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Why Elk Hunt?

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Why Elk Hunt?

Postby Swede » 05 09, 2022 •  [Post 1]

I want to stress at the beginning that I heartily support out of State hunting and out of State hunters are welcome where I hunt as far as I am concerned.

I hear people say they have a successful hunt just being out in the wild. They say, "it is not about the kill." Well good for you, then why do you pay big money to buy a license and elk tag?
Not to call tagging an elk a "success" seems odd to me. Tagging an elk is still only about a 10% proposition on average. Anyone can wander around in the forest sightseeing. Who calls that "success".

Since about 5% of the hunters kill elk about every season, that reduces the chance of filling a tag for the others to about 5%. So why hunt? A good camera costs about as much as two tags and lasts a lifetime. You can see everything that an elk hunter does and likely more.

If you contend that it is in fact important to shoot an elk, and that this "success" thing not getting an elk is nonsense, then why are you not hunting from a tree stand at least in archery season? Even Elknut posted on another forum that most hunters would be more likely to fill their tags from a tree. I will add that it sure increased my chances at getting one. I went from about 20% to 90%. I was above average as I lived and worked close to good elk hunting. That helped quite a bit, but the tree stand took my success to new heights.

Of course, Swede is stirring the pot again. It is still raining here, and I am impatiently waiting for my pickup to arrive. :D
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Re: Why Elk Hunt?

Postby Lefty » 05 09, 2022 •  [Post 2]

Swede you are stirring the pot!!
Its snowing here, with 30-40 mph winds, so Ill reply,, maybe in snarky manner :P

Why not hunt elk?


If my only goal was to kill an elk I would stand hunt.

To me there is so much more to a hunt than the kill.
Heard a pod cast from Cory J and Randy N explaining why they like calling over stand hunting. For me it is just more exciting.
The first bull I ever called. He started out maybe only 100 yards away , which I didn't know. A bugle and he charges in running everything in his way down , He ended up downwind of me 30 yards,, screaming at me,, till he winded me
That is nothing like sitting on a stand watching the squirrels run around

The days we hunted this location , what kind of memory would we have if in a stand.
Seeing my granddaughters eyes grow when a bull responded to her raking,,, nothing on a stand can compare

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Re: Why Elk Hunt?

Postby Jhg » 05 09, 2022 •  [Post 3]

I have nothing against worms so might as well open this can of them...

I try not to generalize, but this is probably as good a time as ever to do so.

There are only two or three types of elk hunters:

Serious, successful ones who besides loving doing it also do their homework (whatever they do not know they learn) and apply those lessons. When these elk hunters tag soup they may not cry about it but trust me its a pride thing and it bothers them not to get an elk. That alone is one reason this group usually gets it done. If you hear anything from this group about the experience being enough, it is said only in service of the higher ideal that we shalt not cry nor bitch nor stamp our feet. We take our lumps and put the best spin on tag soup as we can.

Then we have the dabblers. These are hunters who do not actually prioritize hunting elk. If they hunt much it is by chance and not design. They know a little but not a lot because there is always some reason or other that limits their time in the elk woods, hunting or scouting. Sometimes they get lucky. However, this bunch are pretty good folk and have no skin in the game except, well, they have no skin in the game. So if they tag soup, the days in camp are good enough. I think it from this bunch we get "being out there is reward enough" stuff.

Last but not least are the pretenders. Heaven forbid they get an elk two years in a row. Reach for the ear plugs if they tag soup because the excuses will be in plenty. They do not actually enjoy anything about the outdoors, least of all sleeping out in it. Their worst nightmare is actually getting an elk by themselves in some hell hole. That is why this bunch always hunts in groups or attaches to a group. When they are not successful its easy for them to say something like getting an elk is not all that important. If they do get an elk it is because their knowledge is deep and it is profound. Or at least that is what they told me. But I can't be sure because to be honest I wasn't listening to them anyway.


Speaking only for myself, if I do not tag out it really bugs me. I am old enough not to let it ruin my day, or my life. But I am very disappointed. For one thing, there is the empty freezer issue. Nothing is worse than buying beef when you know elk tastes better.
Then, there will be no drive-by gloats. Admit it. We all enjoy letting others know we tagged out. And why not? I respect anyone who got an elk on public land, fair chase. I enjoy their success and like to hear the story. I would like to think we are in some small way connected by the passion and love for the hunt. So it is in no way self indulgent to be proud of the accomplishment that punching an elk tag represents around others who know first hand how hard it can be sometimes.

You earned it after all.

I love being in the woods. Hunting elk is one reason.

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Re: Why Elk Hunt?

