2017 DIY Elk hunt help

zeke1

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My wife and I are planning a DIY Elk hunt in 2017 and want some advice from the experts here.
Where is the best chance of getting a elk tag for public land?
For 1st time Elk hunt what can we expect to hike honestly to be where most people wont go and Elk would possibly be?
We hunt TN whitetails, hike in the smokies on regular basis with 35 to 40lb packs practicing, we go to the gym 3 days a week and run 3 days a week what else should we be doing to get physically ready?
We are open to bow, muzzleloader, or rifle.
From lurking here seems once an area is chosen we should get a map look for the nastiest terrain that has food, water and not a lot of ppl, is this true? We want to drive to hunt area to sight see going and coming set up a base camp then hike from there is this realistic?
 

deer_shooter

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A few comments then wait for those who know something about hunting elk to jump in:

If i were you I would pick up a preference point now in wyoming. There are 2 weeks left to buy them and only $50. https://wgfd.wyo.gov. Do the same next year so going into '17, you have some options. I know very little about Montana but I think their combo tags can be had as leftovers.

Colorado has OTC tags for most of the units on western slope. First rifle season and MZ are by draw as are cow tags but things may have changed since the last time i looked at the regs. Since bull tags are easy ot come by, hunting pressure can be quite high. Targeting wilderness areas or anywhere with few or no roads is best.

If youre asking for hiking distance, that varies but you are only limited by physical endurance or the distance you can realisticlly pack an elk out. That will be the limititng factor.

Sounds like you have a pretty good work out routine. No matter what you do, you will wish you had done more!
 

Rob.Melick

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I've lived out here in CO for a few years and have tagged along on several Elk hunts and done several of my own, always DIY, public land. On a side note that's not a lot of elk hunting so take everything with a grain of salt

1. Tags: If you choose CO download the big game brochure and the draw results brochure. By applying for "preference point" only in 2016 you'll have 1 point built up for your 2017 hunt. You can then look at the GMUs that require at least one point to draw a tag (slightly better than an OTC) ( I imagine other states work similarly)

- A few things to think about here - you can likely find a unit that will also allow you to hunt Muleys at the same time if you're interested in the rifle seasons. Depending on weather, the animals can be scarce. Twice I've seen some amazing muley bucks and like an idiot didn't get my app together and didn't have a tag, while seeing zero elk over 7 days.

- Google maps will be your best friend, get an idea, now, through general research of several (3 or 4) units that meet your point/draw requirements and then start looking at FS roads that get way back into the units, depending on your base camp set up, with big patches of parks,trees, etc beyond the end of the road. but be realistic about your daily hiking. Unlikely you will hike for 15 straight miles directly into the back country in the morning, shoot an animal, and hike 15 miles back to a base camp. That's an awesome unit for a backpack hunter but perhaps not for a basecamp/day hiker hunter; where you could choose a unit with a little less "wilderness" but maybe a better harvest success rate.

2. Fitness - short answer that everyone will give - there is never enough. Living in Denver at ~6k feet and working out several times a week never quite seems to get me ready, but here's a few pointers that have worked well.

-Lungs: You need both endurance for the long hikes and the ability to haul your butt up a ridge quick to get in front of the herd you've just glassed so i reccommend both endurance (running) training along with some shorter stuff, sprints, pickup basketball, etc. Also helps keep the workouts interesting.

-Legs: They are going to take a beating, so get them ready. Squats, and lunges need to become your best buddies, and try to imitate the activity you'll be doing so hit the local highschool stadium with those packs and jog up the stairs, then do a set or two where you " deep lunge" up the stairs two at a time. As a caveat, lower back and core strength are also going to big a huge difference maker. They take a beating on the third day of hauling even a 20lb pack up 2,000ft of slippery mountains. It can be done though, a great buddy of mine that lives in baltimore trains and runs endlessly throughout the year and I'm not ashamed ( maybe a little?) to say that after the initial day of altitude he whoops my butt up and down the hills out here.

