AMY KIRK: How not to find elk in the Elk Capital of SDThe screech of bull elk bugling, the scraping of elk horns on our garden fence posts, and the clacking of bulls butting heads heard at night and pre-dawn can only mean one thing: the camouflage is coming.
The screech of bull elk bugling, the scraping of elk horns on our garden fence posts, and the clacking of bulls butting heads heard at night and pre-dawn can only mean one thing: the camouflage is coming.
On Oct. 1, residents of Pringle get ambushed with camo and highway cone-orange-colored hats but the locals know this and have been preparing. This is the time of year when many elk conveniently make themselves elusive on opening day and take off for the weekend.
Mornings at the parking lot of the Hitchrail look like a big sting is taking place. The building is surrounded with out-of-town pickups, ATV trailers and campers. The area is surrounded in S.W.A.T. teamlooking camo-clad, big game, rifle-armed hunters ready to take over the breakfast buffet.
During elk season the Hitchrail gets mistaken for the Mossy Oak vs. Realtree Competition and Camo Convention. Hunters show up in full force wearing state-of-the-art 360 dimensional earthen-wear clothing made of windbreaker material that won’t give hunters away if they break wind; isn’t loud when they walk, has stink loc, and fold-out cup holders.
For extra money, hunting enthusiasts can get the seat warmer, attaching collapsible tree stand with built-in cushion and vibrating nod-off detector. Many hunters also accessorize with their not-so-secret weapon elk-call necklaces.
There’s no escaping these camo-clad men unless you’re an elk. Every cow trail, tree by stock tanks and dams, parking space, table and coldest beer at the Hitchrail has been claimed by camo gear-wearing hunters.
Opening weekend there’s, on average, one camouflaged elk hunter per square 1/16 of a mile, which may explain why the only elk a lot of hunters see are the ones hanging on the Hitchrail’s walls.
Some out-of-town hunters are unsuccessful in finding elk because they all look as though they dressed themselves. They show up wearing mismatched camo that’s the wrong color of dirt, trees and weeds.
Rather than camouflaging themselves in the color of reddish-brown soil, dead-colored brown pine beetle infested pine trees, native weeds or Canadian thistle that people moving into the area haven’t sprayed their property for, they’re dressed in oak trees instead.
Another reason a lot of hunters can’t find elk in the Elk Capital of South Dakota is due to showing up during hunting season at daylight instead of the off season or at night when the elk are around, keeping their human neighbors awake and eating their alfalfa.
An unconventional tactic I think would prove successful for harvesting an elk is to scare the life out of them similarly to the way one hunter did to me. While driving home one night I saw what appeared to be a mutant-looking piece of forest which was actually a bow hunter walking along the road and scared the bejeebers out of me.
I couldn’t see him — he was concealed with camouflage clothing — but I saw a bow and arrows strapped on the blob of camo’s back.
These hunters may not be successful in concealing themselves from an elk but they are exceptionally hard for their spouses to locate. The Elk Capital of South Dakota does not have cell service.
Amy Kirk and her husband raise their two kids on a fourth-generation cow/calf operation near Pringle. She blogs at ranchwifeslant.areavoices.com.