This guest post from Dennis Kraus is part of the “reader stories” feature at Lock, Stock and Bedlam. Some stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a LSB reader achieved hunting success — or failure. Please be respectful with your comments as these are everyday readers.
By Dennis Kraus
In past years, I have been fortunate enough to draw a cow elk permit in Colorado. However, this year I decided to try for a permit in Nebraska. I emailed Kit Hams who is the big game program manager of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, and he recommended the Ash Creek area. I filled out the permit information online in May and waited for the drawing.
I was lucky to draw one of 14 cow permits for the Ash Creek area. After doing a little research through the Wildlife District staff in Alliance, I made a few contacts and was confident that I could make the drive one day, fill the permit and be home by nightfall.
Not going to happen. My wife and I left on a Monday morning; we scouted the area and the day slipped by. My son introduced us to Tim Kreider in Crawford. Tim took a big chunk of time out of his day to make calls to landowners, motels and bed and breakfasts. Tim, in turn, introduced us to Patti Hollbaugh, a local rancher owner/guide who agreed to take me on the hunt.
The sun sets quickly this time of year. We could see a nice herd of elk across the field but before we could get situated for a shot the sun was setting. It was worth it to be out there just to take in the amazing setting sun with the windmills silhouetted in the Sandhills and the pink sky as a backdrop.
Patti told us to meet her at 6 a.m. the next morning at her place east of Crawford. We spent a few hours sneaking up on the elk, and I got a shot off only to be surprised that I missed. Patti had a previous commitment helping a fellow rancher with his cattle that afternoon, so Lorie and I toured the area visiting Fort Robinson State Park and also making a trip to Chadron. We spent the night at a local bed and breakfast in the country. It was our first stay in a bed and breakfast and won’t be our last.
The following morning, Patti and I again tried to outsmart a herd of about 60 elk but the wind didn’t cooperate and the herd eluded us again. We had to get back home for some Christmas parties and prior commitments so I said goodbye and Lorie and I headed back to Grand Island.
The following Wednesday afternoon Patti called me and asked if I wanted to try again. We made arrangements to hunt Saturday morning and I made the trip (alone this time) and felt confident that I would get an elk and be home Sunday.
The elk didn’t cooperate again Saturday morning and I made arrangements to stay in a local bed and breakfast that Tom and Carol Foster owned. They had moved in a rural schoolhouse and converted it into a rustic place to stay. Carol is a retired schoolteacher, and her cooking skills could top any chef in the country. It was an enjoyable stay. You could view hundreds of turkeys and many deer in their back yard. I hunted Sunday again with Patti and we drew a blank again. I was starting to think that the elk were smarter than us and maybe I wouldn’t get one but Monday morning turned things around. Patti sighted the herd in the pine trees, and we stalked the herd for more than an hour. When they bedded down, we inched up on them and I finally got a shot at a young cow and the hunt was over.
The hunt was a very enjoyable event. Hunting with Patti was an eye opener. Her hunting skills were tops and her knowledge of the land and animals were outstanding. We would take time off our hunt daily to feed her livestock. It was a sight to see her climb aboard that big John Deere with a big hay grinder behind it to fill the feed bunks.
I’m sure it won’t be the last time Lorie and I will visit this wonderful pine ridge area. The Crawford golf course is one of the best 9-hole courses around, and I could hear it call Lorie’s name when we drove by it on the way to Fort Robinson. For all of you readers, I would recommend this area for a fun time. The people are very friendly and you will see some of the greatest landscape and wildlife ever. I just hope I have the luck of the draw again and can relive this hunt again many times in the years to come.