Help with a first time elk hunt

peeenl

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Hello everyone,

I've been hoping to go on an elk hunt seriously for about 5 years now, but have always been hoping one of my hunting buddies could go with me for my first big hunt like this. I'm in the Army though, and between moves and deployments, they can never really get on schedule with me. I'm to the point that I am starting to seriously think about just packing up and going on my own.

I watch Fresh Tracks, and I've read Randy's article on the $1000 dollar elk hunt, and it motivates me; but I get a little daunted about it. The part he just skimmed over is the most intimidating part for me; how do you pick an actual tag/location.

To make it better and more complicated; I discussed it with my wife, and she supports me going this year. She would like to tag along with our young 3 year old son for the trip. They would want a location I can work out of that gives them a little entertainment, like a nice camping area with some different activities.

I'm in Missouri right now, so Colorado seems to be my best bet. I've never registered for points, so I can only do something over the counter or left over; but I have no idea how to pick. I would be willing to hunt rifle, muzzleloader or archery, but it is my first elk hunt; and I'm not confident I can get super close to one. Add on trying to get a location that I can get in relatively easily, but have the family supported; and I'm just lost.

Any advice? I've seen the hunt planner phone number on the Colorado website. Is that a good way to go, or am I better off figuring it out myself.

I've also got weapon/ammo, binoculars, range finder, clothes, and an army issue ruck sack. Any other must haves?
 

esracerx

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If you've never hunted elk, their is a learning curve. I'm from the Midwest and almost exclusively hunted whitetails with a lone moose hunt when I was 18. My first elk hunt I was 21 and have lucked out in the New Mexico draw every year since. This animal is by far one of the most fun animals to hunt. I only bow hunt, and for me it just makes your heart pump that much harder.

Elk country almost always is some of the prettiest around. Especially in the Rockies. Not to mention physically demanding. Theres been mornings where I've hiked 6 miles above 9000 Ft before 8:30.

I can only speak for New Mexico as that's all I've hunted. In my opinion, an atv is a must. Even if you don't use it. We set up camp and sleep in a canvas tent. I made my own atv trailer that has a 65 gallon water tank hooked up to a 12 volt pump that goes into a portable on demand water heater. It's excessive but the first archery season last year was 15 days long. I wasn't going into town, a hot shower in the middle of nowhere is a nice thing. Anyway, in new Mexico they have 2 tiers of tags. For non resident the high demand tag is 785 I believe. Some years the same season won't be considered hd and is in the upper 500s for non resident. I have heard bad things about Colorado OTC tags, but have no first hand experience. Out in NM they have forest roads aplenty. 95% are food enough to drive a truck on. If your wife and kid want to tag along they can take the atv and enjoy the scenery. Also in a lot of units theirs lakes to fish at too. From personal experience I suggest a canvas tent. Cabelas has some nice ones reasonably priced with a floor.

Now, as far as where. Ask 10 guys you'll get at least 5 answers. 34 in new Mexico is apparently legendary. But odds of getting it are very low. Less than 5%. Fwiw, guys that are applying solo rather than group have much better odds of winning the lottery. I'd figure out what state you want. If you want Colorado because its OTC that's fine. But study up on harvest reports and draw odds regardless of state. Once you settle on a unit get some good maps. Mytopo has some great unit maps, also I suggest a good GPS with an sd card that has all the public/private boundaries. You want to look for north facing slopes. If you have multiple north south slopes or fingers, circle it and look for water around it. Smaller tanks I've had more success at. Especially unmarked ones, or ones you can't see from a road. Another thing Ive done is hit up the locals. Gas station, sporting goods, Walmart... carry a map, lots of times they can give you some excellent advice.

Archery without help is difficult. But I wouldn't do it any other way. The interaction you can have with an animal that smart is absolutely unreal. It took me until my 5th trip to get one. But I'm hooked. A successful hunt for me isn't whether I came away with meat. If you camp out in the middle of nowhere and you're not hearing animals bugle at night, I'd move. Drive around at 2am shut the truck off for 20 minutes and listen.
 