-Hiking. If you can spare it, give yourself a day or two of pre hunt scouting. 1. You'll get the benefit of acclimation 2. This is a great time to glass for many hours and do it carefully, looking for elk/deer but also looking for the easiest way up ridges, draws, etc. We generally don't end up hiking more than about 10-15 total miles in a day if we're basecamping. Others may do a lot more but we've usually got at least one person from sea level with us, so between that, our own tolerance for slipping down the hills, and hours of daylight that's about where we're at. Out here in CO some of these roads go waaay back and honestly have amazing hunting 1/2 mile in. From distant ridges I've watched hunters in other units blast into the morning hike and blow elk into the next county, just trying to get "way back" I'm a bigger fan of hunting carefully than hunting speedily.

Gear: Not much to say here that you can't spend years reading online - Outdoors Geek does an amazing job with canvas tent rentals if you want to go that way - not an employee or anything but I've used them in the past (I now own) and they are outstanding. Will, will take great care of you.

Bring a fishing pole! Elk need water, and almost always if that water is a decent sized stream it has some trout. I've had some great midday fishing sessions while I wait for the elk to nap in the timber before coming back out in the evening. Even winter trout fishing can be great.

3. Seasons: All are very different here in CO. Hunt early with bow and MZ and you may get the rut, (or sometimes early rifle if it's a late rut/weather change) Hunt late and you get to stay lower elevation, the joy of snowshoes, and see big herds of cows, with a really good chance to put some meat in the freezer. It really comes down to what you want to get out of the experience: Trophy, meat, scenery, etc. My strong recommendation is to go early. I have the benefit of spending 365 out in the Rocky Mountains, but it sounds like this will be a "vacation" of sorts and perhaps not even a yearly thing. With that in mind I'd recommend getting out here when it's the most beautiful/pristine. Hunt when the weather is decent, the aspen are turning (amazing photo ops) and it's still just warm enough to sit around the campfire outside at night and soak in the milky way without losing fingers/toes. If I couldn't be out here all year that's when I'd want to come. Shooting the animals will be great but really you'll spend about 98% of your time hunting the scenery instead and that's what the memories will be made of. Some of my best memories and hunts have nothing to do with the elusive creatures. I'm usually way too jacked up on adrenaline to really remember the specifics of an encounter or a sighting or even a shot but I can tell you everything about the morning hike into the aspen grove with the sun rising behind us and the light hitting the grass and yellow/orange leaves just right with bugling way out in the distance.

I'm still a novice myself but if you end up choosing CO let me know and I'm happy to help anyway I can and who knows maybe we'll be in the same unit!
 

zeke1

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It will be a hunting vacation since we both love the outdoors and hunting, as far as weapon preference it doesn't matter to us, we will take what ever gives us the best shot at getting a tag and no we are not "horn hunters" yes it would be awesome to kill a 6x7 bull but a healthy cow would be just as rewarding to us.
We great have basecamp gear tent sleeping bags etc, we always carry emergency gear for that chance of being caught out away from basecamp. We are looking at the solo backpack incase one of us was lucky enough to kill.
 

TRS_Montana

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This is arguably the most common thread subject on this forum. It is also extremely open-ended and depends a lot on your preferences.

Here is a thread that I think you will find helpful. Download the guide that Fin talks about in this thread:
http://onyourownadventures.com/hunttalk/showthread.php?t=264748&highlight=e-guide

Also, search for Randy Newberg on YouTube. He has a lot of good info there.

I can talk about Montana a bit.

It is pretty much a guarantee that you can get a non-resident general permit to hunt elk in MT. There is a lot of great hunting you can find on public land in general units. There are also a lot of considerations when setting up an out-of-state hunt.
If it were me and I wanted the best experience (lots of animals, decent weather, more options for areas, etc...), I would come for a week or two to bowhunt in September for a number of reasons. You usually don't have to worry about getting snowed out of too many places, the elk are easier to find when they are vocal, you don't have as many people in the woods, can shoot either sex (in most units), travelling is easier, etc...

I definitely agree with deer_shooter in saying that you really can't be in too good of physical shape for an elk hunt. Even if you are in good enough shape to get by, the better your condition, the more fun you will have chasing elk.

