A first elk hunt

ChrisC

Active member
Joined
Jul 21, 2016
Messages
282
Location
Massachusetts
Putting a thread together covering the lead up to my first elk hunt seemed appropriate, not simply for eliciting some comments that could make my trip more enjoyable, but to also keep me honest when I tell myself that I should do a post-hunt writeup. I've enjoyed reading many of yours over the years, as they've proven both informative and entertaining. The least I could do is to put something together here to hold myself accountable and reciprocate when the hunt is a wrap.

2021 will be my first elk hunt and I will be doing it solo. I've had two other western-style hunts prior to this. My first ever out-of-state (I'm from MA) hunt was back in 2014 when I had the opportunity to hunt deer on Kodiak Island. I cringe when I think back at how little I knew on that trip, walking around in the mountains with my 10x25 budget binoculars that I swore were perfect for that hunting trip because, well, they were camouflaged. I had boots that didn't fit well but were kind enough to remove all of my skin that was in their way, and a frameless pack that did not support the weight I had in it. I hope to be better prepared this time around, though I suspect on my next elk trip, perhaps in a few years, I'll look back at this and shake my head about what I thought I knew.

My other hunt was in 2017 when myself, my father, and father-in-law went out to Wyoming for Antelope north of Casper. For this trip, we rented a truck and drove out for a week or so. We stayed in a nearby AirBnB and most of the roads we travelled on were pretty forgiving. I suspect that hunt will be quite a bit different in terms of terrain than this upcoming one.

I drew a general tag and plan to hunt the south-central part of Wyoming. More specifically, within about 300 yards of where the elk plan to be in mid-October ;). After reading a lot about rental vehicles and questionable tire quality, I felt like it was not worth the risk to do that again as I did not want my trip potentially ruined if I were to run into a tire issue in the backcountry. I've decided to fly and rent a more off-road capable vehicle for this trip. I have no feel for the quality of roads I will be traveling on (If anyone is familiar with their quality south of Encampment, I'd be happy to listen!) so I feel that the peace of mind is worth the extra money.

Per everyone's suggestion on seemingly every thread relating to this and going solo, I've invested in an InReach. Gear has been accumulating over the years, getting a proper pack, boots that fit (but still need to be broken in), etc. My biggest concern at this point is ammo availability but hoping that all gets cleared up before fall. I'm not sure if that is wishful thinking or not. The local Bass Pro has a wide selection of 6.5 CM, but as I stared at them wondering if it was worth buying a gun to match, I felt the inevitable judgement from HT would be too much to bear.

It will be interesting to see what sort of altitude adjustment there will be. I've breathed in sea-level air all my life, but I'm sure there is some science out there that says breathing through a Covid mask for the past year should have prepared me nicely for 7,000-9,000ft while elk hunting. It's tough finding a steep hill locally to hike up and down with a weighted pack. Steps and long walks on a undulating road will have to suffice for now, along with the usual gym routine.

I'll be shooting a Savage Axis 30-06. I still have the default scope (Bushnell, I think) that came with the gun - well, a replacement one after the original broke after about 10 rounds through it. The thought of it happening again creeps in my mind every so often, so perhaps a Leupold for Father's day will be in my near future.

As for now, I'm digging into OnX, Google Earth & Maps, and have my paper unit map ordered from MyTopo. During my several hours in the car commuting to work, I'll be revisiting Elk Talk podcasts and worrying how to ask some unit-related questions from a first-time elk hunter in a way that won't evoke too much criticism.

Chris
 

Salmonchaser

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 12, 2019
Messages
751
Chris I killed my first bull in 1967 with an 03-A3 .30/06. I was 12. The 06 will work just fine, killed a bunch for me over the years. 53 years of elk hunting I’d rate boots near the very top of my equipment list. My favorite elk rifle will shoot 1/2 MOA but most of the 40 some I’ve killed were shot with rifles that weren’t anywhere near that accurate. I would however up grade your scope a little. Have fun, enjoy the adventure.
 

BZNHNTR

Active member
Joined
Apr 25, 2021
Messages
44
Sounds like a great experience, I wouldn’t fret about the rifle a 30-06 that you can shoot well is perfect but I would second the scope upgrade. Good binoculars and patience to sit and glass are more important IMO, particularly in a new area. We have rented a jeep setup with rooftop tent from outdoorsy (wasn’t for hunting but could have been) could have taken it one any road I have seen outside of Moab and included sleeping/stove/water jugs/cooler etc.
Don’t forget about meat care, that time of year it can be hot or can be very cold. Could take a couple days to pack out an elk solo, if hot will need to get it broke down and hung in the shade in good game bags (tag/caribou/Allen synthetic pillow case style).
 

