The Hunter's Edge of Past Experiences

The Hunter's Edge of Past Experiences

Posted In: Prepare, The Hunt, The Reward

Posted By: Jordan Ongstad (August 25, 2017)

With archery opener less than 24 hours away, I woke after a long night of making maps to texts and social media posts from friends about the impending start of the 2017 season. Some traveling across country, others locals heading to their favorite spot for the weekend. It's easy to identify two separate types of hunters though; those who know what they're doing and those that are freaking out.

The Two Camps

Camp 1 – The Newbie

Two years ago, I had the privilege of taking my brother and his two friends from Wisconsin out on a 9 day, backcountry elk hunt in Colorado. I should have kept track of the number texts and phone calls from those 3 guys during the "preparation" period of the hunt. Everything is new to them and unknown, so they quite understandably freaked out a bit. It's still annoying. Even with the hours of communication on equipment, clothing and the process of that kind of hunt, they still showed up both over-packed and under-packed at the same time. They froze every night, had blisters on their feet, their shoulders and back killed from their packs and they complained a lot and really didn't see that many elk, although they all ended up drawn back on one at some point, but only 1 got to let an arrow fly. But at the core, it's a stressful 3 months of preparation, trying to figure out what you need to survive the wilderness of the West. It's a process and a lengthy one at that.

An Interview with my brother 3 days into the 9 day hunt. I think it shows how miserable and under prepared he was. His mood did change when he shot his bull.

Camp 2 – The Experienced

Disclaimer: So since I will be using myself as an example, let me preface this with: This is about the act of going elk hunting, not killing an elk. Those are very different things. I don't claim to be an expert at killing large game, but I am pretty good at backcountry camping and taking my bow for a walk.

Now for me, 8 years in, things are a little different. It helps that I'm a resident, but we'll drive to our spot here in 5 hours and I haven’t even started to collect my gear, nor thought about what I need.  But after all my time in the field, a list is even unnecessary. I know exactly what I need and where it is. It's all field tested and ready for what I throw at it. We'll probably drive the last hour of the trip in the dark and sleep in a trailhead we know very well. We'll hike in the dark on a trail we've walked dozens of times to an exact spot where we think elk will be moving through. If that doesn't work, we have knowledge of other spots we have GPS'd that are likely to hold elk and we're mobile. Our gear is light, compact and we've got bivy's so we can go where we need to be in the animals. And we'll likely at least see more elk than the average hunter.

Sometime you're just new to Elk HuntingMy Brother with his 2015 Bull and 2 Wisconsin Friends on their first hunt


So why did I take the time to tell you this? Well one, if you're in Camp 1 and are new at this. It's really important to not get frustrated, especially if it's something you find yourself dreaming about 2 months after the season. It takes time, and a lot of times money to get to the point where the "camping" part becomes easy. But I can tell you this, it's worth it. Those veterans in Camp 2, I implore you to take some pity on those newbies and lend a hand. Yeah it's annoying when you have to explain to them why they don't need thermal bibs for a September hunt, or sternly remind them that if it doesn't fit in their pack it's not coming.  We all like to think back and remember ourselves as pros our first year, but that's almost never true.  In the first years, more time is spent trying to be comfortable in the woods and less time hunting.  I don't know the exact number of years where this changes, but eventually the camping and packing part is the easy part and you have more time and energy to devote to tracking down your quarry.  No matter where you are, Big Game hunting is an adventure and each year, you get better, so keep at it. Comment below where you think you stack up in experience. I have to go find my boots now.

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