I don't always agree that you have to find the nastiest place to find elk. Just find a place takes some effort to get to, whether it is due to distance, terrain, or vegetation (although, I will take far and steep over deadfall any day of the week!), and it is likely a good place to start.

Also, I agree with the idea of trying to give yourself a day or two to scout. This is really valuable when you don't have much time to blindly walk through the woods.
 

sbhooper

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Look over the Game and Fish websites thoroughly and you can figure out where you will get a tag. There are lots of options, especially if you are willing to break in on cows. Depending on the hunt, bull tags can be hard to draw and they can be tough to find.

I hunt Wyoming every year on left-over cow tags, but, then again, I couldn't care less about antlers. You are far enough ahead of the game to get lots of homework done. Once you make up your mind and narrow down where you want to go, you can get lots of advice-good and bad-here.

It sounds like you have a handle on the physical part of it and that is very important. You are a lucky man that has a wife who is also a hunting partner.
 

zeke1

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Thanks for all the great advice so far, we have been following Mr Newberg for a while and we love his mindset and determination.
We share a lot of the same views has him and most of the ppl on here. From what we have read here so far and researched looking at somewhere between 4 and 6500 from door to door does that sound about right?
We will amp up our training regime unfortunately we can only get to 6500 feet in elevation here so potentially going another 4000 will be taxing on our lungs , should we plan maybe 4 days of scouting for acclamation?
 

TRS_Montana

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If you can squeeze 4 days of scouting and adjusting in, it would not be time wasted! I remember when I used to come out here from lower elevations. Seemed like I just wanted to sleep for about a day or two
 

utah400elk

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I think the Wyoming point idea is a good one. There are a lot of areas in Wyoming where you can go on a general tag and get into great elk. With a couple of points you could guarantee a tag. Hopefully Buzz will jump onto this and can chime in. He always seems to find great elk in Wyoming. I loved the archery hunt when I lived there and got an elk every year and had great hunts on thre general archery tag. Best of luck.
 

HighDesertSage

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You should go this year and next year so by 2017 you will be a seasoned veteran. :) In all seriousness, def get a wy point, pick a unit out west and go!
 

JLS

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You can buy a Montana surplus tag right now. Best way to learn is by doing.

Don't worry about how high in elevation you can get. I've trained for trail races at 9-10k feet while living at 1k feet above sea level.
 

kmf

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I would pack your bags, take a week of vacation over Thanksgiving and go this year. Tag or not you can go to the mountains and have a great time.
 

bkondeff

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Coming from back East I can see why most would not need to go farther than Colo, Wy, or MT, especially since they have so many great animals and fairly good access to tags. Here in ID you can literally come, buy, and hunt all last minute. We have archery starting in Aug and general tags through about the first week of Nov. Lot's of elk, a fair amount of competition, but a good opportunity hunt.

If you are not stuck on a bull, you might look at some of the later cow hunts. Lower elevation, good way to get started, but it is likely to be later, colder, and may require some chains for your vehicle.

If it becomes something you would possibly do on a regular basis in future, I would pick an area to go back to annually. You will learn more about habits, etc. and I'd expect at min 3 seasons to start to feel like you know what your doing. Doesn't mean you can't get lucky in year 1 for sure. Deer and Elk are different. Hell WT and Muleys are too.

I'm a rifle hunter and not an archery guy. I did get to hunt early enough to enjoy the benefit of a bugle this year, which certainly add's to the fun, but I will say one consideration for me is the heat of the earlier Sept/Oct hunts. I simply don't prefer heat, but I really didn't like having to be responsible for getting 260lbs of quarters somewhere cool on short notice this year, which is usually not a prob the first week of Nov.

The best advice you have been given so far, that I will reiterate is to just go. If you can grab a late cow in Nov/Dec/Jan this year and have time, go. Go on any OTC hunt next year. You will learn more by doing. I say this as a guy that moved to ID in 2004 and had never elk hunted prior. Only put eyes on one elk the first year, but learned a lot.