Durango Mike

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 25, 2020
Messages
344
Location
Durango, CO
Putting a thread together covering the lead up to my first elk hunt seemed appropriate, not simply for eliciting some comments that could make my trip more enjoyable, but to also keep me honest when I tell myself that I should do a post-hunt writeup. I've enjoyed reading many of yours over the years, as they've proven both informative and entertaining. The least I could do is to put something together here to hold myself accountable and reciprocate when the hunt is a wrap.

2021 will be my first elk hunt and I will be doing it solo. I've had two other western-style hunts prior to this. My first ever out-of-state (I'm from MA) hunt was back in 2014 when I had the opportunity to hunt deer on Kodiak Island. I cringe when I think back at how little I knew on that trip, walking around in the mountains with my 10x25 budget binoculars that I swore were perfect for that hunting trip because, well, they were camouflaged. I had boots that didn't fit well but were kind enough to remove all of my skin that was in their way, and a frameless pack that did not support the weight I had in it. I hope to be better prepared this time around, though I suspect on my next elk trip, perhaps in a few years, I'll look back at this and shake my head about what I thought I knew.

My other hunt was in 2017 when myself, my father, and father-in-law went out to Wyoming for Antelope north of Casper. For this trip, we rented a truck and drove out for a week or so. We stayed in a nearby AirBnB and most of the roads we travelled on were pretty forgiving. I suspect that hunt will be quite a bit different in terms of terrain than this upcoming one.

I drew a general tag and plan to hunt the south-central part of Wyoming. More specifically, within about 300 yards of where the elk plan to be in mid-October ;). After reading a lot about rental vehicles and questionable tire quality, I felt like it was not worth the risk to do that again as I did not want my trip potentially ruined if I were to run into a tire issue in the backcountry. I've decided to fly and rent a more off-road capable vehicle for this trip. I have no feel for the quality of roads I will be traveling on (If anyone is familiar with their quality south of Encampment, I'd be happy to listen!) so I feel that the peace of mind is worth the extra money.

Per everyone's suggestion on seemingly every thread relating to this and going solo, I've invested in an InReach. Gear has been accumulating over the years, getting a proper pack, boots that fit (but still need to be broken in), etc. My biggest concern at this point is ammo availability but hoping that all gets cleared up before fall. I'm not sure if that is wishful thinking or not. The local Bass Pro has a wide selection of 6.5 CM, but as I stared at them wondering if it was worth buying a gun to match, I felt the inevitable judgement from HT would be too much to bear.

It will be interesting to see what sort of altitude adjustment there will be. I've breathed in sea-level air all my life, but I'm sure there is some science out there that says breathing through a Covid mask for the past year should have prepared me nicely for 7,000-9,000ft while elk hunting. It's tough finding a steep hill locally to hike up and down with a weighted pack. Steps and long walks on a undulating road will have to suffice for now, along with the usual gym routine.

I'll be shooting a Savage Axis 30-06. I still have the default scope (Bushnell, I think) that came with the gun - well, a replacement one after the original broke after about 10 rounds through it. The thought of it happening again creeps in my mind every so often, so perhaps a Leupold for Father's day will be in my near future.

As for now, I'm digging into OnX, Google Earth & Maps, and have my paper unit map ordered from MyTopo. During my several hours in the car commuting to work, I'll be revisiting Elk Talk podcasts and worrying how to ask some unit-related questions from a first-time elk hunter in a way that won't evoke too much criticism.

