It was the first split of the 2017 rifle elk season in Colorado. My father-in-law Charlie and I had gone on a semi-guided Colorado elk hunt four years earlier and were itching to go again. This time, we would be hunting with Tom Tucker of Buford Guide Service just outside Meeker. Gregg (above photo, right), who was a member of my father-in-law’s hunting camp, would be going with us. This was his first elk hunt.
Over the summer, we learned that the three of us all drew bull tags for the unit in which we would be hunting. I exchanged several phone calls and emails with our guide, Tom, to discuss the details of the hunt and what we would need to bring. Each time that I got more information, I would relay that to Charlie and Gregg so that they were tracking as well.
During one of the phone conversations I had with Gregg about the upcoming hunt, we began to talk about what guns we would be using. It was at that time I first learned about a rifle that Gregg’s father had won in a members-only raffle held by the Jefferson Sportsmen’s Association in Codorus, Pa. The gun was a Winchester Model 70 in .300 Win. Mag. with a 26-inch barrel. The Sportsmen’s Association commissioned Baron Technology to adorn it with custom engraving. The receiver had detailed accent marks, and the magazine floorplate had the image of a bull elk in gold inlay. The stock of the gun bore the logo of the Jefferson Sportsmen’s Association. This rifle was tailor-made for elk hunting. Describing it in writing really does not do it justice.
I understood the significance of that rifle immediately. You see, Gregg’s father, Ed, passed away two years earlier at the age of 74, and he never got the opportunity to take the rifle on an elk hunt. Gregg told me that his mom gave him the Model 70 for Christmas the year prior, but asked him not to shoot it until after she had passed away. After hearing all of this, I asked Gregg to speak with his mom about it again and explain to her that his dad would have wanted him to take that gun to Colorado. As it turned out, however, Gregg had already asked for an exception to that request.
When his mom heard that we had drawn our elk permits, she didn’t hesitate one bit.
“Yes, go ahead and use it,” she said.
October finally came. Gregg and Charlie drove Gregg’s truck from Pennsylvania to Denver and picked me up at the airport. It would be another five hours of driving to the camp. When we exited I-70 to head north through Rifle, Colo., we noticed quite a bit of noise coming from the truck’s front end. We stopped at a local service station in Rifle and came to find out that both front wheel bearings were shot. We feared for the worst, but the fine folks at Ken’s Pit Stop were able to replace the parts and had us back on the road three hours later. We made it to camp in plenty of time for the season opener. Someone was definitely looking out for us.
On the evening of the second day of the hunt, all of the pieces fell into place. Gregg, who was on his first elk hunt with his Dad’s elk gun, connected with a beautiful 6x6 bull. My father-in-law and I got the news via text message. Standing in the cold darkness under a Colorado starlit sky, the deep meaning of what had just happened was apparent and appreciated by all.
The next morning, the guide put me on the same stand that Gregg was on the night before. At around 7:45 a.m., I made a 330-yard shot on my bull, and he went straight down. Someone was obviously looking out for me, too.
It was the hunt of a lifetime in so many ways, and I’m just glad that I was a part of it.
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