Knowing When to Tap Out

Knowing When to Tap Out

Sometimes you just have to know when to tap out. My recent elk hunt was one of those times.

I purchased a second-season tag here in Colorado with the hopes of finding a sizable bull this season. I love hunting in our region and we know nearly every nook and cranny in this unit. We had great plans opening weekend to get far into the backcountry on horseback. In the early seasons, the elk are high and timbered up so the only way to really get into some quality animals is to get back as far as possible.moss-know when to turn back-horse

We planned and prepared to have the horses saddled and loaded into the trailer by 4:30 am so we could get to the trailhead and be in the saddle by 5:15 to begin the two-hour ride in. I can truly attest to the fact that we were prepared with all of our gear and we were completely loaded up the night before. We turned in a bit early so we would be fresh to climb into the saddle in the morning darkness.

We awoke to rain. This is no issue whatsoever, but it did seem a bit odd in late October. We had the horses caught, saddled and loaded into the trailer by 4:30. We began the 45-minute drive to the trailhead. The rain had made the road quite slick. The rain quickly turned to snow as we ascended, much as we had anticipated it would. Within 30 minutes we were climbing in altitude and we were in 10 inches of fresh snow. 8 miles in, we encountered a hill we knew may be difficult given the weather.

And difficult it was. The truck and trailer ended up sliding backwards and off the road which is a very dangerous situation with horses in a trailer. We were able to get turned around and headed downhill again only to continue sliding off the road in various places. We chained up to descend and headed back home. It wasn’t worth hurting a horse or a human. We unsaddled and turned the horses out and cashed it in for the day.moss-know when to turn back-snow

I continued to hunt solo the following weekdays, heading out on foot in the dark and glassing in the cold. We decided we would attempt the backcountry ascent again the following weekend. Saturday arrived and once again, we were completely prepared and ready to roll. The horses were caught and saddled by 4:30, but when we were walking through the field we noticed there was no water running in the ditch. This is very unusual.

We loaded the horses but noticed they were off- a bit, stumbly getting into the trailer. We got them to water and let them tank up. However, watching them at that moment, we knew taking them on a rugged ride could be devastating to them. Once again, we retreated, unsaddled, and went to work on the water. Another great attempt was thwarted by a random mishap. We decided to make the attempt again the following morning which was the last day of the season.

Clearly, by this point, we had the preparation routine down to a science! We turned in early and set the alarm for 2:30 as it was daylight savings that day and the shooting light would come an hour earlier. We got up and started to get ready. Then it dawned on me…I had a bad feeling that morning. I began to feel a sense that something just didn’t feel right. And let’s face it, the universe had already given us a couple of pretty clear signs! We discussed it and agreed that it’s better to follow a gut feeling. I chalked this up to the fact that we have plenty of meat in the freezer and there was no reason to risk injury to ourselves or our horses. That’s right. I was tapping out, which is something I never do. My hunt was over for the season, and I called it.

After mulling it over later that morning, I debated in my head whether or not I had made a good decision. I could be missing out on the bull of a lifetime and a super fun experience. Or we could be experiencing another mishap that could have more catastrophic results. Maybe I overthought it. Maybe I tapped out too soon. I then went back through the entire season in my head and truly believe that a gut feeling is most definitely something intangible that you cannot explain or even understand, but it is something that exists for a precise reason. I came to the realization that sometimes it is indeed alright to tap out.

About the Author

Kirstie Pike

Kirstie Pike is the founder and CEO of Prois Hunting & Field Apparel for Women, the leading edge for women’s performance hunting gear for nine years and running.
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