Why Are We Going On An Elk Hunt

Why are we going on an elk hunt?

Does this need explanation?

Not really. But let me indulge myself.

Ethan and I have spent the majority of our years on earth in the wonderful Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Apart from my 2 year hiatus in Michigan, and maybe a total of 3 months spent west of the Mississippi over our entire lives; we have passed our time among the hardwoods, crop fields and steep ridges of the Keystone State.

Don’t think that by virtue of growing up in the East a person is hindered from gaining valuable wilderness skills and plenty of adventure experience. It’s obvious our wilderness areas are miniature in comparison to the western states, and we have roads, towns, and cell reception scattered as even as grass seed across the Northeast. Yet there are still countless places where an ill-timed injury or poor route navigation can turn into a struggle for life against time and the elements.

As we progress in our outdoors schooling, a pursuit that has no graduation or completion date, we gravitate towards courses that feature adventure, risk and a little suffering. We enjoy hunting whitetails in some of the most remote, steep and rugged terrain Pennsylvania has to offer, we rarely toss a fly line for trout without first hiking a mile from the road, and some recent muzzleloader deer hunting exposed us to -30 degree windchill, which no matter how you cut it classifies as cold.

We still have a passion for Pennsylvania and will always choose the opportunity to hunt at home over a distant destination; but, we have begun to feel a draw towards hunting the west.

I still remember the morning in Grand Canyon Village when Dad came through the hotel door and hurried us kids into the car to go look at three bull elk who were making short work of some shop-front shrubbery. They were surrounded by civilization, completely out of their natural environment, and obviously dependent on humans for their sustenance. But something about how regally they held themselves and the known intimidation they carried stuck with me. That morning was the first time I laid eyes on a living, breathing elk; and it began my dream of one day hunting them in the wild.

For many Easterners, elk are the gateway to Western hunting; and many people only get the chance to go a few times in their life. With Eastern elk populations increasing and spreading to new states, the awareness of the animal and what hunting them means has grown enormously. However, opportunities for Eastern tags are still very limited, so many hunters take the sure bet and go hunting out West. For years we heard stories from uncles, neighbors and friends about hunting for elk in the Rocky Mountains, and finally we decided we’d better go pursue them ourselves.

As we prepare for the trip, we realize this will be a completely new experience expanding the limits of our skills and hunting knowledge. Keeping realistic expectations about the hunt is important as we plan, dream and train. However, the expectation that we will have a demanding and rewarding Western experience is firmly embedded in our minds.

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