Elk Packing Services are not a thing you must have a plan

wllm1313

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I know there are a lot of folks head out to Colorado this year for elk hunting. Please have a plan to get your elk out before you go into the woods.

There is a false narrative on various forums, one that was unfortunately perpetuated by a recent meateater podcast, about packing services. You will not be able to hike in super deep, kill a bull, walk out, and then figure out a packer to get your animal.

Here is how the rules basically work, their is likely one guide and outfitter who has the permit for wherever you are hunting, that guide will have drop camps, and guided hunts that they will be busy dealing with all season. When you call they will say their packers are in the field or you just will get their voicemail. Those that you do get a hold of will just tell you that pack outs aren't worth their time period. No other person is legally allowed to accept money to pack out an animal for you in that area. You might try another guide, but they won't be able to do it because it's not their area, it would be considered illegal outfitting and they could lose their license. If you contact a private individual with horses and have them pack for you and you see a CPAW officer you will be questioned, and ticketed. A guide might rent you horses, but you would have to have a vehicle that could pull a trailer, and would need to know what you are doing.

I'm sure a couple people will chime in and say oh, well in '12 I paid a guy... well that was illegal and CPAW has been cracking down on this activity.

In '18 I made arrangements for a pack out, a month prior to hunting. That outfitter bailed on me once I had an elk down because he had guided clients that wanted to come out. We had agreed upon $1000 for a pack out, but he had no problem walking away from that money. I had to scramble to get my animal out. I screwed up, was over my head without a plan B, and it sucked.

If your plan it to pack the animal on your back, exerciser restraint and don't go in further than you can pack. Ask yourself can I do this hike, round trip, 4 times in 24-36 hours.

Hopefully others can learn from my mistake and save themselves some stress, good luck out there.
 

BrentD

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I've been in your shoes when the packer bailed. It was New Mexico. It sucked, we got lucky, and it won't happen again.
 

wllm1313

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My wife was able to make a rescue for me because we grew up in the area and was able to get friends of friends of friends to loan her pack stock, and she knows what she's doing with horses.

I've talked to at least a dozen outfitters about this, I did have one tell me he would do it for $1500 if he could get permission from the outfitter who had the permit for the area I was in, but the permit holder would not give him permission.
 
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RockinU

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I've made friends with an outfitter in the area I'm hunting this year, and I actually talked about it with him, and he was very up front about it. If part of his string is free, and it's not going to put any of his clients in a bind, he'll be happy to pack for us, but he makes no promises.
 

Sytes

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I've made friends with an outfitter in the area I'm hunting this year, and I actually talked about it with him, and he was very up front about it. If part of his string is free, and it's not going to put any of his clients in a bind, he'll be happy to pack for us, but he makes no promises.
That seems a common and should be expected theme. Thankfully, friends with horses help, if they're not in the woods themselves. Haha!

Good post for those not familiar, Wllm.
 

RockinU

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That seems a common and should be expected theme. Thankfully, friends with horses help, if they're not in the woods themselves. Haha!

Good post for those not familiar, Wllm.
My dad told me when I was a kid, if you're going to be stupid, you better be tough. I've picked a spot this year that is way the hell out of the way...so if he can't get free to help my dumb ass, I guess I'm just going to have to be tough. Good news is the trail is only long, and not overly steep/technical. Has a lot of potential to be one of those "Do you remember how bad it sucked when..." memories.
 

bushman13

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Be careful with outfitters in general, CO unit 18 was loaded with illegal outfitters last year. They destroyed the trial and made my experience rather crappy.
 

wllm1313

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My dad told me when I was a kid, if you're going to be stupid, you better be tough. I've picked a spot this year that is way the hell out of the way...so if he can't get free to help my dumb ass, I guess I'm just going to have to be tough. Good news is the trail is only long, and not overly steep/technical. Has a lot of potential to be one of those "Do you remember how bad it sucked when..." memories.
One thing I learned is to be more mindful of my surroundings going in, and to make a 24-36 hour plan at the kill site. Meaning, looking spots that are shaded, cool, where I could stage meat. Also if you kill a bull on a open grassy slope or similar, instead of packing a first load all the way back, packing the entire animal a mile to a good spot where it will be ok for a while.

