What does running a landscape company have to do with Jeremiah Johnson?
Check out today's podcast to hear a story of adventure. Four wheel drive, low in the high country of Colorado. And the respectful harvest of a cow elk in the flat top mountains with one of my landscape clients and with the holidays upon us, a gift suggestion for someone you know who enjoys the outdoors.
Hey everyone, welcome to the Landscapers Guide podcast where we share sales, marketing, and leadership inspiration for the snow and landscape industry. My name's Jack Jostes and I'm an avid outdoorsman. I love hunting, I love fishing, I love going on adventures. And for me, one of the things that I look forward to every year is hunting elk. And this year I got to do it with one of my clients, Rich Leeman from Landscape Technology Group. And it was a great time. And today I'm going to share the story of it and a ton of photos and videos. So for those of you who are listening to the audio version, check out the show notes. This might be one you want to watch. We've got some action footage of Rich's Jeep, we've got photos of the mountains, we've got all kinds of cool footage to share. One of our core values at Ramblin Jackson is craftsmanship in life and work, especially on Fridays.
And to me, part of that is craftsmanship in life is doing cool stuff, doing things that you and your family enjoy. And for me, this elk hunt is one of those things. And running my business in a way that I can go away for a week to do it is an annual goal of mine. And you're never really done. You've got to have the right people, the right systems, the right clients continually, and all of those things can change. So they're constantly moving parts. So if you enjoy this sort of thing, if you want to run a great landscape company, a great business, and you enjoy these kinds of stories, make sure you subscribe at landscapersguide.com/podcast, so you never miss an episode. And most of our shows have way more sales, marketing and business value. So when you sign up at landscapersguide.com/podcast, I'll send you our top three podcasts right away.
4:03: The Preparation
I've been hunting elk for over 10 years. I started when I came out to Colorado about 15 years ago, and I've gone basically every season except I think I took four or five years off when my kids were really young. And to get ready for the trip, my wife said something interesting to me, she said, "You know what? We've got to make room in the freezer." And I'm like, "Well, what do you mean there's plenty of room in our freezer?" So there was physical room, but she was talking about respect for the animal. And last year my business coach Wayne Herring went hunting in Colorado and he got four elk with his group and they shared a ton of the meat with me, and I had some of that. And we made jerky, we carved pumpkins, we made pumpkin seeds. I did this all with my wife and kids before the trip and sent on my way into the Flat Tops mountain range, which is a beautiful mountain range.
It's called the Flat Tops, partly because there's these series of mesas that, it's just flat. A lot of the mountains are very steep and rugged and jagged and the Flat Tops are very manageable from a hiking standpoint. And I think that's one of the reason why elk love it. I actually got a cow elk in the Flat Tops about eight years ago, but this time I was on the other side.
Another one of our core values at Ramblin Jackson is be on time and prepared to add value. And that came from in part being in the Boy Scouts where the motto is, "Be prepared." Being prepared meant a lot of things, but it's carried on for me and I just enjoy hiking and camping and all the different gear that you get to bring with you to be prepared for the elements. Being prepared also for me is a fitness goal because 14 years ago I drank a lot.
I was over a pack a day cigarette smoker, and when I got an elk the first time, I could hardly... Luckily I had eight dudes with me who knew what they were doing because it was a lot of work and I was just exhausted right at the start of it. And so that inspired me to get stronger. And then last year I went archery hunting up in the mountains with my wife's cousin and I really noticed that he was ahead of me with his cardio. And I asked him about his training and he's like, "Yeah, I do way more running leading up to it." So this year, improving my cardio was a goal and I increased my VO2 max, which I measure with my Garmin. And I did that through rucking regularly.
Kettlebell workouts three to four times a week. And I started sprinting again. And I think that doing sprints twice a week really helped me. So this year I was feeling really good and having this trip on my calendar is motivation for me to get ready and feel prepared. I also did a lot of preparation with my rifle, practicing at different yardages, hiking a steel gong target into the mountains. I also shot steel targets at a range that had this suite, these lights that would light up when you hit your target at 200 yards. So I felt very prepared this year on all fronts. This was my first time hunting with my client, Rich Leeman. He runs Landscape Technology Group and he has this really cool four acre property where he has horses. He has his garden center, a retail garden center. He's got a wholesale nursery and he's got just the rest of the yard is for the landscape crew.
