Hunting is a controversial topic throughout the world, but I’ll explain my point of view on the topic in this article. Here are the 5 reasons I choose to hunt elk with a bow every year to fill my freezer:
1. Our Ancestors Survived By Archery Hunting
2. Elk Is A Clean Source Of Organic, Grass-fed Protein
3. Archery Hunting Is Physically & Mentally Challenging
4. Deepens Respect For The Environment
5. Harvesting An Elk With A Bow Is Rewarding
It’s no secret that our ancestors were hunter-gatherers before the introduction of modern agricultural practices. This means they hunted animals and gathered seeds, nuts, and berries for food. It’s interesting to think that 10,000 years ago, pre-agricultural era homo sapiens were able to find a way to not only survive, but thrive off the land without modern day agricultural practices.
Our ancestors were strong and resilient - probably safe to argue that they were both physically stronger and mentally more resilient than we, as a human race living in today’s society, are. Think about what you would do if you couldn’t go to King Soopers or Whole Foods to buy your food. Hunting for food was the only way to survive for our ancestors.
Elk meat is an amazing source of lean protein as an elk’s diet consists of wild grass, forbs, and shrubs. An elk lives at high elevations in the mountains where the grass is free of pesticides and the water sources are as clean as you’ll find anywhere. This results in a meat rich in vitamins, nutrients, and energy.
The nutrient content of any meat will directly reflect what the animal has consumed in their diet. In the case of a wild elk, you’re getting food from an animal who’s lived it’s whole life consuming a chemical free food and water source. This isn’t so much the case for commercially produced meats you can purchase at the grocery store...
Commercially produced meats such as beef, pork, and chicken are also a direct reflection of their diet. These animals are fed things like commercially produced corn, soy, and wheat -- all foods that spike insulin levels. Oftentimes, this food can be filled with chemicals, pesticides, and preservatives which can get passed to humans throughout the digestion process. Not to mention, commercially raised animals are also pumped with antibiotics, growth hormones, and other substances that can be unhealthy for humans. These unwanted substances wreak havoc over time on the human digestive systems, which is why I believe it’s important to eat clean meat such as wild elk whenever possible. Hunting for my own food allows me to fill my freezer with a clean, healthy source of protein every year.
Archery elk hunting is one of the most physically challenging activities that I prepare for every year. Knowing that long hikes in the backcountry are required to increase chances of success in September gives me plenty of motivation to physically train with intensity throughout the year. Although, it seems that no matter how much I train in the gym or on the trails, the mountains of archery elk season never fail to kick my butt.
Every year I find more valleys and peaks that I want to explore, and there never seems to be a lack of “let’s just get to the top of that hill” moments. Inevitably, my legs always end up completely shot, but that’s part of the challenge.
In order to be successful and ethical with a bow and arrow, you’ll need to be able to place an arrow consistently within a 3” diameter circle at 50 yards. The amount of practice required with your bow and arrow is not a task to be taken lightly. The two years that I have been successful harvesting large herd bulls were oddly enough, the years I practiced with my bow the most. Funny how that works out. During this time period, I was shooting my bow on average 4x per week starting in March until the end of August.
The commitment and discipline required to hone your skill as an archer is no different than anything else related to personal growth. Archery is a great way to mentally challenge your brain’s ability to focus by forcing you to deeply concentrate on your target.
Make time to practice on a consistent basis to hone this skill and your brain will thank you for it. Think of it as mental calisthenics.
Contrary to popular belief, all hunters aren’t just crazy people who enjoy killing animals for fun.
After experiencing what it’s like to go on a multi-day archery elk hunt in the backcountry, you begin to realize with each trip that it becomes less and less about the harvest and more and more about the experience. There’s something primitive about being in the woods with a bow, arrow, knife, and only a couple meals worth of food and water. A connection is developed with nature as you rotate for hours on end between hiking, scouting, waiting, and watching.
“The mountains always humble me” is a thought that never ceases to appear in my mind during the first day of hiking with a heavy pack in archery season. This comes at the point when I’m completely drenched in sweat, out of breath, and lightheaded while hiking to make it to the top of a mountain. Every year I tell myself I’m going to train harder in preparation for the next year, but I’m beginning to accept that the mountains will always have their way of humbling me, no matter how hard I train.
Couple this humbling effect with the sheer beauty of the mountains and it makes for an unforgettable experience. One of my favorite reasons to archery hunt in the backcountry is the amount of time it allows for overlooking hidden lush green valleys, staring at massive rock formations, and listening to trickling high alpine creeks all while sitting on top of a mountain.
For these reasons, each time I hike down from an archery hunt, I leave with a deeper respect of the majestic mountains that I get to call home.
My friends who archery elk hunt are some of the most respectful people I know of the land and environment. They make sure to “pack it in, pack it out” to maintain public lands, volunteer their time in habitat restoration, and participate in harvesting surveys to ensure healthy populations of animals are maintained.
When you harvest an animal, it’s an emotional experience. You’re taking the life of another living creature and that part isn’t fun at all. But that’s the harsh reality of how the natural food chain works if you consume meat. And if you eat meat, you have to ask yourself, “Is hunting more or less humane than commercial factory meat practices?”
To me, it feels more humane because the animal is allowed to live a long healthy life in open valleys, mountains, and meadows with their family herd. My mindset is to hunt the oldest bull in the herd that is closest in age to passing away. Most dominant bull elk (herd bulls) are in their breeding prime during 6-9 years of age but begin to heavily decline in health after that. This rapid decline in health and energy makes them less resilient to fighting long winters resulting in an easy meal for prey. In my mind, hunting the oldest herd bull is the most sustainable way to ensure a healthy population of elk for the long term.
The ultimate reward is coming home with clean, organic meat in your pack to fill the freezer, but the antlers from a mature bull elk also provide a great reminder of the effort, persistence, and respect that it took to harvest such a majestic animal with a bow and arrow.
For all of the reasons mentioned above, I’ll continue challenging myself to hunt for my own food each year.
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