Chris
Altitude is a factor for sea level folks, usually best to get there at least 2 days early to acclimatize, I have had the experience with two Texas hunters that we picked up at the airport in the morning and were at 9500 that evening. Had to take one back down with altitude sickness the next day even though we had recommended a few days early at 6500 to get comfortable. Then again you can tell a Texan, you just can't tell them much. I think the 06 is a perfect elk caliber and does not require a man bun or dealing with the opprobrium of HT, I have shot over 40 with an 06, 270, 7X57, 7 Mag, 308 Norma and they all took 1 shot. Do get good optics, waking up to bugles with a fogged scope is not a good experience. Boots are the most important, followed by layered clothes and a good pack. Spotting scope is helpful, but not as critical as good boots, map and GPS. I am probably one of the only people who had to pony up for 4 new tires on a rented 4X4 in Miles City Montana with two friends after a trip through some cactus wiped out the junk OEM tires on the rental. Having been a gun guy and competitive shooter for 50 years I can tell you that the 06 will shoot great groups in a service rifle match at 600 yards with open sights, well inside minute of elk, with a good scope inside 400 no problem. I live at 7,000 and ride horses every day and do ranch work to stay in shape, hunting a rough patch of high country 76 early rifle in Colorado I am planning on hiking 3 days a week doing 1,000ft vertical climbs between now and then to be ready, hard to duplicate at sea level. To keep perspective i am 74 have a new knee this January, titanium hip, plate in a shoulder and screws in my ankle and am looking forward to being in the high country! I have done Search and Rescue for 15 years and every hunting season we pull at least 2 people out who did not respect mother nature and their own physical limitations. Keep in mind that back country roads in Wyoming are nasty with mud so a set of chains may just be a great investment if the weather gets moist, been there done that on a 14000 acre ranch that just got bought by the RMEF. Have a great hunt!
 

RobertD

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Joined
Jul 16, 2020
Messages
858
Location
Southwest Georgia (GA)
Want to chime in on the altitude note. I very much agree with the other posters regarding acclimation. I've got a small sample size, but I feel like getting to the mountains and hanging loose for a day or so makes a huge difference when the hunting starts.

Spent a night and a day in Santa Fe before my first elk hunt. Looking back, I felt the difference more walking around town that first day than I did actively hunting at 9000 feet a few days later.
 

Wallydeuce

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Joined
Feb 24, 2021
Messages
375
Location
NV
Get your boots broken in asap. Wear your pack loaded with your gear as much as you can. I'm willing to bet there are folks in the nearest town who will help with a pack out. Just ask around at the gas station. Good luck!
 

nettereo16

Active member
Joined
Mar 1, 2017
Messages
130
Location
NC
Ive taken airport rental pickups hunting (crap tires & 2wd) near where you are headed twice. They did alright.

For ammo, subscribe to hundreds of in stock notifications and jump when you find some. Or find a local gun forum and buy/barter what you’re looking for!
 

SAJ-99

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Joined
Jan 5, 2019
Messages
1,731
Location
Montana
On the altitude issue, might be a stupid ?, but does anyone think it would be beneficial for the OP to take a Weekend in New Hampshire or Vermont and hike around at 3000-4000ft for a day? It certainly isn’t 9000ft but might it reduce the shock to the body at all to do it once a couple of months before?
 

nrpate05

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 5, 2015
Messages
1,179
Glad to hear you're jumping in and doing it. Lots of people make all sorts of excuses to "go hunting next year" and end up never going. One thing I'll say is try to be as mentally prepared as possible and be realistic with your expectations. My first solo extended trip I don't think I realized how tough it would be to be away from family and without cell service for a week. Also, how tough it would be to keep going when things got tough. Having a hunting partner definitely alleviates much of this.

As far as expectations, elk hunting is tough and solo hunting is really tough. Odds are you won't come home with a critter, but don't let that make or break your trip.

I have hunted pronghorn in that unit south of Encampment and the roads were fine. Typical forest service roads where any four wheel drive would fine. I haven't driven many of the mountain roads, however.

YOu seem like you are on the right track. Go get 'em!
 

ChrisC

Active member
Joined
Jul 21, 2016
Messages
282
Location
Massachusetts
Thank you all for your comments.

Regarding the 30-06, I dont have any doubts about its efficacy. The concern is finding quality ammo in time. I've never needed to search hard for ammo so my experience has simply been the local gun shops. I've recently been introduced to gunbroker, so it looks like I should be able to get something, albeit at a premium. I have some core lokts that I'm sure have brought down many elk in the past. However, after reading all the comments on who shot what for elk, it feels like I should spend a little extra on more quality ammo. Perhaps this is the mindset the industry relies on to sell premium products, as to not regret saving the extra $20, $40 or whatever if something bad were to happen with the shot. I've also been interested to try an all copper bullet as well, so maybe an e-tip or trophy copper will be in my future.

