Field to Table: Elk Hunt (with a $10,000 muzzleloader)


When I decided that I wanted to try out hunting as a way to source my own meat and enjoy the outdoors in a new way, I really didn’t know where to start. I didn’t have any family who hunted when I was growing up, and I don’t live in an area where hunting is a common activity. Through some friends, I found out about the Field to Table classes run by Greg at Outdoor Solutions, and signed up for one of his doe & hog events in Texas. It was a fantastic experience, and this is now my third time hunting with OS.

My first two classes were really good beginner practice – several small animals with lots of opportunity to make mistakes without significant consequences. Short shooting ranges and easy-mode rifles.

This trip was much more like a graduate level course. The quarry was a cow elk, and we were hunting in a primitive zone – so only muzzleloaders allowed. Now, our host outfitter (Love of the Hunt in Magdalena NM) had some amazing muzzleloaders for us to use – “Best of the West” rifles built on Remington 700 actions and scoped with BDC cams set to the exact loading we were using (315 grain expanding bullets at about 2400 fps). But even well-armed, getting a shot on an elk in western New Mexico is a lot more difficult than a hog in Texas. And I only had a tag for one animal – so choose well and shoot well!

Well, my guide and I did find a group of elk on the first day of the event, and I made a first-shot hit. It wasn’t a fatal one, and we had to do a bit of tracking and make a second shot, but all things considered I am satisfied with the job, being my first time in the situation. Happily, the other four hunters in the class also were successful (although one fellow took until the very last day!).

Once we had the elk down, thermal work began. We proceeded through the steps of field dressing her (this is not shown in the video). We were a bit of a steep hike away from road access, so we opted to quarter her in the field and hike the quarters out. Back at camp we hung the quarters in a cooler for a day and then I got into the job of processing the quarters into individual cuts of meat. I was really happy to see that what I had learned in the previous classes came right back to me, and I was able to process the whole animal with minimal assistance.

And now, I have a freezer full of delicious elk that will last me until next year!


  1. >>We proceeded through the steps of field dressing her (this is not shown in the video)<<

    As a pathologist, I kind of missed this bit.

  2. Wonderful to see comments from an ethical hunter feeding himself and loved ones for a year.
    Good you accepted your original limitations of not being a hunter, only a good shooter and learning from a professional how to hunt.

    • Ethics are a matter of personal decisions and would never judge another’s
      However, for myself to participate in a hunt regulated as “only primitive rifles”, regardless if it skirted legality would be the antithesis of an ethical sporting hunt
      My hunting ethics, as handed down through many generations of family tradition is more than killing, or putting meat on the table.
      The Ethics is a sporting tradition, which in my opinion this does not qualify a primitive
      There are plenty of fields of hunting and in life that are not illegal that disqualify from the spirit
      I can understand that Ian being new to hunting and curious might have not yet arrived at his own.

  3. I don’t see why leaving silverskin would protect meat from freezing. Damage to food from freezing occurs because domestic freezing occurs slowly enough that, due to various properties of water, the ice is able to form spikes that puncture membranes and otherwise tear up the food on a microscopic scale. These problems which get worse when the food gets cooked.

    The real solution is an industrial freezer, which freezes the food so rapidly the ice spikes don’t form (so long as it stays frozen, which is doable for a good cooler). Certainly overkill for a domestic, a business like Outdoor Solutions could plausibly offer it as a service.

  4. 315 grains at 2400fps will leave a mark. Secondly, we’re privileged to live on a continent with elk. Elk is meaty ambrosia.

  5. Well, I gotta say, I do not eat any brained creature which had to die for me to eat it. Animals experience emotion and I would say on the whole like us enjoy their lives, and so I do not to end their lives, per se, let alone just so I can have a tasty snack.

    Also here in this case its not just the death of the creature, but the suffering it experienced upon its way to death, being shot, but non-fatally. That creature suffered terror and intense pain before dying – so we can have something nice to eat.

    You don’t have to be conscious, or recognize yourself in a mirror, to experience terror and agony.

    • I’ve yet to discern the moral difference between an elk or deer dying in agony beneath the teeth of predators, or when one starves because snow is covering all their forage.

      The one thing about human predation, which is just as natural as anything else in this literal organism-eat-organism world of ours, is that it usually is relatively quick and painless.

      Even plants scream, apparently, and there’s vicious competition among them for sunlight. So, unless you’re somehow photosynthesizing, your moral preening is an obscenity of self-aggrandizement. We’re all predators, sadly.

  6. Using a rifle “built on a Remington 700 action” and scoped is scarcely “primitive.” Why not go the whole hog there? Wear buckins and a period beard, but use an Apache gunship as platform.

    Also, a number of posters about say they would “never judge” others’ choices. Grow a pair, lads! That’s what ethics is: judgement of one’s own and others choices by the same exacting standard. This live and let live attitude is why one can’t go outside after dark in a good many U.S. cities, why you are being invaded by an open border. No one wants to say wrong is wrong.

  7. I find myself somewhat in agreement with the commenters questioning the whole “primitive weapons” thing. Frankly, when the only thing that really qualifies as “primitive” is the propellant? And, that questionably?

    I honestly have a problem with rifles like this one being included as qualifying for “Primitive Weapons Seasons”, because they’re manifestly not, other than in the sense that they’re single-shot affairs. If they’re going to include these things, then they ought to rename the season “One-shot Weapons Season”, and be done with it. Scopes, modern rifle-based firearms? That ain’t “primitive” in my book. Primitive in this sense means something like an authentic Hawken Plains rifle with a flintlock or a percussion cap. It doesn’t mean something built on a Remington 700 action with a modern scope on top of it.

    I can see the argument in terms of not wounding the game animal with something caused by a misfire or other typical misadventure with a truly “primitive” weapon, but… Man, these “modern muzzle loaders” just leave a nasty taste in my mouth when I see them taking advantage of the “Primitive Weapons Season” laws.

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