PAT NEAL: Elk season

I HOPE YOUR elk season went better than mine did. Things started out bad and got worse after that. The first thing I did to get ready for elk season was to stick a fishhook into my trigger finger.

Of course, sticking chunks of metal in your body is considered fashionable these days, but piercing with fishhooks will never catch on.

Once you set the hook on yourself, the phrase catch and release takes on a whole new meaning.

Rain and wind are good when you hook yourself.

The cold has a numbing effect that can come in handy later.

People who claim you should push a fish hook right on through your flesh until the barb sticks out and then you can cut it off work with smaller hooks than I do.

Pushing a hook through your hand is a job I would leave to professionals.

It’s much faster and easier to yank the hook out with a pair of pliers in a grinding circular motion while chewing on a bullet.

Just my luck, it was elk season.

Even if I saw an elk, I wasn’t sure I could get any trigger time with a bunged-up finger.

It was a shame since I had spent a lot of time getting ready for elk season this year.

The best way to prepare for elk season would be to get a job in the woods. Loggers make the clear cuts that the elk love. Elk like to stand around and watch loggers work. Loggers always know where the elk are. Logging keeps you in shape. Once hunting season starts, the loggers hunt the elk so hard they run the hair off their bellies. It’s almost not fair if loggers have a gun.

I wanted to get an elk, but not enough to go logging. I had an empty freezer, not a death wish.

So instead of going logging, I watched a lot of elk hunting videos. They all stressed the importance of setup and execution, whatever that meant. I think it meant you had to hunt on a private ranch somewhere in the Rockies, where tame elk stroll around like dairy cows just waiting to get blasted after a word from our sponsor.

The videos impressed me with the importance of waiting for the right trophy.

You don’t want to ruin your season by shooting the first cookie-cutter, six-point bull elk that walks along.

No, you want a real trophy.

Something that reflects your own virility and shames your friends into thinking they are watching the wrong videos.

Opening day found us driving up a road in the West End.

There were loggers nearby, so we knew we were in the right area.

Our plan was to locate the loggers, bait them with beer and smoked salmon, then mingle.

You want to be very careful while hunting around loggers.

Firearm safety is extremely important. If you accidentally shoot a logger, and they find out about it, they can become agitated.

We came upon a log truck driver tightening his load. We asked him if he’d seen any really big elk, with seven points or more. He said no, but he was probably just saving them for himself.

We drove away with a sense of failure and frustration that only got worse when we spotted the game warden. We thought we were in for it. There was a day when the game wardens would have ripped us apart looking for … game.

He kept on driving without even flashing his lights.

One look must have told him we were losers.


Pat Neal is a Hoh River fishing and rafting guide and “wilderness gossip columnist” whose column appears here every Wednesday.

He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or by email via

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