Tag Archives: archery

Selecting a Location…Public Land Elk Hunt Part II

Huntable populations of elk exist across the west (as well as a smattering of states in the east) and good choices for your next North American elk adventure abound.

When it comes to selecting where you want to hunt elk, the challenge can be as great as the hunt itself.  Luckily, a number of online-resources exist to help you through the decision making process. Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) has some great information for those seeking options.  Honestly, if you’re able to budget the time and money, you can’t go wrong.  I’ll take a slow day in the mountains over a day in the office every time.

Once a specific area is selected, state laws, applications, and any local regulations must be thoroughly understood and navigated to successfully get your license and get you into the woods.  Here too, there are some great websites that have compiled state regulations into one, easy to use interface.  RMEF has done this as well, but I found National Shooting Sports Foundation’s “Where to Hunt” (www.wheretohunt.org) website very user friendly.  As with any third-party source, always check with that particular state’s website to confirm dates and specific regulations.  Ignorance is rarely a successful defense…

Most of the time, the application process must be started at least 9 months prior to your planned departure.  In many cases, especially hunt areas where prospective hunters (license buyers) far outnumber available licenses, the process for getting a license and hitting the woods may take years of unsuccessful applications and building up multiple “preference points.”  This was the case for our hunt.

Full disclosure…while there are some really good options out there for chasing elk, our decision was largely made for us.  I’m never one to look a gift-horse in the mouth, or a gift “guide” for that matter.

Through work and a mutual friend, I met Dan “Dancing Bear” Nichols (nickname to be explained later), shortly after moving to Minnesota in 2011.  He was (and is currently) a board member for a local conservation club as well as their state-wide federation, the Minnesota Conservation Federation (MCF).  Many years my senior, Dan and I struck up a quick friendship through a shared passion for all things hunting and attendance/participation in numerous conservation club meetings, banquets, events, and fundraisers.  After just a few stories about September elk camp, Dan had me hooked.

Knowing I’d probably need a few preference points to join the hunt with Dan in Wyoming, I began a yearly tradition of purchasing a preference point (July/August) in preparation for when I could budget the time and money needed for a Wyoming elk trip.  After three years, my father and I had amassed a combined 6 preference points and we were ready to go.

We could only get away for 8 days, but Dan promised to show us the ropes for our first trip to elk camp.  In an effort to temper our expectations (who doesn’t expect to see a 300 class elk every time they enter the woods) Dan tell us we’d see and hear elk, but he couldn’t promise anything more.

We’re in.  Having applied for and gotten a license, we were now on the clock to get the equipment and ourselves ready for the mountains…



Autopsy of a Self-Guided, Public Land Elk Hunt…a first-timer’s perspective.


The author with his father, center, and their friend and elk-hunting mentor, Dan.

My first foray into elk hunting has come to an end, having arrived home at 5:30am Saturday morning.  Given only a week to explore the Medicine Bow National Forest in south-central Wyoming, I feel I was able to get the most I could out of the opportunity and I’m left with one simple reflection.  I’m hooked.

I’m hooked on the adventure of chasing an animal the size of a horse through the most rugged terrain I’ve ever experienced while hunting.  Hooked on the adrenaline felt at hearing the screaming bugle of a bull elk shake the forest from less than 20 yards away.  Hooked at how quickly the mountains can turn the highest of highs to the deepest low.  In a word…hooked.

I’ve been planning, on some level, this hunt for years.  Ever since my grandfather first mentioned an interest in heading west to chase elk (he never made it), my father and I have talked about a trip of our own.  Determined not to let “someday” end the same way it did for my grandfather, I undertook the responsibility of planning our first elk adventure.

Site selection, applications, equipment (including a few purchases), personal training and practice, packing, hunting techniques, lessons learned, and everything it took to make the trip a success will be discussed in the next few posts.  Stay tuned.


The author’s father glasses for elk along the Sandstone Creek basin.