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Elk season for beginners

By Scarlette Quille
Reader Columnist

Elk season: What does it mean?

To the average American, it is the time of year when it is legal to run around in the woods carrying guns and shooting large woodland animals. Then again, some people in our country may not even know what an elk is.

I once carpooled to work with a guy from Kansas. One day, he slammed on the brakes and started speaking some sort of rushed Kansas dialect. The only thing I could understand was the occasional, “ELK.” As I sat in pain from the third degree coffee burns festering on my inner thighs, I noticed a herd of elk. Thing is, they were nowhere near the vehicle. I replied to his hysteria, “Yes, I see. I am pretty sure we were in no danger of hitting them.”

He turned to me disgustedly and said, “You don’t understand. I am from Kansas. Seeing an elk is like seeing a unicorn.“

I didn’t understand it at the time, but there was more truth to this than anything else elk-related I’ve heard since. You see, elk “season” is the time of year when people get so excited about killing things they begin to experience some sort of mania.

This mania leads to several curious behaviors. It generally begins with stories about past hunting experiences and references to a sacred place called elk camp. These behaviors are a combination of nostalgia and the promise of new stories to come. I suppose the onset of elk-related mania looks different in every hunter. However, there are some common themes. Much like Jane Goodall, I have been observing a family of elk hunters for the past couple of years. I’m compiling data, because I don’t hunt, and find myself fascinated by the hunter species—especially the bearded ones.

If you are considering dating someone who may be an elk hunter, there are a few things you may want to know.

First, elk season is only three weeks. No one is allowed to get married, die or give birth during this three-week time period. Selfish decisions like these will inevitably be lonely experiences. Long story short, do not expect an explanation or apology for any absences during hunting season. You signed up for this.

If they are really into hunting, good luck. There are all kinds of “seasons” and things to shoot. You will have to join them hunting or learn enjoy dating yourself every fall.  End of story.

Next, during the three sacred weeks of elk season, hunters must carry their various hunting accouterments with them at all times. This means it is perfectly normal for the passenger of the vehicle to ride everywhere—including the grocery store—with at least two rifles in their lap.

There are apparently different bullets for different animals, and elk season runs concurrently with grouse season. So clearly, you will need more firearms. JUST IN CASE. Just in case a huge horned animal appears out of nowhere somewhere between your house and Walmart, and you want to point a gun at it, because you know it’s actually illegal to shoot elk at the store.

However, if you do actually shoot an elk during elk season, you’re encouraged to put the corpse of the animal strategically in the back of your vehicle. This is preferably done with its wide-open eyes staring into the souls of those who park near the hunter or follow them in traffic. This tells the world the hunter has killed an elk. After the hunter parades the dead beast around town, they will typically park it outside restaurants and bars. This prompts customers will inquire about the hunt and stroke the hunter’s ego. Bear in mind, he or she has already been stroking it themselves for hours, but they’re still eager to share the stroking burden with others.

Perhaps the most mysterious part of these three weeks is something called elk camp. My knowledge of elk camp is fairly sparse. I have been there once for about 45 minutes. What I learned is that attendees have to bathe in some sort of scentless soap so  they don’t scare the elk away. They take this very seriously. The lone female huntress of the group actually ripped out two of her own hair extensions because scentless conditioner does not exist. Can you say sacrifice? Apparently, elk despise smells like soap and deodorant. But they must adore scents like beer, chew, various smokable substances and campfires. Who knew? The hunters had been at the camp for a week and had all sorts of stories about all the elk they had seen, but no one had actually shot anything but beer cans. Super weird. I feel like the safest place in the world for an elk would be elk camp.

Also remember that elk hunters can and will become violently ill during work hours—or any hours—spent away from elk camp. This illness will vanish as soon as they get into a vehicle with a loaded weapon. Accept it. If you decide to make chicken soup or nurse a hunter back to health, don’t be surprised when, once they regain the strength to rise, they rise right up out of your house out the door and quickly proceed to a freezing wooded area with no telephone reception to continue their healing process. Don’t bother calling them out on this. You are a sucker. Deal with it.

Last, and perhaps most importantly: When your hunter comes home after three weeks of sporadic attendance in your life, stinking of no-scent shampoo and elkless, say nothing. Remember: They have firearms. And they were hunting the elusive North Idaho unicorn.


Scarlette Quille

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