Over the past couple of years, the idea of hunting elk has gone from a dream, to a commitment, to a plan, and is now quickly becoming a reality. I feel like I have done pretty much everything in my power to prepare for this hunt. I have studied, researched, trained, practiced…and, well, you get the picture.
Nevertheless, as summer begins, I can’t help but feel that I’m nowhere near prepared. This isn’t for lack of effort, and the more that I think about it, I don’t think it is something that I can “fix” completely before September. The fact is, I am lacking experience, which is something that can’t be learned by reading articles, studying books, or watching videos.
Some have misunderstood my reasons for starting this elk project, thinking that I am claiming to be an expert, in spite of the fact that I haven’t hunted elk yet. Obviously that isn’t the case. I am the first to admit that I don’t know it all. In fact, I don’t know much. Trust me, I am feeling the weight of this reality with each passing day. All I am doing by sharing these articles is hoping to help someone, anyone, understand the process – or at least my process – of becoming an elk hunter.
The harsh realities of backcountry hunting are many – the odds are against me, my lack of experience will betray me, the mountains will test me, and the elk will try to outsmart me.
Here’s just an example of what I am up against…
- The challenge of finding elk within a vast expanse of wilderness and unforgiving terrain
- The competition from other hunters that are far more experienced than I am
- The task of navigating, and living in, mountainous territory that I’ve never stepped foot on
- The day-to-day grind of living out of a tent, and only having the supplies that I carry in on my back
- Knowing that the overall odds of success for archery elk hunters is in the low-teens, and that my odds as a complete beginner are even worse
- Being able to make a calm and carefully placed shot, if given the opportunity; and overcoming the excitement and anxiety of being so close to what I’ve worked so hard for
But there is a chance – just a chance – that I can do this; that an elk will fall to my arrow.
“Chance” isn’t something we like to talk about in hunting anymore. When an animal falls to our shot, we like to pretend that it is because we did everything right – that we knew just the right strategy or tactic, and that is why we found success. But maybe when things go right it is just because we got our chance and capitalized on it. And maybe when tags go unfilled it isn’t because we didn’t work hard, or have a great strategy – maybe it is just because we didn’t get the chance.
“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”
There’s a mystery to hunting. A mystery when things go right, and sometimes a mystery when things go wrong. It is a mystery that I wrestle with, but it isn’t a mystery that I want to conquer. I don’t want to solve every problem, or know every answer. I can’t. No one can. And if we could, then hunting would lose its mystery and beauty.
I want prepare well, create opportunities, and hope that luck falls on my side.
A chance is all I need.