I used to be really into hunting. I did it a lot. I hunted for lots of different animals. I often chuckled when people would say “did you catch anything?”. Hunting was not about catching things. It was about killing them. And eating them too. I hope that doesn’t offend you. It is just the truth. As time passed, I learned that my passion for hunting was about more than killing and eating, but that is for another story.
Today I want to tell you about elk hunting. The wapiti. A magnificent animal that once lived all across our continent. They eventually were pushed to more remote and mountainous areas by the presence of man. Today they have been re-introduced to some of their more eastern native lands, are are thriving there.
I spent a lot of time, and money, trying to kill one of these guys. I have killed a lot of deer, and pronghorn antelope ( not really an antelope), and even a moose. But I only was ever able to take one half grown spike horned elk.
This is all going back about 20 years. One year I was fortunate enough to be awarded an elk tag for a special early hunt in Utah, during their rutting season. It was called a bugle tag. Elk make a noise that is called bugling during this time. Exciting stuff. I spent months getting ready for this trip. I had lived in Utah prior to this time, and I invited a long time friend who still lives there to join me.
I hired a “guide” of sorts, and they were to provide me with a cabin, and horses to help get my trophy off of the mountain once I had found and killed him. None of that really worked out. They seemed to have lost my reservation, and had no real plans to help me once we arrived. But we did get a little cabin.
Spirit Lake, in northeastern Utah, on the north slope of the High Uintas. Wonderful country, where I had been many times. The lodge is at about 10,000 feet above sea level, and then you go uphill from there to find elk in September. There are no people around. There is nothing but the mountain.We spent several days following elk around. We saw them up close, and far away. We heard them bugling. We crawled around in the timber and got close to them. But I couldn’t find a big one. I found some little ones. And a big one walked right up to us in the timber one morning. But I could’t be sure of my shot. So I didn’t shoot. On it went like that. I did shoot at one about a mile away one day. That didn’t work. But Utah is beautiful, and I was with a good friend, doing what I loved to do.
Late in the evening on the last day of my hunt, we were sitting on the edge of a big meadow, watching a storm go over the mountains. It was nearly time to start down to our camp. But wait. Here came an elk, walking out of the timber across the meadow. But alas, it was young and skinny, and had no antlers that I could discern. So we watched.
For hunting elk, you carry binoculars and bullets, a rifle, a knife, maps, calls, and things of that nature. You carry them in your pack, and in your pockets, and around your neck. But I didn’t need any of that to watch this youngster, and hope his grandpas was close behind. So out of my friends pack comes a kazoo. And he hands it to me, and I start playing a song I for this elk. I don’t remember what song it was, or what key it was in. But he actually seemed to like it, and came closer. Then he went away, and we went home.
I thought of this trip today, and it made me wonder, why did Mark have a kazoo in his elk hunting pack?