#Sickforit: An Elk Hunt to Remember

This is not a story about tagging an elk, packing it out, or finding that spot where preparation meets opportunity in the field. This is a story of a successful hunt that featured un-notched tags and unfilled freezers. Yes, this is a story of the #Sickforit hunt, not the harvest.

It seems that for many of us who hunt, each season holds 1 experience afield that stands out from all of the rest. Although we appreciate every day in the field, there is always that 1 time that sums it all up and stays in your favorite memory bank until the end of your life.

#Sickforit Julie McQueen Sitka Gear Elk

Before we progress, I’ll add this caveat: My experience in the outdoors can be enhanced if I’m more comfortable, if I have proper tools and gear for what I’m trying to accomplish, and if I’m not constantly worried about the elements that I’m hunting in.

In the fall of 2016, I went to Idaho to film an elk hunt. Although I didn’t hold an elk tag, I felt excited to be in such a beautiful location to watch leaves change colors and listen to bulls screaming through the steep hillsides. Idaho did not disappoint from behind my camera lens. Although it was a difficult season and the bugles were few and far between, it was memorable. We hiked the hills an average of 10 miles per day. By the end of the second week I couldn’t keep my weight up and had to drastically increase my caloric intake every day. The scenes in front of me every day made it increasingly easier to hike further just to see what beauty would unfold behind the next turn or around the next canyon.

 

One day near the end of the hunt, we had hiked down into a canyon that was particularly deep. The bulls had holed up near the bottom with access to cows and wallows, and to get close to them we had to go off the deep end. After what seemed like that longest downhill climb of my life, we found the bulls. A missed shot opportunity and a few close calls later, we noticed that the sky was turning dark. Looking up from the bottom we knew that the climb out would take hours. I had picked up an elk antler that had busted off during what must have been an epic battle over unrequited love, and the extra weight on my pack made my climb out even more memorable.

The rain came, the lightning followed the rain, and the earth beneath my boots turned to slippery mud. To climb out, we grabbed onto shrubs, grass, roots, and tree limbs to pull ourselves up. Although I stayed dry because of my rain gear, there is something about being completely submerged in the downpour out in the wild like that. Even through the best protective gear on the planet, you can still feel the rain and the hail hitting you. And if you look at it the right way, it feels good every time.

#Sickforit Julie McQueen Sitka Gear Elk

This situation is a clear example of the unpredictable nature of being an outdoorsman. I wouldn’t trade that day in the field for anything. The mud, the pouring rain, the 15-minute hail storm that encouraged me to hide under a tree, the found souvenir from the battle of the bulls and the euphoric feeling of seeing the truck parked on the road after a grueling 15 miles. I also especially enjoyed frozen pizza that I devoured back at camp that night.

#Sickforit

I look back at photos from that hunt, from that particular day, and it lights a fire in my soul that can’t be put out. My heart is wild and free, out there near the wallows in the bottom of a deep canyon. The peacefulness in my soul comes from the silence that follows an aggressive bugle. It’s the yin and the yang of nature that gives me such a deep appreciation for everything that I get to experience in the wild. These moments make up my entire world. I live for the days where I smile while I’m pulling my body weight up a hill by a sagebrush limb. It’s what keeps me sane. I’m #sickforit in every sense of the word.

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