Saturday, March 18, 2006

Chefs Hobby Mule Deer Hunting

 Chefs Hobby Mule Deer Hunting Grand Junction, CO


Well since I have fallen behind on my wedding show photos I thought I
would discuss Chefs' hobbies, I personally aspire to hunt furry
creatures and pull their hide off to see what their flesh tastes like
when it meets fire and smoke!

I thought I would take you along for the ride on my Mule Deer Hunt at
Horse Notch in the Castle Peak Wilderness Area. My brother and I hunted
this area for a lot of years. We built a corral camp as close to the
wilderness line as the BLM would let us. When we arrive we usually have
to fix a few cross rails and set the hay box back up. But having the
corral camp helped us have a place to come out of the wilderness every
couple days and rest.

The start of the second season in Colorado is always beautiful so when
we arrive no snow, no mud, just right. But when your camp is at 9500
feet above sea level things can change in a hurry.

So we turn the pack string out into the corral and go about setting the
base camp up. We are so far back in that no other vehicle ever comes by.
This is rugged country and not knowing what you are doing will cost you
dearly. We chain up coming in as the grades are so steep with the horse
trailers and gear the trucks lose traction without them and can not
climb the notch.

We pop the tent trailer up, set the grain in the stock trailer and move
the trucks around to act as wind blocks. The camp is left unlocked in
the event a lost person comes by, there is food, water, heaters, medical
kits, everything. The whole thing runs on twelve volt batteries.

It is only a matter of time til the sky starts to tell you that we are
about to get a visit from mother nature. And when mother nature visits
the high altitudes of the Rocky Mountains she can be an unruly mistress!

We also set up a remote camp site, tents and such packed into the
wilderness area on the animals and set up. When you see a storm like
this one building you don't try and cover the 25 miles out to the base
camp, you head to the wall tent and build a fire, your gonna be here for
a little while. But it is comfortable in the tents as well. Grain for
the horses, hay, stock salt, all packed in to the camp for the chance
you will need it. Coffee and food for people. Wood all stacked and the
stove ready to go. We have spent three days stuck in the tent 25 miles
from nowhere. We have also had guests that have found themselves
unprepared for what was about to happen. You have never observed
happiness until you greet a 72 year old man that is walking and lost in
the snow. He stayed two days with us and went back to his camp as the
storm broke and we left in search of the mule deer.

Things don't always go as planned. As the storm broke we came out just
in time for another one to roll in on us. Here you see the horses eating
grain. In deep snow they can not find the grain that gives them the
energy required to generate heat. So these grain bags fit over their
ears and allows them to eat and breath while the grain just falls to the
bottom of the bag for easy retrieval by their tongue. You might notice
the forward horse has a foreleg bandaged. Sully is a quarter horse and
both rides and packs. After the storm coming up out of the back country
as we waded through snow up to the horse shoulders, he picked up an old
stand of bar wire from decades ago when the range was fenced. He
lacerated the right shoulder one inch into the muscle. When I tell you
that you have to be ready I mean it, my brother and I laid the horse
down with 5 CC of domisodo and locally nerve blocked the shoulder with
Carbocaine. The poor thing took 36 sutures, but got up after the amateur
vet work and made a full recovery about four weeks later.

As luck would have it on this trip, it would be me and not my brother
whom the monster mule deer would show himself to:

And so the 8th largest mule deer ever shot in the State of Colorado
would hang upside down in the camp for another five days as we tried to
find his twin for my brothers tag. We would just end up with the one
deer but the memory is a great one and discussed ever year at hunting

We ended up stuck an extra three days in the Castle Peak Wilderness Area
because after the fourth storm the notch would slide and what little
road existed was now under 6 feet of slide snow. We would haul out two
animals for other camps without horses, we would haul out one
Californian hunting in sneakers and stuck on the back side of Castle
Peak, we would held Howard, a 72 year old man doing what he loved a
little longer than he should have with a snow storm coming.
Interestingly two years later I would find Howard's horse with no rider.
My brother and I started the spiral search outward from the horse, we
would find Howard one hour later about frozen to death, we packed him,
at 74, like a dead man over our horse with his in tow by the remaining
rein that did not break during the tussle, to our base camp, put him in
dry cartharts, warm him up slowly, we knew the old guy would be alright
when he suddenly looked up and asked if we should not be giving him
bourbon to help with the hypothermia. This was our most dramatic event
ever at hunting camp. At 80 years old I still get a Christmas Card from
the Grand Junction Veterans Hospital from Howard thanking my brother and
I for the extra time he got with his grand kids thanks to two people who
know what they were doing when they came across a riderless horse 20
miles in at Schelgel Lake below the east side of Castle Peak. At any
given time there are maybe 12 people in an area of 3700 square acres,
you had better know what you are doing for your own safety and for the
safety of others who's path you may cross in the middle of nowhere!!

I love the solitude of hunting, but when you run across others of the
same mind set it is very nice to share coffee and burn some wood in the

Til we talk again,

Chef Bob Ballantyne

The Cowboy and The Rose

Grand Junction, Colorado, USA