Maiden Voyage

By Don Seitz
Idaho, 2010, Guided, Public Land
Maiden VoyageJune/July 2011 EHJ (Issue 125) - It’s funny how a whim can turn into a dream, and a dream can suddenly turn into reality. The whim? Winning a lottery-type, hunt-anywhere-you-want tag in a Western state. A group of buddies and I decided that we would compile a list of possible lottery hunts across the country and enter them all. None of us believed that we would actually win a hunt, considering the odds.

However, one evening after work, I received a call from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game telling me that I was the winner of the 2010 Elk Super Hunt. Their first question was, “Mr. Seitz, do you want to accept this tag?”

I was on the interstate when I received the call and was speechless. I couldn’t believe it. I was raised chasing whitetails and had never even been on an elk hunt.

I immediately went home and started researching elk hunting in Idaho, gathering every piece of information I could get my hands on. Feeling a bit overwhelmed, I decided to hire an outfitter for the first time in my life. After some digging I came in contact with Bryant Dunn, with Sun Valley Outfitters. After speaking with him for awhile, I just had a good feeling and I decided to hire him for my elk super hunt.

For the next four months, I exercised, accumulated new gear, and studied elk hunting every chance I could. The preparation truly became part of the hunt.

My friend, Jamin Horst, decided to go with me. He wanted the experience and I was glad to have the company. We drove for two days crosscountry to reach our destination. As we drove through southern Idaho, we both thought we had been snookered! Everything was flat and open; there was no way elk could live here.

But as the hours passed and we got closer, the hills in the distance began to rise. We finally arrived that afternoon. The season opened in the morning, so we gathered our gear, made sure my rifle was still sighted in, and tried to sleep.

We were up by 3 a.m. the next morning and traveling. Once at our starting point, we hiked to the top of the hill in the dark and could vaguely see valleys in every direction. Even at night, I realized just how beautiful the Idaho countryside was.

As we waited in the dark, it happened - the sound I had been dreaming of for months bellowed out of the valley below. It was the first elk bugle I had ever heard! Soon, several more followed. As the sun rose, the scenery was breathtaking and elk were bugling all around us.

The outfitter had told us about a 7x7 that he had seen in this area, and when one bugle came across the air, the outfitter leaned over and said, “That’s the big 7x7.”

Being new to the game, I thought he was full of it! There was no way anyone could know an elk by his bugle, but I had to trust him; this was my first hunt and I had no idea what to do.

We decided to sit on the hilltop awhile and glass the meadows below. There was a small meadow next to a thicket where the “7x7” was bugling. A cow appeared and grazed in the meadow for 30 minutes while invisible bugles serenaded her. Every ten minutes or so, that ghost elk would come to the edge of the timber and scream that blood-curdling bugle and I would strain to see him.

He began to move away, and though we still hadn’t seen him, we relied on the outfitter’s voice ID that this was the elk we were after. We followed him for the rest of the day, at times getting so close that we could hear him raking trees. It was growing dark, so we decided to back out of the valley and try again the next morning.

It was a strange feeling as we walked out - this ghost elk seemed to follow us out, bugling every few minutes and staying about 100 yards behind us the entire way out.

Don Seitz

For a full account of Don's adventure, go to page 26 in the June/July 2011 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.