Considered one of the most majestic animals on the continent, the Rocky Mountain elk is emblematic of western hunting. From the bugling of herd bull monarchs keeping their harems of cows in line to the breathtaking vistas and, oh!, those towering tiers of antlers, this is a prized experience for anyone with the patience to hike the miles and put in the hours behind a binocular to plan a stalk. Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Washington, Oregon, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah are always top destinations, but reintroduced populations in states like Kansas, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and even Arkansas, with others in the planning, are offering fresh opportunities.
Elk tags are most often acquired through lottery tag draws, but there are states that offer over-the-counter tags, even for non-residents. You can hunt them DIY on public land if you like to camp and are map-savvy. If you’d prefer a helping hand, there are dozens of reputable hunting guides who can get you where you’re going via horseback or llama and tent camp if you like roughing it, or with a wake-up call in a five-star lodge, whichever you prefer.
For more information, see our friends at Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
Hunting dogs make hunting better. They find more game, they get you better shots, and they recover downed birds that would otherwise be lost. And, it’s just fun to watch dogs work. You may own a dog of your own someday, but you’ll probably hunt over other people’s dogs first. If you’re invited on a hunt with dogs, there are adjustments you’ll have to make. The dog’s safety is everyone’s concern. A dog isn’t of any use if it stays behind the firing line, so you’ll have to learn some new gun handling habits. There’s etiquette to learn, too, and expectations to adjust. Not every hunt with dogs is a joy. Some are terribly frustrating. Learn to take it in stride. It may be your dog running wild someday. Basically there are four types of hunting dogs you may encounter.
Pointing dogs (English setters, German shorthaired pointers, Brittanys and may others) freeze when they get close to upland birds. Commercial lodges like pointing dogs because they create a controlled situation, allowing hunters to get into position before the bird flushes. Most pointing dogs retrieve, too.
Retrievers (Labs, Chesapeake Bay retrievers, etc) are used primarily for waterfowl hunting. They wait in the blind with the hunters until birds fall, then fetch them.
Flushers (spaniels, mostly, as well as retriever breeds like Labs and golden retrievers) roust upland birds out of cover instead of stopping to point them.
Hounds (beagles are the most popular) chase four-footed game big and small, usually baying as they go. You may hunt deer, hogs, mountain lions or raccoons with hounds, although it's most likely you'll hunt rabbits with beagles.
Here’s what you need to know to have a safe, successful, enjoyable hunt with dogs.
See safety and etiquette rules at Range365.com.
https://youtu.be/jcZOO5Zqrjc?t=10In this video, Professional dog trainer Bev Millheim offers some sage advice for dog owners that are getting their young dog ready for its first hunting season. Tough the tips are focused on retrievers the substance can be applied to any breed. If Fido will see it on opening day he should see it first in training. Good luck on your first hunt!
Keeping Dry: Myth-BustingRemember how well your Gore-Tex jacket worked the first season you used it? Now, after a few trips to the washing machine or a year later, the jacket’s outer layer has stopped repelling water. Breathable membranes have been around for decades, yet vast confusion still surrounds the proper care of these garments. I’ve heard the following:
- “I never wash the jacket, it will ruin it.”
- “I only put it in the dryer as a last resort.”
- “Woolite is the best way to clean a garment.”
This Works — ReallyTo improve your garment’s performance, all you need to do is toss it into the washing machine. The trick is to use the right detergent and finish it in the dryer. The wrong detergent will render the DWR on the verge of useless. Don’t use Tide, Eco Wash, and especially not Woolite. My choice, after using everything from Nikwax to European sport soaps, is Sport Wash or Sport Wash Zero. It’s inexpensive and will do a remarkable job of bringing your garment back to life. [caption id="attachment_2886" align="aligncenter" width="650"] Keeping your clothing clean with the right detergent, like Sport Wash, will vastly improve your garments’ ability to keep you dry and warm.[/caption] Follow the instructions. Set the washer on extra rinse. And, yes, toss it in the dryer on the hottest cycle to finish. The dryer will actually reactivate the DRW. In 90 percent of the garments I’ve tested, the jacket or pant will work like new. The only disadvantage to a product like Sport Wash is it has no brighteners. One last note: If you don’t have the right detergent, it’s better to use none at all and double the rinse cycle. If your DWR is truly worn from years of wear, you can attempt to bring your beloved garment back from the dead with Permanent Water Guard. It comes in a 17-ounce spray bottle, and you’ll apply it when the garment is wet and clean immediately after taking it out the washer. Apply a liberal amount of Water Guard on the clothing until it’s saturated and running off. This should be done outside. Then, toss it in the dryer with high heat. You’ll be impressed at just how waterproof your garment will become. Love your down feather garments but not sure what to do with them? Whether it’s waterproof or regular down, you’ll find the same benefits from cleaning with Sport Wash. If there’s worn DRW on the outside of the jacket, Permanent Water Guard will work just as effectively as it does on more “technical” garments.
