Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Hunting Experience with RMEF's Team Elk

Seriously, we walked across shale beds!
Have you ever been in a situation, and suddenly thought, “What am I doing here?” I had that thought recently, when I was in the middle of a very steep shale bed on the East Butte Mountain in Montana. The thought was quickly answered with excitement, “I’m hunting elk with Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s Team Elk!” For the flat-landers, like me, a shale bed is like a big pile of landscape rocks, picture a dump load truck of gravel, but giant sized and then side hilling across it. I’m proud to say, that I crossed many of these shale beds and had sense of accomplishment that has stayed with me since this experience.

In hunting circles, I suppose it sounds cliché to talk about the “experience of hunting”, but in reality the experience is the common thread in every hunting scenario that is shared by all of us, and the dominate factor that can motivate a non-hunter to hunt. I had the opportunity to go on this hunt because of the partnership we have with RMEF and Shoot Like a Girl, which I founded. RMEF shares our dedication to growing the number of women in shooting sports by empowering them to participate with confidence. We hope that our experience of three girls hunting together in Montana will inspire more women to get out there and give hunting a try!
Cristy Crawford, Kristy Titus, Karen Butler
It was (like totally) awesome to hunt with Kristy Titus, from Team Elk and Cristy Crawford, our Shoot Like A Girl’s Operations Officer and Corporate Sponsorship Manager. We were guided by Jim Brennan and Steve Lund. In the interviews, I got such joy when Jim was talking about the fact that he wasn’t sure how three girls would do on a hunt (this was a new experience for him too), but he said we held our own! That’s a great compliment from such an experienced guide.

Steve and Jim are excellent guides, but I think on the first day they put us gals to the test; and for the record, we passed and it was an amazing sense of accomplishment for us. The test included (what seemed like) a straight ascent up the mountain, to cross shale beds, thread ourselves through thick timber, side hill a ridge and follow a creek bed. It was a workout, but the view was amazing. We didn’t see much wildlife that day, but the great thing about hunting, is the next day is always more promising than the last! The days all ran together, but it was a week of firsts, I had never heard a bull bugle, and when I did, it was amazing! It is a sound like no other that I’ve heard, it drifts through the air, and then disappears. It is tricky up in the mountains to figure out which direction it is coming from when they are far away; when they are close it is easy.
Yep, when they are close it is easy. As I said, our guides were excellent, and Jim and Steve scouted some elk on a ridge, and it was game on. We quickly climbed up the backside of the adjacent ridge (we did not want to skyline ourselves), and dropped down in the timber toward the ridge we had seen the elk on! This was absolutely exhilarating. It is like the feeling you get, when a roller coaster is climbing up a steep peek and you know that the drop is about to happen, thrilling and maybe a little nerve racking! Now for elk hunters, you may want to take note, all the articles you read that tell you how to call in a big bull, well they work, because Jim set us up “text book”. He checked the wind, and placed me about 30 yards from Kristy Titus, who was calling for me. Let me tell you, this gal is the real deal. Kristy is a genuine ambassador for hunting, who shares the love, passion and knowledge she has for hunting with everyone! After we were all set up, Kristy let out a cow call…and there it was, the bull bugled back! At this point, my heart starts pounding in my head, but I think, “be calm”. Then, I see him. It is amazing how quiet these enormous animals move, we were in some fairly thick timber, but until I saw the movement, I had no idea this big guy was in there with us. He is on a string right to Kristy; she lets out a cow estrus call, and there it was, 20 yards away from me, and all I can see is his mouth tilted upwards, with a loud bugle singing out through the trees. I may have said some expletives at this point, because I was in awe! Jim said , “draw your bow”, I started to draw, but then the elk looked straight at us. Jim said, “freeze”, which I did, with my bow in front of me at pre-draw. Can I just say, “ouch”..that few minutes or maybe even seconds, of total adrenalin and holding my bow without moving was tough. Then he took a step, I started to draw, but he stopped and looked at me again; there I was in the middle of my draw, holding the full 55 lbs of my bow, and I froze once again. Now, this is really more of “OUCH”. I later learned I should have just pulled back, but as a rookie elk hunter, these things will happen, and hopefully, I learned my lesson. He finally stopped in an open lane, but unfortunately, I did not get a kill shot. I did however, get an experience of a lifetime.
I wish every person could understand this hunting experience. For me, I feel so very empowered to have seen an elk bugle at 20 yards, hiked mountains, endured the physicality of hunting and the peace that comes from just sitting in total quiet, surrounded by nature and glassing the horizon for the chance of a new pursuit. For the hunters (men and women) reading this article, you are key to helping us get more ladies out there hunting, we encourage you to take a lady hunting with you; even if she doesn’t have a weapon, show her what it is like to build a fire for lunch, glass the hillside or sit in a tree. For women who aren’t currently hunters, hunting is a choice for all of us. Woman to woman, I can tell you that there is not another activity that gives me such peace and serenity and lets me rejuvenate myself to face the tasks and responsibilities of being a woman of this decade. I highly recommend you give it a try. We recommend you dress for the weather where you’ll be (to include footwear), go with an experienced hunter, and when it is really quiet and the sun is coming up, revel in the fact that you are part of this great conservation effort, because as our friends at RMEF so eloquently state, “Hunting is Conservation”!

We are so thankful for RMEF’s commitment to helping Shoot Like a Girl grow the number of women who participate in shooting sports; and 100% support their mission of conserving habitat for elk.