Top 5 Lessons Learned From Elk Hunting Part 1

By Jason Reid

Into The Cannyons
Into The Cannyons
AmmoLand Gun News
AmmoLand Gun News

New York –-( Out of clean clothes, out of energy and out of time, but we had done it. My father and I were on hour 13 of 15 as the 120lb. head and antlers of his 11th hour bull dug the straps of my pack frame into my shell of a body.

I want my ol’ man to be able to hunt with me as long as possible, so naturally I volunteered to pack the hams and head of his bull which we scored at 339 P&Y.

Ten days of hiking ten or more miles per day and our 2015 Wilderness, DIY, Father-Son, Archery Elk Double was complete. 8:45 day 1 I found redemption in the elk mountains after a long six year wait. My father arrowed his bull at 10:56 day 10 to cap off a tough yet magical week in the elk wilderness.

The wilderness is a brutal teacher and allows one ample time to reflect on life, love, and the hunt. While we waited for the wrangler to arrive with the mules to start the long journey home, reflection on the lessons learned filled my pages with notes.

While there are far too many to relay, I narrowed my top Five lessons down into two blogs.

5) Plan For Everything:

This isn’t your average hunt behind the house. As cliche as it sounds, you must plan for the unexpected. Don’t skimp on the items in your pack even for the shortest of hunts. When you think nothing will happen, things happen.

Day ten of my 2015 hunt, my father and I planned to spend our last three hours of hunting by taking a short hike to the timber a quarter mile from camp. I left camp, having not cared to put on the right socks, refill my snack bag and only had half a bladder of water. A short quarter mile rather meaningless hike turned into a two mile chase and 15 hour day with the arrowing of my father’s 339 P&Y monster.

Packing a bull with only a scrounged granola bar and having to ration water taught me an important lesson, expect everything since it could be deadly in the wilderness. Always pack sufficient water, food and game bags and proper clothing no matter how short of a hike you think you are about to take.

The Redemption Bull
The Redemption Bull

4) Elk Hunting Isn’t For Everyone:

To make it back to camp from where we had killed my bull on day one, my father and I had two choices. A) Head back East, down through a steep and deadfall choked canyon, or, B) Bomb off the face of the long finger ridge to the very bottom of the big canyon and hike up the wall except have no blow downs to jump over with a 50lb. five point skull crudely lashed to my day pack.

Elk hunting isn’t for everyone.

Before September 2015 I would tell everyone they had to try elk hunting. But there is a vast difference between going on an elk hunt and being an elk hunter. If you just want to kill an elk, get a guide and get your elk. If you love pain, crave struggle, and are undaunted by the unknown, you might have it in you to become an elk hunter. It is downrightwn right difficult as you must mentally battle the physical elements just like your fatigued calves.

As we clung to the side of the canyon trying not to slip on scattered lava rocks, my father said in between labored breaths, “this is crazy, this is not for everyone.”

Elk hunting certainly is romantic, but it can be a painful romance if you leave the trail head with only half a heart filled with desire. Between days four and eight we saw exactly three elk, after having nearly forty animals within a football field’s range in the first three. If you want to become an elk hunter, understand the true pain of commitment in the mountains means pain, but only makes success exponentially sweeter.


Check out Part 2 for my Three other lessons I learned on while pulling off a Father-Son double. Keep reading Top 5 Lessons Learned From Elk Hunting Part 2

About: Jason Reid is a writer and business professional from upstate New York. After deciding to pursue his dream of becoming an outdoor writer, Jason started a blog from his dorm room at Houghton College, growing it and working hard to earn opportunities. While bowhunting big game is his ultimate passion, Jason welcomes all outdoor challenges which force him to push his limits. Jason’s work can be viewed on his website