Tag Archives: Minnesota

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…

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For OUR Future…Take a Kid Hunting

Author's son with a successfully harvested doe he helped track

Author’s son with a successfully harvested doe he helped track

This year’s Deer hunting season is nearing its end, having sent the largest army in the free-world into the woods across the Midwest.  While our numbers are staggering, they belie a greater problem; our numbers are also stagnating, and have actually seen a downward trend over the past 30 years.  Part of the problem is that we’re recruiting less hunters, and keeping even fewer (see what Michigan is facing here).

This year will mark the first year I wasn’t able to get to my family’s hunting camp for opening day in nearly 20 years.  A remarkable run considering that period includes high-school, college, marriage and children; but its passing has me reminiscing on my beginnings in the tradition of hunting.

My passion for everything out-of-doors can be traced back to my parents and grandparents and their willingness to include me in their passion for the great outdoors.  Learning how to track a rabbit, cast a fly, or field-dress a successfully harvested deer can’t be learned from a book.  My parents and grandparents both instilled my outdoor ethic as well as nurtured it by continually getting my outdoors with them.

My earliest hunting memory is of me sitting on my grandfather’s lap in his hunting blind.  I had a bag of chips, a coke, and a handful of other things that would never find their way into a normal hunter’s blind.  At the time, I was too young to officially hunt, but it didn’t matter.  I was “hunting” with grandpa.  I don’t remember ever seeing anything on my hunts with grandpa…but that wasn’t the point.  Yes, he had his trusty 30-06 (which has since been handed down to me) with him, but he knew that his mission that day wasn’t to harvest a deer; it was to bring the next generation of hunters into the family.

My grandfather hasn’t been to camp for a number of years now…but his tradition lives on in my father and me, and my mission couldn’t be clearer; to pass OUR tradition on.  It is this mission that I implore my fellow hunters/outdoorsmen/conservationists joins me in.

As hunters/conservationists and stewards of OUR natural resources, it is our duty to not only protect those resources, but the outdoor heritage that has been passed down to us from previous generations.  Take a kid hunting, invite your friends, neighbors, and others new to the out-of-doors into the field and introduce them to what drives each and every one of us…the protection of both our natural resources and outdoor recreation heritage.

More information on getting kids and others into the hunting can be found at:

Michigan DNR Mentored Youth Hunting Program

Wisconsin Mentored Hunting Program

Minnesota Hunter Recruitment and Retention Program

Pheasants Forever Ringnecks Program

Michigan United Conservation Clubs Youth Outreach