HighDesertSage

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I can try and help you out. Being your first trip out west I would try and up your odds and go with buying a leftover cow tag for 2nd or 3rd rifle. If you can afford a bull and a cow tag great, but if you're on a budget, and can only afford one, I think you have a better shot of filling a cow tag. If you have two weeks to come out, you can get a 2nd and 3rd rifle cow tag, or get a bull for one of those seasons. It all depends on how much time you have and what you can spend. There are plenty of leftovers for the White River units (12, 23, 24) and Grand Mesa units (41, 42, 421). First thing that concerns me is bringing along the 3 year old and wife. That's great that they want to come, but if they get bored, cold, or miserable your hunt will come to an end fast. CO elk country in rifle season can be very cold. I do not recommend trying to camp with a 3 year old unless you have an RV. Wall tents are good if the child doesn't bother the stove. If you can swing a town hunt with a hotel or get a cabin that would definitely help keep everyone warm and happy, but it may not help with the boredom thing. You can effectively day hunt elk from Montrose, Collbran/Mesa, Rifle/New Castle, Meeker, Craig, Steamboat, Yampa, Carbondale, or Gunnison. If you are going to book something I would get on that now. Hotels/lodges/cabins book up fast during rifle season. Archery can be good, but you may have to pack in to get to the elk at higher locations. Good boots are a must, followed second by a good pack. Use this website to help you locate some elk to hunt: http://ndismaps.nrel.colostate.edu/index.html?app=HuntingAtlas
If you plan on hunting/walking all day and getting off the roads I think you would do pretty well in those areas. I hope you make it out this season. Good luck and let me know if I can help any other way.
 
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esracerx

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Agreed on the kid. Finding something to do won't be an issue. Combatting the elements will. I have Sept 15-24 archery hunt in northern new Mexico and I fully expect temperatures, actually hoping temps are in the 30s at night. By 11 they may bein the 80s. Always found it difficult to figure out how to dress.

I'm sure you'll get some sage advice on where to go if your dead set on going this year in Colorado. I drew my tags in April/may to a unit I've been to before. I've been planning this and studying maps and weather for months. Preparation equals success. It's late in the game to be thinking about hunting an animal you've never hunted in an area you've never been. At least in my opinion. I'd probably wait til next year. I'd be more than happy to answer any questions you have on the actual hunt itself. Can't be much help on Colorado however.
 

jryoung

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Good advice here so far. One thing that helped me when I made the decision to go out of state was to just pick a unit and go for it. There are many things to consider, but don't get caught up in paralysis by analysis. You're better off picking a unit, and spending your energy picking it apart. Leverage the info CPW has, call the bio, and try an find some other anecdotal info on the interwebs.
 

JohnCushman

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I you do choose Colorado, on the DPW site there is an excellent series called elk hunting university which will give you some pointers and basic information. http://cpw.state.co.us/learn/Pages/EHU.aspx

The DPW also has a telephone number you can call with questions about hunting areas and migrations and general hunting questions. It is called Hunt Planners 303-291-PLAN

If it make you feel any better, this will be my 7th year tying to get an elk with my bow...I still haven't gotten one, but I learn more and get closer each year. I have shot 1 cow with my rifle a few years ago. Some of the issue has been holding out for a bull, but this year anything is fair game...I'm done playing around :D
 

BR-549

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Good advice here so far. One thing that helped me when I made the decision to go out of state was to just pick a unit and go for it. There are many things to consider, but don't get caught up in paralysis by analysis. You're better off picking a unit, and spending your energy picking it apart. Leverage the info CPW has, call the bio, and try an find some other anecdotal info on the interwebs.

+1

It is a daunting task your first year especially. Each year things make a little more sense and you learn from mistakes or misfortunes from the previous years.
Get on the phone and don't be afraid to ask questions. You will be surprised at the willingness to help.

The units ishootdasmallones mentioned are all good places to start. You should have no problem finding elk in any of them. And like John said read the Elk Hunting University. A lot of good information there.

Lastly, IMO I would leave the wife and child home the first year. Find a friend who might want to tag along for the adventure. Just seems like taking the family would be cumbersome until you are able to develop some skills in elk country.

Good luck to you!
 

sbhooper

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There are lots of opportunities to hunt elk from New Mexico through Montana. You have to do your homework and make your own decision. Once you pick a spot, do your homework with Game and Fish, Google Earth etc., then start asking some questions on here and you will get more info than you can digest-good and bad!.

Read all you can about gear, camp grounds in the area, weather roads etc. Elk hunting is a process more than a grab-and-go. Once you go, you will want to go every year, though.

