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I like elk

When I was 14 my father bought some ground in Colorado. His goal was to raise black Angus cattle up there—it was 1954 and nobody from Texas had ever transported that breed to Colorado. It was a common thought that the Angus were not bred to stand cold weather. He hired a man from our town of Groom, Texas to run the ranch. His son Jim was four years younger than me and we hunted everything — rabbit, deer, pheasants, elk and we caught brook trout in the stream crossing the ranch.

It was a piece of heaven to be there in the summer to fish and then hunt in the fall. Jim eventually got his outfitters license and after graduating from Colorado State he managed water for the state of Colorado and ran a successful outfitting business. At 19 he was the youngest outfitter in Colorado and at age 64 he was the oldest active outfitter in the state. I joined him for many hunts and could bore you with stories far longer than you would tolerate. He died from colon cancer a few years ago and a cowboy funeral took him to the ranch where he eternally watches the mountains where we hunted. I miss him. Get your colonoscopy without fail — don’t leave your friends any sooner than is necessary. Colorado cowboys are not particularly health-conscious.

We hunted elk. We hunted elk harder than I can describe. We froze almost to death in many snow storms at 10-12,000 feet. We slept in bags in minus 20 degree weather. We ate pop tarts and jerky for days and melted snow for water. We managed horses and mules and hunters and rodeos (two mules with full packs going on each side of a tree is a REAL rodeo) and lost critters and hunters—including ourselves at times. We didn’t have cell phones or GPS. It was a glorious time that has infected me all my life. I have dined on elk meat most of my life. I am blessed to have friends in Wyoming that allow and help me hunt now. The sound of the elk herd on the alfalfa meadows takes my breath. Watching huge bulls struggle for breeding rights is a sight that not enough people ever get to see. Elk are mystical and religious. I hope I never get too old to not be able to see or hunt them. Success truly is the hunt, the friends, the joy and the always elusive Wapiti. I  hope you all can have the pleasure of seeing an elk herd on the move at some point in your life. You will never forget it.

Here in Kansas, teal season is on us. The Bottoms are humming with eager hunters and birds are plentiful. New gravel in parking lots is a huge help. You can also hunt snipe in the shallow water. Make sure you have all your stamps and license — it’s all online and get your Federal stamp at KWEC. A slice of bacon around a onion/jalapeno-dressed teal breast is to die for. Don’t forget your mosquito dope or they will carry you off. Enjoy our marsh and if you are from out-of-town—please know that we are REALLY glad you are here!

Doctor Dan Witt is a retired physician and nature enthusiast.