The Great Escape

When bareback rider Forest Bramwell isn't spurring a bronc, he likes to head to the aspen-dotted Colorado mountains, about a 20-minute drive from his home in Pagosa Springs.

On horseback, Bramwell and his rodeo buddies ride deep into the Rockies in search of the perfect place to set up their week-long hunting camp. It's there they find solitude from a sport that doesn't have an off-season.

"It's great for a guy's mind to go up there and get away from it all," said Bramwell, who'll compete next month (Nov. 7-9) at the $500,000 Pace Picante ProRodeo Classic in Dallas. "My dad has been an outfitter and guide his whole life, my granddad as well. I grew up with it. I really, though, haven't been able to hunt until the last four years because I've been busy taking everyone else up."

This fall, he and fellow bareback rider James Boudreaux (Cuero, Texas) ventured up for a week during archery season.

"We left right after the short round in Pendleton [Ore.] and drove all night," Bramwell, 26, said.

On the first day, Boudreaux scored a small bull elk using a bow and arrow.

"That's one of the trades we made," Bramwell said. "James knows how to hunt with a bow and I've been elk hunting with a rifle a bunch. He taught me how to use a bow and I taught him how to elk hunt."

The day starts early for the hunters and ends as night falls.

"We'd get up before the sun would come up and try to be sitting in the spot and then we'd hunt until the sun went down," Bramwell said. "We'd get back to camp, eat and go to bed. We both had blisters all over our feet."

Because they are in the wilderness, Bramwell and his hunting buddies always have to be aware of bears and mountain lions.

"More than not, a bear will tear a tent up than hurt someone," Bramwell said. "But you have to be careful not to leave food out. With our game, we make sure to pepper it real well because a bear will get into a fresh kill and just make a mess of it."

Last year, the rodeo hunters, who included bareback rider William Pittman, came upon a bear.

"He scared all of us," chuckled Bramwell. "He came within 15 yards of us and kept moving toward us. I mean, from everything you know when you are face to face with something like that, it makes you think some crazy thoughts."

The rule of thumb when confronted by a bear is to stay calm and don't run, he said. "But we started to move back up the trail. We didn't care what they say," he said.

Bramwell hopes to make the fall pilgrimage into the mountains with Boudreaux an annual tradition. "I hope so," said Bramwell, a two-time Wrangler NFR qualifier. "I want to go up there every year. It's a great time."

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