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On the hunt

  • 2 min to read

When asked if he had a large freezer, firefighter Matt Castro said, “I’m going to need to get one now!”

Castro, a Floridian, is in his second year of learning how to bow hunt, and after eight days of tracking through the woods in the Elk Mountains near Aspen, successfully shot a cow elk Sept. 9 on his bow hunting tag. He explained the sensation of successfully tracking and hunting the cow as “primal,” and almost unexplainable, and said that if you’ve ever fished and caught something you can multiply that feeling by a hundred, at least while out bow hunting.

As a non-resident of Colorado, the tag cost him about $670; for a resident the tag is $50. Castro shot the elk with his compound bow approximately 63 yards away from it that afternoon. He had been hiking and tracking since about 4:30 that morning.

Castro immediately called in reinforcements from his friends James Christopher Harvey of Aspen Antlers Colorado, and Aaron Dalchow to help butcher and harvest the meat and also pack it out of the woods before dark on Wednesday. Dalchow delicately butchered the cow on-site from the kill and swears that the “bone out” is completely worth the extra time it takes, because it eliminates an excess of about 50 pounds that would need to be hauled out of the woods.


James Harvey pulls his bow back for practice while out hunting in the Elk Mountains on Wednesday.

“I’ll do whatever it takes to not come up again,” Dalchow said.

He’s been bow hunting for about a decade and finds hunting to be one of the most emotional activities in which he partakes.

“You get the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, one variable [i.e. a change in the wind or animals moving from public to private land] can take all of your hard work away from you.”

Harvey has been scouting the Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness for the past two months and said the fresh snow from Tuesday’s snow storm helped them track where the cow landed definitively after being struck by Castro’s arrow. Harvey said it was a quick clean kill and the three men packed out about 75 pounds of meat on their backs with Dalchow packing out over 110 pounds himself.

Periodic stops were taken on the hike out for them to recoup their strength.

It is said that the Native Americans, specifically the Shawnee Indians, referred to the elk as “wapiti” and the animals were viewed by the Indians as the ghost kings of the high country for their elusiveness and difficulty to track. Elk cover more ground than most other large wild game.

Castro encourages other hunters to have a sense of dedication and to keep looking until you find one. He and the other two men emphasized the importance of hunting to help maintain environmental conservation

The first big game draw for Colorado tags ended April 7 and the second application drawing ended July 7. All hunting, both archery and rifle, information may be found on the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website. Please see related story.

CPW district wildlife manager Matt Yamashita could not be reached for comment on the demand for licenses and other perspectives on this season.

A study published in 2018 by Southwick Associates for Colorado Parks & Wildlife on outdoor recreation in the state entitled “The 2017 Economic Contributions of Outdoor Recreation in Colorado” said hunting and fishing expenditures accounted for $1.8 billion in 2017 (most recent year available), an increase of more than $2 million from 2013 and up significantly from $845 million in 2004.

Some 760,237 hunter days were recorded that year in CPW’s northwest region, which includes Aspen, Pitkin, Eagle and Garfield counties. GDP contributions to Pitkin County, defined as “added” value to economic output, was $2.536 million.


James Harvey, right, Matt Castro, left and Aaron Dalchow pack out the harvested meat from the cow Castro got in the Elk Mountains on Wednesday with his bow hunting tag.