I guess that’s what makes one Kansan’s recent hunting trip with his buddy so comical, yet so rewarding.
Tecumseh’s Jim Dultmeier made the trek to Craig, Colo. — a small town in the northwest corner of the state known as the Elk Hunting Capital of the World — with his buddy, Meriden resident Eric Schulz, to seek out elk during the Colorado archery season. Like the state’s deer archery season, the Colorado elk season began Aug. 25 and continues through Sept. 23.
If Jim’s name sounds familiar to you, you may recall reading about the time he found a 100-pound, escaped pet tortoise walking along US-40 highway, which was later returned to its owner. Suffice it to say, Jim’s got some wild stories to tell, and this is just one more.
“We knew it was going to be tough, because it’s been pretty warm out there,” Dultmeier said of the pre-rut conditions in Craig. “It was like 82 degrees, that’s hot elk weather. When we got there, the ranchers were like ‘Well, they’re not talking.’ That’s the last thing you like to hear.”
The Kansans were hunting with a couple friends from the area, who he said also operate a guiding service called Crosswinds Guide Service.
“These guys we went with are buddies of mine, and they’re buddies of his now, too,” Dultmeier said. “I went with one buddy, he went with the other buddy. They went down the four-wheeler trail out on a ridge and walked right into three bulls that were coming up the ridge.
“My buddy did some sexy talking to that bull and that bull just came right on up. Eric shot his at 18 yards and it ran right down the four-wheeler trail and died. How can you do any better than that? If it had dove straight, he’d have been down in the bottom of the canyon.”
All said, Eric had his elk tagged in all of 20 minutes. Dultmeier, who passed up a few little bulls during that first day, said that when his hunt was done they went to help quarter up Eric’s bull and take it up the hill on the Polaris. Since he got his bull so quickly, the guys put Eric on cooking duty and had him spotting for elk with binoculars.
On Sunday night, Eric spotted some bulls on the other side of the canyon, and they decided to make a move. Dultmeier said the elks were in that area because it was difficult to get into, making them safe against predators like bears.
“We walked over there on the top of the ridge above the bulls, and we could hear them fighting below us,” Dultmeier said. “The ridge went down and then it went onto a flat, so they’re on that flat and we come down the hill trying not to make no noise, but it was so hot and the leaves were going crunch, crunch, crunch. We finally decided this is as close as we can get.
“They stayed back and I went forward 20 yards, so when they were elk-calling the bulls would concentrate up the hill and not where I was. So they were calling and calling, and the bulls would were trying to talk a little bit but they weren’t interested. Finally, I don’t know what these guys were saying to these bulls, but they must have started talking dirty talk, because all of a sudden here these bulls come. They must have thought, ‘Hey, we’re going to find out who the new girls are on the hill! These aren’t the old girls, these are new girls!’ ”
The first bull that came out was a nice 6-by-6, but Dultmeier said he was about three seconds too short on his draw and got caught by the elk.
“He caught me pulling back. Well, he runs out there about 30 yards and I was getting ready to shoot him. I was trying to get my pin on him and I just started to get my pin right behind his front shoulder when all of a sudden, the big bull, he let out a bugle. And he’s right in front of the tree.
“I thought, ‘Forget the little bull, I’m going for the big bull. He was facing me a little at an angle, so I aimed right behind his front shoulder and put it straight down into the old engine block into the lungs. So he takes off, and of course he runs 90-miles-an-hour right downhill. And guess where he goes, he goes to the bottom of the canyon.”
Dultmeier, who shot the elk at just 5 yards, said the four of them eventually got down there and quartered him up, then made the walk up to an old four-wheeler trail about 100 yards uphill. They got back to camp and processed the bull, then headed back to Topeka the next day. Dultmeier said he’s been hunting elk in Colorado for about 30 years and has had a chance to shoot a lot of nice bulls with his buddies, who guide in the area. He said he’s also had his fair share of coming home from trips with his tag still in his back pocket.
“It don’t make a very good stew,” he chuckled.
A lot of it is luck, and he said he’s had plenty of strange things happen during hunting trips.
“Last year, I had a big bull at five yards and we were hunting on the ground out of a blind and we didn’t clear the brush out behind, and guess where he’s standing — behind us. I told my buddy, ‘I’ve got to try to get one through.’ And I tried to get one through, and no more than I let go of that arrow I hear ‘ding’ and that’s was it. It went over the top of him. I’m standing there crying and my buddy’s still cow-calling, and here comes another bull running across the top of the hill. I nocked another arrow, he’s out there at 30 yards, so I shot him and it went right into his chest and right through his heart.”
With the grueling nature of elk hunting, Dultmeier said he started to get ready back in July by getting out and walking to get in shape. He said that getting that cardiovascular conditioning was a big key to hunting the hillsides.
“Unless your name is Eric Schulz and 20 minutes into your hunt you shoot one on the four-wheeler trail and it dies on the trail,” he said, laughing. “You don’t have to do nothing, just practice getting out of bed.”
Now that he’s got his elk, Dultmeier is getting ready for deer season back at home. Kansas’ archery deer season begins Sept. 17 and runs through Dec. 31, with the regular firearm season running Nov. 28-Dec. 9 and the early muzzleloader season Sept. 17-30. He’s done some initial scouting, but so far hasn’t seen a lot of big bruisers in his hunting spot.
“I’ve got a lot of does and a lot of small bucks,” Dultmeier said. “Last year, I had some real nice bucks, but they were all nocturnal. We’re still fighting that EHD disease (epizootic hemorrhagic disease), it’s still killing a lot of deer right now. They’re probably still grouped up back there, bachelored up still. Soon as they break up, they’ll start going where the does are.”
The other white meat
In addition to filling his freezer with elk and deer meat — one year he had an elk, a mule deer and a white-tailed deer all taking up space — he also likes to go out and catch crappie on the brushpiles during the fall and does a lot of ice fishing during the winter.
“Last year, me and my brother found some good crappie up at Lake Perry,” he said. “We caught them in the Rock Creek area, we had to only walk out about 150 yards, maybe 200 yards. We’d walk out there, we knew where the brushpiles were, we’d sit on a bucket and get there about 6:30 (a.m.), get out on the ice about quarter to 7, and right at 7 o’clock — right at 7 — they’d start biting. And by 10:30, I’d have my 20, my brother had his 20, and they were from 12 to 14, 15 inches and we were done.
“They’d stop biting at 10:30 and we’d walk back and say, ‘Welp, we’ll see ya in the morning.’ We did that for two months like a job. Boy, did we have a blast.”
Personally, I have a blast just listening to Jim talk about his outdoors experiences. Looking forward to hearing more this fall.