I wounded an elk this past year. I prepared hunting gear, such my best hunting boots and took what should have been a good shot and dubbed it, much like hitting a bad drive off a golf tee. Except this wasn’t an out of bounds, it was a real animal, and I hit him in a place too high and too far back for a quick recovery. I was sick.
Have you had this feeling? I hope you never do. I shot the bull elk in the evening, and by dark, we hadn’t found him. I went to bed without eating because I wasn’t hungry, and I slept only fitfully, waking often, thinking there was something I needed to do. There was. I needed to find that elk. In the morning five of us searched for the bull, looking for a sign, walking quadrants, checking low areas, poking in thick brush, going from water to water, walking interminably.
I don’t know how many miles we covered, but we looked for almost seven hours and we took a break only once. There may be nothing as wearing as searching for something you cannot find, especially when it involves the life of an animal you respect. It is mentally and physically and spiritually exhausting.
17 Days of Elk Hunting
I like to be sure of my shots, consequently, I don’t loose many arrows. In 17 days of elk hunting in New Mexico over two years I still haven’t fired a shot. I’ve never wounded an elk, until now, yet I’ve taken five elk in the past 10 seasons. Over the years I’ve established a pretty good record for clean kills. Not to say I haven’t missed. I have. But I’ve been remarkably fortunate that my misses have gone clear somehow (normally high or low on those shots where I’ve misjudged the range) and the animal has remained unscathed.
That kind of luck can give a false sense of security, give a confidence that just isn’t real, a feeling that somehow you’re some sort of cupid, that when the arrow flies good things will happen. They can, and often do, but not always. And that’s reality. Making good shot judgments and hit-timing the target every time are qualities we certainly ascribe to, but they don’t describe us. We are human, and to be human is to err.
Never Did Find That Elk
We never did find that elk. It won’t go to waste. The coyotes will enjoy it So will the magpies, ravens, and crows. Even a golden eagle may join the feast. Finally, it will be picked so clean that next year’s hunter will see only bleached bones along the trail. I hope my conscience gets picked clean too. But not so clean that I don’t remember the consequences of that day in September when I looked a bad shot.
A perturbed hunter advised me Continental Airlines wouldn’t check his caribou antlers as baggage so I gave the airline a call. Their policy: “Antlers will not be accepted for transportation as checked baggage.” I was told antlers are accepted as cargo air freight only, a service that costs in the hundreds of dollars. We all might want to think about this the next time we choose an airline.
Tony Lohman is an incredible hunter that I’ve ever known. You can go to his website to read more about him and his adventures. I believe that you would like all his information: tips, tricks. That helps you feel worried less and more confidence when to be in the wildness.