This is part 2b. Go to the previous post on November 30 for part 2a. The above picture is Nick Daniele, a pilot for United Airlines, his first elk--a 5x5, and me. We are about 200 yards north of Headquarters Creek (see map on previous post) and 1/4 mile east of the North Fork of Sun River. The vegetation and tree cover is similar to the area that the two elk hunters became lost in in the previous story. The Gates Park Fire of 1988 burned through leaving a landscape that always appears "the same."
What can be learned from the experience of the two lost hunters in the previous post?
The first thing is an age-old mantra for being lost: IF YOU ARE LOST, DON'T GO ANYWHERE.
It is difficult to say when the hunters knew (or believed) that they were lost. Instead of going only 400-500 yards back to the horses, they traveled nearly three miles. There is a tendency when you are lost to say, "Well, I'll just go to that hill, or tree, or ridge, or cliff, and then I will see where I am. That is followed by saying, "Well, I'll just go to that hill, or tree, or ridge, or cliff, and then I will surely know where I am. Don't believe it. That little voice in your head is doing what many people think politicians should do, namely "DO SOMETHING, EVEN IF IT IS WRONG. What the voice should be telling you is the adage some wish politicians would do, "Don't just do something, stand there."
Secondly, keep your senses about you. The two hunters were still elated at their good fortune for killing two six-point bulls in the same location. In their minds, they were no longer foreigners in a strange land--they came from an urban environment and were now in Montana's Bob Marshall Wilderness Area, 30 miles from the nearest phone and over 100 miles from the nearest hospital. They had become "old hands," able to navigate the wilds and successfully kill Big Game in Montana. Don't let emotions lull you into complacency and becoming lost.
Thirdly, know where you are. From the kill site, the hunters could look down on the Sun River, Ray Creek, and Headquarters Creek--and almost see the horses. They apparently drifted too far north in the first 100-200 yards, and drifting away from the horses.
Fourth, look all around your location when you are involved in something. Slowly creeping through the trees, with your head down looking for tracks and sign is an easy way to get lost. It will surprise most people who have been intent on one direction, to look back and find that the reverse route looks completely different.
Finally, take a break. Even before you are lost (or believe you are lost) sit down and rest. If you think you are moving too slowly, slow down. Most hunters move too fast and push elk out ahead of them. I'm not sure how fast an elk sees things, but US Army sniper school teaches that the human eye can discern any movement greater than 1/60 second. That means the sniper can see someone turn their head if the head is moved 90 degrees in less than about 20-25 seconds. By moving slower you will scare less game, see more game and conserve your energy. And, conserving energy is the prime consideration for being successful at Montana Elk Hunting.
Slow down, know where you are, know what you are doing and enjoy your next elk hunt.