Backcountry Public Lands Elk Hunting

Not all that counts can be counted. Sometimes though, numbers can tell a story.

Backcountry Hunting Index

3 : friends

5 : days

2 : campsites

45 : miles hiked

10 : river crossings

6500: gross elevation gained (ft.)

2 : elk taken

7 : miles from first bull to truck

7 : miles from second bull to truck

24.25 : hours between harvesting first and second bulls

100 : percentage of hunt area designated as Wilderness

100 : percentage of hunt area that is federal public land

0 : encounters with other hunters

1 : pack of howling wolves

1 : grizzly bear

0 : items I’d accept in trade for the experience


This year’s elk hunting expedition was a pleasure and a privilege. We filled our tags, and more importantly, fed our souls. The hunt was only possible because we were able to finance the endeavor with time, sweat and boot-leather; because we could work for it on public land.

The price may be different for my son when his time comes. If congressional, statehouse and presidential candidate assaults on our public lands go unchecked, Wilderness protections will erode, and public lands will slip quietly into private portfolios. I wish it were an idle threat, but it’s as active, and effective, as ever. Recent refusal by congress to reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund is just the latest step in the determined march toward wild-lands divestiture and privatization. If that march is allowed to continue, our kids could well turn up at the trailhead one day eager to give their labor, only to be asked instead for their club membership IDs and credit card numbers.

Freedom isn’t free. That includes the freedom of the hills. Demand support for our public wild-lands from your elected representatives. Hold those who fail to do so accountable. In our representative democracy the folks we elect speak and act with our authority. That’s the way it works… the only way it works. When it doesn’t work, the failures are our failures. There’s no one else to blame, only someone to bear the cost… our kids.

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