Postby Swede » 05 09, 2022 •  [Post 4]

JHG: You get it. Well said. It is a pride thing, and even though I do not hang my head in shame when I do not fill my tag, it still hurts. I am even more determined to get one next season after an unsuccessful season. I left my accustomed area when I went two years out of five with no elk. I never have packed up and left home for the hunt thinking it is OK to strike out. No way. And no way would a high fence elk hunt satisfy the pride of getting one fair chase on public land with an OTC tag. I would just as soon eat oatmeal mush as an elk steak I shot from a high fence hunt.
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Re: Why Elk Hunt?

Postby Lefty » 05 09, 2022 •  [Post 5]

I use to teach the five "Whys" for my engineering program.
I also Didnt enjoy my required Philosophy and logic class,, Professor either didnt know what he was talking about or he was doing a great job messing with us
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Re: Why Elk Hunt?

Postby Tigger » 05 10, 2022 •  [Post 6]

I will add another type to the mix. The hunter who is trying to get another hunter an elk and thus doesn't fill his or her tag. Last year, my priority was #1 get my daughter an elk. #2 get dad an elk and #3 get my daughters boyfriend and elk. I went 2 for 3. That is success. I didn't personally notch my tag, but that wasn't a priority.
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Re: Why Elk Hunt?

Postby Jhg » 05 10, 2022 •  [Post 7]

I will be doing the exact same thing this fall. Nephew has his new longbow and we are already scouting, stump shooting and practicing calling. But I may also get him into tree stands. I have 3 and know some great locations for them. Getting him on elk is number one. I will not help him shoot it though. I won't go that far.
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Re: Why Elk Hunt?

Postby Swede » 05 10, 2022 •  [Post 8]

I applaud all of you that help others get their game. I know many of you do that. I help others almost every season, by placing them in a good tree stand. I don't shoot their critter, but feel I have a part in their success by putting them in the best possible location.
I still remember RJ guiding me to some of his favorite haunts in Idaho.
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Re: Why Elk Hunt?

Postby Elkhunttoo » 05 11, 2022 •  [Post 9]

I see what Swede did. He titled this “why elk hunt”…..when it should be “why don’t you elk hunt in a tree stand”….always throwing the curve ball :D

My simple answer is…Because I can!!! I spend way to many hours in the day thinking about it not to :D
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Re: Why Elk Hunt?

Postby Swede » 05 12, 2022 •  [Post 10]

You blew my cover Elkhunttoo. I was trying to be a little clever but now I have been busted. :D
I really don't care how anyone hunts if they don't interfere with me. The ones that should really hate the idea of hunters hiding up in the trees are the elk.
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Re: Why Elk Hunt?

Postby saddlesore » 05 12, 2022 •  [Post 11]

In early years,it use to trouble me if I didn't kill an elk. My family lived on deer,elk or antelope. If I didn't tag one,we were eating 15 year old dairy cows I bought for 3 cents a pound on the hoof and 2 cents a pound to have it processed, along with $10/100 weight pinto beans. Therefor, I became a very good elk hunter. I probably went 30-35 years at least of killing an elk every year . Sometimes two,one year three. All in my home state.Then age started to take it's toll.I probably killed my last bull in 2018.It was a solo hunt and pretty well used me up.I have killed 2-3 cow since then, and when I go out,I give it all I can,which isn't much now days. I have killed enough elk,I really don't need to kill another and I don't need the meat.. It puzzles me at times as to why I do it now.

I did put in for a ML cow tag this year, but it remains to be seen if I can do it. I am trying to figure out how to do it with an oxygen tube connected to me and some way to keep the batteries charged that power the unit. Plus keep all the parts working in my old body that don't move very well now days. Hell, if I make it to camp and sit in chair watching for any elk that runs thru camp,I will be happy, even if I don't kill it

All that being said,why should we care if people are a serious, dabbler, or pretender elk hunter as long as we do our own things and they do theirs. I guarantee,I was probably in the 99% group of serious elk hunters and have probably forgotten more about elk hunting than most ever learn in my 52 years of elk hunting. So if you categorize yourself as a dead serious elk hunter and come across one that seems like dabbler or pretender, be cool, they might just be fighting a battle that you don't know about.
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Re: Why Elk Hunt?

Postby Jhg » 05 12, 2022 •  [Post 12]

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Re: Why Elk Hunt?

Postby Swede » 05 13, 2022 •  [Post 13]

Certainly, there is no "right" answer to why we hunt. The question is an opportunity to look inward to assess whether or not we are meeting our objectives. Excuses will pass for a season or two, but there is a time to be realistic and admit, we are not getting what we go hunting for. When we throw out all of our excuses, we can look at our situation and determine where we need to make changes. It is at that time we can make a positive course correction.
Even better, it can be an opportunity to ask for advice from hunters with many seasons of successful hunting experience.
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Re: Why Elk Hunt?

