The Old Man With The Most Heart

I have spent a large portion of my life being an outdoor guide. Hunting, fishing, gold panning, etc,etc. This particular year I was in Colorado guiding elk hunters. But I digress. It was an overcast October afternoon, three other guides and I anxiously awaited our new batch of hunters fresh in from all over the country. So as we stand around the dialog goes something like this. Me: What do you think we are going to get this time? Greg: Oh I hope they are better than the last group. Paul: You mean you don't like the road hunting with Rolly Poly Oly hour. Greg: It's not that. It's just I am sick of lazy folks who want it given to them. Me: It could always be worse. Oh look they are coming up the road.
As 6 or 7 trucks and SUV's came up the road to the small gathering of rustic looking cabins, settled in a high mountain valley with a small stream meandering through the bottoms, full of small cutthroat trout, and beaver. As they came through the gate we caught our first glimpse of what was to come.
As guides when the clients step out you can tell a lot about them.
There was the three friends in their thirties, with new boots, clothes, rifles the works. This is a nightmare as a guide. It means blisters due not broken in boots. Unfamiliarity with a rifle means less confidence. aka more misses. New clothes and packs equal noisy. These hunters also always "know" more than the local guide they paid thousands of dollars to utilize.
There was the Two grossly overweight middle aged gentlemen. This is bad because hiking is out, and the risk of heart attack and altitude sickness go up up up with poor fitness. not to mention clumsy because of the weight.
Then there was "Jack". Jack was an unusual sight at a premier hunting camp. Not because he was 72 which he was. But because he arrived in a 70s chevy truck which was not restored it was rusty and a wonder it made it all the way from Alabama. As he got out he was in military style bdu's old and well worn, very old but well taken care of boots and well used all be it small for elk .270 win. with an old Leopold scope. His gear was well used and he was soft spoken with an air of knowledge and life lived.
We began our walk down to John the outfitter to get our packets, which will tell us our hunters and canyon assignments. I get my packet open it and low and behold It says Jack. I see the age and I know which is my hunter. I must admit some apprehension all due to his age.
So I go down and introduce myself it goes like this. Hi Jack, my name is Earl and I am going to be your guide for the next 5 days. So Jack what would you like to get out of this hunt? How do you prefer to hunt? Do you have a preference of looking for elk or deer first? Jack: Well son (he always called me son, but strangely it was okay coming from him) I am from Alabama I have spent the last 62 years hunting whitetails on my families land. This is my first time hunting anywhere else. I have seen movies and read an awful lot on hunting Elk, and mule deer. but that is all books. So I really want to have a good time in new country while looking for an elk. A deer would be great but I would really like to experience elk hunting. As far as preference I do not know how to hunt elk, so I will not pretend to. I am her to hunt and have a good time. So son its your show you are the guide...
At this statement I am utterly blown away by how humble and warm this guy is. So I say: Jack we're going to have a great time buddy and hopefully we can find you that elk you want. Jack: That would be great. Oh and son. Dont think you need to take it easy on me because I am old. Me: We will have a great time. I promise you that.
End day 1
Day 2 began as days do when you guide at 3am. Me: Damn guys 3am is awful early today. Greg: At least your not the cook. That poor bastard has been up for an hour already. Paul: errmrapgphagedieifhdkjehdcbh **** its early. Me: Right? Well I am gonna Grab my breakfast and get mine and my hunters lunches ready. Greg: Why do you do that? Me: Do what? Greg: Get your hunters lunch ready. You know they are supposed to get their own. Me: Ya I know that, but I like to do those extra things. Why do you think I get the big tips. Greg: Well it's either that or your good looks. (while hitting me in the ribs) ha ha Me: Sorry I try. See you guys this evening.
Around 4:30 I went to wake up Jack quietly to get a head start on everyone else. Me: Jack it's time to get up I have your breakfast and lunch. You just need to get your stuff get up and meet me at the jeep. Jack: Okay son see you there.
As Jack walked up to the jeep in the fading moonlight of that bitter autumn morning, I could not help but notice that he walked happy with almost a spring in his step. He was doing something that he loved you could tell. While loading the Jeep I ask so what brings you on a guided hunt? Jack: Well I have always loved hunting since I was a boy. I had always read the stories about HUNTING OUT WEST!!! and all the adventure to be had I have wanted to come out my entire life. So for the last 20 years I have worked and saved and saved and worked so I can come on this hunt. Me: That's awesome. I will do what I can to make sure you have a great time. But it will be hard work. These mountains are steep and tall. Jack: What is the plan for this morning? Me: We are going to go into canyon 18 and skirt the ridge to the top where we can overlook the meadows, and wallows. We can listen if they are talking we can call them but if they are silent we will be there to see em'. If no elk we will be on the ridge where we can access all the other canyons. Plus the ridge tops are amazing places to catch big mulies transitioning. Jack: sounds like a plan. Hey son how long have you been hunting?
Me: Well I have been Hunting deer and elk since I was 14. But I have been learning to Hunt since 2yrs of age. When my Dad carried me in a baby backpack. I have been guiding since 16. What do you do Jack? Well I have done lots of things. I was in the ARMY for the war. I worked logging in my home state. I worked for the power company. And I have worked for the county for 40 some odd years.
Me: Wow that is a long time at a job. We are here. Lets get our stuff and head out. Jack: Alright.
So out of the Jeep we go. As we ascend the mountain the going is slow. But its okay we left plenty early. :) As we near the point where we are going to stop I say we are almost here lets be really quiet and listen well for elk talk. As we approach I can hear cow elk mewing. We stay low and quiet and approach the tree line. As a group of about 20 elk meander in front of us we realize there are no bulls. So we observe and interact slightly with elk calls until they bust us and wander off. Then we move to the sun to warm up, and eat lunch.
At lunch he tells me of his children he lost one in a car accident and you can tell it weighed heavy on him. He was happy and excited when he spoke of his grandchildren. You could tell he was a proud man who loved his family and life. We finished lunch and made a big loop back to the jeep to conclude day 2.
This story is long so I will conclude it in the next couple days.

tekers tekers
26-30, M
May 15, 2012