Elk hunters understand the significance of the last load out.
Muscles strained to the point of exhaustion, testify to the work leading up to the last step out of the woods. Carrying pounds of pure protein upon your back while traveling over downed timber and making elevation gains, is the result of filling a tag. Sometimes, this means several loads from the kill site. The thought of future meals, steaks on the grill, evenings with friends milling around a BBQ grill where elk burger smells fill the air, drives us to continue the journey, the motivation needed to take the next step. Back and forth we journey until the last edible piece of meat is removed. If you've never experienced the feeling of exhaustion from carrying out a years worth of meat out of the woods on your back, then you may never fully understand and appreciate where your meal comes from. It is a far cry from the normalcy of the nice, clean and easy trip to the grocery store.
Hunting is messy, bloody and will test you to the core. It is a lifestyle in direct contrast to the current age of convenience where a burger can be located and consumed around nearly any fast food joint around the next corner in town. It is almost amazing that anyone would still willingly choose to take on the daunting task of hunting, killing and bringing meat out of the forests. Almost. I am still hopeful that future generations don't loose the understanding and love for the hunt. In this day and age I believe it is a toughness that needs to be cultivated. As I watch the cultural trends and mindset of this current generation, I am a little fearful that this way of life may be lost if we aren't intentional about passing it on. But then I look at the hunting community and am hopeful because of the many passionate individuals who understand the importance of valuing and teaching others why we hunt.
Troy and I are committed to teaching Lindsey the importance of understanding where her food comes from, respecting the animals we pursue, and appreciating the outdoor lifestyle that we live. Hopefully, she will grow up loving the outdoors. Kids naturally love the outdoors and I've already seen her light up as she discovers new things in the world around her. I don't think the lifestyle of hunting and enjoying the outdoors will be a hard sell. Thank goodness!
I was reminiscing recently about how I once carried out almost an entire an elk on my back (3 trips to take out the front shoulders and a hind quarter.) As I was making my way back to meet the guys on the mountain slope for the last load, I stumbled upon a doe bedded in the aspen. The beauty of the scene stopped me in my tracks. The straps from a bloody, empty packframe, strapped to my back, slowly swayed in the mountain breeze. The contrast of life and death swirled around me. There is a thankfulness for a pile of meat which will feed a family for a year, yet a reality of the cost it took to obtain it that washes over the hunter. She sat there unaware of my presence for several minutes. We shared the peacefulness of those few moments, while I let thankfulness for the opportunity to be there and simply let the beauty of it all fill me up. My muscles began to remind me that if I stopped too long, I may not want to or even be able to get that last load out. I had to keep moving. When I reached the guys for the last load, I was met with puzzled looks and the question of, "What took so long this time?" Joke was on me... they were slowly gutting and cutting up the meat, in the hopes that if they took long enough, I would end up carrying the entire elk off the mountain. I didn't tell them right away that I took a break on the way down the mountain that last time (thank you, doe, for the distraction!). We had a good laugh around the campfire that night.
All this to say.... as hunters, we work hard to get every last bit of meat off the mountain, and when the last load is finally strapped to your back and hauled out, there is a sense of satisfaction that is hard to explain. I remember each elk shot on the mountain, each time we hauled out all the meat and each time we finally reached the truck with all the meat.
I wonder if that is truly why elk tastes so good. It is a labor of love.
From the Draw
We are devoted to sharing our bowhunting stories. We have a passion for passing on our hunting heritage to our kids. From the draw in the mountains to the draw on paper, the moments live on.