Wilderness Elk Hunt

  It's that time of year when we all remind ourselves what we're thankful for.  I've gotten in the habit of picking and focusing on just one thing.  This year experience popped into my head.  There are three definitions in the dictionary and I'm talking about the last two.  1) The knowledge that you get from life and from being in a lot of different situations.  2) Something that happens to you, or a situation that you are involved in.

  This year I chose to showcase one of my favorite experiences from the year, the elk hunt.

So begins the photos from my week covering an elk hunting trip near Trappers Lake in Colorado. The horse in front of me is carrying my bags. This later became my favorite horse. He was getting on in years, had no back teeth and was incredibly slow. The boys called him The Palimino until I named him Peanut.  #kaylinngilstrapphoto #thewest#intothewild #wildernesscamping#packingitin #gettingaround #peanut

So begins the photos from my week covering an elk hunting trip near Trappers Lake in Colorado. The horse in front of me is carrying my bags. This later became my favorite horse. He was getting on in years, had no back teeth and was incredibly slow. The boys called him The Palimino until I named him Peanut.  #kaylinngilstrapphoto #thewest#intothewild #wildernesscamping#packingitin #gettingaround #peanut

I originally thought I would show the images that 5280 magazine didn't use but they published all my favorites!  So instead I'm showing my favorite instagram photos from the trip and one story I heard while I was out there.

This was the view from our campsite looking up valley. It was about a two hour horseback ride from the trucks. This was the point where I realized why I'm uncomfortable camping how most people do it. In Colorado it's relatively easy to find a spot where you are completely alone. I saw two other hunters in a week and that's when we were headed out of camp back to the trucks. This is what I'm used to. Not seeing anyone for as long as you desire.  #kaylinngilstrapphoto #thewest#intothewild #wildernesscamping#elkhunting

This was the view from our campsite looking up valley. It was about a two hour horseback ride from the trucks. This was the point where I realized why I'm uncomfortable camping how most people do it. In Colorado it's relatively easy to find a spot where you are completely alone. I saw two other hunters in a week and that's when we were headed out of camp back to the trucks. This is what I'm used to. Not seeing anyone for as long as you desire.  #kaylinngilstrapphoto #thewest#intothewild #wildernesscamping#elkhunting

One night as we all relaxed in the tent, warming our hands and feet over the stove, Uncle Hal told me the story of the Golden Bull.  Over fifteen years ago my grandfather came on this trip, while he was in his seventies.  While up on the flat top, near a knob, he saw a flash of golden color and as his eyes came into focus, he saw a bull with golden fur and a red mane.  He didn't get that bull that day.  In fact, the hunters on this trip tracked him for years, only catching glimpses of him through the trees and adding story after story of the Golden Bull evading them.  

My hands after assisting putting quarters in game bags, then carrying them to a tree and hanging them for air circulation. I've gotten my hands dirty before but this is the first time I've had blood on them from a photo shoot. There is a moment of reckoning where the animal becomes meat. In that moment there is sorrow but it is quickly replaced with respect for the sacrifice that will feed five families this winter.   #thewest #elkhunting#getyourhandsdirty #wildernesscamping#kaylinngilstrapphoto

My hands after assisting putting quarters in game bags, then carrying them to a tree and hanging them for air circulation. I've gotten my hands dirty before but this is the first time I've had blood on them from a photo shoot. There is a moment of reckoning where the animal becomes meat. In that moment there is sorrow but it is quickly replaced with respect for the sacrifice that will feed five families this winter.   #thewest #elkhunting#getyourhandsdirty #wildernesscamping#kaylinngilstrapphoto

Six years passed before Hal got a clean shot. At that point, he was a six point bull and had no teeth left. They estimated he was about 12 years old and wouldn't have survived another winter. Hal spoke about the bull like a worthy adversary and did say he was a little sad when they finally got him. The hunt for the Golden Bull was over.

This is Woody. He is a very tall horse that required me finding a stump, rock, helping hand, whatever I could to crawl on his back. He was my mode of transportation for 3 of the 7 days hunting and camping. He delivered me across many miles and crazy switchbacks I just pretended didn't exist. I requested a Shetland pony for next year.   #woody#wildernesscamping #elkhunting#kaylinngilstrapphoto #thewest #horse

This is Woody. He is a very tall horse that required me finding a stump, rock, helping hand, whatever I could to crawl on his back. He was my mode of transportation for 3 of the 7 days hunting and camping. He delivered me across many miles and crazy switchbacks I just pretended didn't exist. I requested a Shetland pony for next year.   #woody#wildernesscamping #elkhunting#kaylinngilstrapphoto #thewest #horse

Now the story within the story is that knob where my Granddad Jack first saw the Golden Bull was renamed, Jack's Knob.  Here I was, two years after my grandfather passed, riding by that hill nearly everyday.  I never knew it was named after him and I never knew or paid attention to him attending this trip.  A lump formed in my throat and tears welled up.  The rest of the trip I kept looking around thinking that I was laying eyes on the same scenes my Granddad had, all those years ago.  Even though death separates us, up in the Flat Tops I felt a new connection to him.  I wouldn't give up that experience for anything.

This is the last photo I snapped before getting to my car and heat and indoor plumbing and a shower after a week. This is the only man made structure I saw besides our tent in the area.  #elkhunting #wildernesscamping#thewest #kaylinngilstrapphoto

This is the last photo I snapped before getting to my car and heat and indoor plumbing and a shower after a week. This is the only man made structure I saw besides our tent in the area.  #elkhunting #wildernesscamping#thewest #kaylinngilstrapphoto

If you're in Colorado, do yourself a favor and pick of the November issue of 5280 magazine.  That story really is something to see in print!  Thank you so much to the team there for doing such a fantastic job with it.

You can also follow me on Instagram as KaylinnG.