It was exactly 20 years ago when I went out West to hunt elk for the first time. It was all my father’s doing, and that’s the short version of how it all started. It was 10 months of “getting ready” because we started in December and ended when we left for the mountains the following October.

I did a lot of things, right and wrong, while getting ready for those early trips. One of those things was packing what I didn’t need. There was one thing that we did pack to take on almost every hunt and believe it or not, it came about because of the Korean War. Yep, you read that correctly. Before we left on that first trip 20 years ago, my dad bought a Korean War tent from an Army surplus store.

Whenever I think about that old tent I can’t help but remember my second trip out West. It was a rifle hunt and it was when I bagged my very first bull elk. I’m not sure where it is, but somewhere there is a victory photo of me sitting on my cot in the tent, smoking a victory cigar. That was the last time I smoked a cigar because I found out that cigars and me don’t like each other very much.

Another great memory was when we set up the tent and the wood stove without giving everything a once over. All was fine until we stoked the stove and the tent instantly filled up with smoke. None of the choking smoke went up the stove pipe because it was completely plugged by a huge mouse nest. In record time that tent emptied faster than Lambeau Field after a Packers loss. From that day on, we inspected every section of the stove pipe before the final assembly.

After several return trips to elk hunt, the decision was made to leave the tent and stove in Colorado with a friend who would use it as a spike near the top of the mountain. In the years and hunts that followed, we would spend one or two nights in that tent in order to be closer to elk at daybreak.

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There are more stories to share but I need to move this along because there is a reason why I am telling you about the tent. If you follow the national news, you know about the wildfires in Colorado. The East Troublesome fire covered some 300-plus square miles which unfortunately included some of my elk hunting grounds. As a result, the Korean War tent is no more. I won’t be able to replace that old tent for what my dad paid for it but it will go down as the best $35 ever spent.