The only thing I did right last year was that I spent 3 hours and packed the entire bull to a shaded portion of a stream and hung the meat above the water in the shade before I walked out with a load.
 

JLS

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I've made friends with an outfitter in the area I'm hunting this year, and I actually talked about it with him, and he was very up front about it. If part of his string is free, and it's not going to put any of his clients in a bind, he'll be happy to pack for us, but he makes no promises.
Yep. Look at it like flying on standby. If time is critical, you're playing with fire.
 

Bambistew

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Good advice. I would add to that other services as well, and ATV's. Don't go any further than you're willing to or can walk out.

There are transporters up here that will put you on the back burner until they get "time." Some fly for outfitters and have contracts that pay much more consistently than a one-timer, or feel like another is more important. One such transporter this year pushed off a pickup for a couple guys to the point the clients tried to float their raft out to a pickup point. It ended with them losing all their gear, a sheep, nearly their lives, and a free ride by the Air Guard. May have been some stupidity on their part, but at the same time, they shouldn't have needed to make the choice. I The delays weren't due to weather.
 
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SD_Prairie_Goat

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Good advice. I would add to that other services as well, and ATV's. Don't go any further than you're willing to or can walk out.

There are transporters up here that will put you on the back burner until they get "time." Some fly for outfitters and have contracts that pay much more consistently than a one-timer. One such transporter this year pushed off a pickup for a couple guys to the point the clients tried to float their raft out to a pickup point. It ended with them losing all their gear, a sheep, nearly their lives, and a free ride by the Air Guard. May have been some stupidity on their part, but at the same time, they shouldn't have needed to make the choice. I The delays weren't due to weather.
Weather is one thing, but to screw them over like that is messed up! Once getting to shuyak island we were delayed both sides due to weather by 3 days, but that's the nature of flying out of Kodiak in the fall. I couldn't imagine being stuck on the island just because the pilot felt another paying customer was more important...
 

beginnerhunter

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My wife was able to make a rescue for me because we grew up in the area and was able to get friends of friends of friends to loan her pack stock, and she knows what she's doing with horses.

I've talked to at least a dozen outfitters about this, I did have one tell me he would do it for $1500 if he could get permission from the outfitter who had the permit for the area I was in, but the permit holder would not give him permission.
How far in were you? What kind of elevation change? Just curious what is considered difficult for an experienced person like yourself.
 

HSi-ESi

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One thing I learned is to be more mindful of my surroundings going in, and to make a 24-36 hour plan at the kill site. Meaning, looking spots that are shaded, cool, where I could stage meat. Also if you kill a bull on a open grassy slope or similar, instead of packing a first load all the way back, packing the entire animal a mile to a good spot where it will be ok for a while.

The only thing I did right last year was that I spent 3 hours and packed the entire bull to a shaded portion of a stream and hung the meat above the water in the shade before I walked out with a load.

This is great general advice. Field meat care is far and away #1. If the meat is warm a larger portion of your pack will have spoiled meat, you just might not know it.

You may not get back to the meat site for 14-24 hours, depending on distance. I've had to make my pack-out longer because of warm temps and the need to get the meat to a cool site - but I didn't lose any meat.

Great thread - it's a good lesson to learn on the interwebz and not the hard way.
 

