Elk Hunting: It’s a Young Person’s Game

By BRUCE AUCHLY for FWP

Some isolated thoughts this year from too many unsuccessful days elk hunting.

Why is it that the older I get – 60 is in the headlights, 50 has disappeared from rearview mirror – the more I’m convinced that elk hunting is a young person’s game?

Last year I called in an elk calf and thanked the Almighty that it was not a full grown elk.

That’s because I was three miles from the truck and as I slowly made my way down the mountain, groaning under an overstuffed backpack, I thought, if I break an ankle I hope someone can identify my remains next spring.

Speaking of downhill, every hunter, especially every elk hunter should memorize the following: Always shoot uphill of the truck.

And speaking of age, I ran into a young friend – early 20’s, in the military, and in shape – who hunts the same area where I do. He told me he was on a nearby hill the previous week, spotted elk about two miles away and took off on a run toward them.

When I say run, it’s a figure of speech. When he says run, he does. He also got his elk. I’m telling you it’s a young person’s game.

Why is it that if I shot an elk last year, I cannot go back to the same spot and shoot one there this year?

elk in snow1

Elk in snow. Photo courtesy ofFWP

This year I went back to where the elk calf ran to me and nothing happened. I mean, I did my part, must be poor wildlife management.

I did find day-old tracks in the snow that I followed for less than 100 yards until I remembered last year’s struggle and wondered if my remains would be identified in the spring.

But I was still uphill from the truck.

Why is it I just found a note I wrote last year: Next year better boots, better pack.

Why is it year after year I bring too many clothes when it’s warm and too few when it’s cold? You would think a person would learn.

One thing I did learn this year is why a windswept ridge is called windswept.

As I sat on said windswept ridge last week and waited first for shooting hours to commence, then dawn, I went from anxious to prepared to hoping no elk walked in front of me. My fingers were so cold after an hour of sitting still in near zero wind chill that I wasn’t sure I could pull the trigger.

You know you are cold when you’ve eaten your lunch by sun up in a failed attempt to stay warm.

So why, you may ask, do I continue to go elk hunting. Each year it gets harder. The mountains are taller. My muscles ache more.

I could quit and say it’s a young person’s game. However, I know an 86-year-old man who shot his elk last year near Bozeman and spent five days packing it out. So there is the shame factor if I were to hang it up.

Honestly, I don’t know.

But I do know I’ll be uphill of the truck.