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The Hardest Thing I've Ever Done: Colorado High Country Hunt

Micah DeHenau

Home Base: Denver, CO

Day Job: International Business VP at software company

Hobbies: Hunting, fishing, skiing, casual male modeling

Micah, what is the hardest thing you’ve ever done?

One particular day of elk hunting in the high country was the hardest day.

Where were you?

We were hunting in the backcountry in the San Juan mountains of Colorado. We set up a high camp at 10,000 feet elevation, we had spent a couple days putting in 15 to 20 miles scouting and looking for elk.

We watched the sun come up over the valleys, and spotted an elk herd 4 or 5 miles away at the bottom of a very steep gulley. There were four of us, so we split to pursue the elk. I was with one friend.

What set this day apart?

We had scouted the area, but moving down these big chutes, with every step we were kicking shale down. I remember hearing the sound of the shale running over the edges of the cliffs we were navigating down, knowing it would be impossible to go back up the way we came. We were in some real trouble, cliffed out in a steep ravine. There were points where we did not think we could go either up or down. We had ropes, and ended up lowering our packs and guns and being able to use trees and some challenging moves and drops to get down. We were worried about our safety.

We had given up on the hunt at that point, but when we were finally able to navigate down, our friends had shot a very large 7x7, a giant 14 point elk. We helped them butcher the elk, and we climbed back up the gulley, on a safer route, but now each carrying an additional 150 pounds of elk. It took us almost seven hours to go five miles back to camp, but we did get back… and slept very well after that.

The near death on the way down, and the exhaustion of the hike back up, was the most physically exhausting thing I have ever done.

Wait, an extra 150 pounds… but you already had your packs and hunting gear, how much weight were you carrying total?

Over 200 pounds.

Hiking uphill, up a steep ravine, at high elevation, carrying over 200 pounds? How do you even do that?!

It was so much weight, we would climb 5 to 10 feet and then have to stop. It was hands and knees going up the gulley.

Moving that much weight is very difficult. You can’t lift your pack, you have to put the pack on while sitting, and you cannot stand on your own strength. You need your friends to pull you up. Moving back, we crossed a 15 foot stream, I fell in the stream and couldn’t get up, I was just laying there completely soaked by cold water with all this elk on my back! Everybody had to come help pull me out of the water.

That sounds really cold.

Yes, but you warm up quickly moving that much weight! And the camaraderie of the situation is really cool. It’s definitely type 2 fun, but really memorable, character building experiences and great teamwork.

It sounds like you love going hunting.

The camaraderie is really special, you build bonds and relationships that you wouldn’t have an opportunity to build elsewhere. And connecting with nature in that way is such a visceral, memorable experience. You’re tuned in so acutely to pursue, and honor, these animals. It’s beautiful to see the big bulls fighting, and the setting. The San Juan mountains are a very young mountain range, so they are dramatic with bigger cliffs, valleys, and waterfalls.

We hunt in October, there are aspens changing colors, and bright green evergreens everywhere. It’s in the 20’s at night, so early in the morning you can hear the frost crunching under your boots.

What did you do after finally getting back to camp?

Everything hurt from carrying that weight, knees, back, everything! Sitting at our high camp, we grilled elk ribs over a fire and told jokes and stories. I remember the smell of the elk ribs, and the sun going down behind the mountains.

Why do you think people put themselves in challenging situations, and push their limits?

In life, the things that scare you the most are generally the moments that help define your character as a person. It’s the pursuit of self improvement.

Thank you for sharing, Micah! I hope this inspires people to get outdoors for some type 2 fun!


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