It’s been a long time coming! Part I
|Firearms - Rifles/Guns|
It all started in the fall of 2000, Brent and I had decided to try something that we had never done before-book an Elk hunt! It definitely was outside of our comfort zone of whitetail hunting. Chasing whitetails is our passion, something we were very familiar with. So this was going to be a new experience for us.
We were greenhorns at booking out of state hunts; we didn’t have any friends to give us advice as to where to go or, for that matter, who to go with. We were really on our own. At that time, we STILL did not have a computer, sad but true; we were a little behind the times. All we had were television shows or hunting magazines to guide us. What we needed was a personal reference, and we didn’t have that either! With hardly any information, I went to our local book store and stumbled across a book called North America’s Greatest Big Game Lodges and Outfitters. I bought it right away. This was a starting place for us; I came home and read it from cover to cover. There was a wealth of information in this book and I knew we would find our Elk Outfitter in it. After months of toiling over where to go and with what outfitter, we finally settled on one. We were going to be heading to Trout Creek, Montana. We decided that we would go on a combination elk and deer hunt in November of 2001.
I bought books on elk and their behaviors to learn as much about the species as I could. We practiced on the shooting range from 50-400 yards. I decided to take my .270 Remington bolt action rifle. I was confident to 300 yards. This was going to be an adventure! We were sure we were going to tag elk; we would be carrying rifles; what could be better? As the months drew closer, we gathered all necessary hunting gear needed for our trip. Once November was finally here, we boarded the plane, kissed our family goodbye, and were off!
We landed in Spokane, Washington, rented a car and drove to camp. Camp was really nice; we had our own cabin, fully furnished with all of the modern conveniences a person could want. The main cabin was situated about 30 yards from our cabin, which was where all of the meals were served and hunting stories were swapped.
This hunt would be 2 x 1, and with four tags between us, we knew we would score! The next morning came early. We woke up, had a great breakfast and were off. We would be hunting public land, the Lolo National Forrest. The outfitter assured us that there was little to no resident pressure. The first day we made a long hike to the top of Mount Silcox to glass for elk and deer. This was a very strenuous hike for me, I was so glad to make it to the top. When Brent found a horse shoe on the peak of this mountain, we all said that is going to be a lucky horse shoe, and so it was. Minutes after picking it up an elk was spotted in the avalanche shoot that we were glassing down. I wanted so badly for this to be my shot, but we ranged it, and it read 600 yards! Brent was shooting a 7mm Remington Ultra Mag. He knew the trajectory and he was confident on making that shot. Since he was shooting at a severely steep angle, he aimed for the top of his back and fired off a shot. It was a good hit, but he made an insurance shot and the bull was down. We were stoked; one down, one to go! And this was just the first day!
The rest of the week we split up. I hunted with the outfitter everyday walking the logging roads. Brent hunted by himself walking the opposite direction and we would meet back at night. I saw things on this hunt that I had never seen before. I saw a bull moose and a glimpse of a mountain lion climbing up a rock bed. I saw elk beds which I’d never seen either. It was an eye opening hunt. The week came to a close after seven full days of hiking my tail off. I came up empty. I never saw another elk, but I saw a handful of small whitetail bucks, which I passed on. By the week’s end I was put into my place, since earlier I was thinking that this would be a slam dunk! It was so hard, I was disappointed, but ready to book back. Brent had harvested a nice mule deer buck later in the week, and the other three hunters in camp all scored! I was the only person that had NO opportunities. I was down on myself, but what could I do? I pouted that evening to myself (nobody would have known), but I got over it.
We drove back to the airport and headed home. I was a changed person; I now knew how hard it was going to be for me to tag an elk.
2002, November: same place, same hunt. Four tags between us, no problem. Surely my luck would change; this was my year to get my elk. Positive thinking was the way I was going to bag my bull! Seven grueling days of hunting, hiking until I was sore, giving it everything I had. I was a trooper! I never uttered a complaint, I was so positive, but at the end of the hunt I still came up empty. This time Brent came up with a zero as well. Neither of us had any opportunities this year. We were wising up. We flew home with our heads hung low, and we knew we had to change our game plan if I was to get my elk!
2003: I needed a rest from elk hunting, so we booked a black bear hunt in the spring and a whitetail hunt for the fall! They were both fantastic hunts.
2004: By September, I was yearning to elk hunt again; I had to try my hand at it one more time. This was starting to defeat me and I didn’t like that! We decided that we would bow hunt this time. We picked an outfitter in Wyoming. We decided to drive and enjoy the beautiful countryside along the way. (Of course driving is a lot easier, when you have two huge bull elk racks and the meat to carry home.) We’ve got to stop being over confident about our adventures; it has gotten us in trouble every time. Anyway, this hunt was awesome, there were elk everywhere. All I needed was my rifle, but all I had was my bow! At least we had the rut on our side and we were now hunting private land! I just needed a bull to come in to our calls; I was confident out to 40 yards. The outfitter would set us up in a “Y” configuration. That way he would be behind us and call, then if a bull came in, one of us would hopefully get the shot. I knew that there was no way to put the odds in my favor, who knew which way the bull would come in? On the first day of the hunt, we barely got set up and a nice 6 x 6 came barreling in. I was caught off guard, and didn’t really know what to do: he was coming to me on a string, and I was facing him. He was in the wide open and I was trying to hide behind some sage brush. Since I am a complete rookie at this, I didn’t know that I shouldn’t be facing him as he was coming to me, that I needed to be facing where he would walk past my shooting lane. I screwed that one up big time. He walked to within 15 yards of me and I was frozen facing the wrong direction! I made a desperate attempt to move and take a shot since I was already at full draw, and of course, he saw me and bolted. On the second day of the hunt, we got set up on a hot bull, and within seconds he was making his way to us. Unfortunately for me, he came to within nine yards of Brent on his side, I was about 25 yards from the bull, but I knew I couldn’t shoot, because it was closer to Brent and that would have been blatant for me to shoot that one out from under him! Bull number two for Brent…none for me! What gives?
We hunted hard the rest of that week; we gave it everything we had. I put my heart and soul into that hunt, but still came up empty. I did not have anymore opportunities the rest of the week. I felt like I had blown my chance earlier, and I was hard on myself. I was beginning to think that this was ridiculous: I had now been on three different elk hunts but I still had not harvested one.
We had booked this hunt as a combination with antelope. We were both very successful, in the first two days of this hunt we were tagged out. I was very happy about that, at least the hunt wasn’t a total bust. I was becoming negative after all of those years trying for an elk; being the one coming home, having to explain to all of my family and friends that I did not get an elk again.
At that point, I came to grips that I will not be successful on every hunting trip. I then changed my mindset to: if I do not harvest an animal on a trip, that is OK. Every experience is very enriching and there is something to learn every time. I am not an expert elk hunter and I know in the future I will make many more mistakes. I know that I may come up empty on future hunts. But from now on, I would not get down on myself. I will continue to try and give it all that I have, and one day I will get my well- deserved elk. I’m not telling you that I won’t be a little disappointed coming home empty handed since I save all year long for the hunt (and I would be lying to myself to not be a little let down), but I now look at it in a different light.
Will I ever get an elk? My quest for an elk only intensifies!
© March 2008
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