A Massive Win for Public Hunting Land

Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz underestimated the collective voice of hunters across the country when he introduced his bill — H.R. 621. Basically, this bill would have allowed nicely more than three,000,000 acres of public land to be sold off in what Chaffetz describes as “The long overdue disposal of excess federal lands…”


The hunters’ collective voice has successfully killed a bill that would have allowed nicely over 3,000,000 acres of public land to sooner or later be sold off.

The reasoning? Fiscal duty and the argument that if the land were below state manage as opposed to the feds, it would be managed for better income. There’s a hell of a lot of precedent out there that argues otherwise, which implies that an awful lot of the federal land that ends up being transferred to state ownership then gets decorated with a for-sale sign. Following that, it is no longer yours or mine. It’s private.

What surprised me about this problem is that it’s largely a western dilemma right now. This is not meant to say that bowhunters across the nation shouldn’t be concerned, because they need to. But the ten states that would have been impacted by H.R. 621 location all west of the Mississippi, most by at least half of a day of drive time or a lot more.

Even understanding this, hunters banded together and bombarded Chaffetz with messages that told him he wasn’t in a position to give up land that belongs to all of us. To his credit, he heard us loud and clear and admitted so and killed the bill. That is a big win for all of us, but to me also shows one thing else that is going on in our nation.

Hunting One-Percenters
Even though I grew up hunting public land, I didn’t rely on it solely. I do not today either, but I do hunt at least four or 5 states a year whilst never ever setting foot on private ground. Public land is essential to me for a lot of factors. About seven years ago, as a struggling outdoor writer, I was looking for a way to differentiate myself from the pack. The apparent route to take was to turn down most of the guided/outfitted hunts I was presented and go do items on my personal. On public land.


The potential loss of public land at the hands of greedy politicians is no joke. Not too long ago, hunters stood up for themselves and demanded that public land stay public.

What I accidentally fell into was an undercurrent in our hunting culture exactly where an awful lot of us are tired of the one particular-percenter mentality surrounding bowhunting. Now, I’ve got nothing at all against anybody going on a guided hunt, or purchasing a killer piece of deer ground to grow bucks. I enjoy America — a lot — and I enjoy our possibilities to do as we please.

I just feel that an individual in my position, who is being paid to dispense hunting tips, should probably be actually hunting. Not just displaying up and being told where I’ll kill anything. Again, I’m not saying I will not go on guided hunts, simply because I will at some point. I just feel that it’s my obligation to hunt exactly where other folks hunt, and to knowledge what most of us encounter.


Do you like public land? You are not alone. The chance to hunt and fish ground we all own is anything that tends to make this country so specific.

There is no far better way to do that than to chase whitetails, elk, mule deer, antelope and turkeys on public land. I firmly believe that just as I firmly admit there is much more to it for me personally than boiling it down to a company selection.

We Are Different
I pointed out that I love America, and I certainly do. A single of the motives I really like it so much is that we have public land. A lot of it. There is no spot in the world that provides up hunting possibilities to everybody very the way we do. Even if each and every piece of private ground got leased up and most of us got locked out, we’d nonetheless have places to hunt. Granted, they may possibly not be dream properties that we see on outdoor television, but to be fair, they never ever were. At least not for deer. Western critters are somewhat of a diverse story, although comparing public versus private elk hunting is is an apples-to-aardvarks endeavor.


Want to hunt for oneself and target any critter that will make you pleased? If so, public land may well be just want you need.

Either way, no one sets foot on most public land expecting idiot animals with cute names that have been shielded from arrows and bullets for most of their life so that they can mature. That is not how it works. Rather, you’re permitted the possibility to hunt. That is essential. You can go out on public land, and aside from a really modest percentage of tightly controlled parcels, you can generally target what ever critter you’d like.

That indicates that not only do you have the freedom to roam wherever you’d like inside the boundaries, you can also hunt for yourself. These are two components of public-land hunting that I am personally a extremely huge fan of.

Go Ahead, Puff Your Chest Out
Of course, if you do happen to uncover some achievement on public land you are probably going to be damn proud of oneself. I say, as lengthy as you don’t get too gross about it, go ahead. Really feel proud. You’ve participated in the most hard hunting in the country and come out on top. You deserve a few high-fives.

Ditto for anyone who contacted their state reps more than H.R. 621. If you took the time to get involved and tell our elected officials to preserve their grubby hands off of our land, I applaud you. You have played a little, but really essential, function in maintaining this country remarkable. And you have done one thing that can not be understated.

You have sent a message that you won’t put up with an individual messing with the land that belongs to all of us. Confident, that means we will constantly have a place to hunt and fish. But it also means our children, and our kids’ children will have a spot as effectively.

Nothing at all could be much more critical than that.


Back-To-Back Bulls on Public Land

This could be it, I thought, as the cow elk blew previous me on a trail by way of timber as thick as quills on the back of a porcupine.

