If there’s one thing that’s paramount to elk hunting it’s time, serious time. Every minute out there counts in favor of the hunter, while every minute anywhere but out there can be a deduction often bringing heavy mental penalties, depending on how one figures this into their own successes in hunting.
As elk hunters we can either define all these moments, or allow the moments to define us. Our actions afield are accounted for in one way or another, regardless of what we do when we think no one is watching. Over the last couple of weeks we’ve been pretty busy working on those defining moments.
Throughout the years of chasing wild things in wild places, these definitions continue to result in very simple theories; however, it doesn’t take long for an elk hunter to realize that the application of even the simplest plans are not always guarantees of the final product. But, sticking to the plan always seems to work better than other choices.
The extreme mental and physical demands required to be a successful Northern Rocky Mountains Elk Hunter is often skewed by Outdoor shows and the “Hollywood” version of the real truth. In my early years as an Outfitter I probably helped contribute to the misconceptions as well. Rest assured, if you’ve got any questions you’d like to pose to the real elk hunters, I’ve got a ton more references so far this season. With that said, before you go puffing out your chest because you shot some big bull out of a heated blind accessed with an OHV or fancy pickup, talk to any of the gentlemen (& ladies) who’ve left some shoe leather on these mountains and they’ll tell you what real fair chase elk hunting is all about.
There’s no shortage of testaments to just how much a hunter has to push oneself just to create an opportunity let alone go home with one of * North America’s Wildest Big Game Animals. You might also want to visit the latest “Hybrid Hunter” profile below to gain some insight into the possibilities awaiting today’s modern elk hunter.
Please don’t let these challenges scare you away until you understand the rules of the game. Remember, if elk hunting were easy, everyone would do it. Fact is, regardless of your definition of success it is POSSIBLE as last week’s hunters have so humbly proven. If you’re still one of those guys looking for the decor of big rack to hang on your wall, I can pass on some numbers from local taxidermists, even some numbers of a few fellas that run hig- fence hunts or maybe you’d prefer a big, private ranch that might charge you around $20,000.00? Whatever the case, there is no substitute for doing it with honor and integrity, the adventure just can’t be bought. In order to get the full effect, you’ll actually have to go on a hunt, get out there, get dirty, get cold, get wet and maybe even get bloody. (I do offer “custom elk hunting stories” for a fee if you choose the easy option). It is true…”If you ain’t bleeding, sweating or puking, you ain’t hunting elk”!
*”North America’s Wildest Big Game Animals”: The elk of southwest Montana that we pursue have been at the epicenter of Gray Wolf introductions since 1994. These elk have since survived many generations of these tenacious over-populated unnatural predators. As a result, elk in these areas has forced the creation of a new category and definition for “fair chase hunting”. Elk unaffected by these predators in other parts of the US are confirmed to be less vigilante and healthy, which means less challenging hunting. Over the last 5 years many fair chase hunters are recognizing that “record books” will perhaps need revised and additional categories as we further define “fair chase” hunting in areas with increasing predator populations and the challenges of western big game hunting in modern society.”
THE REAL MONTANA ELK HUNTING REPORT
By the second week of the season the mild weather had some of us imagining Giraffes coming through the sagebrush instead of Wapiti! If you’ve ever dreamed of an African Safari, you need not leave the states! Eventually we got on track, although the Grizzly was spotted one more time resting on a ridge, it could have been a rock. I’m still watching for movement and that bear is still sleeping. This sighting did however allow for a more efficient pac-outs. “Bear rocks” have that effect on all of us. Opportunities were presented almost daily, while seeing brown elk against brown grass proved that “glassing” and “roosting elk” were key. If patience is a virtue, then hanging out on a windswept high mountain ridge staring at the same dirt looking for elk should be a political office.
Some welcome snow blanketed the mountain towards the end of week two renewed some spirits, but also tested some gear.(cotton kills). Suddenly, the elk that “weren’t there” the day before magically showed up. Most everyone agrees that they were always there, just not visible-how’s that for “faith”? The mountain was still steep and unforgiving, but when a group of positive individuals work together good things happen. ( Len also changed the schedule for “Steak and Shrimp Night”, outstanding meals in hunting camp can be a distraction-Thanks Honey!) The time change also helped dinner not seem so far off.
Wisdom is always gained through experience. The mountain gives a man peace but also confidence in rebuilding that self-reliance that he or she doesn’t need anything but their own mind and body.(the hybrid hunter actually uses no synthetic fuels). All of my clients remind me that trophy books and that “trophy mentality” are only for those who feel a need to compensate for other shortfalls. In a world where everyone seems to want it easier, faster and more conveniently, I’m proud to say there’s plenty of successful elk hunters that do it for the right reasons, these are the good ones, the real ones. True Sportsmen understand that hunting isn’t a competition sport, but a test of one’s own will against the unpredictability’s that only nature can provide. We all hope that the rules never change. When a clients comment “don’t change a thing”…we listen! The good news is, elk aren’t going to change. Elk hunting won’t get easier, but as hunters we will continue to get better. This won’t happen through expensive gear and gadgets, it happens with heart, big hearts and even bigger lung capacity!