Postby 7mmfan » 05 13, 2022 •  [Post 14]

I absolutely hunt out of state because my odds of killing an elk are better than hunting in my home state. I have archery hunted elk, even from a tree stand! But I'm not passionate about it and I prefer hunting with a rifle on the ground in mountainous country. In WA if I'm going to do that I can only hunt spikes unless I draw a special permit, and those are few and far between. Note: I am not against killing spikes, I've killed 3 in 3 years in Idaho. The difference is that in Idaho I actually see them, where as in WA I only see other hunters. Having the opportunity to kill bulls is a huge plus though and it definitely changes the quality of the hunt experience for me. If I was going there and not killing animals though, I'd have a hard time justifying the expense and would change my priorities for sure.
I hunt therefore I am. I fish therefore I lie.
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Re: Why Elk Hunt?

Postby Indian Summer » 05 16, 2022 •  [Post 15]

That’s a question with no simple answer. The first day I hunted elk I knew I’d be doing it forever. Actually the first time I went west to hunt I knew I’d be going there for life. At that time I was hunting mule deer and antelope. I saw elk but didn’t have a clue where or how to begin hunting them. Eventually I booked a guided archery elk hunt. In an entire week I saw one elk, a cow. Went back to Montana the same year with the same license and booked a rifle hunt. During that week I never saw a single elk. It only fueled my fire more. I knew immediately that you needed more than one week to hunt elk. I also knew I could do better than anybody who called them self a guide. So my lifelong DIY elk hunting began after that season.

On my first diy hunt I killed a 5 point bull the first morning. If I wasn’t already hooked on elk hunting I was for sure after I um…. packed the damn thing 12 miles back to the truck! That’s another story. That hunt involved a lot of hard work but the killing part was luck. Although I did make some good decisions fast to get in position for the shot. Knowing what I know now I can’t believe I actually pulled it off. Watching elk walk away and getting in front of them is hard to do. I gained confidence on that hunt and confidence is THE name of the game.

To answer the question of this thread elk hunting is entwined into my life. It’s an annual checkup for my health and mindset. I don’t care what a person does for work their career can no way be as demanding as an elk hunt. Let me rephrase that…. It can’t be as demanding if you’re doing it right. When it’s time to hunt elk I’m possessed. Nothing stops me. I sacrifice sleep and laugh at pain. I’ll hold my middle finger up to Mother Nature. Look a 1000 pound horse in the eye and tell him who is boss. It is a time when I pull everything I’m made of together to conquer a mountain and outwit and out hike a wild animal. To do that I become an animal. My instincts are like that of an animal. You cannot comprehend that idea just by reading it. It means forgetting how humans think and instead making decisions based on a current situation. The weather. The wind. The terrain. By animal instincts instead of reasoning. It’s hard to explain. But becoming that person, that animal, is why I go there each year. If an employer tells me 3 weeks is unacceptable to be away from work I will tell him I quit. I don’t live to work… I work to live and elk hunting is living to me.

Most pussies (sorry… not sorry) who spend their lives in the city or going to a beach have no clue what they are made of. A man doesn’t know what he’s made of until he find his limits. A man really finds out what he’s made of when he pushes himself beyond those limits. My limit on the side of a mountain isn’t how far or how high I can go. It’s just how long it takes me to get there. But I’ll get there. If that bull is gone before I get there I’ll either stay there until he comes back or start earlier the next day so he is still there when I get there. I’m only human like anyone else so success is never guaranteed. But when I return to civilization I make one guarantee to myself and that guarantee is that I’ll have no regrets. By that I mean I will NEVER have to say things to myself like… I should have went after that bull instead of backing off. Or I shouldn’t have slept in that day. I’ll damn sure never have to say “I might have killed that bull if I didn’t take that day off from hunting”. The one thing I can look in the mirror and say is well if I didn’t punch my tag it certainly wasn’t because of a lack of effort. And having a mindset like that has driven me to exceed any dreams I ever had back in the beginning of just how successful and consistent of an elk hunter I could become.

To me elk hunting is a competition. But not with anyone else. It’s a challenge to myself. A competition with the beasts I pursue. If a bull lives another year I am like a boxer who lost but still shakes his opponents hand. All bloody and beaten but having nothing but respect for my opponent. If my opponent wins today more power to him. He deserved to win because he was up against a hell of a competitor. BUT…. He best watch his ass next time. Because lessons are always being learned and whatever he did to win isn’t something I’ll forget and he’s not going to win every time by using the same tricks. It’s not over until it’s over. He might die of old age. Maybe I will. But until then the challenges of elk hunting will be a part of my life both on the mountain and as a part of my every day life. I’m not a gambler. Never was. I don’t like games of chance where a man has no control over the outcome. Instead I prefer a challenge where you can do things like prepare more or work harder to strive for the outcome you hoped for. Elk hunting is certainly a challenge. So is life right? I like a good challenge. A really good challenge. A really REALLY good freaking challenge like a giant gnarly mountain and a tough beast like a bull elk! That’s why I hunt elk.And as for the mountains… what a beautiful place God picked for such a challenge to take place. Heaven on earth!
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Re: Why Elk Hunt?

