Evolution of elk hunting.

Darren Best

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Dec 30, 2012
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682
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North Idaho
The thread about the evolution of back country hunting and the other about the fish and game chat got me to thinking about how much elk hunting has changed since I went on my first hunt at the age of 12 in 1978.

Back then, high tech clothing was Filson wool, a top end rifle was a wood stocked Sako bought off the shelf. A wood packboard was the main tool for getting your elk out, bones and all, I never saw anyone bone anything out, never. If you had horses you were living it up.

When I finally started having extra money to spend on hunting gear, I got enough to stuff a full size 3/4 truck to the gills. 14 X 16 wall tent, cast iron wood stove, you read that right, it took two guys to get it in and out of the truck. Clothes drying rack, tables, chairs and chuck box. Chain saw and assorted tools and a dirt bike.

Now all my gear fits into a light weight backpack. Heck my backpack weighs less than my day pack did back then. My first back country hunt was in the Selway Bitterroot wilderness in 1995, unit 17 I think. My pack was a Coleman Peak 1, you know the one with the frame you could bend. My pack weighed 55 pounds. I had some cheap sleeping bag that weighed 5 pounds and I froze like a popsicle. We came across some packers and they were confused about what we were doing out there, I had just gotten over bronchitis so the elevation was hell on my lungs.

You guys are hardcore and I mean that in a positive way. The old timers back then, their main focus was drinking beer and getting away from the family for a week. Everyone knew where the elk were, it was just a matter of doing the work to pack out of what ever hell hole you shot it in.

Hell no one even packed rain gear then, all my daily hunting stuff fit in my pockets. No compass, no map, no matches, no glass and no GPS. A knife, sandwich and a candy bar was it, I drank water from any stream or creek I came across.

I got lost one time near the Montana border when I was 14, I had a knife, blue jeans on, no hat, no gloves, leather boots, cotton socks, flannel shirt and maybe a wool coat. Lucky for me I found a marker I had set the day before and figured out where I was. You think I was afraid of dying out there, oh hell no, I was more afraid of the beating I was going to get when my step dad had to call search and rescue to find my sorry butt.

Avery turned into a boom town each fall, they used to have a full skeleton in a glass case in the bar. There was a diner just down the road from there, you couldn't find a place to sit in October, last I saw it was closed, I can't even remember the name of it, just down the road from Marble creek road.

I remember getting a coat and pants made from polar fleece which I thought was just awesome because of how fast it dried. Every day you went out, got soaked to the skin, go back to camp and dry all your stuff out. Then do it all over again the next day.

We used to go down to the bar on Monday night and drink beer and watch football. Of course everyone always rolled out of camp late the next day.

If one of us all decked out in our new gear stepped out of our truck in a elk camp in 1978, you would of thought aliens had landed, I don't doubt it for a minute.

There is more, a whole lot of what went on then would be considered unethical today.

It was definitely different, attitudes are different and the focus. No one cared about antlers then, you just killed the first elk you saw and called it good. In fact I probably would of gotten beat for passing up a cow or spike and holding out for a 6 X 6.

You should of seen the first elk bugles, a brass metal tube, but it actually worked, I'm sure it weighed a couple pounds. A guy in our camp brought one and used it, called a bull right to him, it almost ran him over, shot him with a 300 H&H at 20 feet right on the main trail no less.

My biggest regret is not carrying a camera for all the things I did and saw all those years.

Makes me wonder what elk hunting will be like in another 35 years.
 

HellsCanyon

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Lewiston ID
The thread about the evolution of back country hunting and the other about the fish and game chat got me to thinking about how much elk hunting has changed since I went on my first hunt at the age of 12 in 1978.

Back then, high tech clothing was Filson wool, a top end rifle was a wood stocked Sako bought off the shelf. A wood packboard was the main tool for getting your elk out, bones and all, I never saw anyone bone anything out, never. If you had horses you were living it up.

When I finally started having extra money to spend on hunting gear, I got enough to stuff a full size 3/4 truck to the gills. 14 X 16 wall tent, cast iron wood stove, you read that right, it took two guys to get it in and out of the truck. Clothes drying rack, tables, chairs and chuck box. Chain saw and assorted tools and a dirt bike.

Now all my gear fits into a light weight backpack. Heck my backpack weighs less than my day pack did back then. My first back country hunt was in the Selway Bitterroot wilderness in 1995, unit 17 I think. My pack was a Coleman Peak 1, you know the one with the frame you could bend. My pack weighed 55 pounds. I had some cheap sleeping bag that weighed 5 pounds and I froze like a popsicle. We came across some packers and they were confused about what we were doing out there, I had just gotten over bronchitis so the elevation was hell on my lungs.

You guys are hardcore and I mean that in a positive way. The old timers back then, their main focus was drinking beer and getting away from the family for a week. Everyone knew where the elk were, it was just a matter of doing the work to pack out of what ever hell hole you shot it in.

Hell no one even packed rain gear then, all my daily hunting stuff fit in my pockets. No compass, no map, no matches, no glass and no GPS. A knife, sandwich and a candy bar was it, I drank water from any stream or creek I came across.

I got lost one time near the Montana border when I was 14, I had a knife, blue jeans on, no hat, no gloves, leather boots, cotton socks, flannel shirt and maybe a wool coat. Lucky for me I found a marker I had set the day before and figured out where I was. You think I was afraid of dying out there, oh hell no, I was more afraid of the beating I was going to get when my step dad had to call search and rescue to find my sorry butt.

