Aim to Connect | Prima Outdoor

Aim to Connect

Aim to Connect

By: Jackie Bartz

I’ve made a career of telling stories but they are always other people’s stories. As a journalist I’ve shared thousands of people’s stories but my name is always in the byline, never in the text. A good storyteller connects the audience with the character and in this story I am both. I’m a writer and a hunter, and I always aim to connect.

I vividly remember the first time I connected in the field. I was 15-years-old and had completed my hunter safety course that year (I was the only teenage girl in a room of adolescent boys). One afternoon my dad picked me up from school and we headed out to hunt. Just before dusk, we spotted a pair of mule deer. Slowly and as quietly as I muster in my jeans, we put my first stalk on an animal. We snuck into range and my dad laid on the cold ground for me to rest my gun across his back. Seconds led to minutes, quite a few minutes in fact, my poor dad about suffocated trying to hold his breath before I took a shot, but I connected. That connection changed my life; it’s what fuels my passion today. The excitement of harvesting my first animal is a feeling I will never forget but what I remember most is the smile on my dad’s face, the hug and the lifelong connection it forged between a father and his camo-clad daughter.

Throughout high school and college, I chased elk, deer and antelope with my dad. I never took any trophies but every single one was a trophy in my dad’s eyes. One of my favorite hunts came the fall after I graduated college. Sensing his little girl was about to leave to pursue a journalism career, my dad took me on an elk hunt. On the final day I took a 250-yard shot at a 6×6 bull. The herd scattered and we lost sight of my bull but my dad swore he heard me connect. Tears welled up in my eyes because I thought I had missed and the few minutes we waited before going to look were almost unbearable. Every step in the direction I had shot I felt my dream of a bull elk slip away until that moment I saw the antlers on the ground; I had connected. That bull hangs in my dad’s office today and every time we look at it we remember that moment and our special connection. The next month I packed my bags, my dog and my dad moved me to Alaska for my dream TV news job. Leaving Montana was a tough decision and the roughest part was leaving behind my hunting partner.

Elk Pima Contributors, Dani, Devon, Rihana

The bond between hunting partners is forged over sitting in silence, glassing for hours and climbing mountains. A good partner sharpens your skills and passes on their knowledge and each new partner can help you grow. In Alaska, I made a new connection, a man with a fearless spirit and unwavering drive, a connection that has given me the confidence to push myself farther than I thought possible. My dad is my cheerleader, praising everything I do because he loves me but my boyfriend is my coach, spending hours teaching me the tedious tasks and pushing me to develop my skills because he wants me beside him on every hunt. Their faith in me makes me believe I can climb any mountain and hunt any animal. Being able to follow in their footsteps has given me the courage and skills to begin to form my own hunting path.

DSCN0858 Pima Contributors, Dani, Devon, Rihana

Both my dad and boyfriend have seen me miss, and get frustrated and scared, but they’ve also been beside me when I shot my bull elk and my first animal with a bow. That overwhelming sense of joy and excitement I get when I harvest an animal is made ten times better when I see the pride in their eyes and the joy on their face. I wouldn’t be the hunter I am today without them.

Every time I hunt, I connect, not always with an animal but always with my hunting partners. My hope for you on every hunt is that you always aim to connect and if you do I promise you will be rewarded.

DSCN0142 Pima Contributors, Dani, Devon, Rihana

1 Comment

  1. Get a guide and then listen to him like he knows erneythivg. Elk hunting varies from location to location and even from season to season. If you hunted today where I elk hunted in October, you’d never even see one. An experienced guide is invaluable when hunting a new location or species. Ask for references. Not only of people that harvested an animal (they’re always happy), but also of those that didn’t. Those are the ones that will paint a realistic picture of the hunting situation. I wouldn’t worry about bears too much. That’s why you’ll have a gun and a guide. This brings me to another point. USE ENOUGH GUN. I see so many people on this site that recommend a 243 for elk. I would not recommend anything smaller than a 30-06, and if you can handle the recoil, I’d recommend a 300 mag, or even a 338. Yes I know that Winchester service manual says magnums are not necessary to kill elk. Some guy puts that in on every similar question. To put it into perspective just how big and strong and elk is, I just shot a 5 5 bull a few days ago. It was 27 degrees below zero, and we just went for a ride to see if the elk were coming into a local field. We didn’t really plan on shooting any, but I took a rifle any ways. I grabbed my new 416 Rigby. I didn’t get a 416 to shoot elk, I’m just hoping to get to Africa one day and am preparing now. I’m in no way saying that you need a 416 Rigby to kill an elk. I shot my elk at 100 yards. He was quartering away. My bullet entered at the last rib on the right side and lodged under the hide in front of the left shoulder. That’s a 400 grain Swift A frame bullet at 2400 fps. No exit hole. Had I been using a 270, I wouldn’t have had a viable shot. Not the case with a 300 or 338 Win Mag (the 338 is the gun I usually use when hunting elk). If you have a perfectly broadside shot and a well placed shot on unspooked elk, you can get by with the smaller calibers. Like I said, I’m not recommending the 416 Rigby, but I told the story to illustrate just how large these animals are. A bullet and caliber designed for elephant, and no exit wound on a shot that didn’t even hit a major bone. Moose are larger yet. I’d strongly suggest using Jack Atcheson’s website to plan my hunt. All of the guides on his site are top notch.


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