big pine trees near the creek so we headed that way for some shelter and so Jeff could reload. The pines were growing on a near vertical bank about 40 feet above the river. As I was trying to get under a tree my feet slipped in the mud and I was on my way down. If not for a small root that I could grab I'm sure I would have fallen the entire way to the rocky creek. There I lay in the mud and look over at Jeff who is secure under a nice pine tree and he's laughing hysterically at me. I couldn't help but start laughing myself. After Jeff got his rifle reloaded we decided we better force our way back through the brush and get back to camp. When we finally arrived at the trail, sweating and soaking wet, we heard some cow elk calling fairly close by. Since we were already wet we decided to try and call them in. I went and found a place to sit and checked the prime in my rifle. Mud and powder don't make a good mix so I decided to give up the evening hunt and made my way back to camp.

Thursday morning it was back across the lake to an area that had previously been a land slide, this being the reason we call the lake "Slide Lake." Again I could see several elk in the distant but nothing close enough for a stalk. During the afternoon while sitting back at camp we saw several elk in an area that I had never hunted before. The elk seemed to just disappear as we were watching them and we assumed it was due to the thick brush. We hiked over to where the elk were and discovered two deep drainages with running water. What had looked like fairly flat country from camp became thick brush with deep ravines. No wonder the elk could just disappear here. The wind was not right to sit in this area and not wanting to spook the elk, we headed back to camp. On the way back to camp that night I stepped out to cross the beaver dam and a beaver slapped the water right at my feet giving me quite a startle. I stood there and watched him swim away and then saw three more in the lake.

Thursday evening we decided to make our way up to an area that has been very productive in the past called "Demaline Draw." The evening was silent, but as I looked back at the slide, I saw two elk in the same area that we saw them this morning.

Friday morning I decided to hunt a basin near the pond. Again the elk were bugling and moving around but nothing close enough for a shot. It was back to camp for breakfast and a nap. Tonight I would take the long way around and hunt the elk we had been seeing from the other side.

On Friday evening I took the trail about a mile around and started into the brush. About 15 minutes into my slow hunt I jumped two cow elk. The first one started running away from me and the second got to her feet and made one jump before the ball from my rifle struck her mid back bringing her down. It wasn't a great shot but broke her back. I reloaded and put her down for good. As night was approaching I quickly skinned and quartered her, hung the quarters on some brush to cool and took the back straps back to camp.

Saturday morning we took two horses around and after ferrying the meat across one of the creeks in a deep ravine on our shoulders, we loaded up the horses and headed back to camp. The brush being so thick we had trouble finding a way to get the horses out and somewhere in the process lost the hide. After about two hours of fighting the brush we made to the trail and back to camp. We took a leisurely lunch then packed up camp and headed for the trail head.

It had been a good hunt and it was good to get away. On Sunday we butchered the elk and got her in the freezer. At least for now I've got meat for the winter.