Sub-freezing Elk hunting lessons learned!

by Don Cowan
(Dallas, Texas)

2013 Elk 295 yards - 325 WSM

2013 Elk 295 yards - 325 WSM

My first Elk hunt was in Wyoming in 2009 and I was 56 years young. I have learned some lessons about gear I would like to pass on. For those with more experience in sub-freezing temps in a camp I salute you with all possible respect. I got there as soon as I could.

2009 Lessons.

1. Your flashlight should be either Pelican products or Surefire PLASTIC,

My first year I carried a metal Sure Fire and even with liner gloves under insulated Gore Tex gloves I could feel the heat leaving my hand.

2. Headlamp should also be plastic. My personal favorite is one made by Stream-light which includes a red SOS signal light.

3. Anything you might reach for in the night like a water bottle should be plastic. I had a metal water bottle stick to my lip that first hunt.

4. When adding wood to a wood burning stove in a tent at 3 AM it is a great idea to keep a pair of leather work gloves next to the stove and use them to protect your hands from the branding heat of that metal stove. I still have the scar on top of my left thumb from that lesson.

5. Hydration, Hydration, Hydration.

2012 Lessons

1. The saddle cinch strap is always loose until proven otherwise. I rolled the saddle on my horse this year and my rifle was on the right side of my saddle in a vertices scabbard.

At the point that I was past 90 degrees and hanging with my left arm on the rifle the scabbard strap broke and I managed to kick loose from the stirrups and I hit a snow covered bush over dirt and gravel between several big rocks.

I was lucky! I consider myself an advanced novice on horseback. I saw the saddle moving and did not say anything. lesson learned. I should have said something and did not.

2. A couple of the travel size Tylenol containers? Insufficient! My take away from 2012 number one above was to take one of those 480 count red bottles from the wholesale club.

3. After the saddle roll, my guide that year shared his experience doing what I did and breaking three ribs. Took them half the day to get him to a location where they could get a cell phone signal and arrange evacuation. More about my take away on this below.

4. Never exit your tent on a morning of a new moon without your flashlight and head lamp.
You will find a tree stump to trip over and face plant like I did the next morning.

So 2012, was the year I discovered I fall just as hard as I used too, but get up slower.

2013 Gear and lessons learned.

1. My hunting kit now has Surefire plastic flashlight in color yellow for easy visibility.
2. Headlamp is by Stream-light.
3. The cinch strap is always loose until proven otherwise.
4. In the wilderness, your cell phone depending on brand May or may not get a signal.
My new I-Phone 5 did not get service at a spot above camp we call "cell phone rock".
Other brands did.
5. This year after busting my butt twice last year I took a new piece of gear.

I took along a Delorme InReach SE Satellite communicator with SOS feature.
I also took along a PowerFlask battery that will recharge cell phone or the Sat device if the batteries run low as I was not sure of battery burn rate of the Delorme.

6. This year I got my Elk in the first three hours on the first afternoon hunt.
So, I was able to let my wife know I was coming out of camp early and she let me know what the flight times were out of Jackson, Wy.
The satellite texting device was very handy and even worked in our canvass wall tents. It will go with me from now on. Cell phones not so much.

7. One other piece of gear I added this year was some para-cord which I strung up in the tent to hang clothing over to dry overnight.

OTHER Gear I am very pleased with.

Sitka Gear Optifade camo - 4 layers.
Randal hunting knife
Belt-bag system rather than backpack
A collapsible walking stick that doubles as a shooting stick.
A. G. Russell belt knife.
Mace Bear Spray.
Kimber Montana .325 WSM Rifle.
Ruger 454 Alaskan loaded with Buffalo Bore 45 LC cast lead heavy loads.

Plans for gear next year:

I plan to work out a handy place on my belt bag system for a holder for a large can of bear spray.

The statistics on bear defense are coming down heavily in favor of bear spray.

Makes sense to me. :)

I hope someone new to Elk finds my lessons learned helpful!

Comments for Sub-freezing Elk hunting lessons learned!

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Nov 04, 2013
See Don's Elk Kill Story
by: Dave,

Please see Don's post about this year's elk kill by clicking here.

Nov 04, 2013
Bear Spray
by: Dave,

Don is right about the bear spray. Read more about bear safety and bear spray use on this page.

I am thinking about getting a bear spray holster for my thigh. Don, I'm interested in what you come up with. My bear spray is in my way on my pack belt the way I'm carrying it now.

Nov 04, 2013
Great info
by: Dave MI

Thanks for sharing. Although I don't see an elk trip in my near future, these are all great tips that should make anyone's next elk hunt just a bit better. Sorry you had to learn them the hard way:-) Hopefully, the rest of us will benefit!

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