Amongst hunters there is a sense of adventure and spirit of camaraderie that occurs. For untold generations hunters have gone into the woods and fields and streams together to work as a group and harvest their own meat. This is my story of a unique elk hunting trip in Washington State.
The elk extraction plan changed: we would quarter the Elk to keep as much meat as possible. After they were quartered, Wes and I would pack out a quarter each to the truck. Once we got them to the truck and on ice, we would pick up the 4-wheeler and head back in as close as we could get to the ravine with the elk.
Simple plan, but there is no such thing as million dollar ideas: it’s all in your execution.
This is where Jayson’s professional hunting time continued to shine. He had really been the mastermind behind our elk plan, but when he and I, working at his direction, had an entire elk quartered before the other guys had an elk completely gutted, I knew Jayson had WAY more experience than the rest of us. After some quick lessons from Jayson, we all made quick work of the three animals. Packs loaded up with our quarters, Wes and I hoofed it for the truck.
When we got to the main road and met the outfitter, he had brought a gift packed around the 4 wheeler- 40 bags of ice. He knew we wouldn’t be able to stuff 3 elk into coolers, so he brought us enough ice to turn the truck bed into a cooler. Smart man, and it really showed the country hospitality and ingenuity I have been lucky to experience in my travels.
Hiking into the elk ravine was a task in itself. Not just due to the range and elevation, but the terrain itself. Steep hills covered in bowling ball sized rocks and sagebrush don’t make for easy terrain on a 4-wheeler. Luckily, I have a little time in the saddle offroading pretty much anything with wheels and more confidence than skill aboard anything with a motor.
Once we got as far as the truck would go, Wes hopped on the back of the 4-wheeler. I’m not sure if his warm embrace was from his confidence in my ability or lack thereof, or simply him trying not to fall off the back and die, but one thing is clear: he had no issues with personal boundaries. Two or three trips from as close to the elk as the 4-wheeler could get and back to the truck later, the sun was pretty much set. We made it right in the nick of time, and didn’t have to wait too long for all the guys to get back to the truck.
One Final Elk Hunting Trip Memory
With all of our elk loaded up on ice, we camped out for the night. The property manager of our campsite came to hang out with us and luckily could take our gear back to Griff’s house the next day. We drank a little bit of water and I think too much bourbon that night, or maybe it was the right amount. Regardless, it was an incredible hunt and we were relishing in the moment. We knew the next day would start the real work of processing a few hundred pounds of meat.
The day started at 5AM with Wes yelling, in a greeting tone, “BEAR!!!”
Confused, I yelled “Shoot it!!!” from my tent.
Turns out, Wes was seeing shadows for a second and there was no bear. Luckily nobody took my advice to shoot it, since he was seeing a mound of ice and elk in the back of the hunting truck; I’m guessing Enterprise doesn’t take kindly to returns with bullet holes in them.
With all of us up and lively from the bear incident, we packed up the rest of camp and hit the road. With so many legs protruding from the ice, we got a TON of funny looks on the highway back to Griff’s place. Most guys didn’t believe we had gotten three elk, and they certainly didn’t believe that happened in one day.
Back at Griff’s the work started. We ended up processing the deer in two working days, or 25 hours. This was done with 4 guys working diligently, about 100 total man hours. Wes really put his culinary skills on display, making an elk heart brochette that night, along with securing all the pork fat and bulk seasonings we would need for the sausages. The next day he got the sausages and mixed some incredible sausages while Griff, Jayson, and I focused on de-boning the meat. With straps, roasts, stews, and sausages, we knew the whole crew would be eating well with their families.
After a day of kicking around and hanging out, we had to head home. Most trips you don’t want to end but this one was different. It didn’t so much feel like the end as it did the beginning of new relationships and further pursuits in the hills. Regardless, we packed Jayson in his first Uber ride to head back to the taxidermy shop. Griff took off for a meeting with the President of Afghanistan to discuss Unarmed Forces business. Wes was nice enough to drop me off at the airport on his way back to Los Angeles, where small batch handcrafted kombucha was waiting for him.
This was my first elk hunt, but it won’t be my last. The sense of camaraderie and family, the working together as a group of various strengths and talents...nothing can beat it. Hunting is more than a sport, or providing provision: it’s a spirit of adventure that brings people together.