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Commitment is key: every bowhunting adventure begins with a crucial first step.

EVERY NOW AND THEN, an article comes across my desk that transports me back through time, in this case to 1983, when I was preparing for my first elk hunt. The tips and suggestions offered by Jerid Stoffel in his article, "Prep Now For Your First Backcountry Elk Hunt," on page 52 brought back strong memories from my formative years as an elk hunter. My own mistakes and lessons were easily recognized in the words of Stoffel, a greenhorn who knows how to learn from his own experiences. If you're pondering your first elk hunt, or second, or third, this article is for you.

This piece also brings to mind one of the most important, yet simple, elements of any journey into elk hunting. That element is the often neglected first step to adventure--commitment. There are two types of commitment--short and long term. Some types of hunts, like sheep, goats, moose, or other possibly once-in-a-lifetime hunts, require at the very least short-term commitments. You go full bore in the months prior to those hunts, and you give it everything you have until the hunt is complete. Then you move on to other adventures.

Elk hunting is different. My buddies and I knew we were greenhorns and that we would make many mistakes, but this would be no once-in-a-lifetime adventure. We would hunt every year, and gradually acquire the gear and skills necessary until we became "elk hunters." We embraced our inexperience and tempered our expectations. We read everything we could find, worked out for months, and shot our bows at every opportunity. It was a mission, and we were all in. Long term.

We chose the Crazy Mountains of Montana, with the goal of learning its secrets. The first two years we hunted hard, made some colossal mistakes, and failed to tag an elk. On the first day of the third year, I called in and killed a five-point bull at midday. To this day it remains one of my proudest moments as a bowhunter. I wanted more, so I kept hunting elk, and I learned a lot along the way. But there is still more to learn, and I cherish every continuing lesson.

To me, bowhunting elk is on a plane above all other types of bowhunting. It's exhilarating beyond compare, but it punishes unpreparedness. Conversely, it rewards commitment. Maybe it's time you took that first step.

On a not-so-unrelated topic, I applaud the Trump Administration's appointment of Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT) as the Secretary of the Department of Interior. This appointment appears to be a good one for several reasons. First, Zinke is a former Navy SEAL Commander, which tells me much of what I need to know. Second, he's an avid hunter and angler, and third, he is reportedly opposed to the transfer of federal public land to the states or private interests. However, it remains to be seen if Zinke's actions, and those of Congress, will favor those of us who treasure and use the public lands WE OWN. The greatest threat to the future of hunting is the lack of a place to hunt, and the disposal of public lands anywhere contributes to that threat. We must remain vigilant.

Curt Wells


Caption: Locating and tagging an elk on a DIY public land hunt demands commitment long before the hunt begins.

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Title Annotation:Editorial
Author:Wells, Curt
Date:Mar 1, 2017
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