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Elk and Deer Hunting Fall 2009

The “House Shoe Hunt:” A Rare Opportunity in Southwest Colorado

Gene Steele sunk deeper into the leather sofa as the glow of the fire danced in his eyes.  “For us, this is the ideal hunt.  This is our ‘house shoe’ hunt.”  Gene, Emory, and David shared a gloating smile and raised their glasses to an exceptional opening day.  Wafts of Chef Michael’s prime rib and chocolate raspberry cheesecake floated into the Waterin’ Hole intermittently.  It had been a very good day: one trophy bull and another 5-by, both taken before noon.

Nestled in the San Juan Mountains near Durango, Wilderness Trails Ranch ( rests in the stunning upper Pine River Valley.  This secluded hide-a-way is tucked against the Piedra and Weminuche Wilderness Areas, Colorado’s largest roadless enclave.  The ranch offers a rare value for an exceptional hunt during first and second rifle seasons.  WTR operates as a top-notch dude ranch from late May-September, so hunters enjoy the same plush cabin accommodations as guests during the peak summer season.

Dining at WTR is an occasion unto itself.  Hunters fuel up for the day on a made-to-order breakfast of eggs, pancakes, French toast, omelets, bacon, sausage, and potatoes with the company of their guides.  Over steaming mugs of coffee near the antique wood burning stove, guides and hunters plan their day.  Well before daybreak, wranglers prepare horses, and a brief ride of 45 minutes to an hour and ½ plants hunters deep into the national forest.  From there, a guide and 1 to 2 clients begin hunting on foot.

Evenings are spent fireside, swapping lies, enjoying appetizers, and sampling the full menu of WTR’s fully stocked bar.  The entire staff joins hunters for dinner, creating a truly warm and intimate atmosphere.  “This trip far exceeded our expectations.  The staff was just incredible, they made the trip.  We felt like family.” explained Gene Steele after the final breakfast. 

Although, evenings are leisurely, a hunt at WTR is a true mountain hunt.  Horses lessen the challenge of access, but hunters must have a solid level of fitness to be prepared for the altitude (9000-11,000 feet) and necessary hiking. 

Erika Roberts, born and raised at the ranch, runs the hunting program.  “Our goal is to provide a quality experience for our clients.  We only take four hunters for each season, and our guide to client ratio is 1:2.  I offer hunts because I believe it is a magical experience in a magical place.  We aren’t in this to make a bunch of money.  I know we offer a type of hunt that is unparalleled in this part of Colorado.” describes Erika.

Wilderness Trails borders a large private ranch on one boundary and national forest on the other.  Because of its location, WTR boasts exceptional access.  For the public to access the same hunting area, they must hike or ride for 4 hours.  No other outfitter in the area provides the ease of same-day access.  Therefore, no other outfitter offers the “house shoe hunt.”

For more information, visit the Wilderness Trails Ranch website at, email to, or call 1-800-527-2624.

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