It had been a long, hard day in the backcountry. My wife and I had been riding, chasing elk, riding some more, chasing some more elk, and then riding some more. We were finally headed back to camp and were looking forward to smashing down our pork chops and corn on the cob that our horses had so kindly carried to camp for us. We had to cross a big alpine pass and drop into the next drainage to our camp and had 45 minutes or so left to ride when our saddle horses perked up and started looking off in the distance. We noticed two blaze orange clad figures not far from us, in the direction we were headed. One older gentleman had his pack on the ground and was sitting on it, his head tipped down slightly, staring at the ground and looking tired. My wife and I decided that we had a minute to chat, so chat we did. We learned that these two folks were father and son and were out hunting mule deer, the elder sporting an early timberline rifle tag and the younger with a muzzleloader tag. The older gentleman had used over a decade worth of preference points to draw this tag as a nonresident (they were out from Pennsylvania) and it pained me to inform them that they had hiked into one of the least ideal mule deer areas in the entire unit. They looked at me as if they were trying to figure out if I was just trying to move them off so that I could have the area to myself or if by some chance, I was actually telling them the truth. While it is a fact than many folks will definitely lie to you to get you out of "their" basin or hunting area, I was being absolutely truthful with these gentlemen.
As our conversation progressed, I realized how hard these two buck hunters had been getting after it in the days prior to this one. They told me the areas that they had checked out and packed in and out of, and none of them were what I would call easy. And here I was, standing next to my trusty old saddle horse with a stack of pork chops, ears of corn, and a woodstove waiting for me a short ride away telling these folks that not only did they waste their time and energy backpacking into this country, but they were also a solid mile from the nearest trickle of water and it was getting dark. They would have to spend the night on the ridge either way, and they were needing at least enough water for their evening mountain house meal. The older gentlemen looked spent, but then again, we were sitting on top of a 12800 foot pass that he just climbed on foot with a full camp on his back. Did I mention these folks were from near sea level? I offered the gentleman my horse, and although he didn't seem keen on mounting up, he was glad to strap his heavy pack to the old gelding. We took the pack from his son for the other side to keep some balance, and after a little shuffling and re-balancing, we were headed down the rocky trail, leading the horses and giving some reprieve to the deer hunters. We stopped at the nearest water, dropped the gear, said goodbye, and my wife and I dropped off the ridge down the steep trail into the basin that our camp was in, our final approach to those savory backcountry pork chops.
I was home doing some chores around the house on the last Sunday of the muzzleloader and early rifle buck season. I heard my phone ding and opened up the text message to see a string of photos, including photos of two mule deer bucks. It caught me off guard for a moment, not really understanding who had sent me the message. You see, during our conversation with the father and son mule deer hunters from Pennsylvania, I had given them my number and told them to call me when they get service and let me know how the rest of their trip went. During this same conversation, we pulled out the map and I showed them one of my favorite buck holes in the unit. Seems that they took my advice, hiked out, drove 3 hours around, and hiked several hours back into the area that I showed them on the map, and subsequently filled both of their mule deer tags.
The elder of the deer hunters with his hard earned buck.
A pair of Colorado Bucks, headed back to PA
I was delighted to know that these guys found success. They had earned it and done it the right way (in my opinion, of course). The spot that I met them was tough, and the spot that I suggested they try was even worse yet. The moral of this story is that every now and then we should take a moment to appreciate what we have, what we know, and what we can share with others. We never have to help our fellow man, but we should whenever we can. Whether this takes place deep in the backcountry or at the local gas station does not matter. Opportunities to help each other in some way present themselves to us all the time, and I am of the opinion that we would all be better off if we were a little less concerned about getting to our pork chops or protecting "our" basin and be a little more willing to brighten a complete strangers day, week, or even year. This post was not a horse story, or even a hunting story. I wrote it as a reminder that we should recognize when we are in a position to be helpful or have a positive impact on others and to try to do so whenever possible. People should be glad that they crossed paths with you, not walk away wishing that they hadn't.