For some people, guided elk hunts are a way to find a big bull elk, fill the freezer for the season, and move on with life.
For other people, a guided elk hunt is a spiritual experience that tests willpower, challenges personal limits, and brings one closer to the food that they eat.
Below we will detail the type of experience you can expect on guided elk hunts so that you may judge whether it is for you and prepare mentally, spiritually, physically, and emotionally.
Guided Elk Hunts Make Men
Our ancestors often hunted to live off the land. They didn’t have grocery stores and this forced them to know and learn how to hunt animals like elk.
For hundreds of thousands of years men have been responsible for taking life. There is something in our DNA as men that compels us to hunt.
In many indigenous cultures, a boy did not become a man until he could adequate supply food for himself and others. In essence, it was successful hunting that turned a boy into a man.
Today, most men (myself included) have been far removed from this experience. Even if we have been hunting for many years, we rarely need to hunt in order to survive.
Elk hunting in the Rocky Mountains can create high stakes situations that test us as men and allow us to feel something we have not felt in generations.
In Pursuit of Elk
Through my ear plugs, the sound of an alarm rouses me from my sleeping bag.
By this point in the early morning it is the coldest part of the day and I’m wearing all my available clothes.
It’s 5 AM and it takes all the energy I can muster to get out of my bag, but when I’m successful I make a beeline for the roaring fire at the center of camp.
While the elk hunting guide and camp help cook some breakfast, I start warming my feet and preparing for an advance up the mountain.
Skipping breakfast is paramount to my success. I cannot stomach a large breakfast before we start hiking for up to 11 hours at a time. I pack some nuts and that will have to do.
This is elk hunting.
With 10 – 20 or more pounds on your back, a rifle or bow slung around your side, and elk 3 – 400 feet in altitude above you, it’s time to hike.
Over 7 days we hiked 47 miles up, down, and around mountains. You’re not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy.
Combine all of that with minor altitude sickness, too few calories, and poor sleep and you have a recipe for a challenge.
For the same reason millions of people choose to run marathons, do Tough Mudder events and other challenges, going on a guided elk hunt is a worthwhile internal experience.
Generally speaking, we live comfortable lives. Sometimes we have to put ourselves in uncomfortable situations to experience something greater.
Accelerated Learning During Guided Elk Hunts
No matter how much hunting may be in our DNA, most of us have not grown up in the environment to learn and become skillful on our own.
A guided elk hunt showed me just how much of a novice hunter I really was. The Oyasin Outfitters elk hunting guide opened my eyes to a new way of being.
Between the strategy and tactics, there is no book that can teach what you can learn from an experienced guide.
With a guide well-educated in the school of the backcountry, you will experience accelerated learning.
Back in Texas at Oyasin HQ, I needed new tools and tactics to hunt whitetail deer, but many of the same principles from elk hunting applied.
Over time, with the right elk hunting guide, you can learn for yourself what it takes to get out onto the field alone.
4 Spiritually Significant Reasons to Elk Hunt
Little of what I’ve explained seems appealing while in the moment. Traversing mountains covering 47 miles in 7 days sounds more tiring than enjoyable…
…but it’s not. The hardships and endurance required to survive make it a worthwhile spiritual experience.
Here are four spiritually significant reasons to elk hunt:
#1. Physical challenge – the most basic elk hunting experience is physical challenge.
You can feel this in the preparation months before the event, but it becomes real in the moment at 5 AM or earlier every morning.
It starts to grind down the mind and body, which is a breakthrough it is own right. This is why so many religions around the world do fasting practices.
Physical breakdown = mental breakthrough.
#2. High risk – after spending countless hours preparing, it’s time to dedicate 5 – 7 full days of your life in pursuit of this animal.
Add the cost for a guided elk hunt and you have a lot of money, time, and energy riding on a single shot.
That’s a high risk, but added stakes make us take the experience more seriously.
#3. Taking an animal’s life – no matter how many times we do it, taking the life of an animal is no trivial task.
We understand life eats life in order to survive. It is part of the circle of life and death, but being intimate with that experience transforms it to another level.
#4. In our DNA – as men, especially those who have not hunted their whole life, a guided elk hunt is like waking up a dormant part of our DNA.
It’s a powerful experience to share an activity our ancestors have been doing for hundreds of thousands of years.
But as we’ve said before, hunting elk doesn’t have to be a spiritual experience. For many people it is not that way.
It is something people do with friends, in order to gather meat, and enjoy the outdoors. There is nothing wrong with that.
But there is another way to hunt. Conscious hunting considers the consequences and has self-awareness to make the experience even more compelling.
Elk Hunting Packages
Elk hunting in the mountains is hard. But sometimes, as men seeking a greater challenge from our comfortable lives, hard is good.
We offer a few elk hunting packages each year at Oyasin in order to create this spiritually significant experience for eager hunters.
Make no mistake, just because we have a focus on conscious hunting doesn’t mean we don’t bring in some of the biggest bull elks around.
But as many hunters have found over the generations, sometimes even if you walk away with no meat or antlers in hand, you still walk away with a transformational experience.