Postby Swede » 05 16, 2022 •  [Post 16]

Indian Summer, no doubt you are an elk hunter. It is in your DNA. That is one great explanation for what is inside a true hunter.
I have to admit it hurts to lose to my elk opponent. That is one reason I never agree that success is anything less than filling my tag. I don't like even the best excuse.
Thanks for sharing.
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Re: Why Elk Hunt?

Postby Indian Summer » 05 17, 2022 •  [Post 17]

Swede wrote:Indian Summer, no doubt you are an elk hunter. It is in your DNA. That is one great explanation for what is inside a true hunter.
I have to admit it hurts to lose to my elk opponent. That is one reason I never agree that success is anything less than filling my tag. I don't like even the best excuse.
Thanks for sharing.

You’re welcome Swede. When someone takes the time to create a thread I try to give a well rounded answer. I read your thread the first day you posted it. But I had to think about it for a week and reply when the time was right. Thank you….
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Re: Why Elk Hunt?

Postby Jhg » 05 17, 2022 •  [Post 18]

"...I become an animal..."

Exactly. A thinking animal. It usually takes me about a day to morph totally from my urban self to the predator that is part of the woods.


It is difficult including others when engrossed in this mindset. Just to have to stop, explain something to a hunt partner interrupts the flow, the immersion, the total sensory concentratio

If you can leave the civilized part of you and become yourself as primordial hunter, the being that is PART of the woods, not a visitor, you will be 90% there already toward tagging out. It is in our DNA. Tap into that massive knowledge base. It IS there, someplace, in your soul.

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Re: Why Elk Hunt?

Postby Indian Summer » 05 17, 2022 •  [Post 19]

Jhg wrote:"...I become an animal..."

Exactly. A thinking animal. It usually takes me about a day to morph totally from my urban self to the predator that is part of the woods. It is difficult including others when engrossed in this mindset. Just to have to stop, explain something to a hunt partner interrupts the flow, the immersion, the total sensory concentration


THIS!!! It’s why I hunt strictly solo. I enjoy a good partner to talk to and rehash the day with once I’m back in camp. But when I’m out sniffing around for elk I want no human interaction. None. I don’t want the slightest disturbance such as “What do you think man… go high or drop down on this trail” Does a lead cow look back and say I ”Hey everyone I was thinking about heading through that saddle but I’m open to suggestions”? Nope. I don’t want to talk when I’m glassing. If I decide to bed down for a little so be it. If I’m sitting at the end of the day and another spot not far away has been rolling around in my mind I might jump up, stuff everything into my pack and fly over there for the last 15 minutes of light. But I don’t want to discuss it. To me hunting isn’t having a plan spelled out the night before and carrying it out to the letter. I know where I’m going to start. I have an idea of where I might end the day. But for the most part I just blow with the wind hopefully gravitating toward elk. And you know what… More often than not I do. No board meetings. No coin tossing or I dunno man what do you wanna do… Two words: Animal instincts.
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Re: Why Elk Hunt?

Postby Swede » 05 17, 2022 •  [Post 20]

If I am by myself, I go where the evidence I see on the ground, or my trail cameras tell me I have the best chance. If someone is hunting from my camp, I put them in a good spot. The difference for me is I don't move from my tree. If elk are bugling, or even breeding nearby, I listen quietly. I may just go back to reading or just wait, but I don't move. I do not know how much if any I attribute it instinct. Usually, it is an educated guess.
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Re: Why Elk Hunt?

Postby WapitiTalk1 » 05 17, 2022 •  [Post 21]

I know where IS killed his first bull, don’t let him kid you… it was only 11.7 miles back in to the ______ Creek drainage. There’s still some honkers back in there from what my buddies in NW MT tell me; you see, the bulls have adapted and are eating the wolves to survive and perpetuate the herd ;). This is my favorite thread of the year guys, keep it rolling. I’m surprised nobody has said “because I can’t sing or dance”
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Re: Why Elk Hunt?

Postby Jhg » 05 18, 2022 •  [Post 22]

Well, I can't sing. But I can dance. If you see a 6'-2 bald guy in loden green dancing through the elk woods do not, do not call the straightjacket group. Its only me, elk hunting. If I was naked then ok call them, but it has not come to that. Yet.
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Re: Why Elk Hunt?

Postby Indian Summer » 05 22, 2022 •  [Post 23]

Jhg wrote:Well, I can't sing. But I can dance. If you see a 6'-2 bald guy in loden green dancing through the elk woods do not, do not call the straightjacket group. Its only me, elk hunting. If I was naked then ok call them, but it has not come to that. Yet.

I uh… might have to shoot first and ask questions later!
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