After the Kill
by Justin Karnopp
How to prevent run-ins with predators
Everywhere I hunt elk there are cougars and black bears. Some places have wolves and grizzlies. Deterring marauders from a carcass is a top priority, obviously to ensure that most of that hard-won protein ends up in my freezer— not to mention personal safety. After an elk is down, the first order of business is to decide where to hang the quarters, as prime cuts will get the first trip out. For hanging, parachute cord is small, cheap and sturdy enough to handle the weight. Bring way more than you think you’ll ever need. Try to find a tree that will handle all four quarters at least 100 yards from the carcass. If possible, hang them in a relatively open area where they can be glassed from at least 300 yards, preferably even farther. This way, you can take some of the potentially lethal guesswork out of your return trips by glassing the area beforehand. At times when I’ve killed elk in an area void of trees, I’ve hung my quarters off of a rimrock ledge where there were unreachable, even by a cat.
When there’s snow on the ground or after a good drizzle (and when legal) and there is absolutely no chance of a fire going anywhere but out, I build one next to my quarters. I’m convinced that this deters critters from investigating. I try to burn some damp, pitchy wood that lets out a good plume of smoke. This also acts as a locater for a return trip, though I always lock the kill into my GPS and take compass bearings as well. It also does a good job of warming the soul for the first trip out.
Weather provided, I leave an article of clothing adjacent to the quarters, usually a brightly-colored undershirt that’s been close to my skin and absorbed my scent. In addition to the human-odor this leaves at the sight, the shirt too acts as a marker for my return trip. Lastly, I urinate nearby to further saturate the area with human smell.
I don’t like to pack my rifle with me when my tag is already punched, so I opt for either a handgun or bear spray such as Counter Assault or UDAP for personal protection should I encounter a critter that has claimed my meat. (I pack bear spray with me whenever I’m archery hunting these days.) It also helps to be as noisy and obnoxious as possible upon your return. Clap your hands. Sing as loud as you can.
If a predator does happen to indulge on your animal where it can’t be salvaged, check your state’s regulations. The game warden may issue you a new permit. Just remember, a carcass is never worth fighting over. Chances are that critter munching on your kill needed it worse than you.