Hunting Lifestyle

Letter to a Landowner: Thanks for the Amazing Elk Hunt

An elk on a hillside, elk hunt concept.

Finding hunting land that helps you fill your tag can be challenging each season. Whether you hunt public or private land, the land itself can make the difference in a successful hunt or not having any fresh game for your freezer at the end of your day in the field. 

When hunting on private land, one thing hunters must do is build good relationships with landowners. Finding an excellent private hunting area and an accommodating landowner should never be taken for granted when you find it. 

We have an excellent example of a grateful hunter to share with you today. The following is an excerpt from a thank you letter written to a landowner by hunter Jim Taylor after he successfully harvested his first elk. He shared this with Hunter-Ed as an excellent example of how hunters can best treat landowners to continue the sport.

Jim Taylor with a deer harvest, hunter safety concept.

A Grateful Hunter

Here's what Jim shared with us from his letter to a landowner:

"I am writing to thank you for letting my brother Flint and I hunt on your ranch last fall. I have been hunting since I was a boy, but I have only been hunting elk for the past fifteen years. 

Until my hunt on your ranch, I had only one clear shot at an elk, which I missed. However, the one day of hunting elk on your ranch was better than the past fifteen years put together.

My brother and I were hunting on foot, and two hunters were hunting on horseback. The two horseback hunters started shooting right about noon (the elk came out just when you told us they would). We were along one side of a big draw and headed up through the timber to work our way into position to sit and look.

I went up one side, and my brother went up the other. I found a spot to sit and watch on the edge of the timber and had a good view of the hillside. I waited and waited but didn't see or hear any animals. The wind was blowing hard, gusting 20 to 30 miles an hour.

Big Animal Noises

Just as I was ready to move on (and to give up elk hunting for good), I heard a large animal right below me. It was no more than ten or fifteen feet away, snorting and farting and moving around. I was on top of a cut bank and couldn't see directly below me, although I could see all the approaches to the cut bank. 

Eventually, the noises stopped, but nothing came out. After waiting several minutes, I tossed a branch over the edge of the cut bank, but nothing came out. I threw a bigger branch over the cut bank, but still, nothing came out. 

I finally walked down to see why the animal wouldn't come out and found nothing there – no elk, deer, tracks, or animal sign of any kind. I walked back up to where I had been sitting and bent over to pick up my hat. 

Just as I did, fifteen heads of elk walked out on the top of the hillside across the draw, about 250 yards away.

When I saw the lead cow, I knew she was coming home with me. I only had time for an offhand shot and was most fortunate to shoot her eye out. 

I have convinced my brother that shot placement was skill on my part and not luck, and I hope you will not disabuse him of this notion.

Jim Taylor with his father, elk hunt concept.

Our Family Tradition

I don't believe you ever had the opportunity to meet my father, Park Taylor, but he was an old-time Montana cowboy who loved elk hunting above all else. He died thirteen years ago. 

My brother Flint and I have hunted together each fall since then. I often sense my father's presence when Flint and I are hunting, and I am convinced my father was making those noises in the cut bank below me to keep me in position for my shot at my first elk.

After the shot, I sprinted up the hillside to my elk. The riders came down to see how we had done. Their horses were too spooky to drag the elk. I had no idea how large and heavy elk were, but I was most happy to become acquainted with the problems of dragging them out.

I do not know if we will ever have the opportunity to hunt your ranch again, as I am sure you are besieged with requests from hunters. If we ever do have that opportunity, I would be most grateful. If we do not, I will always be thankful for one of the best days I have ever had."

Improve Your Elk Hunt With Hunter Education 

Jim has been a hunter education instructor in Montana for over 15 years. Though he didn't return to that ranch to hunt again, the experience has stayed with him as one of his most incredible hunts.

One thing that helps Jim hunt successfully every season is his hunter safety education. While he enjoys being an instructor, you don't have to be an instructor to benefit from safety education. 

The practical safety essentials you'll learn in an online course through Hunter-Ed will help you know how to hunt safely with a partner or when others hunt in the same area – like the horseback riders in Jim's letters. You'll also learn many other hunting safety insights through our state-approved courses. 

Whether you hunt elk or other game, find the course for your state and start learning before your next hunt!


Originally published October 3, 2016. Content updated February 21, 2023.