By Patty Wilber
Jim’s elk hunt was last week and we went to Camp Kingsbury in the Cruces Basin in Northern New Mexico.
The camp itself was three miles in on a trail and all the gear (and water) was carried in (and out) by equine. There was a lot of gear!
We took Penny, Lacey and Cometa and they joined nine other four-leggeds that had come in a few days earlier.
Elk hunting at Camp Kingsbury means up at O dark thirty, a quick hot breakfast of oatmeal and coffee in the yellow beams of the propane lanterns, and then heading off in the white light of the LED head lamps (until you can see just enough to avoid major catastrophe–then the lights go off) to where you hope the elk are going to be.
On day one, we loaded Molly mule with a wheel chair and Dave (Richard’s brother to whom said chair belongs) rode Milford (also a mule). Richard claimed I would not need a chain to lead Molly, but as soon as we got her untied, she rolled her eyes at my head lamp and bolted. Very few items fell out of her panniers–at least not any of the important wheel chair parts...not that we could really see much as it was dark anyway.
Molly came back. “ok. over that. i’m good.”
We headed out.
Being able to hunt with people that know that land means being able to hike in the dark without getting lost, getting oriented more quickly and finding elk more easily.
We went directly to Dave’s spot and set him up as the sun appeared on the horizon.
We moved the mules off a ways, gave them black feed bags full of alfalfa pellets and wrapped their dark leads ropes around the white bark of two aspens. I craftily let Richard do the tying. Two hours later, the mules were spotted, feed bags and all, hightailing it straight back to camp. (Plausible deniability for me!)
Meanwhile, while the mules were plotting their escape, we stalked up on a bull in the yellow leaved aspen (we hit the fall colors just perfectly). We were as still as the trees for a while and then, we moved a little too fast and spooked the bull and the two cows.
Regroup and a snack.
While were were camo’d in a shady glen eating string cheese, Hershey’s chocolate and sweet and salty granola bars, a herd bolted into the grove just a few yards away and hesitated. We leapt up (a calculating stealthy bunch aren’t we?) and went for the guns. This convinced the herd to…
re-bolt! At once.
I was beat, from the altitude I guess, so I didn’t go with the hunting party in the afternoon. Instead I helped Amber get some supplies back at the trail head (I rode Lacey), and when we returned to camp, we cut dead branches to fuel the wood stoves. Having a heated bedroom (even if you are sleeping on the floor) was great. Even better if one of your mates does all of the stoking through the night!
We still had to feed and water the stock.
We had everyone (equidly speaking) high-lined –not to be confused with zip-lined–and feed bagged. (Thanks Mom and Dad for the high line kit!)
Then they needed drinks. (No beer for them, but we people did go for a little whiskey.) To get the the whole cavalcade to the water, we kept the two lead mares (Penny and Belle) and two geldings on line and let the other eight free. As soon as we started to the tank (about a 1/4 mile away), Cometa and Lacey broke and ran, NOT toward the water, but off into the gathering gloom. Gathering gloom pretty much described my reaction to those shenanigans. Fingers crossed the on-line lead mares will call them home.
The by the time we had our seven-strong homebody-herd at the tank, the five mavericks were happily finishing and Cometa and Lacey high-stepped to the tank’s berm. Cometa was the ring leader. Messing with my head.
It was dark now and hard to see much in the moon light except shadows, but as we got close to the camp, Penny started calling and within moments I heard galloping hooves on the edge of the herd and Cometa and Lacey unmelted from the dark into their solid selves!
It is amazing that they know she is the lead mare even though at home they are never penned together or even nose to nose across a fence line. Four hours in the trailer can be a bonding experience!.
Once we got back, and they were all hooked to the high-lines, we brushed our teeth and hit the nice warm sack to dream…yeah ok I dreamed but I also tossed and turned a lot. I am sorry, but a thermarest is NOT as comfortable as my bed at home.
Tune in next week for the riveting conclusion to Camp Kingsbury. Do we actually get any elk? What have bears got to do with it? Can Lacey pack meat? (if we got any elk that is) and What got into Ben?