My first week on the job as First Lite’s sales intern was definitely a whirlwind. Moving from PA to ID meant a lot of changes and one of the most exciting involved hunting. I was fortunate enough to get my hands on an elk tag which meant I would be going on my first spot stalk style hunt! We wasted no time and within the first few days of being in Idaho, I set out to find some elk.
Immediately after work one evening, my boyfriend Nick, my coworker Ford and I left the office and headed into the backcountry of Idaho. We drove until we reached the end of a long dirt road. Moving quickly, we threw up a target and shot a round through our bows for added confidence before we headed into the woods. My pack was light, as its main purpose was to
pack out meat if we were successful in our hunt. We climbed and climbed quickly (working a 9-5 job only allows for so much week day hunting). Panting, sweating, and legs burning we reached the top of a ridge and began to glass. We scanned the mountains up and down, left to right, trying to spot a big brown elk. Glassing was more difficult than I had expected. The focus it requires, especially when recovering from the huffing and puffing of the climb, is another bullet point to the list of reasons why hunting is tough. To my surprise, I saw the brown blob I was looking for. It was the first elk I had seen in person and even though she was over a mile away, my excitement was uncontrollable. We watched for a minute or two longer and spotted what looked to be 2-4 other cows and possibly a bull. My first elk hunt was in full swing.
Move fast. That was all I could think while we hurried down the mountain. Daylight was against us, which added to the pressure to move quickly. We jumped back into the truck and drove about a mile to a portion of the road where we were better able to put a stalk on the elk. We were back to climbing straight up a mountain, but this time I was even more focused on staying quiet, avoiding stomping on sticks, and keeping my eyes up, ears alert. We reached the portion of the mountain where we thought we had last seen the herd. I had read it can be extremely difficult to relocate game after spotting them, and now I understood why. We paused for a second to try and determine where we saw them last when I heard ‘crunch, crunch, crunch.’ A quick hand signal and a turn of my head toward the direction of the noise and we simultaneously stopped and lowered our bodies to the ground. Here is where the classic hunting adrenaline rush ran through my body. Crouching as still as possible, eyes wide and ears intently listening, I waited while my heart pounded through chest. We continued to hear the elk crunching just 40-50 yards below us, but I still did not have eyes on them. I nocked an arrow and readied my release. There was a patch of brush blocking a portion of my view, but between a few branches, I saw her. She was about 35 yards from me, staring right into my eyes. I did not move (I don’t even think I took a breath). With her nostrils flaring and ears wiggling back and forth, I was sure she would spook off, but eventually she dropped her head and slowly moved back down the mountain. I would have taken a shot right there, but the brush was too thick and stopped me from drawing back my bow. The three of us looked at each other with a sort of “hell yeah, here we go” head nod then turned our attention back toward the action. All elk were out of sight, but we could still hear them, so I decided I would make a move toward the brush as a safe place to set up for a shot (we initially crouched down in a place with no cover) and to see if there was in fact a bull in the herd. As I began to crawl, we heard a big blow through the nose of what I like to imagine was a large bull. There must have been eyes on me that I did not see before I began to move. They knew we were there and not a second later the stampede of elk ran down the mountain. The sound of this elk herd running was louder than anything I could have imagined. I could literally feel the sounds and vibrations through my body. With that, I knew the hunt was over. I collapsed over my pack, dropped by bow, and felt the strangest sensation of exhilaration and heart break all in one moment. I was so overwhelmed with happiness to have had such an experience for my first elk hunt, and crushed with defeat because I had spooked the herd off. It was such a beautiful, raw moment that I will surely never forget.
Get out There!