Fending Off the Chills: PhysiologyLet’s start with your body. Your health is a factor in your ability to stay warm. If you sweat heavily, are overweight, a diabetic or have poor blood circulation, these factors should be considered when you’re out in the woods or the marsh. Time is also a factor. It’s relatively easy to stay warm for an hour or two. Once you pass two hours, the challenges increase dramatically. Trade up from three to four hours, and you have arrived at a completely different outdoor experience than the one you started with. Older individuals, children and petite women also face challenges a 180-pound, 35-year-old, six-foot man with years of cold weather exposure doesn’t. If your body isn’t used to the cold, you may need far more insulation. Perspiration is the constant culprit in producing bone-chilling cold. You must seriously manage it to stay warm. To get a handle on sweat, cool down your body when you’re active and choose the right undergarments. If you’re looking at a long drive to your hunting destination, dress lightly in your base layer or fleece in the truck and, if possible, don’t wear your insulated boots. Set the heat on low and get your passengers on the same page. The goal is to arrive with dry skin and dry clothes. If you’re looking at a long walk or wade to the blind or a stand, wear as little as possible on the trek. If you start to sweat, slow down, take off your hat, and remove a layer of clothing. When you get settled in, use a hand towel to dry off your skin. When you’re dry, your base layer will work more efficiently because it has far less perspiration to displace.
Fit Makes a Huge DifferenceHere’s where so many hunters make the dangerous cross over into cold country. If you’re wearing anything you have to struggle to put on, it’s simply going to make you cold. Any garment that’s tight will restrict blood flow. If you have gained a few pounds since you purchased your last pair of pants or jacket, then you’re probably going to get cold. Your clothing should hang slightly, meaning that if you fill out the cut of the garment out, it’s most likely too snug. [caption id="attachment_2885" align="aligncenter" width="650"] Two pairs of pants in different sizes that fit the same. Know your fit and wear your garments loosely to stay warm.[/caption] There’s another problem with too-tight clothing: The goal of insulated clothing is to trap air, so if the insulation is squashed, it can’t perform as designed. An example is wearing two pairs of heavy socks. If you have to struggle to get your boots on, then the insulation created by the loft in the sock is compressed. Yes, you have more insulation. But it’s so smashed together, it can no longer trap air. Combined with the inability to dry out the moisture, you have a formula that will send you back to the truck more quickly than if you wore just one pair of socks. This analogy translates to waders, jackets, pants and even fleece. If you’re squishing and compressing your layers of clothing together, then you will be colder more quickly than if you didn’t. That means if you used to be a large and now you’re an extra-large, size up. Walk a little slower to your stand and keep those breathable garments clean. By making a few small changes in your outdoor routine you’ll stay warm and dry this season.
https://youtu.be/tMrOId2RQEEIn this video, Conn. Hunter Education Instructor Dieter Bromkamp explains the importance of having and maintaining a solid scent control regimen and offers many tips that you can implement before your next hunt.
The 6.5sIt’s not all hype. The reason why 6.5mm cartridges are exploding in popularity is because they are ultra-efficient. Bullets of this diameter are easily configured to have extremely high ballistic coefficients. That, combined with their relatively small size, means that compared to cartridges of similar powder capacity, the 6.5s will almost always do more, in terms of external and terminal ballistics, with less recoil. See the list of top 6.5s at Field & Stream