A Mother Daughter Elk Hunt
Hard work, growth, perseverance, success, memories. The last word is the most important, but these are all words that describe my 2017 general season, Roosevelt elk hunt. It was my first year hunting elk with archery equipment and it was one I will never forget. Going into the season, all I wanted was to get into elk. I just wanted to hear and experience bugling bulls up close for the first time. As a previous rifle hunter, I had never had the opportunity to hunt elk in the rut. My hopes were quickly exceeded and there was no shortage of elk talk and close encounters... and I mean CLOSE encounters! As the season went on and I felt more comfortable with the concept of calling elk, I thought it would be memorable to bring my daughter along for a quick evening hunt, just the two of us. Jordyn was so excited to go with me, but in reality, I’m pretty sure she just wanted to wear the camo face paint. I didn’t mind if that was the driving force behind her wanting to come along. Little did I know, that evening spent with my bright-eyed six year old, turned out to be one of my favorite hunts of the season.
Have you ever taken a child hunting? If you have, you are going to fully understand this next statement. Patience is everything! From the loud footsteps to the constant questions, taking a child hunting can be extremely, how should I say this, difficult? Something I learned this year is that hunting elk in the rut is 99% auditory. Most of my hunts were dictated by the sound of a bugle or a broken branch. Roosevelt elk are almost impossible to locate visually due to the thick forests of the pacific northwest so we are forced to rely on our hearing. Sitting still and listening is your saving grace to finding a bull. Well, after about 10 minutes into our mother-daughter hunt I realized we wouldn't be getting on a bull. Even if a bull responded back to my calls, I don’t think I would have heard it, because there was absolutely zero sitting still or listening with Jordyn along.
That being said, when we pulled up to park our truck that night, we actually bumped a cow elk standing just off the road. Jordyn was so excited to see an elk up close, and I was fulfilled just to see the excitement on her face. I knew the cow wouldn’t be alone, so there was a glimmer of hope in me that thought, this might actually happen! We quickly put on our Nature’s Paint and shuffled our feet up the ridge, in a not so quiet fashion, where I thought the herd might be feeding to. When we got to a good location and I did my first calling sequence, which probably sounded terrible, Jordyn was already bored. Sitting and listening for a duration of time isn’t her strong suit. Remember when I mentioned being patient? Insert patience here. It took all of me not to get upset by the noise she was making with her voice and her movements. She’s more of a, “cartwheel and tumble over logs” kind of kid. It didn’t take long until she had grabbed my phone and started taking videos and snapping pictures of everything. The next thing I knew, instead of bugles, I heard voices, voices coming from my phone! She was watching Youtube out elk hunting!
After a failed attempt to locate a bull, I decided to take her to the edge of a clear cut before the sun went down, hoping we might spot any animal to end the evening on a high note. When we made it to the clear cut, Jordyn’s sweet tooth kicked in and she began the infamous Candybar Shuffle. You know, when you frantically open every zippered compartment of your pack in search for the candy bars? Quickly, her moans and groans transformed into chocolate covered smiles. We shared some laughs, took some photos together and I made the decision to start our journey back to the truck, a decision I probably should have made about 15 minutes prior.
Just as we left the clear cut, the daylight seemed to disappear and the heavily wooded timber greeted us with extreme darkness. When you’re six years old, standing in the dark in the forest isn’t very fun. Honestly, I don’t like it much either, but as a seasoned hunter I’ve learned to deal with it. Jordyn immediately started asking questions about bears and other scary creatures of the night. My maternal instincts kicked in and I did everything I could to reassure her that we would be ok, simultaneously checking the Glock in my hip holster. I squeezed her hand tight and started singing "Jesus Loves Me." At first, she was too focused on the darkness to sing along but I nudged her enough times that the tune started flowing from her nervous little body. It only took us about ten minutes to get back to our truck but it felt like an eternity. During our walk out, I kept wondering if I had ruined her first elk hunting experience by keeping her out past dark. When we reached the truck, Jordyn gave my hand a tight squeeze, looked up at me with her adorable little painted face and said, “Mom, you’re the best!” I knew at that moment, nothing was ruined and our trip was everything I had hoped for and more.