6:08: The Campsite
So Rich has a ton of experience, and I met him at the Garden Center and we got into his suite, Jeep Rubicon and drove up into the mountains, took us about two and a half hours to get to camp where he shared Dead Man's Point. So Dead Man's Point is a campsite where Rich had this sweet camper that he and his daughter's hand painted with like sponges and they dipped it in the paint colors of their family vehicles. So it was this really cool thing. Rich is very resourceful. He does all of those types of things himself, really just fun person to camp and hunt with. But Dead Man's point is called that for a reason. And it's because at some point in the last 10 years or so, someone died in their tent and they were either found by another hunter or a camper and maybe they died from a heart attack or a stroke or something.
No one really knows, but Dead Man's Point is an amazing spot and it overlooks this beautiful lake where there's a natural spring. There's all these natural springs up here. I can't tell you exactly where it is because this is Rich's spot and he shared it with me. So we can't give you the geo coordinates, but I can tell you it had everything elk would want. There was lots of forest for coverage, there were lots of meadows of grass, there was lots of water sources, these natural springs. So it was very elkly. Yeah, elky, elktastic. Now the first couple nights were frigid. It was below zero at night, so it was below zero. And then during the day, the first couple of days, it only got up to like eight or 10 degrees. So when we were in the camper, which is from the sixties and is awesome, it's totally amazing.
8:02: The Camper
We heated it up initially by boiling water in there, which also just added some moisture into the air and there is a propane furnace that we finally got going. But it was fun just to get that thing going and super grateful I got to sleep in the camper because I was going to sleep in a tent I thought, which is just crazy. But that's how I used to do it. 10 or 15 years ago when I got started hunting, I would go and the guys leading camp had campers, and then the younger guys that were coming, me and my buddies slept in tents and I've done it. I can sleep in below freezing weather and was planning to do so, but it was pretty nice sleeping in a camper with heat.
One night we heated up potatoes, so I baked potatoes in the oven at home before I brought them. So it was more of just reheating these potatoes and we made steaks. Rich brought rib eye steaks. The temperature gauge on the oven doesn't work. So we put in the oven for eight minutes, came out perfect, and the next night Rich made nachos, which is another amazing post hunt meal. And we had the leftover steak from the night before on top of the nachos. So that was a winning combo. And then one night we had smoked salmon on there with olives, which felt very fancy, and it was, and it was a gourmet mountain meal. So Rich has his Jeep Rubicon tricked out. It has a lift kit, it has these super aggressive gnarly tires.
9:36: The Jeep
And at one point it was his work vehicle, his sales vehicle that he would take to client sites. But he's recently, it's been fortified for these mountain adventures and Rich drives it hard. So we're driving through these mountain roads to get from our campsite to the various fingers of forests, these various areas, sometimes a mile or an hour or two away from camp. And at one point we were driving up this icy road and Rich said that he was going to drive like a banshee. He drove as hard as I've ever seen anyone drive off-road.
And we're going around all this snow and we're going up the road and it's super loud and we're not quite getting there. So we get out and we attempted to use the winch that was on the front and I was pulling it out, unwinding it, hoping to get to a tree, but it had all kinds of kinks in it. So we had to wind that back up. And luckily Rich just gunned it. Went super fast, it was hilarious, but made it up the crest of this hill and we got to where we wanted to hunt.
10:48: Hiking in the Woods
So we did a combination of driving these roads looking for sign, which there was abundant sign. We saw a fresh sign in the snow. But at one point I saw something, I don't know what it was, but I saw something brown move and I started hiking around this thing and I saw it move again. And then I saw all these tracks and I saw all these beds where the elk had been bedding down, but we didn't see anything close enough to take a shot. This went on for several days and I think it was on our third day, I kept getting tricked by these snowshoe hare tracks, but the snowshoe hare tracks at a glance kind of look like an elk track, but they really put their front down and then they gracefully come down in the back. So it gives a big impression in the front.