We knew bulls have been close. All morning long bugles had been ringing from the canyon before us as a light mist veiled the vista. I looked back at my dad’s friend, Gale Smith, and I could see the intensity in his eyes.

He felt like me. Anything was about to happen, and it most likely would be sporting antlers.

My dad and I had been hunting the mountains close to our home for the past couple of seasons. My 1st hunt was with a rifle. The snow was deep, it was cold, and every day began and ended plowing by way of deep drifts on the back of our horses.


Here I’m set up in front of my dad, waiting for some elk action. We use this technique a lot to contact an elk into variety of the shooter.

Although I’d had the likelihood to tag young bulls or cows, I instead held out till the end and ate my very first tag. I discovered an important lesson though. Never ever pass up a sure thing in elk country.

My next elk adventure was with bow and arrow. Hunting season coincided with the rut, and I couldn’t believe the difference. The elk were vocal and roamed all day long, and there was small or no snow.

The season ended with several close calls, but I in no way had the chance to fling an arrow. Regardless of the tough luck, I now knew I wanted to be bowhunting elk when subsequent September rolled around.

Elk Number A single
Ahead of continuing my cow elk close encounter, I need to have to lay the groundwork for the hunt. It was the weekend right after the Wyoming opener exactly where we spent time at our horse camp. On this weekend, my dad and I decided to part techniques in order to get a feel for two prospective hotspots.

He went with his cameraman, as he hosts a hunting show and had perform to do. His gut feeling directed him to an region exactly where we had gotten into bulls ahead of. Fortunately, one particular of our friends had joined up with us, so Gale and I headed in the opposite path, toward a spot exactly where he’d had a wild hunt a handful of days earlier but never ever cut loose an arrow.

Just before we even had the opportunity to let out a contact, we heard bugles in the canyon under us. Gale and I produced a fast strategy, and began descending the mountain. Creeping closer to the bull’s screams, the aforementioned cow, most likely distraught from becoming chased by the bull, ran previous me at about 15 yards.


This is my initial-ever bowkilled elk, taken in 2013. I shot this elk after scouting with my dad, and with assist from family buddy Gale Smith.

Wasting no time, Gale and I set up and waited quietly. I ranged trees around me to get an thought of what kind of shot I’d have to make. Time slowly ticked away, and what seemed like an eternity was significantly less than two minutes. That’s when the bull came trotting down the exact same game trail, looking frantically for the cow.

He had no clue we have been hidden along the trail. As the bull trotted past me, Gale, who was farther up the trail, softly cow-named to quit him. The rain-soaked bull paused at 20 yards, broadside, his head just behind a sapling.

Coming back to complete draw with my Mathews bow, I settled my pin behind the bull’s shoulder and squeezed my release. Immediately he turned around and took off, blasting full speed via the timber. Seconds later, we have been greeted with the unmistakable sound of timber crashing.

Taking a couple of minutes to let the bull expire, and a lot more importantly to let my nerves settle, Gale and I talked more than the shot. When I felt composed, we slipped through the woods on the escape trail of the bull. Following a short hike that incorporated a number of hurdles more than downed trees, we spotted antlers ahead. The bull was down for excellent!


Family members pal Gale Smith prepares for the true operate of assisting to field-dress my initial elk.

Gale and I both smiled as we walked up to him. He was a good bull for any individual, but a downright fantastic one for my very first elk, especially contemplating I did it unguided, with my bow, and on public land.

A lot more memories would have to wait even though. The elk was dead on a steep slope, and it would call for a challenging chore of packing to get it into an opening where our horses could deal with the heavy function. Gale and I had just dropped off the final quarter at a trail junction when, unbelievably, my dad and his cameraman rounded the corner on the identical trail.

After a couple of swift images and congratulations all about, my dad and I packed out a load of meat and the antlers on our backs.

I had college the subsequent day, so my dad, in hopes of my graduating someday, provided to go back in and pack the rest out with our horses. This was a memorable hunt with a excellent friend that I am positive I will keep in mind for the rest of my life.

Public-Land Elk — Take Two
Quick-forward one year. My dad and I had worked all summer scouting and preparing elk camp for the upcoming season. Opening day fell on a Sunday, supplying me only one day to hunt on the 1st weekend.

With my dad chasing bulls in Colorado, I headed up to camp solo, questioning what variety of activity I could expect. Unfortunately, because of poor weather and the truth that the rut was still a couple of weeks away, I didn’t see or hear a lot of something.

The following Friday evening soon after college, my dad and I got up to our camp late. Saturday morning didn’t truly cooperate as we had hoped. Hearing or seeing nothing at all, we decided to head to a ground blind that we had previously set up in a meadow with springs. Elk visited the region to feed, wallow, and water.


When elk hunting on public land persistence is important.

Several monotonous hours passed with no any sign of elk. We decided to leave the blind and nevertheless-hunt the timber to see what we could find.