Avery turned into a boom town each fall, they used to have a full skeleton in a glass case in the bar. There was a diner just down the road from there, you couldn't find a place to sit in October, last I saw it was closed, I can't even remember the name of it, just down the road from Marble creek road.

I remember getting a coat and pants made from polar fleece which I thought was just awesome because of how fast it dried. Every day you went out, got soaked to the skin, go back to camp and dry all your stuff out. Then do it all over again the next day.

We used to go down to the bar on Monday night and drink beer and watch football. Of course everyone always rolled out of camp late the next day.

If one of us all decked out in our new gear stepped out of our truck in a elk camp in 1978, you would of thought aliens had landed, I don't doubt it for a minute.

There is more, a whole lot of what went on then would be considered unethical today.

It was definitely different, attitudes are different and the focus. No one cared about antlers then, you just killed the first elk you saw and called it good. In fact I probably would of gotten beat for passing up a cow or spike and holding out for a 6 X 6.

You should of seen the first elk bugles, a brass metal tube, but it actually worked, I'm sure it weighed a couple pounds. A guy in our camp brought one and used it, called a bull right to him, it almost ran him over, shot him with a 300 H&H at 20 feet right on the main trail no less.

My biggest regret is not carrying a camera for all the things I did and saw all those years.

Makes me wonder what elk hunting will be like in another 35 years.

Interesting post and even more intriguing that we've hunted those units around there for the past couple years! I know another member on here does the same! :) Oh and there's still a bit of "unethical" hunting tactics being used in those units around Avery... We still run into salt licks that have been maintained throughout the years and have still seen guys hauling in salt in the summertime!

How long have the mountain goats been on the St. Joe? We see them almost every trip a few miles before Avery.

Mike
 
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Darren Best

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Joined
Dec 30, 2012
Messages
682
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North Idaho
I don't know how long the goats have been there, I haven't seen them. I always drop down from Moon Pass when I go down there. I think it's been two decades since I've driven up from St Maries.

Yea the salt licks is just one, I can remember being told to shoot any bears or cougars I saw and just leave them lay. Also many hunters weren't real good at telling time, as in if it's dark or not if you get my drift. :)

The new way is much more enjoyable for many reasons. It sure is nice to stay dry the whole trip. :)
 

2rocky

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Jun 21, 2012
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Nor Cal
Spent a Summer on the St. Joe. Never did stop in Avery, but did grab lunch at the Log cabin Lodge along the river between St. Maries and Avery. Forget the name.
 

ohhiitznik

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Feb 24, 2012
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Rochester Hills, MI
That area was my first elk hunting experience. We went into Avery and it was a ghost town 2 years ago. With some proud man still holding on he had a sign up for everyone to read "I Shoot illegal immigrants, the grey canadian kind." Kind of sad if you think about what they've done to the area. Still love it for elk hunting though and I will head back in the future.
 
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Darren Best

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Dec 30, 2012
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682
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North Idaho
You guys should of seen it in the 70's, every wide spot in the road, every campground, it was all packed. You couldn't go out in the brush without bumping into someone.

We camped next to a bunch of guys from back east, Ohio I think. Man they were serious about elk hunting. They all had that yellow rubber rain gear on, looked like a herd of bananas. One of them had shot an elk and they all headed out in a line with custom made wheelbarrows to go get it. I couldn't figure out if they were crazy or geniuses. We talked to them later on in the week and they had been driving over from back east in a huge motor home for about ten years and hunting elk.
 

Slim Jim

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Jun 7, 2012
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Las Vegas, NV
Brings back memories of hunting with my dad in the late 70's. 501 Levi's, leather work boots, cotton thermals and any jacket to keep you warm. We use to buy tags OTC for mule deer here in NV unit 231! Now you need about 8 points to draw that unit. We would gut and drag the deer for what seemed a long way to where we could get the truck close enough to throw it in the back.
 

Ross

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Good stuff Elk241.........I grew up and continue to hunt North Idaho. I can relate to everything you mentioned. Alot of great gear changes over the years for sure! Unfortunately in life the only constant is change and our success can often be defined in how we evolve and adapt to the change. I have hunted unit 4 for 30+ years and believe the elk populations at this time are still very solid from what I see in the spring. That being said the elk are changing and adapting to the new predator in the mix and we unfortunately have to adapt to as well. I try to control what I can for my individual success, which means off season training, preparation, dedication and working harder than the next guy.....let's hope elk hunting is here 35 years from now!
 

Dinkshooter

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Jul 31, 2012
Messages
95
I'd say it is not so much evolution of elk hunting as much as the learning process of yourself. You've decided you want to hunt in a different way.

For a fact there are plenty of people out there still buying an elk tag to get away from the Hag/Nag for a week and spending much of the time drying out their jeans and Sorels in the wall tent with a brew.

You've taken it to the next level. Natural progression.
 

thebugler

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Mar 27, 2012
Messages
57
Location
Idaho
Great Thread! I can relate to the plaid wool coat and Levi pockets stuffed with a knife and a hand full of ammo! Lol! My progression to a more modern hunter is based upon trial and error. Success came with the less than perfect gear, leaving me wanting for more efficiency. The good old days when you could go back year after year to the same old camp, sit by the same old tree, and shoot an elk every year are long gone in North Idaho. Now we must be like the wolves, and keep mobile until we find a pocket of elk and then hunt them. Times have changed and I love my modern gear, and though wolves (which I hate)keep me on my toes, I still love chasing bulls in North Idaho :)
 
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