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Enjoying a First Time Backcountry Elk Hunt Day 1: Finding a Backcountry Elk Outfitter

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Editor’s Note:  Jamie Spencer from Brentwood, Tennessee, wanted more than just to harvest an elk. He wanted a backcountry adventure. So, he chose Mile High Outfitters in Challis, Idaho

(https://www.milehighoutfitters.com/) and ([email protected]), 208-879-4500.

My friend Janay Jones, also from Brentwood, Tennessee, and I wanted a true backcountry experience type of elk hunt. This was our first elk hunt, and we wanted to hunt like people once did, instead of having a more up-to-date hunt. I had a recommendation from a friend who had hunted with this outfitter in the past. When I looked Mile High Outfitters up on the internet, I read this quote, “If you’re looking for a hunt that allows you to sleep late, eat caviar, drink $1,000 bottles of wine, get tickled with a feather in your butt and have a mint laying on your pillow at night, then go to a high-fence game operation because that ain’t us.”

Janay Jones and I wanted a true backcountry elk-hunting experience, and after I read that quote, I called Janay up and said, “Where do we sign?” We had a great conversation over the phone with the people a Mile High and felt extremely comfortable with Mile High Outfitters. We really wanted to be tested on our hunt.

I knew I needed to start getting in shape, so I put a backpack on my back, all the equipment I was planning to carry on the hunt and got on a StairMaster. I worked out every day for about 30 minutes to help get my body in shape for climbing mountains and hiking long ways with a heavy pack. However, after I had been on the hunt for only a day or two, I learned that all my pre-trip training did absolutely nothing toward getting me in shape for this backcountry hunt of a lifetime. I learned quickly that the mountains of Idaho could be very humbling. I was told early on that nothing with a wheel could traverse these mountains.

We flew into Challis, Idaho, and then took a small plane and flew up into the mountains. We landed on a very small airstrip in the mountains. Our guides, horses and mules were waiting on us when we arrived. Landing in the airplane on that little airstrip was also a wild experience, unlike anything I ever had done before. We had 16 horses and mules, four hunters, two guides and a cook waiting on us. So, we mounted the horses and rode up the Salmon River just to get to our base camp.

I never had ridden a horse 7 miles to go anywhere, and I wasn’t prepared or in shape to ride horses and mules that far. In my research, I learned that one of the challenges for riding a horse a long way was that your legs and thighs could get extremely chafed. I bought a stick of what looked like a deodorant stick and put that chafing ointment (https://www.chamoisbuttr.com/) on my legs and thighs, and I believe that helped somewhat. I had a friend who was a cyclist and had recommended this stick to me. Every morning when I got up to get dressed to ride out of camp, I’d put that chafing preventative on my thighs and calves, but I have to be honest after riding a horse all day to look for and hunt elk, my butt was sore every night because I wasn’t accustomed to that form of transportation.

To learn more about hunting elk, check out John E. Phillips’ book, “Elk: Keys to 25 Hunters’ Success,” available in Kindle, print and Audible at https://amzn.to/2IDszQk.

Tomorrow: Learning about Base Camp for a Backcountry Elk Hunt

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