We were up and on the road heading back to South Park by 4:30, this time minus 2 on the team. We arrived at Reinecker Ridge by 6:30 AM. Sunrise was set for 7:23 AM which means first shot would be at 7:08. Time was in our favor. Our plan this time was similar to the first, but we would spend the initial part of the morning pushing valley before heading up one the ridge. Lawrence took the North end of the South Section of Reinecker, and I headed out to the South end like last time about 10 minutes ahead. The full moon was setting behind the ridge to the West, just as the glow of Sunrise started to fill the sky. The wind was coming in at 7 mph from the North putting the temperature down to a brisk -12 degrees which decreased to -13 by 8AM.
An inch of fresh snow was sprinkled on the ground, leaving only traces of tracks from the past day or so. Walking the valley only seemed to show remnants of deer, rabbit, coyote, fox and a bobcat or Lynx, which was later followed up with a track of a mountain lion which seemed to be stalking the Elk Trail we found coming down the ridge later on.
After about an hour down in the valley and not finding what we were looking for we headed for the ridge. I took the same route as last time hoping to run into another herd of elk on the top of the ridge at Hotel 6. Although there was no such traces when I reached the ridge, there were several traces of a herd that passed by within the last 12 hours heading south.
We met up at the crossroads again. While there, the winds kicked up to 12 mph putting the temperature at -9F by noon. Taking the gloves off for even a minute was unbearable, it didn’t take long before they became numb due to the wind and high humidity. Knowing very well that even if we bag an elk at this spot, it wouldn’t take long for it to freeze requiring more time to process the elk.
We decided to start following some new fresh tracks that were heading down in the woods just at about the same spot we saw the bulls cross last time. As we examined the tracks it was evident that this was a large group that had actually headed up an over the ridge. This was further backed up by discovering 13 beds just a bit further down. The droppings were fresh and the area wreaked of musk. After further examination it was evident that 13 elk. It was here we also discovered the tracks of the Mountain Lion that appeared to be walking encroached based on the pattern of the paws and the tail dragging behind. We came to the agreement that 1 of 3 things pushed these elk out early ( 1: They moved out early due to having the light of the full moon. 2. The mountain lion stirred them up (which is not likely due to the large amount of droppings and fresh urine) or 3: We had possibly squeezed them out and they passed between us as we headed uphill.) Due to the fact that there no other hunters this was probably the most probable.
We continued along the path midway down the ridge, and realized that this section of the woods was heavily used, and seemed to be a common thruway for the elk, something to remember for next year.
Regardless of the fact that we were unable to bag an elk, it was a great 2 weekends out. Better luck next year.