Here are a few of the reasons why elk season absolutely reigns supreme, from the manliest man himself.
Teddy Roosevelt is probably one of the manliest men of American history, and he helped shape the elk hunting community and practice as we know it today.
Here are a few of the best arguments Teddy could make when it came time to make a case for elk season as the best season. Plus, I’ve included some more reasons from a moderately manly man: me.
“Still-hunting the elk on the mountains is as noble a kind of sport as can be well imagined; there is nothing more pleasant and enjoyable, and at the same time it demands that the hunter shall bring into play many manly qualities. There have been few days of my hunting life that were so full of unalloyed happiness as those…” –Teddy Roosevelt
Elk are plentiful, vocal, beautiful, and massive. The finest game animal on Earth, bar none. Hunting methods vary more than any other species, and can suit any age, ability, or desire. Sit in a treestand, man a blind on a wallow, or wander with the terrain, calling and listening.
2. Elk Country
“From morning till night I was on foot, in cool, bracing air, now moving silently through the vast, melancholy pine forests, now treading the brink of high, rocky precipices, always amid the most grand and beautiful scenery; and always after as noble and lordly game as is to be found in the Western world.” –Teddy Roosevelt
Beautiful skies as blue as the ocean, warm days, and nights cool enough to quicken the pulse and draw near to the sleeping bag.
And severe thunder—plus hailstorms from time to time, too. Autumn weather, at its finest.
“It is a most singular and beautiful sound, and is very much the most musical cry uttered by any four-footed beast.” –Teddy Roosevelt
Being adjacent to a bugling, chuckling, rutting bull is a thrill a hunter never forgets; one more addictive than hard drugs, driving him Westward at every opportunity.
Elk season just so happens to correlate to peak Aspen color. One must experience a chase through the cathedral of columnar white-barked trees, topped with sunset gold, waiting on a hot bull to come in those last few yards.
6. Trout (Yes, Trout)
After you punch your tag, and are suddenly faced with extra time in a most beautiful setting, find a nearby high-country lake or stream to pull out a fresh supper of hungry brooks or cutthroats.
Nothing tastes better than wild trout, especially when compared to days upon days of trail mix, freeze dried dinners, and leg-busting climbs.
Backpack bivy-style hunting is the most adventurous way to hunt these great creatures. Gear up with the absolute minimum of lightweight, small equipment, and wander with the elk all day.
When the sun sets, set up camp and sleep wherever the day has taken you. No more nighttime treks back to spike camp, only to rise hours before the sun to make it back to the elk before light.
Elk inhabit the wildest country in the lower 48. Hike farther, through steeper, nastier country than anyone else, and one is often rewarded with herds of elk and no other hunters. Once a hunter is forced to peer at a stunning night sky all night, sleep made impossible by constant bugling, he will long for another such experience until the day he dies.
All elk hunters must endeavor to pause, breathe, and look skyward at least once in the night. It is easy to forget to take the opportunity, but those reflective moments are some of the most pure and memorable of all.
9. Wall Tents
For a more communal trip, there is not much more special than a group of friends and family made closer by spending cold nights bundled up in a canvas wall tent. When the alarm buzzes, one pops the propane lantern, one stokes the wood stove, and one fires up the cooking kit.
Old timers share stories for too long into the night, and everyone leaves with lifelong memories.
10. Pack Animals
Hunters lucky enough to have access to pack stock will see yet another side of elk season. The smells of fresh alfalfa hay, a neatsfoot-oiled saddle, and sweaty horses sear themselves in the hunter’s memory.
Delicious, organic, natural, wild elk meat. One could not buy it for any amount of money, nor would a truly successful hunter sell his for same.
After all the miles, hours, and sweat involved in acquiring it, each bite tastes even sweeter, and should only be shared with the closest of companions who will at least partially appreciate the labor and emotion involved within. Though they could never fully understand.
“And the very toil I had been obliged to go through, in order to procure the head, made me feel all the prouder of it when it was at last in my possession.” –Teddy Roosevelt
12. Intestinal Fortitude
Teddy has much to write regarding the testing of one’s mettle with which every elk hunt is replete. There is something incredibly satisfying about finishing a hunt well, pushing though the adversity which can so readily appear.
Booming thunderstorms, mile after mile of nasty blowdowns, or, hopefully, long days under sagging backpacks with 100-plus pounds of meat. I’ll close with his words, which most fully encapsulate that which dwells in the soul of an elk hunter.
Hunting for a day or two without finding game where the work is severe and toilsome, is a good test of the sportsman’s staying qualities; the man who at the end of the time is proceeding with as much caution and determination as at the beginning, has got the right stuff in him.
Elk season is, truly, the best season.