After last October, it'll be hard for me not to measure every hunting setting from here on out against that first morning in the mountains on the Colorado rifle opener. Rafe Nielsen and I followed our guide, Zach Workman, up the dark trail. To our left, the eastern half of the Spanish Peaks soared, their slopes glowing ghostly in the predawn. Twenty minutes into the hike, I stopped for a quick rest. The 9,000 feet of elevation was largely to blame for my getting winded, but it wasn't the only factor. I had never hunted the high country before, and the elk tag in my pocket was another first. As we neared the meadow where Workman had been seeing elk grazing, the combination of adrenaline, anticipation, and altitude was almost suffocating.