A few times during hunting this weekend, I dropped down to the main trail to make moving faster and I ran into a few different groups of hikers. They all stopped me to talk. They all said they’d seen other hunters but didn’t know what was going on. I love that they chose to talk to me and that I could give them a great impression (I hope) of hunting. One of them asked me how long it takes to kill an elk. I wasn’t sure how to answer, so I told him that it’s different for everyone and there are many variables in hunting. It did make me think, so here is my count. In my first 2 years of hunting, I hunted for elk for 5 days total and then I tore the cartilage in my wrist and had 2 kids…6 years later in 2015 I went out for 5 days, 2016 14 days but I spent the first 5 of that really concentrating on deer so we’ll say 9, 2017 I spent 20 days in the field with an elk tag but I only cared about mule deer so I’m going to call that 0. Right now I am at 19 days of elk hunting plus the 2 this past weekend, that is 21 days, no dead elk. There is no magic recipe for days to kill or effort to kill. Do we count scouting days, days of shooting our weapons, reading, asking questions?
This is the thing to remember about hunting and we all need to keep this in our heads when we get frustrated. Hunting is personal, it is emotional and for each of us it is our own journey. No matter your reason or your method, it is about you and it is NOT a competition. I know it is fun sometimes to compete with your friends and talk smack but that is different. Don’t compare your journey to someone else’s.
Here is an example, I met this couple as I was hiking out to go home. The guy started to give me a hard time because it was nearly dark. He said “don’t you stay til dark?” I told him that I’d been out 3 days and 2 nights and with all the rain I knew I couldn’t pack an elk out on my own by the time I had to pick up my kids the next day. He said, “oh, you’re a real hunter and you make me feel small.” I told him that we all have our own paths, he sits in his treestand, probably without a harness and a year ago that was something that terrified me. But I kept working on it and now I love sitting in trees. If you just keep trying, you will get more and more comfortable. I always go back to this, I remember when I thought that all you had to do to kill something was get close and now I know that the more I know, the less I know I don’t know.
My point here is, your time will come, when you are prepared and when the animals make a mistake. When we watch TV and online videos, it looks so easy, they go in and they kill. Let me tell you, all those people struggle, we all struggle. Why was I walking out an hour early on one of my few days of elk hunting this year?? I was frustrated, I’d spent about 21 days scouting these woods, I had seen hundreds of elk that didn’t know or care I was there. I had nearly a thousand pictures of elk on the trail cameras. I had their pattern, their beds, their food and water. Then add other hunters in the mix and they were somewhere else. After sitting in the hail and rain all day with signs that the elk were close, but I couldn’t find them, I needed a regroup. I honestly had a great weekend of elk hunting but in that moment, it was the right choice for me because I thought that I had the recipe for a kill but I didn’t count on the other hunters. I needed to take what I learned and make a new plan outside of the situation.
This is where going with a guide is so beneficial for new hunters. When someone else puts in all the time and sweat, you will be less frustrated. You also have a wealth of knowledge that you might not gain on your own. So I say this, go forth, talk to everyone you can, try, you might be frustrated and need to step back but never stop moving toward what you want.