elk tag in one of the best units in my state.
Of course, I decided to buy a new rifle for that hunt. Unfortunately, I relied too heavily on traditional hunting media for recommendations.
This time period was the start of the “long range shooting” craze and I was bombarded with stories of guys on TV and online shooting elk at really long range (like 600+ yard shots).
I was a fairly experienced hunter at this point: I'd hunted Africa twice for cape buffalo and plains game, taken two black bears, and harvested a good number of whitetail and blacktail deer. I’d never hunted elk before though.
Since I didn’t know any better, I thought that you basically had to be prepared for a long range shot like that to shoot an elk. So, I bought a really nice new rifle that delivered excellent performance at long range. Before I knew it, I was consistently banging a steel plate the size of an elk’s vitals at 600 yards.
As it turned out, my hunt took place in an area where 100 yards was a long shot.
Now this is the painful part.
I ended up getting a shot opportunity on 2 separate bull elk during the course of that hunt. In each case, I encountered those elk at relatively close range without a lot of time to mess around.
Unfortunately, I was not able to get my rifle into position fast enough either time before the opportunity passed. Looking back on it, I’m confident I could have killed either one of those elk if I’d been using an easier to handle rifle.
I felt like an idiot for being so badly prepared.
At the same time, I also felt like I’d been taken advantage of and misled by the resources I’d trusted to help me prepare for that hunt.
That next summer I moved down to El Paso and I drew a mule deer tag in New Mexico and a pronghorn tag in Wyoming soon after arriving down there.
I wondered if I should use that same rifle I carried on that elk hunt?
However, conditions were very different in New Mexico and Wyoming. My gut told me that rifle was much better suited for those conditions, so I decided to use it on those upcoming hunts.
Even though I’d never hunted mule deer or pronghorn before, and even though I was hunting by myself in a brand new area, I ended up tagging nice buck on both hunts.