I would suggest forgetting about a bull for awhile until you get some hunting under your belt. Cow tags are easily available and far less expensive. The hunt is the same, but you don't have antlers to haul out. They taste like crap anyway!

Welcome to the forum.
 

JohnCushman

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Lastly, IMO I would leave the wife and child home the first year. Find a friend who might want to tag along for the adventure. Just seems like taking the family would be cumbersome until you are able to develop some skills in elk country.

I respectfully disagree. Taking your wife and kids hunting and camping is an experience they will never forget and it forms bonds that many families will never have. It will unplug the kids from Xbox's and TV and let them unwind and unplug. Your wife and kids can go fishing or hiking or play in streams or forage for mushrooms and berries while you are out hunting for the day. You can come back to camp each night to your family and tell them all about your day and show them pictures from what you saw during the day. Plus, if you are successful, there would be nothing like the welcoming arms of your wife and kids with hugs and 'good job' to come back to. Even if you make the trip and are unsuccessful, you still had a trip with your family and shared experiences that most families never will, so that in itself is a success, in my opinion. The last Hunt Talk bear hunt Ryan brought his 2 year old son and he was the life of the camp. He didn't impede their ability to hunt, or stop them from enjoying the camp fire at night or change anything about the experience.

I also agree about starting out with cow tags.

Another idea to think about for a first 'Western' hunt would be for antelope. They are plentiful, tags are easy to get, and if you blow a stalk, just go down the road a bit and you'll more than likely find another herd. My first hunt when I moved out west was antelope and now I hunt them in multiple states...they are addicting and the meat is amazing!!
 
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BR-549

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I respectfully disagree. Taking your wife and kids hunting and camping is an experience they will never forget and it forms bonds that many families will never have. It will unplug the kids from Xbox's and TV and let them unwind and unplug. You wife and kids can go fishing or hiking or play in streams or forage for mushrooms and berries while you are out hunting for the day. You can come back to camp each night to your family and tell them all about your day and show them pictures from what you saw during the day. Plus, if you are successful, there would be nothing like the welcoming arms of your wife and kids with hugs and 'good job' to come back to. Even if you make the trip and are unsuccessful, you still had a trip with your family and shared experiences that most families never will, so that in itself is a success, in my opinion.

I also agree about starting out with cow tags.

Another idea to think about for a first 'Western' hunt would be for antelope. They are plentiful, tags are easy to get, and if you blow a stalk, just go down the road a bit and you'll more than likely find another herd. My first hunt when I moved out west was antelope and now I hunt them in multiple states...they are addicting and the meat is amazing!!


Yeah, I am all about time with my family too, but not for my first elk hunt. Once I have a grip on it and know what to expect then absolutely.
My point was that there is a lot to learn including where the berries and trout streams are. But if he can manage it then more power to him.... I hope it works out that way. :)
 
M

MN Public Hunter

Guest
Hello everyone,

I've been hoping to go on an elk hunt seriously for about 5 years now, but have always been hoping one of my hunting buddies could go with me for my first big hunt like this. I'm in the Army though, and between moves and deployments, they can never really get on schedule with me. I'm to the point that I am starting to seriously think about just packing up and going on my own.

I watch Fresh Tracks, and I've read Randy's article on the $1000 dollar elk hunt, and it motivates me; but I get a little daunted about it. The part he just skimmed over is the most intimidating part for me; how do you pick an actual tag/location.

To make it better and more complicated; I discussed it with my wife, and she supports me going this year. She would like to tag along with our young 3 year old son for the trip. They would want a location I can work out of that gives them a little entertainment, like a nice camping area with some different activities.

I'm in Missouri right now, so Colorado seems to be my best bet. I've never registered for points, so I can only do something over the counter or left over; but I have no idea how to pick. I would be willing to hunt rifle, muzzleloader or archery, but it is my first elk hunt; and I'm not confident I can get super close to one. Add on trying to get a location that I can get in relatively easily, but have the family supported; and I'm just lost.

Any advice? I've seen the hunt planner phone number on the Colorado website. Is that a good way to go, or am I better off figuring it out myself.

I've also got weapon/ammo, binoculars, range finder, clothes, and an army issue ruck sack. Any other must haves?