If you get an interest in ID, PM me and I'll give you some tips, though there are many many on here who can provide more experience that I.
 

zeke1

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Thanks for all the advice, this year is out for sure but we will see about coming next year. 4x4 and chains we have plus 12k lb winch. We aren't picky, if the good lord provides us with a cow tag that's perfectly ok with us. Even though we are serious/ethical hunters what really matters is the fact we would be outdoors, hunting together enjoying Gods creation.
Bkondeff pm sent
 

2rocky

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If you are going to hunt elk, especially on foot, study up on how to do gutless quartering. Search You Tube

As for hiking, I've killed elk within a quarter mile of base camp, and 10 miles from camp. If you have open enough country use your optics to your advantage. Especially in rifle season if there are lots of other hunters you can see where they are (applying pressure) and many times you will watch them bump elk into the next drainage.
 

old man

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I just came back from wyo. with an unfilled leftover cow tag. which I thought , how hard could it be to find a cow? (just as hard as a bull) it was even harder. never saw a cow, but had to stop for a huge bull to cross the road on the last evening. did see much wildlife and plenty of beautiful country and had a great time. this was my first omo elk hunt but certainly not my last ( I hope). I was in area 37 and will not hunt that area again. the back roads were so bad if I did not have a rented vehicle I wouldn't have driven on them.
 

Walkitoff

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Regardless of whether you get elk or not, you and your wife will enjoy the experience and you'll learn. Keep at it and you'll eventually be successful.

A few tips from my experience:

1. Do some reading. Hart Wixom's "Elk and Elk Hunting" is my favorite, and Don Laubach also has a good book on elk hunting. Both are out of print, so you'll have to buy them used on Amazon.

2. Scout the maps. Use Colorado Hunting Atlas (on the Parks and Wildlife website). Look for places in wilderness areas that are 2+ miles from a road and cover 1,000 vertical feet or more. I always look for tight topo lines leading to a bench (if there are tight topo lines above and below the long bench, even better). For hunts later in the year (Oct. on) look for places with east and south facing aspects -- they get more sunshine, and have open meadows for sitting on morning and evening. Also, look for the above and water sources. Elk never venture far from water.

3. GMU 14 and 214 hold a bunch of elk. You may not kill a monster, but if you hunt the Zirkel, you're as likely as anywhere else to bump an elk. Gunn and Soda Creeks hold elk in the early season, have trail access, and also get hammered -- but it's also really pretty up there.

4. Be prepared to hunt timber. Northern Colorado (unlike the southwest of the state and perhaps WY) is really really mountainous. The hunts usually involve hunting pockets in timber and sneaking the timber during the day. I keep moving -- hunting pockets in the timber, until I find fresh sign, and then I set up on those openings morning and evening. My schedule is usually as follows: (1) up before sunrise, travel to a pocket and sit on it until 9:00 a.m. or 10:00 a.m. (elk are usually heading toward the timber by first light); (2) 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. get high and glass glass glass if you can; take a nap, calorie up and rest up; (3) 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. sneak the timber away from bedding areas and where you'd like to set up for the evening hunt -- go whisper quiet (see articles on "still hunting"); (4) sit on an opening from 5:00 p.m. until dark -- be prepared to stay until dark (bring a headlamp), public land elk often will not come out of the timber until the last 5 to 10 minutes of shooting light.

5. Get in great shape; lots of cardio and lots of hikes. A hunt is no fun if you're in mediocre shape.

6. Stick stick stick to it. The guys who are consistently successful are those who suffer through day after day of boredom, cold, and monotony, only to have it all come together in an instant. If you are in the woods, know that there are elk there too, somewhere, that they are moving around, and that at any moment you might bump one. You don't need hundreds of elk to be in your unit -- all you need is to find one resident elk and the that's that.

Good luck.
 

zeke1

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That's very weird walkitoff........we ordered the elk and elk hunting book this morning from amazon for 13.25 just by reading reviews and page excerpts. Thanks for the great tips we are going to stick to hiking only trails that gain in elevation quickly and build our pack up to 65 - 70lbs we are so excited next year will not get here soon enough except for our lega and lungs will wish for more prep time lol
 
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