Aspinwall Elk Camp - Honoring Legends Past

Aspinwall Elk Camp
Honoring Legends Past

The Inspiration Behind
The Elk Camp T-Shirt 

Hunting is as old as the hills and remains a deep internal desire for many in today’s society. Although the essence of hunting has changed since the beginning of time the connection with mankind and the great outdoors is as strong as ever. Those that have enjoyed days in the field with loved ones, know the power of this great pastime. For the Aspinwall Family hunting has become a precious time to connect and reconnect with nature and one another.

 It has become a way of remembering years and seasons past.
I grew up in Montana playing a lot of team sports. My dad and I hunted sparingly as I was growing up, mostly because life was too busy. After moving back to Montana to finishing school at U of M, my dad and I started bowhunting elk together around the Missoula area as I was going to college. In those early days of us hunting, you’d be hard pressed to find a more clueless pair in the woods. We made up for our lack of hunting knowledge with excellent gear choices. Over the years, we just kept getting better at it. We became students of the game, hung around and hunted with guys that knew and were consistently into elk, and learned a lot. For about a 15 year period My dad and I hunted the Missouri River Breaks south of Zortman, MT. Seasons went by with no success. We had numerous blown stalks, and close calls but never a dead elk. 
We did however have countless memories being at elk camp together, laughing, story telling and just being guys. 
In 2012 I managed to arrow a really big bull with my first arrow down range at an elk. Luck would have it, we blood trailed that bull for three days and couldn’t catch back up with him. A day or so after we encountered him for the last time, another hunter harvested that bull. Gross score was 357” which would be an incredible achievement for any hunter, especially an archer on public land. I remember my dad and I hiking non stop up and down and up and down to the point that my dad blew his knee out on that trip. One would think, with this level of work and drama and no success to mention of, why would one continue to do it especially in light of the fact that you could buy a beef cow and not need to leave your home? I guess I can respect that but the challenge of the hunt and the people I got to experience it with was what kept me coming back. Since then, I've been fortunate enough to harvest elk with a bow fairly consistently. 
The older I get the more I'm convinced that Elk Camp doesn't really have much to do with punching my tag or not but the opportunity to be up in the wilderness with other likeminded outdoorsman.
In 2020 my dad was diagnosed with ALS, symptoms of which we noticed first at Elk Camp. Lou Gehrigs disease ended up claiming my dad’s life approximately 2 years later. For the rest of this life, Elk Camps will look different for me. I debated giving up bowhunting, or maybe hunting a different area altogether to distance myself from so many vivid memories. 
Somehow, through healing and restoration that only God Himself can provide, I found myself heading back up to the spot I thought I would never return to.
My attitude was different, my goals had changed. I no longer put loads of pressure on myself to harvest one. I just embraced it. All of it. What superseded my fear of lifes uncertainty was my love for the game of bowhunting. Maybe that was the shift in thinking I needed. Last season, 2023, I was covered up in elk more than any season before. I called elk in on almost every hunt. In fact, I called three bull into the same bush over a 5 day period. I told the guys I was thinking about digging that bush up and planting it at my house in Billings to see if I could call elk into it there?! I ended up arrowing a bull on the last hunt, Sunday morning. Eerily similar to the 2012 giant I had, we trailed this thing for too long with no luck. I elected to stay in Malta at a friends house for one night and go back in the morning and try to find him. Success would have it that I found this particular bull unlike 2012. Maybe it was divine guidance? Maybe wisdom from years failing in the field, or a little of both. Maybe it was my dad in my ear telling me not to give up on it.
Whatever the case, it appeared our luck was changing, a metaphor of hope for days ahead. 
Honoring Legends Past
Elk Camp for Aspinwall remains a special time to connect with the great outdoors, recharge the mental battery and honor legends past.
- Derek Aspinwall