Quickly right after, I spotted a bull trotting via the timber toward us at about 60 yards. He was dripping wet and caked in mud. As soon as the chance presented itself, my dad crept away in order to get in touch with the bull previous me while I hunkered into position for a shot.

The calling worked.

The bull turned and walked in to about 40 yards. Sadly, there was a considerable quantity of brush among my broadhead and his vital zone. There just was no way to get off an ethical shot.

A few moments later, the bull decided that the calling was also aggressive and walked away. On our way back to camp, a distant bugle rang out from a valley beneath us. We looked at our watches and knew there just wasn’t sufficient daylight to go right after him. He’d have to wait until Sunday morning.

The Sunday morning alarm came early, as it usually does for the duration of elk season. Hiking into our spot, we heard a bugle about a mile away.

Instinctively, we headed towards it, only to be disappointed when the bull wouldn’t respond to our bugles. Moments later, we heard yet another bull bugle however, that bull pulled the very same stunt and remained unresponsive to our return calls.

With our hopes of calling a bull in at an all-time low, we started heading toward the blind for another sit. What was going on? Why wouldn’t the bulls respond to our calls? To our surprise, a bull started bugling just a couple hundred yards ahead of us.

Rushing to get into position, we made our way to the edge of the timber where the bull was hidden. My dad motioned for me to move ahead and set up for a shot. It is an ambush technique we use time and time again, so I knew the routine with his wave of the hand.

As soon as in place, Dad cut loose and matched the bull’s response bugle for bugle, with the exact same escalating intensity. It was crazy. The bull stood and bugled at us for about 15 minutes, but unbelievably, he wouldn’t budge an inch. Seeking back, I saw my dad signaling that he believed we should move. He gestured down towards an opening under us.

I knew what he was pondering. If we produced a move and sounded like the herd was leaving, the bull may well comply with and show itself for a shot. Dad referred to as a few times as we jogged noisily down the hill to the opening.


It is common for a bull elk to “hang up” when responding to a call and this bull is performing just that.

I hurried into what I believed was a good spot to ambush the bull, dropped my pack, and ranged possible shooting lanes. Meanwhile, my dad set up to get in touch with 75 yards behind me. Seconds later, the bull stepped into view at 50 yards. I couldn’t believe the sight before me. The change of position had paid off!

With a little persuasion from my dad, the bull started walking straight at me. Closing the distance to 20 yards, the bull paused briefly to survey the circumstance.

His breath was visible in the cool morning air. Nevertheless set on a course directly for me, the bull resumed his forward pace. Realizing that he would literally stroll close enough for me to touch him, I drew my bow with as small motion as achievable. Nonetheless, the bull detected my movement and instantaneously spun away, trotting back the way he’d come. That’s when my dad saved the day with a soft mew.

The bull halted at 25 yards, quartering slightly away. Settling my 20 and 30-yard pins on the bull’s chest, I squeezed the trigger on my release, sending an arrow right into the sweet spot.

I was incredibly excited, yet equally nervous. Elk are challenging, and there’s usually the risk of an arrow taking a weird route that could not mortally wound a bull. Dad waved me back to him, and soon after conferring we agreed to give the bull about two hours.

Two hours and hundreds of speculations on what the bull may well have done later, we carefully began following the blood trail, which was thin in spots, giving me even more cause for concern. Inside about 20 minutes, the familiar odor of elk hit us smack in the face. Was he about to jump up in front of us, or was he dead? I wondered.

Stepping over an old log, I spotted the bull in his final resting spot, his antlers wedged in between two saplings. Immediately, my doubts evaporated.

Soon after high-fives, my dad and I pulled the bull out of the brush exactly where he’d landed. The bull was a magnificent Wyoming six-point that any person would be proud of, but we still had a long day ahead us that didn’t finish until nightfall.


My dad and I were ecstatic about my 2014 bull, my second taken on public land.

With the horses and meat loaded in the trailer, my dad and I crawled in the truck, exhausted as ever. As we headed off the mountain, we each grinned, thinking of the day’s excitement and how blessed we are to reside so close to this lovely wilderness.

I couldn’t, and to this day still can’t, believe that I was in a position to take yet another, even a lot more impressive bull. Accomplishing that objective in a single of Wyoming’s most difficult elk units was also thrilling. But what genuinely produced the experience even though, was becoming in a position to share this experience with my dad.

This was my second archery elk in two years, back-to-back on public land. That is elk hunting to me, and the purpose I can’t wait to get back in the mountains each and every September.

The author is a senior at Sheridan Higher School, in Sheridan, Wyoming. He is an avid hunter and shooter, and is involved in numerous other activities, like 4-H, Boy Scouts (attained his Eagle rank), FFA, and We the Men and women, all even though keeping a four. GPA. Following graduation, he is thinking about an appointment to West Point.



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