And I did harvest a snowshoe hare, which was one of my goals for this year was to shoot a snowshoe hare and they're really big. It was my first one, so we prepared that, I'm going to make stew with it, I've frozen it. And so that was really a fun event. But what we were really after was elk, but we were starting to run out of gas because on the way up to camp we had these gas or a gas can rather tied to the back of the Jeep. I didn't really think it was going to make it, but it did have to give Rich some grief for being the one to tying the final knot on that one. Anyways, long story short, we're going up this bumpy road up to camp and we realized when we got there that it had fallen off.
12:26: Negotiating Cookies for Gasoline
Now the Jeep has maybe 18 or 20 gallons and we're driving around quite a bit and four wheel drive low, and we had enough to get back down to town, but we thought, you know what? Maybe we could buy some gas from another hunt camp. Luckily, Rich had been really friendly with everyone that we saw on the road and had even seen some people that he had seen in previous years. So it's getting dark and we pull up to a camp and we see somebody walking down the road with a headlamp and we just wait for them. And it was a really friendly person who's actually a vet, he runs a veterinary clinic out in New Jersey, and he was here with some of his friends from California and they had a pretty substantial camp set up and they were like, yeah, sure, check out this Jerry can over here under this tree, you can have it.
So I had some cash, I paid them. We were talking, Rich had some Pepperidge farm cookies. I gave them some cookies and we had a little chat and we learned that their buddies from California were leaving in the morning and they were planning to stay. And he said that it was too cold for the Californians and that they hadn't seen enough and they were giving up. And he said something really interesting about his friends, and there's a lot of trash talk that happens at elk camp, but he basically said, everyone wants to be Jeremiah Johnson until they need to be Jeremiah Johnson. And if you haven't seen Jeremiah Johnson, the movie, it's a classic, it's from the seventies. Robert Redford is in it, and he plays this mountain man character who's a fur trapper. He's a hunter, he lives in the Rocky Mountains, very rugged person.
There's a lot more to that movie. But what's relevant here was sticking it out when it's cold and we're going to come back to that. So we got some gas, but only three gallons and three gallons really isn't much. And I said, "You know what? There's this other camp." Rich is like, "Cool, you do the talking." So we went up to this other camp, we met somebody named Joe from Greeley, Colorado, and Joe was super generous and one thing that helped was we gave Joe some of the elk jerky that I made. So Joe gave us five gallons. We paid Joe, gave him some elk jerky, had a chat with his camp, and now we were in business with eight gallons. So we were able to hunt for I think at least another full day or two before we went down running a little low on gas.
14:59: A Change in Scenery
We decided to go back into town to fuel up, get a different gas can and also hunt a different area. Now this was several thousand feet lower, and I felt like I was almost in the desert. It was full of instead of being in spruce trees and Aspen Groves, we were now in pinon pine and a sagebrush and all these different plants. And the soil was very red and beautiful. We had a mule deer tag for that area, but we didn't see anything. So we fueled up and went back uphill to camp, which was about two hours away. So the next day we got up early, we went out for a hunt, we hiked through the area where I had seen all the tracks, where I had seen the animal move, where we had just seen so much sign, but we didn't see anything in the woods.
15:50: The Sighting
And we're driving back down this hill and I say, "Rich, stop." And I pull all my binoculars and I'm glassing and I look and I see seven or eight elk. I see a bull elk with six or seven cows and I get Rich. I'm like, "Rich." And when I looked later on Onyx, which is the mapping program that we use, we were about a mile away at that time. So I never would've seen it if I had not taken the time to use my binoculars. I remember looking at Rich and we were both so excited. I can't remember the last time I was so excited about what we were doing. So we're walking through the woods very quietly and going so quietly because at this point we're about 700 yards away from the elk. So pretty close, but had quite a ways to go.
16:63: Now or Never
And we're hiking and we're going around trees whenever we can. There's all this deadfall, and we get to the edge of the forest and I use my rangefinder. I'm like, "We're close." But we were 450 yards away at that time, felt like that was too far. So we kind of edged back into the forest and got towards the edge to where we felt like we were much closer and we had a beautiful spot to just stop. There were two big spruce trees that gave us enough cover and we had the other spruce trees behind us. So we blended in with that and we set up a tripod and prepared to take a shot. We knew it was now or never. So we were prepared, took a shot and then waited and we waited a bit. We found the elk later in the woods nearby, and it was time to prepare for the field dressing.
