Hunters are dreamers, there is no doubt about it. And as time passes, our dreams often get bigger and bigger. We dream of the biggest bucks, the loudest turkeys, the quickest limit of ducks, and more. But I often find that plenty of us dream about the biggest adventure. In my opinion, elk hunting in the Rockies is the epitome of the American hunting experience, and I'll tell you why.
Not every hunter will agree with this opinion, but I can't think of any of my buddies that haven't expressed interest in a western mountain elk experience. I've been working out the logistics to make my own happen as we speak, and it is often iterated to me that once I make that first trip, I'll need to do it again and again!
Don't agree with me that hunting elk in the Rockies is the quintessential American outdoors experience? It is only a dream for me after all, but one I've spent time researching, planning out, and saving up for. Allow me to plead the case with the following arguments.
One of America's Wildest Places
Simply put, the Rocky Mountains are breathtaking. They are wild, rugged, and raw. There are places among those mountains where very few boot tracks have been laid or possibly have been left untouched altogether. Yes, elk are amazing animals to hunt, but set them aside for a second. Hunting in the Rocky Mountains is a completely different experience all its own. The historical wild, pristine nature of the Rockies increases its aura among all hunters, sometimes more so than the game itself.
And even though the Rockies are wild and remote they are very accessible to visitors who don't live there. Towns big enough for modern accommodations and easy travel destinations right within the mountain range make it easy to execute an elk hunting excursion without having to commit to backcountry camping, eating dehydrated food, and risking some level of personal safety.
Elk in the Rockies Are Huge
Let's not skip over the elephant in the room when it comes to elk. They are huge animals, and that in itself automatically increases hunter's interest in them. They are much bigger than whitetail deer, and still outweigh the mule deer they cohabitate with by a wide margin (250 pounds compared to 700 pounds). The bigger the better, right?
Walking up to a freshly harvested 700-pound bull elk has to be a mind-shattering event for the inexperienced elk hunter. Those who regularly hunt elk still often comment on their sheer size. Talk about filling your freezer with one pull of the trigger! Elk have the same effect that the Rocky Mountains themselves do; they are large and powerful but yet still demonstrate an elegant, mysterious nature. See one you've harvested up close, and you're going to be hooked.
Unmatched Visual and Audible Experience
Listening to an elk bugle early in the morning while watching the sun crest a giant Rocky Mountain ridge line has to be the most visually and audibly pleasing experience any hunter could have. Using that beautiful scenery as a backdrop to your cat and mouse game with a bull elk has got to be the pinnacle of outdoor experiences. I've heard elk bugling before, and it's like no other sound I've encountered. It sure helps to see them, but just hearing an elk in mountains can be an unforgettable experience.
Still, the back and forth element of elk hunting is equally an eyes and ears game. Not only do you glass and stalk your quarry, but you can locate and move in on target animals by the bugling of bulls. Last time I checked, mule deer and whitetail aren't hunted purely on vocalizations. In that way, elk hunting is way more interactive than deer hunting, and that is enough for me to give extra points to the elk.
Elk is Incredibly Tasty
I have been fortunate enough to enjoy some elk meat over the years. To say I loved it would be a vast understatement. The tastiness of the meat itself has become a huge motivator in this definitive American hunting experience for me. Beefier than deer and more deery than beef, the meat has all the great qualities one looks for: tenderness, flavor, and volume.
I've had elk ribeye and tons of dishes made from ground elk. They are all great and I feel like elk could easily be substituted in any beef recipe. However, probably the single most regarded cut of meat from an elk would be the large tenderloin, more commonly known as the backstrap. I prefer to slice a backstrap into 1-inch filets for the grill, but I know many people that prefer to pan-fry them. You can't go wrong with either option. Not only is elk incredibly tasty, it is incredibly versatile.
I feel I'm continually building a stronger argument for elk hunting the Rocky Mountains. A combination of the destination, the aura of the game animal itself, and the sustenance it can bring one's family truly make Rocky Mountain elk hunting special. You're free to disagree, but that's my claim and I'm sticking to it.
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