Meet 12-year-old Wilder Good, who lives with his parents and little sister, Molly, in a small town in southern Colorado. When he's lucky, he gets to go hunting with Gale Loving, a 72-year-old elder at the church the Goods attend, and a good friend and mentor to Wilder. They make sort of an odd pair, an old man and a boy, but they fit together pretty well in the outdoors. (Though sometimes Wilder still can't help but wonder what kind of a name "Gale" is for a grown man.)
Wilder plays basketball, is active in his 4-H club, likes to read—his hero is Teddy Roosevelt—and does all the things that seventh-graders do. (He has a "secret" girlfriend, too.) He's a Dallas Cowboys fan. But mostly he loves the outdoors, hunting in the Colorado Rockies with Gale or his dad, or at his grandfather's Texas ranch.
Wilder is on the threshold between being a kid and beginning to grow up, and he's trying his best to figure out just what it means to join that grownup world. There's a lot to learn, and he's grateful to have rock-steady Gale to guide him.
In The Elk Hunt, Wilder accompanies Gale into the mountains in search of his first elk. It's a special day for Wilder in many ways—the biggest game he's ever hunted, and the first chance to use his grandfather's Winchester .270. He's determined to succeed with high marks.
Hunting elk is an exciting and demanding pursuit, but even after Wilder and Gale are headed home, there's still danger to face—that's when nature decides to really test Wilder's resolve.