The second day of the archery season brought clouds and a threat of rain. As I eased up the trail along a high mountain lake a shower caused me to seek shelter under an immense fir. Waiting out the rain, I began to have some real doubts about this season. Yesterday morning a drenching rain forced me back to camp after three hours of hunting some very promising ground and last evening I had not made it more than a half mile from camp when a powerful thunderstorm rolled in, ultimately forcing me to make a chilled, hasty, and not very dignified retreat to camp.
Fortunately, the rainfall did not last and soon I was on my way again. Movement on the edge of a meadow caught my attention and two mule deer does walked out behind a towering rock wall. Unfortunately, they saw me at the same time I saw them and those kinds of incidents never work out in my favor.
I moved around the rock wall still looking for deer along the edge of forest to my right and when I finally glanced to my left a cow and calf elk were staring at me some 30 yards away. There were seven elk in that herd and they moved up the hill in a very gracious fashion. Despite the storminess of the last couple of days I was beginning to feel upbeat. Seeing game always seems to have that effect on me. Still, I kept a watchful eye on the sky.
As I climbed higher through a series of ascending narrow valleys, the clouds seemed to thin but the threat of rain didn’t totally disappear. I guess that’s why I continually searched for potential cover from a sudden storm. I began to see lots of elk droppings, beds, and fresh tracks. I also noticed an odd rock formation that might provide shelter from a storm and made a mental note to check it out on my return.
The rain held off for the rest of the morning and I wandered through what appeared to be an elk playground. As the day warmed I realized the elk were probably bedded and decided to leave them in peace. I would be back. The walk back to camp was uneventful until I remembered the odd rock formation. I saw it again at a distance and it did not look as interesting as it did earlier in the morning; perhaps it was the light. Still, I had nothing better to do so I wandered across the valley to check it out.
Every so often most hunters will make a great decision; one that results in a trophy bull or buck or maybe provides remarkable insight into a hunting situation. Checking out the rock formation proved to be one of my greatest hunting decisions. As I got closer I realized I was looking at a small cave or rock shelter. Some of the area had been filled in by an old rock slide. Still, there was enough room for me to crawl inside. Almost immediately I was looking at trees or rather a painting of trees. Closer inspection showed the form of an ancient hunter with bow drawn and aiming to my right where I could see the sketch of some sort of animal, perhaps an elk or deer, adjacent to the trees. Scattered around the drawing were imprints of what appeared to be hands and smaller figures, perhaps children?
I was spellbound. The scene seemed to capture a hunt in this area, perhaps a family outing or father teaching his sons how to hunt. I sat there for the longest time just thinking of my connection to this ancient hunter. Sitting there, gazing out over the meadow as an ancient bowhunter had many, many years ago I realized that no matter how much rain fell, no matter whether or not I shot an animal or even saw any more game this fall, my archery season was an unqualified success.