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TROPHY ELK HUNTING Q&A Y ou don’t have to look very hard to find a lot of articles, posts, and blogs on how to train for an elk hunt, practice with your weapon of choice, and research in preparation for the hunt. However, few people are talking about the “mental midgetry” that can overtake you after countless days of close calls, JL: Clearly, you have made hunting giant bull elk with a bow your passion. How did your passion for hunting big bulls start, and why is it important for you to look for the biggest bull in the unit on your hunts? 14 DE: To be honest, I can’t remember why my initial interest in elk hunting was sparked, but I remember being interested from the time I was a little kid. As long as I can remember, big antlers have fascinated me. Maybe it was partly because hunting was a novelty since no one in my family hunted when I was very young. My neighbor was the first to take me hunting when I was 12 years old; he took me bowhunting for elk. Even though I didn’t get a shot opportunity over those first few times in the elk woods, I was hooked right away. I started hunting on my own when I was 18, and by the time I was 20, I finally killed my first bull in the brush country of northern Idaho. Walking up to my first bow-killed bull elk (a 6x6 that scored just over 300"), I knew this was what I wanted to do every September INTERVIEW WITH DAN EVANS, OWNER OF OPTION ARCHERY BY JERROD LILE not finding the one you’re after, sleep deprivation, and in some cases, loneliness. Dan Evans, owner of Option Archery, is one of the best in the business when it comes to locating and harvesting giant bulls. He was kind enough to discuss the mental side of his success with me in a recent interview. as long as I could. I was alone on that first successful hunt, and that would be the norm on the rest of my hunts over the years. I have always enjoyed the search, the preparation for the shot, and the trophy. At times, I have definitely put pressure on myself to produce by putting a bull on the ground, but as the years have passed, I have become increasingly content with passing up anything that is not what I consider a top bull for the area I’m hunting. JL: How many bulls that scored 350"+ have you harvested with your bow and during what time frame? DE: After my first success in 1992 when I was 20 years old, I spent as much time as I could each bow season in northern Idaho. I was successful on a few more bulls before I killed my first 350"+ bull in 1996. I killed another 350"+ bull in 1997. This bull was also my first that was up in the 380" gross range. I was for sure hooked on really big bulls after that and was sure I could put multiple 350"+ bulls on the ground each year by branching out and hunting multiple states. 1997 was the first year I started traveling to multiple states, and I thought it was going to be a piece of cake to start stacking up giant bulls, but I learned fast that putting real big bulls on the ground consistently does not just happen by accident or even with a pretty fair amount of hard work. I hunted three states per year from 1997 to 2000 but did not kill another 350"+ bull until 2001. It seemed like some more of the “big bull success pieces” starting falling into place finally, and from 2001 through 2008 I was able to take 16 more 350"+ bulls while hunting three to five tags each year. Then I hit a stage where I started being extremely picky, hunting the highest quality areas I could and passing on really nice bulls, always looking for a world-class giant. My success rate plummeted as my standards soared, and I only killed one bull with my bow over the next two seasons.