“Keeping the faith” was vital to most hunters’ successes. Those who gained this gift realized that leaving the mountain too soon would cause this faith to falter asking the question,” if a hunter wasn’t there to see the elk, were they really there?” When this occurs, we sometimes view ourselves as cursed, this just isn’t the case, and never happens when you live by the “NO WHINERS” creed. All pursuits and challenges against nature has a way of testing everyone’s faith. I’m certain that each individual who sought the comforts of “lodgin’ it” as my wife commonly states freely to some of our clients, is revealed when weary hunters return late in the evening with a certain look of that faith alive and strong, fed by perceptions gained simply from being there and agreeing that the elk are there. How strong that faith is will often be revealed in reflection of either your definition of success or the realities of the end result of the hunt. You’ll get out of it just what you put into it, sometimes more, but rarely will you be disappointed.
Once the snow had settled in we were able to finally see what we thought we’d been missing which also helped everyone to hang in there. Elk started moving to feeding areas sooner which widened the gap of opportunities giving anyone who sat tight the advantage. Even with increased elk movement, few opportunities presented themselves until those magic moments. Unfortunately, sometimes these magic moments can show up right when other bodily functions question our patience (I’m talking about hunger). This proved to be just the right amount of incentive. Once this started happening, faith was imbedded like a sickness, and no one frowned when I set 4:00 AM breakfast times, matter of fact, it was hard to sleep in between.
By day three we were loading the last bull up to the processor and having hot lunches. These are the kinds of weeks we sure appreciate, but never take for granted when it comes to elk hunting. There’s never any guarantees and it usually takes a whole lot of good things to come together to make things like this happen. We call it hunting and not shooting for a reason.
Since there weren’t many reasons to take 3 hour trail rides in the dark some of the gang enjoyed time at the “Boiling River”
I’ve decided not to post any of those photos, but I’ll leave that story up to the boys who have taken ownership of said photos. The elk country near Yellowstone Park offers more than just wildlife for sure. Applying “better to be lucky than good” still doesn’t make for good closure when it comes to elk hunting. On the other hand, luck was there, but it was created by the passions, preparations and persistance of those afield-attitude is everything.
As we head into the final week of Montana’s Big Game season we’re even more stoked to get back out there. It will be a crazy time in Paradise Valley. During our last week we’ll welcome some long time return clients who are in my opinion, the poster children for keeping the faith. These folks have always had what it takes to make it happen. Along with help from the mountain and some great “pack outs” we’ve successfully helped one of them quit smoking. Also joining us will be some great friends from the RMEF and PBR. World Champion Bull Riders shouldn’t have any problems with the morning rides; I just hope they can stay on longer than 8 seconds. We’ll welcome the new film crew from “Elk Chronicles” and my friend Steve Decker from the RMEF. If you are a follower of the toughest sport on dirt- check out “Cowboys for Conservation”. If you’ve always wanted to ride a bucking bull, try spending a day or two walking the slopes of Dome Mountain, it’s good training and lasts longer than most bull rides.
WHAT IS “YOUR” SUCCESS RATE?”
One question I hear a lot is “what’s your success rate”? Over the years I’ve done my best to make sure I know exactly what the question is asking. With that, I’ll digress a bit here hoping to help further define the question before diving into the answer. Several years ago I put a test together which ESPN has picked up and started passing around.
If you’re interested, you can take the test yourself. Send in your results with comments and questions right back to this blog, and perhaps together as Sportsmen we can further increase our success rate together. Even with all this,” fair-chase elk hunting” is still very simple. Find them-get there-wait-seize the moment.
BOOK YOUR MONTANA ELK HUNT TODAY WITH DOME MOUNTAIN RANCH-800-313-HUNT.
As our season winds to a close, we’ve officially opened up some dates for our 2011 elk hunts. Reservations will be accepted on a “first-come, first-serve basis”. We require ½ the cost of the hunt to reserve your dates. Please call 800-313-HUNT and I’d be happy to share some nearly live adventures with you and help you answer the question-”Are you up for the challenge?”
Many thanks to all of our clients, guides, my wife Lennae and her faithful assistant Jessica. The 2010 season could not have been nearly as successful without the great teamwork, personal care and passions you all have. Keep the faith and stay tuned for future adventures!
*The latest winner of the “NO WHINERS” t-shirt contest goes to 77 year old Skip Soule-If you’d like to enter our contest, please share your roughest-toughest fair chase hunting experience. If your story and photos are selected, we’ll send you “Beyond Fair Chase” and one of our famous “NO WHINERS” hunting shirts!
Thanks for reading!
Jim “JB” Klyap, Outfitter #7843