Introducing our new blog series 'Living Wild' in which we chat with keen outdoor adventurers about their passions, purpose and tips on how they Live Wild.
First off we meet Alex Buller, an avid hunter, angler and all round good dude based in Salt Lake City, Utah.
We ask Alex about the incredible pursuit that is hunting for wild Elk in North America, namely with a bow and arrow! For those non-hunters out there, this seems like an impossibility. Essentially the "fly-fishing of hunting", bow hunting offers the ultimate challenge for ultimate reward.
Alex shares his reason and purpose behind hunting with a bow and a few tips for those keen to get started.
If you want to follow Alex's adventures, you can find him here on Instagram @alexanderbuller
How long have you been hunting for, and what made you get into it?
I've been hunting for most of my life (roughly 15 years). I grew up with a vegan mother who always supported me in eating meat, as long as it was sustainably acquired. Her rule was that she would never buy meat from the store, and if I wanted meat at dinner, I had to hunt or raise the animal myself.
These values instilled upon me at an early age grew into a deep passion for theoutdoors and knowing where your food comes from. The harvest of an animal is not what keeps bringing me back each year. The adventure challenge, the peaceful solitude one finds outdoors, and the everlasting memories built with new and old friends.
For those not aware of how it works, what are the season, process, and regulations around hunting a native species like Elk?
Seasons and regulations change from State to State based upon what you are hunting (species and sex) and how you choose to pursue the animal (bow, muzzleloader, gun).
All states issue out tags to residents and non-residents (residing outside the State). An individual applying for the tag must choose which area of the State (animal herd, if you will) they would like to hunt and which method they plan to harvest with (bow/gun). The State issues a certain number of tags based upon studies around herd population/ management. Most tags are issued out through a lottery system that can take years before you're successful in drawing. From there, it is up to you to make your hunt successful or not.
In Utah (where I am currently based), there are many seasons and regulations around trying to harvest an elk, all of which can easily be found online or by calling the local Division of Natural Resources department (DNR). What is consistent is that no matter how you choose to apply for an elk tag, the money you invest into that tag goes directly to the conservation and protection for that animal; in this example, elk.
Why a bow? Surely it is the most difficult way
I often ask myself this same question: yes, a bow is the most challenging form to harvest an animal successfully. What makes it so challenging is you have to be so close to the animal to ensure an ethical shot ensues. It is how close you must get to the animal that makes me bow hunt. It gives the animal all the advantage, as you the hunter, must learn how to become invisible (sent/sight/noise) in an environment where the animal has spent its whole life.
What is a successful day on the hunt? Do you expect to get an animal or is it mainly about the search?
100% is about the search. Successfully harvesting is just the cherry on top. I spend a decent amount of my hunting alone outdoors, traveling into some of the most remote parts of Utah's public lands. To me, a successful day is achieving the goals you set forth for yourself. Most of the time, it's drawing to courage to go a little further in hopes to find what it is you are pursuing.
What other types of hunting do you do, and how does it compare to the elk hunt?
With a bow, I mainly hunt mule deer and Elk. I also am an avid upland hunter (training my first bird dog as we speak), waterfowl hunter, and fly fisherman. All of which have a multitude of similarities. What I will harp on is that Elk are the most elusive of animals that I pursue. It never ceases to amaze me how a 1,200+ pound animal can move through such dense terrain without making a sound.
What keeps you coming back every year?
Outside of the overall experience hunting brings to the table, it's sustainably sourcing my meat that keeps me coming back year after year. I'm in the field mainly to fill a freezer. If successful, I get to pay thanks through a BBQ with friends while revelling in the story "of the hunt."
If someone wanted to get into Elk hunting, what would be the first steps?
In my opinion, the first step would be to study your local regulations on how to legally hunt Elk (or the rules in which you plan to hunt). Once familiarized, spend the ensuing months scouting for the animal, familiarizing yourself with all the necessary equipment/ terrain, becoming a master of the shot in the elements you plan to hunt in, learn what to do after successfully harvesting, and of course get in shape.
What can sometimes be lost to a new hunter is how to remove the animal from which you've harvested it. For those foot soldiers, like myself, often you will be miles from the road, so you need to be in shape to "pack the animal out."
The last note I'd like to make for new hunters, something to never lose sight of, is as a hunter, you are a steward of the land, water, and animals conservation. Without this, we may not have land or animals to hunt.
Any gear recommendations for those just getting into it?
Everyone has their opinion around what camping gear is the best, what brand of gun/bow is best, what camo will hide you best, what boot lasts the longest, and on and on. What I can say is you need three things to hunt:
- A good pair of binoculars. Vision is your friend, and they enable you to cover a lot more terrain and identify the sex of the animal in question at greater lengths.
- Range finder, so you know the distance you are trying to shoot, and if the shot is ethical for your ability.
- The KEA KIT. Nothing is more important than ensuring your survival in the wilderness. This lightweight, packable gear has been invaluable to me in all my outdoor adventures.
What's the next adventure on your list, hunting or otherwise?
As I mentioned earlier, I am the proud owner of my first upland bird dog, a German shorthaired pointer named Basin. This is our first hunting season together, and as States upland seasons begin to open for pheasant, grouse, and chukar, we aim to put miles on boots in search of sustainable food and everlasting memories.