Tea Time Buck

Tea Time Buck


Ron Gayer



Our lungs were burning with each breath we took of the cold Colorado air. The Elk herd was still feeding on the steep side of the ridge. The pace of their drifting had quickened. They were making for the trees and the safety of the dark timber.

My hunting partner, Daman, was first to see the herd. Don’t ask me how. It was so dark I was having trouble seeing my horse’s ears.

The elk were about a mile away, most of the mile vertical. We were riding a creek side trail. I dismounted and broke out a spotting scope. As the light improved we could make out three bulls in the herd, two raghorn bulls and one nice 6X6.

I knew we were in for a flat out race if we held any hope of reaching the elk before they made the trees and the cover of the dark timber.

The horses labored as the exhausting air from their lungs created clouds of steam. We asked them to climb higher and higher toward the elk.

About 400 yards out we tied the horses and started the assent on foot.

A slide area about seventy five yards wide led directly up to the ridge. The slide chute offered no cover for our climb to the top.

Daman and I took a route on either side of the chute; this would keep us in the aspens.

I was climbing as fast as I could while remaining in the cover and under control. I could see I was losing the race. The elk were near the trees. I only needed to gain another sixty or seventy yards to be in range. I pressed on, pushing my legs and lungs to their maximum. The first of the cows was now disappearing into the shadows of the tree line. My heart was pounding as I looked across the chute and saw Daman below me. I knew from his position he had no chance of getting a shot off at the bull.

Looking up to the top of the ridge, I could see the bull had only minutes before he too would disappear into the shadows.

I looked for a good rest. With my heavy breathing I would need a rest. No rest to be found! I sat down and braced my legs on an aspen trunk. When I brought my scope to my eye the bull was only a few steps from the safety of the trees. I found the bull with my scope but the aspen leaves hanging from a branch also filled my field of view. Dropping the rifle I reached to remove the clutter of the leaves. I brought up my Winchester again. The bull had stopped and was looking my way. The cross hairs found the elk’s front shoulder. I tried to control my breathing. The elk started for the trees…I fired. I watched as the bull, now running, disappeared into the shadows.

My round had hit a leafless branch I had not seen or cleared. Dejected on having missed such a hard won opportunity I

sat for a while motionless saying to myself “Man you really blew it… you should have waited”.

I decided to make sure I had missed, and not wounded the bull.

The climb to the spot where the bull was standing was nearly vertical. When I reached the spot I scoured the grass and brush for any sign of a blood trail. No blood just the trail of his hasty retreat remained.

Daman had joined me on the side of the steep ridge. We marveled at how easily the elk had moved over this ground. We had difficulty just standing on the slope!

Assessing our situation, tired legs, missed elk, rising sun, I decided it was time for a tea break. We found a stand of aspen on the edge of the ridge and broke out our stoves.

Now I know that a watched pot is not supposed to boil, but have you tried making a cup of tea at nine thousand feet. I tried closing my eyes it still took forever. .

Just about the time my tea water started looking good I heard Daman whispering, “it’s an elk no, no, it’s a buck”. Looking past Daman down the ridge I saw two bucks coming up toward the top.

The lead buck was a very heavy horned buck with a tall rack. The second buck was a small 3X3. We both dropped our cups and grabbed our guns. Daman had a good position for his first shot. I heard Damans 7Mag erupt, echoing off the canyon below. The buck turned and started down the ridge. My heart sank, if the buck goes down hill he will be out of site in about three jumps. Amazingly the buck turned and started back up the hill. He was angling away from us now, but in full view at about two hundred yards.

Daman fired again. This time he found the mark scoring a hit on the bucks lower back. The buck was still heading for the top of the ridge, if he clears the top he will disappear into the dark timber on the other side and be gone. Now the distance to the buck is close to three hundred. Damon fired again. No reaction from the buck he’s still heading for the top. I fired and the buck slowed Daman fired. This time the buck rolled over and started tumbling down the ridge.

I have never seen anything like the trip this buck took to the bottom of the ridge. On the second roll the buck became airborne for about twenty yards then crashed to the ground only to go airborne again. This time I thought he might earn some frequent flier miles. Now at his maximum height I am going to say that buck was in need of some landing lights, He disappeared over the edge and was out of site. I looked over at Daman and said, “ I’ll bet he doesn’t have an antler point left on his head” Daman just grinned and shook his head.

We packed up our tea and gear and headed down to find the flying buck. Going down that ridge wasn’t any easier than coming up.

About twenty minutes of working down the ridge we found the buck piled up on a snow-covered ledge. To my amazement the buck had only lost the tip of one tine. The buck was huge and had a very heavy 4X4 rack not much wider than his ears but very tall.


We packed out the buck and of course took a few photos. That night all the conversation around the campfire revolved around the two of us trying to explain just how far and how high that teatime buck flew through the air.







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