“Bring back the bulls!”
Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it, even if the refrain should also include cows and calves. Elk restoration has been a growth industry in recent years, as wapiti have returned to Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Arkansas, Virginia, and just in the past month, to Missouri.
There are dozens of good reasons to get behind efforts to restore elk to landscapes they haven’t occupied in over a century. Here are the best:
1. Additional Hunting Opportunities
Lately, we hunters have been losing more than we’ve been gaining. We’ve lost habitat and places to hunt. We’ve lost animals to disease and game-changing weather. We’ve even lost fellow hunters to distractions as insidious as digital gaming and as troubling as the necessity of getting a second job. In every state where they have been restored, elk populations will be controlled with managed public hunting. Yes, the odds will be slim in early years of the hunting permit lotteries, but as herds grow, so should our opportunities to hunt elk. [ Read Full Post ]
Every deer hunter is an elk hunter ready to be activated.
In terms of inches of antler, pounds of venison, acres of activity, and intensity of experience, elk are like whitetails with the volume turned up. Way up.
Some of you know that already, which is why the population of Western states swells starting in early September, why you can’t book a motel room in Dillon, Montana or Preston, Idaho or Show Low, Arizona from Labor Day through Halloween. It’s why fleets of pickups with Georgia, Michigan and Pennsylvania plates crowd Forest Service trailheads even on weekdays in November when the whitetail rut is distracting their friends back home.
Some of you already know the stomach-tightening thrill of hearing a distant bugle just as others of you crave the breath-stealing challenge of hunting elk at high elevations.
But for most deer hunters, elk remain aspirational animals, residents of Someday Country. You’ll consider an elk hunt when you can save up enough for the nonresident hunting license. You’ll take your boy when he graduates high school. You’ll start getting in shape next year so you can hack the mountains the following fall.
It’s time to... [ Read Full Post ]
It was an awful end, complete with death throes, tantrums and not a little inconsolable sobbing.
But in the end—fittingly, on April Fools Day—the Montana Senate suffocated a bill that would have undone some hard repairs to archery elk hunting in the state. House Bill 361, which would have rolled back archery elk regulations to 2007 levels failed on a third reading and died on the Senate floor. [ Read Full Post ]
As an editor for Outdoor Life, it's part of my job to look at photos of trophy bucks and interview the hunters who killed them. I interviewed about 10 different hunters who took Boone and Crockett or Pope and Young bucks this fall and there was one constant in every case: they were graced by lady luck.
Now don't get me wrong. The guys I talked to were hardcore whitetail hunters who not only hunted hard, but hunted smart. They spent days, weeks and even months in the stand waiting for the right buck. They rattled, called, used scent control, monitored their land with trail cameras and had the discipline to pass on smaller bucks. [ Read Full Post ]
When my Record Quest season ended without me dethroning Milo Hanson’s position atop the all-time list for typical whitetails, I can’t say I was especially surprised.
There are only two ways to kill a world-record whitetail—to live in the same general area where such deer might be found or to travel to their turf and hunt them there. Where I live in southwest Montana we have some fine whitetails but I don’t think any of my buddies here is going to claim that number-one spot with a locally shot deer. [ Read Full Post ]
In early December I hunted some of the most legendary whitetail country in North America: western Illinois. It was the state’s late gun season and I was hunting with Richardson Farms Outfitters. Tim and Jeff Richardson own or lease some 10,000 acres of land in Adams, Brown, Cass and Schuyler counties on which they hang approximately 350 stands.
Most of those stands are situated on the edges of fields that are planted with everything from clover and wheat to corn and sugar beets. In normal years, those crops are deer magnets throughout the season, but in 2010, Illinois experienced an absolute bumper crop of acorns. Therefore, whitetails didn’t need to venture into the fields to eat, they could hole up in the timber and feast on the nutrient-rich oak fruit. We hoped and prayed for a couple inches of snow that would cover up the acorns and force the deer to feed out in the open, but it never came. [ Read Full Post ]
Deer season is finally over. My rifle is oiled and stowed in my safe. My bow is waxed and cleaned and in its case and, anyway, it’s too cold outside to shoot the 3-D target still standing, forgotten and forlorn, at the end of my barn.
After nearly four months of hunting whitetails, from the sticky, mosquito-heavy evenings of September here on Montana’s Milk River to the crisp afternoons of Illinois’ shotgun season to the balmy December days of Texas, I can finally put a period on Year 1 of Outdoor Life’s Record Quest. [ Read Full Post ]