At church recently, my brother-in-law was talking my hunting skills up with a fellow church member I didn't know very well. He quickly came over to ask if he could go hunting with me this fall. Not knowing how to navigate through the urgent and slightly awkward request, I introduced myself and started asking a few questions.
We went on with the conversation and I found out this guy was pretty cool. He was a chiropractor in exceptional mental and physical health and he wanted to get into archery hunting. He wasn’t a completely new hunter as he had experience with high country mule deer hunts with his late best friend’s father. Their mule deer trips had always been special for him as his best friend sacrificed his life serving our country in Afghanistan. He seemed genuinely interested and passionate.
While I didn't offer a free guided hunt in my top secret honey hole, I did trade phone numbers with him so I could share links to some great starter calling kits. I invited him to one of our local archery shops and gave dates to a couple of my scouting trips. We began talking at church every Sunday. I offered encouragement to get him started on the journey, but as our conversations continued, it become apparent he was under the impression archery elk hunting was comparable to rifle deer hunting. I realized I needed to temper his expectations.
My friend from church had what it takes to get started: passion. But to keep from burning out and stay on the climb, you need realistic expectations. Much of our disappointment or frustrations in life come from expectation versus reality. There are certainly many resources available to make the learning curve easier, but know elk hunting isn't one of those hobbies with which you can expect overnight success. Many professional hunters are pretty outspoken about their unique, long, and bumpy road to their first archery bull. I don’t point this out to discourage anyone, but rather to give insight to realistic expectations. I want to see you value the climb as much as the summit.
There will be more moments of exhaustion, silence, lack of animals, failure, frustration, and loneliness than there will be encounters with screaming bulls. Unfortunately, the hunting shows on private land showing only the exciting parts with monster bulls just aren’t a realistic picture. But all the moments of failure and frustration are worth that one encounter. You have to enjoy the journey as much as the harvest to be a successful hunter.
In our society we have become accustomed to silver bullet success. Regardless of advancements in technology, archery elk is just not that way. The mountain and experienced wapiti will humble you. Learn what you are getting into and plan for a challenging, yet rewarding, climb. My best life moments of pure satisfaction and joy have come from accomplishments culminating from years of struggle and work.
I invite you to either start the journey or take it to a new level. Before you do, ensure you know the work involved and why you want it. Study in the off-season, reach out to someone better than you, and stay determined.
- Danny Bell