Camaraderie keeps hunter coming back for 50 years

Somewhere between truth and fiction there are memories, and George B. Simons' 50 years of hunting memories are not centered around how many animals he has shot or how many points were on the racks. His memories are centered on the camaraderie and friendships that have grown over his half century of hunting near Craig.

Simons, who turns 80 today, has hunted at the Hamill Ranch between Colorado Highway 13 and Moffat County Road 13 south of Craig for the past 50 seasons.

At a post-hunt reception Wednesday, Simons and fellow hunters passed around an old photo album and quickly become immersed in decades of hunting stories.

Simons captured the attention of the small crowd as he began to tell the story of a hunting buddy who went to use the facilities, an outhouse at the time.

"We locked the door from the outside and rolled that outhouse all the way to the bottom of the hill," said Simons. "He came out shooting his pistol and chasing me; he knew it was me who did it."

Once the laughter from his audience died down, Simons explained how he was in the trucking business and one year he and his hunting buddies drove a tractor-trailer truck with a refrigerated trailer to bring back all the animals they shot. He pointed to one of the black and white photos in the album to prove it. After a few more captivating stories, it was easy to see how he earned his nickname from his initials. GBS turned into "great bull sh*****" sometime during the past 50 years.

His son, Roger, who now makes the hunting trip to Craig with his father, told how he and his father shot a deer when he was 13 and had put the animal in the back of the Jeep to take it back to the ranch house to dress it. During the drive back, the deer they thought was dead woke up and jumped out of the vehicle.

"Before he got out of the Jeep he made sure that he got us with his hooves a few times," said Roger Simons.

There were times when it didn't look like George Simons would be able to make the trip to Craig for health reasons. He had three separate doctors tell him one year he shouldn't go on a hunting trip only eight days after surgery.

"I came any way," he said, grinning.

Then there was the year his cardiologist begged him not to go hunting.

"I brought him with us," said Simons. "He told me I was going to have a heart attack and I almost did when he grabbed my drink."

Simons believes hunting in Northwest Colorado has changed dramatically during his 50 years of visits. He points to the cost of the trip as an example.

"The first hunting license I ever bought cost $35," said Simons. "It was for three deer, an elk and a bear; now it cost $250 just for an elk license."

For Simons, there have been trips that weren't based on hunting, but were centered around friendship. In July 1996, Jake Hamill was burned badly in a fire that took his barn. George and his wife made the trip from Oklahoma City to keep Hamill company while he recovered from the burns that covered 40 percent of his body.

The group of hunters paused during the story-telling session to present the people that have hosted them for the past 50 years with a plaque. The plaque states: "To Calista and Jake Hamill, in appreciation for opening your home and hearts to all the hunters over the past one-half century. All of our lives have been touched and we will forever have memories of the times we have shared together."

Also on the plaque is a list of 50 hunters who have been guests on the Hamill ranch.

When George is asked what has kept him coming back to Craig for the past 50 years he doesn't talk about the abundance of game or the beautiful country, he simply points to the plaque and says: "It says it all right there on the plaque.

"I will get back home on Saturday and start planning how I'm going to get back out here next year."

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