The mercury was at 42 degrees Fahrenheit, and Black Mountain was covered with a light snow.
Wearing a flannel shirt unbuttoned halfway down his chest, Larry Boettcher of Lansing, Mich., looked over the high country, enjoying what might be his last hunting trip in Northwest Colorado.
Since 1980, the big-game hunter has missed only one hunting season here.
"I need to see this a couple weeks every year," he said. "Add that up, I've been out here a year now."
But knee surgery has slowed Lansing, 64. He realizes he might not be in condition to do this much longer.
Boettcher was waiting for his son, Brett, to haul in the last quarter of the 5x5 bull elk he shot at noon Tuesday. It was the first bull Brett saw during the second rifle season. He dropped it from 180 yards with a .338 Magnum about a 3 1/2-hour walk from his camp.
The pair saw much more game last year than this year. That was the consensus among hunters on Black Mountain on Wednesday. The second rifle season has been slow, hunters say.
"Sucks," said Jim Fagg of Dusty Trails Outfitters, standing by a hot wood-burning stove in his white cabin tent.
Fagg has been on the mountain for the past month and a half. As he does most years, Fagg took a vacation from his job welding at Craig Power Station to outfit on the mountain.
His daughter, Alicha, has camped with him for the past week.
"She's my wrangler," Fagg said.
Alicha, a homeschooled student, cares for the livestock, chops wood, and cooks at the camp. On Wednesday afternoon she was baking a cake in their propane stove.
No clients were camping with them, but they kept busy sharpening skinning knives, riding horses and helping other hunters pack out game while they wait for clients to come calling. On Tuesday, Fagg helped a "Denver-ite" haul his equipment down the mountain.
But the first rifle season was good, Fagg said, with hunters filling their tags with some big bulls. But he suggested that too much pressure had been put on the animals during that season, causing the poor hunting this week. Nor had the rainy weather helped.
N. John Scanlan of Loveland shot a doe Tuesday evening and didn't get out of the woods until after dark, breaking a personal rule to always return to camp before dusk.
Skinning his kill Wednesday afternoon, Scanlan said he hadn't seen any elk yet. Camping near other hunters at the entrance to Routt National Forest, Scanlan said his neighbors haven't seen many, either. But he planned to go back into the woods and look some more when he finished skinning the doe. He noticed the game was moving more in the evenings than mornings.
It was Scanlan's second year hunting in Moffat County, but he has hunted across Colorado and Utah. He likes to travel and see new country and stay in the woods for awhile.
"It's a big pleasure to me, even if I don't kill anything," he said Scanlan was on Black Mountain last year when snow fell so deep it was up to his knees. Fagg usually gets off the mountain by the fourth rifle season, when bad weather chases him off. And Boettcher was camped by Freeman Reservoir during a blow down several years ago.
It takes a lot to get the hunters off the mountain, but Boettcher recognizes old age might be enough to keep him home.
When his son returned with the rest of the meat, Boettcher figured they would break camp.
"I tell my son, in reality, I hunted harder if I didn't get anything than if I did, because then I was out looking from the beginning to the end," he said.
Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or email@example.com.