WyoDoug

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Actually, in Wyoming as long as the carcass tag is attached, I can transport another person's carcass for them whether it be out of the field or to town for processing or process it myself which I actually do. It's in the game regs. That being said, as long as the carcass tag is attached, an outfitter can transport wild game carcasses on behalf of their clients. I have routinely done that with all of my hunting parties I have been in. In Colorado, where I was born and raised and hunted all my life, it's is the same rule. My and my dad routinely loaded on deer and antelope into the pickup and transported them all to the meat processing place. My did paid for and picked them all up in one big haul and then we divied up the meat. The licensee (hunter) must retain the license on his person until the meat is processed and in most states, I suggest keeping the license for a while until the meat is consumed in case there are questions raised. I left Colorado in 2008 and I doubt if that condition on transporting game carcasses and meat has changed.

Several conditions apply that you must follow especially CWD. You still must follow the rules put out by the state wildlife department on that. Moose has several test samples you collect in some states. And buffalo, you are wise to hire an outfit to pack it out for you or have a half dozen guys helping move the quarters, ribs and other meat.

I do not know what the transport rules are for other states so I will not comment on that, other than I bet the rules are probably similar.
 

PrairieHunter

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Great advice by the OP as I have witnessed guys having all kinds of problems, even on deer. Some people like to obsess over every pre shot detail down to optics, clothes, and guns but are not prepared to deal with challenges when there is a dead animal laying in front of them.

Easy to see what the outfitters are going to choose in a pinch. You are not a money maker, thus not a priority if they have paying clients to serve. The chances that they will be able to go get to your meat within 24 hours of when you get an animal down are probably pretty slim in most areas. Especially in a place like Colorado that has a few days for each season so they will likely be busy with clients all 7 days of the season. Places that have seasons like Montana are probably a much better chance of the outfitter having free stock during a 2 month season.

Once drones can carry a couple hundred pounds hunting and game retrieval is going to get a lot more interesting.

Once you get into the $1,000 range a helicopter is probably a better option, and much more reliable time wise than an outfitter. Depending on the location they may not be able to land but I suspect that could be done like helilogging dropping a line you attach to bags or the whole animal. I have a lot more faith in a helicopter pilot showing up on time than an outfitter. And they likely are not going to be busy that time of year.
 

wllm1313

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How far in were you? What kind of elevation change? Just curious what is considered difficult for an experienced person like yourself.
Essentially it was a trail that was flat for like 2 miles then had 1800ft of gain then 1000ft of loss to where I camped / hung the meat ~6 miles total. Then where I killed the bull was another .75 miles and 500 ft of elevation gain-ish.

This a WAG at timing:
I had 50lb of gear and 220lbs of boneless meat + skull= 270lbs
That's 4 loads at 67.5lbs or 3 trips at 90lbs, assuming I could walk in with an empty pack in 2.5 hrs and out with a 67.5lb pack in 3hrs and a 90lbs pack in 5 hours, that's 4 loads in 19.5 hours of pack time 42 miles total. With 90lbs it would be 20 hours of pack time and 30 miles total. I couldn't do more than a trip and a half in a day `20ish miles... so basically if I killed a bull friday morning and packed straight I likely wouldn't have had it out till Sunday evening. Had I not gotten help this would have been the plan, with most of the packing being done at night if possible to keep the meat in good condition as it was in mid September and hot.

Butchering solo on a hillside, including skinning the head and boning out the meat took me ~4hrs 30min. I'm not an expert by any means, but this was my 4th elk, the 6th I'd butchered and maybe my 15th animal I'd butchered in the backcountry... I felt like I moved pretty efficiently.
 
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wllm1313

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Once you get into the $1,000 range a helicopter is probably a better option, and much more reliable time wise than an outfitter. Depending on the location they may not be able to land but I suspect that could be done like helilogging dropping a line you attach to bags or the whole animal. I have a lot more faith in a helicopter pilot showing up on time than an outfitter. And they likely are not going to be busy that time of year.
You ain't wrong about that... I was in a wilderness area so it wasn't an option lol...

Also great point about the season structure. With 6ish seasons, guides are moving in and out clients every weekend, aside from maybe the second weekend of archery season and the gap weeks I doubt they have much downtime during the entire season.
 
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