Hi, my name is Rob and I am not an elk-aholic. I like to hunt elk, but it certainly is not an addiction. Not that being an elk-aholic is a bad thing. I have a few friends who are elk-aholics and I’m behind them 100 percent. I’m just not sure I have the desire, the passion, or the addiction others have for the pursuit.
I’ve come to this conclusion after spending last week in the woods chasing elk with my muzzleloader. I enjoy hunting, but still I’m not sure I really like hunting elk. While I don’t hate the elk themselves, I certainly have come to despise them.
I have also quickly learned to respect them.
Hunting elk is not easy. It is challenging. It is hard work. And it can be very frustrating.
Not that I am opposed to hunting hard. In fact, I enjoy it. I’ve never been much of a road hunter. I prefer to get out and see what is over the next ridge. It just seems that after working hard for days, the effort would be rewarded — and in most hunting, that is the case.
Not with elk.
You would think an animal the size of a horse would be fairly obvious in the woods. Not so. Elk have incredible hearing and an unbelievable sense of smell, and their eyesight isn’t bad either. That combination makes them very difficult to find, and even more difficult to sneak up on.
I have killed some two dozen deer during my lifetime of hunting. I have never tied my tag on an elk. To put things in perspective, though, I have hunted deer each of the past 20 years, including several out-of-state hunts. I really have only started hunting elk with any kind of effort the past few years.
And I’ll be honest: My passion has been somewhat turned off by some of the things I’ve experienced while elk hunting.
The huge crowds of hunters during the modern rifle season certainly have affected my desire to be in the woods, and I’ve run into some real idiots. There was the truckload of west-side hunters (an assumption based on their license plate) who pulled up right in front of my partner Doug Jewett and me and bailed out into the pre-dawn darkness to hunt a spot we are just getting ready to hunt.
And there was the infamous occasion where a couple of guys figured they had their elk hunting spot “reserved” with some green plastic chairs, even though I had hiked up the mountain and was sitting in “their” spot on public land when they arrived. I was there first, and there was a thousand acres of land to hunt nearby, but the two pinheads still moved in and sat down right next to me.
It was like “The Three Stooges Go Hunting.” I would like to have pulled their nose and ears and poked them in the eyes. Had I had a long two-by-four, I might have swung it around and knocked some heads.
That’s why I switched over to hunting elk with a muzzleloader. I knew it would be tougher to get close enough to shoot an elk, but I wouldn’t have to deal with as many rude and inconsiderate jerks.
So far that has definitely been the case. The last few years it has been just me against the elk. Mano a mano. And, to date, the elk have won.
I have had some close encounters. I have missed some shots. And I have definitely been discouraged and deflated by the beasts.
But you know what? I am not about to give up. I am more determined now to try to put some elk venison in the freezer. I am already looking forward to next year’s muzzleloader season. I am going to do this. I am going to plan and prepare. I am going to practice my shooting. I am going to be in better shape. I am going to get an elk.
You know what, maybe I am an elk-aholic and I just haven’t yet come to terms with that. All I can do is keep trying. I’ll keep getting after them. Then maybe I will know for sure.
• Rob Phillips is a freelance outdoor writer and partner in the advertising firm of Smith, Phillips & DiPietro. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.