Elk hunt

Columnist Dale Valade poses with his cow elk from 2018.

Elk are magnificent creatures in multiple ways. They are strong, hardy and adapt well to almost any climate, terrain and food source. They move well as individuals or in herds. Primarily prairie denizens in times past, you’ll find them in nearly half of the 50 states today.

Historically in Oregon, the elk, wapiti or Cervus canadensis, as they are variously known, had seen hard times. Thanks to conservation efforts spearheaded by President Theodore Roosevelt and later organizations like Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, population numbers in Oregon and many other Northwest states are at all-time highs.

Elk hunting opportunities abound, especially in Western states, enticing millions of hunters worldwide to travel each fall to engage in the pursuit of these enormous deer species. While out-of-state hunting costs can quickly run exceedingly high for the average Jane and Joe, there are a plenitude of hunts to participate in right here in Oregon. Whether you want to save up preference points and try to get a real wall-hanger or you’re after a cow or spike for a freezer full of delectable comestibles, there are plenty of tags for both.

I got my cow elk this year through the ODFW damage control landowner tag. Each year, elk herds devastate millions of acres of crops and thousands of miles of fence on private land. In answer to this problem, landowners can get special limited damage control permits to issue or sell to recover some of the cost of the damage these elk inflict. These antlerless-only hunts are but another great opportunity for the meat hunter to fill his or her freezer while helping out local farmers and ranchers.

Elk are tough. While any “Oregon legal” weapon will do the job, some are much better at it than others. As far as rifles go, I will simply say, shoot the biggest gun you can handle. As for most of my big game hunting, I prefer a .30-06, but I’ve killed elk with smaller as well as larger cartridges. The various 7-mm, .300 and .338 magnum cartridges are popular for good reason. The bigger “punkin’ chunkers,” .444, .45-70, et. al., also see extensive use. Judge wisely when selecting your rifle and ammo.

Elk hunting is physically demanding. Not only for the scouting, spotting and stalking but for extraction once you do get one on the ground. The country they inhabit is often steep and rough. You will need to be able to cover some miles. Only the closest circles of friends help each other in the most arduous of pack outs. But like every other frontiersman’s foray, the amazing adventures, tough stalks and back-breaking pack outs make the table fare that much more delicious and memorable. Get an elk tag and join in the fun. It’s unlike anything else.

Have any requests or suggestions? Write us at shootingthebreezebme@gmail.com!

Dale Valade is a local country gent with a deep love for handloading, hunting and shooting.

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