It was 1996, and Mike DeJean had just pocketed a whopping $13,000 pitching for the Colorado Rockies' AAA club Sky Sox in Colorado Springs.
An outdoorsmen who was new to the high country, DeJean decided to sign on as a camp cook for an elk guide.
"We were scrapping just to get by anyway," DeJean said. But he didn't take the job as much for the money as the chance to get out in the wilds of the Great Divide and learn the ins and outs of tracking bull elk.
But even before he set up camp, the guide got in a bind and DeJean was pressed into service taking out hunters.
"I ended up guiding, and everybody I took hunting either killed an elk or a mule deer," DeJean said.
He had found his calling well, another in a list of callings.
Now, when he's not pitching for the Milwaukee Brewers or spending time with his wife, Holly, and their 1-year-old son, Chase, he's out in the offseason tracking elk in Colorado for paying clients.
DeJean, 31, interviewed by ESPN Outdoors during the 2001 regular season, has more to say about guiding and pitching in this "Athletes in the Outdoors" Q&A segment:
ESPN Outdoors: "I heard that you are an elk-hunting guide in Colorado in the offseason."
Mike DeJean : "In 1996, I got traded in the offseason from the Yankees. In '95, I was in AA with them. 1996 was the first year I was with the Rockies organization; I was in AAA with them in Colorado Springs. Their chapel leader down there was a hunting guy; his name is Donny Carr, and we became good friends, and then we went into business together doing elk hunting and deer."
EO: "Is elk your specialty?"
MD: "Yeah, when people come to Colorado, people don't want to kill a deer, they want kill an elk. That is mainly what we do, elk hunt."
EO: "Are you certified to guide by the state?"
MD: "Yeah, we have an outfitters license number, LLC, Limited Liability Corporation, and all that fun stuff."
EO: "What do you charge for an elk hunt?"
MD: "It depends on where we are at. We have two main ranches, which would be 40 minutes outside of Colorado Springs, going west. I would say between $3,000 and $3,500 for a five-day fully guided hunt."
EO: "That is on a ranch that is owned by you?"
MD: "No, it's a ranch that we lease. It's private land, and it is a pretty sweet deal. The Maytag Ranch we have is primarily our elk ranch, and the caretaker for that ranch is a man named Lou Marrow, and he is a Teller County deputy sheriff. He is basically one of the main guys that caught the Texas Seven (prison escapees arrested in Teller County in January 2001).
"Both of our main ranches, and the little ones around it, are private and they are patrolled by Teller County deputy sheriffs just because half those guys hunt anyway. They know Lou, they know me, they know the rest of my buddies. We hunt the Pikes Peak heard of Rocky Mountain elk."
EO: "What is your biggest trophy, and what is the biggest trophy you've guided someone else to?"
MD: "The biggest trophy I've guided someone to was a mule deer; it was probably a 195 on the Crockett scale. Personally, I've killed quite a few whitetail. I've been hunting in Colorado for six years now, and have probably hunted about a total of four hours myself there, and this last year (2000) is the first year I'd shot an elk on my tag.
EO: "Is baseball different from other sports because there may be more hunters?"
MD: "With baseball, it seems like all the guys are from the South. Maybe because it is the climate down south, it promotes baseball a little longer in the season, even yearlong. A lot of the guys are big hunters, and if you come from the South (DeJean hails from Walker, La., outside of Baton Rouge), it is your birth-given right."
EO: "You must have made a decision about being an elk guide. Did you waffle on that for a little bit?"
MD: "When I got to Colorado, I knew I wanted to get into the hunting and stuff like that, and when I met Donny, it just all fit together."
EO: "Had Donny Carr ever hunted with you before?"
MD: "I was supposed to cook for him (on guided hunts) the first season there in '96. He got in a bind and I ended up guiding, and everybody I took hunting either killed an elk or a mule deer."
EO: "What do you mean cooking?"
MD: "Doing the camp cooking."
EO: "Just to be able to get out there?"
MD: "Yeah, just to kind of get out there. I'd never hunted an elk before."
EO: "Why would you offer your cooking services?"
MD: "Just to get experience out in the mountains; that was my first time ever being in the high country."
EO: "I presume you go hunting every day in the offseason?"
MD: "We not only have fully guided hunters, but we have self-guided hunters, so basically all you have to do is go out there and make sure that they are OK, and kind of quiz them on if they are seeing animals."
EO: "How many guided trips do you do in the offseason?"
MD: "In one season, I'll do one trip, for 5 days."
EO: "What about other times during the offseason? When you are hunting?"
MD: "During the elk season, I'll try to get two or three days to go out there and hunt. I go to Nebraska and do some pheasant hunting and whitetail hunting. I have a buddy who has some land in Lamar, Colo.; that is where I do my duck hunting.
"I couldn't tell you how many times I hunt in the offseason, but I'll tell you what, I guarantee that I go 99 percent more of the time than all the hunters in the United States. Not two or three days go by that I'm not shooting at something."
EO: "I was talking Jarrod Washburn (of the Anaheim Angels, a huge NFL fan when it comes to anything Green Bay) and he said that unless the Packers are playing on a Sunday, he's out every day."
MD: "I can relate to that. I have seen maybe two or three outs of the last six World Series because I'm always out hunting."
EO: "Is baseball secondary to you?"
MD: "Without a doubt. I love playing baseball. I like hunting. I've been doing this a lot longer than playing baseball. I figure you go with what you are good at, so baseball and hunting are my two vices."
EO: "What is the most memorable experience you've had in the field?"
MD: "It was two years ago. I had Brian Bohanon's (former Colorado Rockies pitcher) wife, Tina, and a gentleman from Kentucky with me out on a hunt. When I have two hunters who don't know each other, you flip a coin to see who gets the first shot.
"We kind of knew where the elk were. When we are getting to the area to where the elk are, we see some elk in the meadow. Tina shoots her bull. That's great; one hunter down and one to go. I take the older gentleman out that night and he shoots a bull from about 360 yards."
EO: "Do you get more enjoyment guiding?"
MD: "That's true. It's twice as hard, because you have two different smells, two different sounds, two different movements, and to get a guy in position with these animals is amazing."
EO: "What about the thrill you get when you see someone get their first trophy bull?"
MD: "It was really special for me with Mr. Don Barton. He was the 65-year-old guy that got that bull I was talking about earlier. He had never killed a bull."
EO: "Have you struck upon any similarities between baseball and hunting?"
MD: "You always have to be ready when you are down there; you don't want to get caught with your pants down."
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