My father and I began hunting elk together in the ’70s, and the camps from those days feature heavily in our favorite memories. We’d leave in the dark and return in the dark, hunting hard and often in solitude. Before two-way radios, self-sufficiency was critical.
Now, at 71, I have become the old man in elk camp, which has grown to include a larger crew. This season arrived with 6 inches of fresh snow. As the seven members of our spike camp prepared to head into the woods, I requested a photo with the youngest: 28-year-old Mike Beaman. When the youngster stepped forward, the butt plate fell off his 16 ½-pound Remington 700 Tactical Chassis (complete with bipod and suppressor). We posed for the picture, and I wondered how long he would last lugging it up the mountain.
Ups and Downs
I eyed the kid as he sat on his cot, legs folded under him like a yoga instructor. We both used the same brand of ammunition, although he opted for .308 and I chose .30/06. I carried a CZ bolt-action topped with a 3–9X riflescope. His configuration meant that hunting on “low power” used 8.5X magnification, and his firearm seemed straight out of a scene in American Sniper. He unlocked his cell phone as I watched him.
“Want to see my 500-yard shot?” he asked. Beaman tapped a button, and a video of the gong hit appeared.
None of us connected in the first three days. We returned to camp in the dark, frustrated by the elusive bulls. On the fourth day, Beaman spotted a mule deer, for which he also had a tag. Fighting excitement, he raised his rifle, fired off-hand, and missed. Perhaps due to the unusual sound of the suppressed report, the buck stood and stared as Beaman cycled the bolt. His next shot was on target, and the deer dropped. I heard the shots and arrived on the scene, catching my breath as he told me what had just happened. His excitement was obvious, and I felt myself sharing it. He’d packed a sharp knife and game bags, but he’d never boned out a deer in the field and needed a hand. We worked together on the carcass.