Regarding altitude, I have to do more research on what can help mitigate the effects. As SAJ-99 noted, there are some peaks in western MA or NH & VT about 3 hours away that will get me about half way there in terms of altitude. I'd love to get to WY a few days early to acclimate, but that isnt really feasible with the schedule I'm on, so maybe on the first day of hunting I'll have to make a concerted effort to take it easy.

I did decide today to upgrade the scope (it didn't take too much convincing), so that's exciting.
 

wllm1313

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Joined
Dec 9, 2015
Messages
11,535
Location
Manetheren
On the altitude issue, might be a stupid ?, but does anyone think it would be beneficial for the OP to take a Weekend in New Hampshire or Vermont and hike around at 3000-4000ft for a day? It certainly isn’t 9000ft but might it reduce the shock to the body at all to do it once a couple of months before?
There isn’t really a way to cheat it, gotta put your time in to acclimate and altitude effects everyone differently.

Ive never had an issue going back and forth from sea level, to CO, but i usually have a week at around 6-7k before I go up to 12+.
 

crock239

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Joined
Sep 18, 2012
Messages
307
Location
Iowa
+1 on schmalts here if you're looking for a scope. I've bought Leupold from him and you will not find a better deal, period.

Wllm1313 is spot on, altitude affects everyone differently, and one trip can be different from the next. You may be just fine going right to 10k, or not. My trips usually include first night at 5k, then go hunting and try to get back down to 8k to sleep next night. Lots of water before and during to stay hydrated. OTC meds can help, might get acetazolamide if you know you'll be at 10k+.

Good luck!
 

EastCoast94

Member
Joined
Jul 13, 2020
Messages
34
Location
New York
I own the same exact 30-06 and learned the hard way of upgrading the scope. I used gunbroker and ammoseek to find plenty of rounds. I would try and go on both sites daily and see what’s available
 

Durango Mike

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 25, 2020
Messages
344
Location
Durango, CO
Thank you all for your comments.

Regarding the 30-06, I dont have any doubts about its efficacy. The concern is finding quality ammo in time. I've never needed to search hard for ammo so my experience has simply been the local gun shops. I've recently been introduced to gunbroker, so it looks like I should be able to get something, albeit at a premium. I have some core lokts that I'm sure have brought down many elk in the past. However, after reading all the comments on who shot what for elk, it feels like I should spend a little extra on more quality ammo. Perhaps this is the mindset the industry relies on to sell premium products, as to not regret saving the extra $20, $40 or whatever if something bad were to happen with the shot. I've also been interested to try an all copper bullet as well, so maybe an e-tip or trophy copper will be in my future.

Regarding altitude, I have to do more research on what can help mitigate the effects. As SAJ-99 noted, there are some peaks in western MA or NH & VT about 3 hours away that will get me about half way there in terms of altitude. I'd love to get to WY a few days early to acclimate, but that isnt really feasible with the schedule I'm on, so maybe on the first day of hunting I'll have to make a concerted effort to take it easy.

I did decide today to upgrade the scope (it didn't take too much convincing), so that's exciting.
Get a quality scope, check schmaltz on HT i have bought from and he is the real deal, good prices and good advice. As for ammo it seems like availability is improving, particularly of high end expensive stuff. Go to the Nosler website and contact them on custom loading some for you, a few $$ more but you will have excellent stuff that will shoot minute of elk just fine. As for altitude hydrate way more than you think necessary and it still might not be enough. One thing you did not mention is knives and be sure you have good ones with a stone to touch up the edge if you are not using one of the Gerber replaceable blade models.
 

ChrisC

Active member
Joined
Jul 21, 2016
Messages
282
Location
Massachusetts
Get a quality scope, check schmaltz on HT i have bought from and he is the real deal, good prices and good advice. As for ammo it seems like availability is improving, particularly of high end expensive stuff. Go to the Nosler website and contact them on custom loading some for you, a few $$ more but you will have excellent stuff that will shoot minute of elk just fine. As for altitude hydrate way more than you think necessary and it still might not be enough. One thing you did not mention is knives and be sure you have good ones with a stone to touch up the edge if you are not using one of the Gerber replaceable blade models.
I have a Havalon which is nice once the blade is connected, but it seems like you need to carry a pair of pliers just to get the old blade off safely. I did see someone with a Gerber replaceable that looked to have a better blade removable system iirc.
 

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