17:42: The Elk Harvest
So I'm super grateful that we were able to do that. And hey, if you really enjoy hunting and we talk in person sometime I'll show you the rest of the photos. But with the snow and all, I'm going to spare those photos because they're just kind of graphic. It was around six o'clock by the time that we got to the elk, and it took us a few hours to do all of it. And Rich initially was like, "Hey, we got to go. We'll come back and finish tomorrow." And I was like, "No, we're going to take our time and do this very thoroughly." Because I've helped people butcher elk or field dress elk, and I felt like they left a lot of meat behind. I swear I got every morsel of meat that I could. And one of the reasons why is I like making jerky.
So jerky, there are two ways of making jerky. There's whole muscle jerky where you're slicing into the, usually the round if it's made with beef, various top round, bottom round, whatever, slicing into that, or you can use ground meat. We took all of it. We hung up the quarters. I brought two ratchet straps that have a 500 pound capacity. This was one thing I was really glad I brought because I basically made two loops between the ratchet straps up in the trees and was able to quickly create a very taut line. And on that, we tied the elk quarters. So it was about 10:30 at night and we had tidied everything up. We had the elk quarters in game bags hung from the tree, and it was time for our first haul out. So I took one of the hind quarters, I think Rich took one of the front quarters or maybe one of the bags of meat and organs that we kept, and we made our way out in the dark going through the snow and everything, and it was awesome.
And since it was so cold, we felt we knew we'd be fine with leaving the meat overnight. In the morning, we came back and we hiked the rest of it out. While we were hiking out, we saw a moose, we saw this huge bull moose, and we were within 15 yards. So, Rich and I started singing and making all kinds of noise and scared it off, but we were able to get some photos. When we got back to the Jeep, we heated up some chicken and rice soup and made sandwiches.
20:12: The Celebration
And man, that was one of the best meals ever. When we got back to camp and we're heading out, there was one of the most epic sunsets I've ever seen. I got photos of this sunset over the water of Rich's Jeep. It was really a special moment. And when we got back downtown, we had a feast at Juicy Loosies, which is this amazing restaurant. We had calamari and oysters and steak and baked potatoes. It was incredible. We saved a lot of the meat. We saved the tenderloins, which I came home and fed my family the next day. I saved a lot of the scrap meat and already grounded up and made it into jerky, pure Rocky Mountain, organic, free-range elk protein.
And then we took the rest of it just due to time. I was going back to work just in a couple days to a place called Holy Cow Processing in Silk, Colorado. Can't wait to get it back. So this was an excellent adventure. I love going elk hunting. It's fun even when we don't get anything, but it's way better when we do. I'm a super excited to share this meat with my family. We were as thorough and respectful of that cow elk as possible, which I think is the only way to do it if you're a hunter. And most of the people I know who are hunters ultimately respect the meat, the animal, the process very much. So I've learned from good people.
22:02: Business Lessons from a Hunter
There are some business takeaways. So one is that sometimes at work you're thinking about hunting or whatever your hobby is, and then sometimes while you're doing your hobby, you find yourself thinking about work and you're like, "Well, wait, I work so hard to get here to not be working. Why am I thinking about working?"
So when I caught myself thinking too much about work, I focused on just enjoying the moment. But one of the things that stuck out to me was the comment from the veterinarian about Jeremiah Johnson that's relevant to business. So he said, "Everyone wants to be Jeremiah Johnson until they need to be Jeremiah Johnson." Jeremiah Johnson was based on a real person on a true story, and that guy did not have Gore-Tex boots. He did not have gaiters that keep the snow out of his boots. He didn't have a propane heated camper, Onyx maps, outdoor class course range finders, the optics, all the different gear that we have. So there's no excuse, there's no comparison in many ways of what we do now, but it is cold. It was eight degrees when Rich and I got out of the camper and hiked and we did it and we did not give up.
