September looms ever closer and the anticipation is overwhelming! I keep dreaming of that first bugle of the year—the high, throaty notes building as they cut through the morning dawn, over bubbling creeks, through crisp meadows, and finally dissipating into misty timber. Many hunts with family and friends are already on the books with more amazing memories to be lived.
But for now, it is time to prepare and the preparations are quite fun in themselves. Gear is organized, food stockpiled, bows tuned, bodies strengthened, calling finessed, and maps plotted. Around the busy preparations, I find it important to reflect on lessons learned. There are mistakes I don’t want to make twice. I reflect on bull encounters when I was at full draw. Bulls that were less than 30 yards distance. Bulls that live all the wiser due to my mistakes.
I grew up rifle hunting blacktail deer in western Washington. It was not until my senior year in college that I finally picked up a bow in pursuit of elk. I have never looked back and it has become quite a passion. There are several things I wish I had known as a new elk hunter that would have saved me a lot of time and missed opportunities. I am far from having it all figured out, but I have learned much. If you are a new elk hunter, here are a few things that will hopefully give you a boost up the learning curve (it's quite steep):
I have always desired to be a competent hunter. I have grown a lot and enjoy more consistent success now than ever before. From day one, I have learned from other hunters. The true credit of any success I have experienced belongs to them. The following is a snapshot of how I have watched, listened, and grown.
America is in the golden age of technology. New software and products flood the market daily and gear gurus are ever able to spend their dollar. The hunting culture is not exempt. High tech clothing, new calls, packs, research, online scouting, and map technology all make aspects of the hunt easier or more comfortable. The average hunter does not have to be good at reading a map or navigating terrain. There are no secret spots anymore. Every honey hole can be viewed with a click of a mouse if you know what to look for. Quality optics, clothing, and gear give every hunter opportunity to be comfortable in the elements, see farther, and shoot farther. Even knowledge is close at hand for everyone. Resources to learn about your quarry and how to hunt them are available like never before.
Never, ever give up!
On most of my hunts this fall I walked miles and miles up and down mountains. There were times when I was hunting alone, discouraged and ready to call it quits. There were other times where I was exhausted with only 30 minutes of hunting light left. I could have easily gone back to the truck to rest. Fortunately, perseverance pays off. Each time I wanted to quit was when I experienced the most success. The following are a few examples.