Hunting legend and lore has a new arrival amongst its midst. Chuck Spoden of Grand Rapids, Minnesota has perfected the art of bow hunting elk over the last 28 years.
According to Mike Porras, Colorado Parks and Wildlife public information officer, last year, only 5,733 elk archery hunters filled their tag out of the 50,759 elk hunters in Colorado. The total success rate for these hunters is approximately 11%. Success on public lands could be lower.
Either way, Spoden has showed his success as a hunter. Out of the 28 years as a hunter, Spoden has harvested 18 bull elk from the wilderness areas. In the last seven years, he has a perfect seven out of seven.
He credits his 64% success rate over nearly three decades mostly to luck, but upon closer inspection, his preparation and steadfastness, may be more key to his success.
“In the earlier years, I would screw up regularly, but I am a hunter, and I learned. I gained experience.” He also says he always researches and scouts to pick the right area. Having two of his daughters, Heather Bentler and Kim Douglass, and their families in Kremmling made this area a natural choice for hunting. In the beginning, he mostly hunted the Flat Tops Wilderness and Eagles Nest Wilderness areas. He now hunts near the Grand and Jackson county line.
“For many years I would not encounter another hunter sometimes for weeks at a time. But with new navigational aids like GPS and ON X phone apps hunters of all skill levels can explore all over. Because of this, a lot of so called ‘honey holes’ are no longer secret spots.” He explains satellite imagery can help you see everything and is almost an unfair advantage.
Spoden hunts by himself and admits he enjoys the focus of a solo hunt. He says, “I began solo hunting 15 years ago and for most of those I packed into the wilderness area. It’s just something I need to do.”
Over the years, he has become more a minimalist, traveling with only the bare necessities. He backpacks into the mountains and sleeps in his backpack tent. He relies on freeze dried Mountain House meals and his water filter to drink from creeks. While solo camping, he doesn’t use a campfire and can boil some water on his jet boil stove in the morning for instant oatmeal and his freeze dried packets.
“It is kind of hard-core and I enjoy being out there.” He adds, “It is good for the soul. Basically to me, September in the mountains is the best place.”
He even welcomes the snow that can be two inches or knee deep. “It always melts within a day or two. It is just part of it.”
Using a lot of sneak hunting and crawling around, he can get very close to the elk. Admittedly, he also does a lot of calling and enjoys seeing the elk get worked up as they respond to his bugle. “Archery and the close encounters you have with elk or are so much fun. Many times you don’t even get a chance to shoot. The close encounter is just as exciting.”
“You can have an elk 10 yards or less and not get a good shot,” he explains. Using a Hoyt bow at a 65 pound draw and G5 Striker 100 grand broadheads, he always looks for the perfect broadside shot.
“As I’ve gotten older the need to get an elk is not the drive it used to be. Just being out in the mountains wandering around looking for elk and enjoying the hills is the motivator. If an elk comes along so much the better,” he says.
Since retiring 15 years ago as a forester, the 73 year-old says he has the luxury of using all of September for his archery hunt. For him, the journey and close encounters with the elk are the high points of the hunt.
“Shooting one can be anti-climatic,” he says but was sure to add he enjoys the elk steaks, roasts and burgers.