And it's because we kept going through the fifth day, which is the day that the Californians gave up. It was because we kept going that we did the behaviors that produced that opportunity. So was it luck? I don't know, maybe. But without the hard work, without showing up and doing it, luck doesn't happen. Luck doesn't happen to people who just sit at home and don't go hunting or don't go and run their business. And the same is true with running your business, your landscape company, whatever it is, you've got to show up and do the work. You've got to show up and do the stuff that's uncomfortable, that most people won't do. And in particular right now, it's November, it's heading into December. This is always a stressful time for my clients, even if they do snow clearing, even if you do snow removal, there's a gap in revenue often during the wintertime for your landscape side.
And getting through that every year is tough. It is hard, and maybe we're in a down market or a recession or whatever we want to call it, but the only way you're going to succeed is by powering through it, doing it, showing up, being like Jeremiah Johnson. Everyone's like, "I want to be an entrepreneur. Being a small business owner is so cool." Parts of it can be, sometimes you can go hunting for a week and things are cool, sometimes it's total chaos and people quit and you don't have a team or whatever happens. So anyways, if you're still here, if you're watching this, even if you're not into hunting, keep going. The other takeaway here is having an adventure on the calendar. I've talked with my coach, Wayne, on the show about battling depression with beef jerky. So, my hobby, my passion, I love hunting.
I love being prepared for it. For me. It motivates me literally all year to work out every day that I work out. So that way I'm ready. And this year I was that much stronger and I'm so much stronger than I was like eight years ago when I got my first elk. I could hardly keep up with the guys on [inaudible 00:25:29]. This time I knew what I was doing, I was excited, I was motivated, I had energy to keep going and pack that thing out. Having an adventure on your calendar, whatever it is, having something that motivates you and inspires you to keep going I think is tremendously important, especially when you're running a business, trying to be like Jeremiah Johnson, dealing with all the hard stuff.
Have something to look forward to in your calendar. So, as far as the gift idea and my favorite piece of gear, I had a lot of cool gear on this trip. Would love to talk to you about gear. Send me a message on Instagram or email about gear if you love hunting gear. This though is an inflatable pillow. And honestly, I've been camping for like 30 years. I've been doing stuff outside and I usually just stuff some shirts into another shirt and call it a pillow. And I never sleep very well, but one of my buddies is like, "Dude, you've got to get a pillow."
26:37: The Perfect Gift for the Hunter in Your Family
All right, here it is. Already blew it up, an inflatable pillow. Now, the reason that this was my favorite thing, I track on my sleep on my Garmin. I had eight and a half hours of sleep the night before and after harvesting my cow elk. I felt incredible. We also, we drank ginger and turmeric tea and took turmeric supplements or turmeric, I don't even know how to say it, but it's anti=inflammatory so we felt amazing. So we slept well, we ate well, we were hydrated. And anyways, this inflatable pillow, if you have somebody in your life who likes camping or hunting or hiking or backpacking or RVing or just general traveling, this is an Aeros pillow, A-E-R-O-S, and it's from Sea to Summit. This thing made the trip for me. I can't wait to go to elk camp next year and sleep like a baby again. All right, my friends, thanks for listening to the story of my cow elk.
27:39: One Last Thing
One last thing. The night we got the elk, we heard voices in the camper. And at one point I said to Rich, "Are you playing like an AM radio that has a poor signal?" The wind was howling, the wind was howling. And that was one of the coldest things on that trip was when I was in the finger of forest, when I was in the pines, when I was in the spruce trees rather, it wasn't terrible, it was more cold, it was shady. But when we were in the wind, that's when it really was cold. So I don't know if it was the ghost at Dead Man's Point or what, but if you camp there, you might hear voices.
All right, my friends, thank you so much for listening to this story. I hope you enjoyed it. I hope you got some takeaways. I hope you have a cool trip planned, something that inspires you to grow your business to be able to take off, to do something cool with your friends and family. And my name's Jack Jostes. Thanks for listening to The Landscapers Guide. Make sure you subscribe at landscapersguide.com/podcast so you never miss an episode. And I'll look forward to talking with you next week on the Landscaper's Guide. Jack Jostes is here, and welcome to the Landscaper Guide podcast where we share burps. Excuse me, Brendan, sorry.
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