2011 Montana elk... what can I say? The journey was as long as it possibly could have been, the elk were as quiet as I've ever witnessed, but the experience remained a great one. It’s been three weeks since my elk adventure wrapped up and, looking back, it dawned on me.
This was my second trip to Montana in the past three years and, comparing the trips, I couldn’t have had more opposite experiences. Back in 2009, I was fortunate enough to draw a Missouri River Breaks tag. It was a hunt on a private chunk of ground that was nice, rolling hills. The openness of that country made the elk visible and huntable. I had a huge hunting party following me around the woods; my wife, my friends Vaughn Esper and Chad Johnson and a cameraman. We were staying in the basement of Dan and Lori's house (BD Ranch) where we could shower daily, charge batteries and sleep in beds and on top of all that, there were elk absolutely EVERYWHERE.
This season, we spent 90% of our time in general draw units in the Montana backcountry. There were no beds, just one-person tents. It was just either Kyle or William running camera, depending on the juncture of the season, and I. There were no outlets to charge batteries; we relied on our solar power solutions from Brunton to keep us going. Moving camp meant 70+ pound packs to wherever our next home was going to be. We ate far from camp to keep the bears away, water was provided from natural springs, the terrain for the most part was brutally steep with blowdown and there were not many elk talking at all. It was what most would call a rough backcountry hunt, but for me, it was just what the doctor ordered.
The 2009 trip was the worst hunt I've ever had. Unfortunately, we had one person in the hunting party that ruined the experience for all of us. Sure we harvested a great bull, but the end result leaves me to cringe when thinking of that trip. This season, we didn't harvest a bull. Heck, we didn't even see a bull we truly wanted to pursue, but we covered a ton of beautiful ground, had highs and lows and did it with a smile on our face. Don't get caught up in judging your hunt by the number of animals seen and certainly not by the harvest alone. Enjoy your time, build memories, take pictures and put the work in to get deep in the woods and experience natural environments that such a small percentage of as humans get to truly see.
Enjoy some pics from the trip and enjoy your season, no matter how it unfolds!
Cheers - J. Simpson
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