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Nevada Elk Hunt Story

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New to Hunting? My experience might help you with yours.

By Elizabeth Kenna, Nevada Department of Wildlife Public Information Officer

It is never too late to begin hunting! My journey begins as a fifth generation Oregonian. I grew up fishing for sturgeon that outweighed me and salmon that without the help of my dad, would have dragged me through the river. When I moved to Nevada at age 22 I went from fishing and small game hunting to jaw dropping Nevada big game hunting. If someone ever tells you that Nevada is just dirt and sagebrush, they couldn’t be more wrong. Every hunting experience is different, but one hunt stands out in my mind. Last season I drew my antlered elk tag. A tag that ultimately taught me much more than how to hunt.

It gets overlooked, but to me one of the first stresses in hunting is deciding how to apply. My thoughts usually include “Do I have the time? Do I have the money? Do I have the help?” Sometimes if the answer is “no,” I opt to purchase bonus points until I’m ready to hunt that specific species. In the meantime, I apply for hunts that fit my lifestyle that year.

The antlered elk tag is a perfect example of this strategy. Before applying for the tag, I met up with a friend who is a Nevada born hunter. He suggested areas he had elk hunted before. He also committed to helping me should I draw the tag. In 2018 I drew my fifth-choice hunt unit with five points. Prior to this hunt, I’d drawn both mule deer and antelope tags. I had successful and of course, un-successful hunts.

By this time, I felt confident in my ability to shoot a rifle, as well as my ability to wake up before the sun and crawl out of a frozen sleeping bag.

In preparation for the hunt I assembled a group of friends ranging in hunting experience but identical in enthusiasm for the hunt. We met a few times prior to the hunt to discuss logistics, circle potential camping/glassing locations on maps, and have a communication plan in place. This was key as we knew there would be a lot of variables in the process.

In addition to meeting to discuss logistics, scouting was also high on my priority list.

Scouting allowed me the chance to get familiar with the hunt unit, scope out camping locations, and glass for elk, which in turn built my confidence.

Once a plan was in place, I began getting food and gear packed. I brought enough food and drink to last myself, and the group a full week without re-stocking. I made sure to prepare protein rich foods that were simple to re-heat at camp or carry along all day in a pack. I also prepared myself for inclement weather. I’m not one to spend a ton of money on the latest and greatest hunting products, but I knew it was important to stay warm, dry and safe.

The time finally came to go hunting! We arrived in northeastern Nevada and set up camp two days before opening day. By giving us a little extra time, we were able to re-locate our camp when prospects for elk looked limited in our original location. Following the relocating day, we scouted again for elk and spotted a mixed herd of cows, spikes, and bulls. With a humble heart and an indescribable feeling of gratitude, I harvested my first Rocky Mountain Bull Elk.

Nevada has so much to offer in hunting and fishing opportunities.

Whether you’re a resident or nonresident, I strongly encourage you to explore this state and take advantage of our massive amounts of public lands.

Scouting
Time you’ll need to take scouting before your hunt is dependent on your familiarity with the area, the availability of your help, and your general hunt strategy.

Finding a Mentor
One thing worth mentioning is that an experienced hunting mentor most likely won’t back out of an offer to help. In fact, most mentors will be the first to admit they genuinely enjoy seeing you grow as a hunter and harvest your animal. A good mentor teaches you ethics, values and technique. A good mentor is priceless. If you’re looking for a hunting mentor, reach out to someone you know or join a local chapter of a nonprofit group such as Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. More information is available at backcountryhunters.org

Harvest
Feeling humble, grateful, and in awe of such an incredibly strong and beautiful animal.

Getting the Meat Out
We were fortunate enough to use pack mules to help pack the elk out, but by no means is it necessary to use pack animals. Bringing pack animals adds a logistical challenge. Physically conditioning the pack animals prior to the trip is important, as well as proper hoof care, nutrition and training. Certified weed free hay is required on public lands, have ample water available, and create a secure place to keep them.

Processing the Meat
It takes a fair amount of time to process the meat yourself, taking it to a professional meat processor costs money but saves on time. Learning to process the meat yourself is a great tool you can use for future hunts. You can learn to prepare and cook the meat by taking a wild game cooking course. NDOW partners with professional chefs to offer these courses throughout the state.

Mounting
I European mounted the elk skull myself. Licensed taxidermists do a great job, but it was fun to create my own process and end up with a result that made me happy. I used word of mouth advice from other hunters on their experience and watched a couple videos online before beginning the process.