You are in the same boat I'm in, no one to hunt with for elk. I myself refuse to hunt elk alone as it's too much work for just one person IMO and unsafe, hence I may never elk hunt. I keep researching though :)

As for $1000 elk hunt, good luck...I spent $1200-1500 just hunting lopes in WY. If you read the $1000 elk hunt again, I believe it talks about sharing the cost with like 3 other people, hence $1000. The tag alone is $626 in CO for bull elk and $471 for a cow, that includes the $10 habitat stamp. Gas for you will be $300+, I did Pulaski to Aspen CO. and used 2000 miles @ 2.75 a gallon and 18 miles a gallon. So right there, 471+300 = $771. Bull elk and you are @ $926.

Another must have I'm told is a good pack, so that will set you back $500-600 if you don't have one. Sure you can just get by with something else and I cringed at the thought of paying that kind of money for a back pack, but I'm now believing it's needed. I would not consider this part of the cost to hunt just elk though, it's a cost to hunt out west in general.

Good luck if you go and have fun. Lot of stuff to read on HT and make sure to call the game and fish for info as well.
 

TRS_Montana

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I love taking the fam hunting, but I also recognize that I have to be more flexible in what I see as realistic goals. I think it is a great idea to go with your wife and kid! I also think that you should focus more on having a fun experience that you got to share with your family than shooting an elk. Honestly, it took me (and a number of people I have talked to) years to develop the skills necessary to even start seeing elk on a regular basis. And usually, though not always, getting into elk regularly takes a lot of hard work and mental/physical conditioning that is rarely on the list of "wants" for a 3-year old. If I were you, I would find a spot to camp next to a nice fishing creek and go in September or October when it isn't too cold.
 

sbhooper

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You are in the same boat I'm in, no one to hunt with for elk. I myself refuse to hunt elk alone as it's too much work for just one person IMO and unsafe, hence I may never elk hunt. I keep researching though :)

As for $1000 elk hunt, good luck...I spent $1200-1500 just hunting lopes in WY. If you read the $1000 elk hunt again, I believe it talks about sharing the cost with like 3 other people, hence $1000. The tag alone is $626 in CO for bull elk and $471 for a cow, that includes the $10 habitat stamp. Gas for you will be $300+, I did Pulaski to Aspen CO. and used 2000 miles @ 2.75 a gallon and 18 miles a gallon. So right there, 471+300 = $771. Bull elk and you are @ $926.

Another must have I'm told is a good pack, so that will set you back $500-600 if you don't have one. Sure you can just get by with something else and I cringed at the thought of paying that kind of money for a back pack, but I'm now believing it's needed. I would not consider this part of the cost to hunt just elk though, it's a cost to hunt out west in general.

Good luck if you go and have fun. Lot of stuff to read on HT and make sure to call the game and fish for info as well.

You do not need a real expensive pack. I have hauled hundreds of pounds of elk and deer meat in a Cabela's Alaskan pack. It has suited me well, is very sturdy and not very expensive-all considered. I retired my first one after it hauled at least 1200 pounds of meat. I have two more, one of which is loaded for training purposes and the other has hauled several hundred pounds of meat. Like anything else, if you want the Cadillac version, then the sky is the limit.

.
 

RobG

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You do not need a real expensive pack. I have hauled hundreds of pounds of elk and deer meat in a Cabela's Alaskan pack. It has suited me well, is very sturdy and not very expensive-all considered. I retired my first one after it hauled at least 1200 pounds of meat. I have two more, one of which is loaded for training purposes and the other has hauled several hundred pounds of meat. Like anything else, if you want the Cadillac version, then the sky is the limit.

.
I was going to say the same thing, assuming you can find one that fits. I have a 25 year old frame pack I use to haul out meat. Limit your loads to 50 pounds and pack it properly and it works fine.
 

texrope

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I agree that it is great to take family. But, if they are not prepared, it can be a real pain. Areas mentioned in Colo from 2nd season, even 1st, on can be very unpredictable. Have been there when we had to leave early due to heavy snow in order to make it out & not get stranded for longer period of time than planned. Cold weather can set in. It can also be tee shirt weather. You have to be ready for all that comes your way. It can & has been way below zero in Sept, Oct & on during season. As others have mentioned, with the wife & kid can do can be lots of fun or a nightmare. I now take my wife on many of my hunts & see manages just fine, probably better than I can anymore. Good luck with your decision & have fun.
 

esracerx

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In the past I've been able to hook a block and tackle up to a tree and use the winch from a ranger to take out an animal whole. You can find surplus pack frames on ebay for like 25 bucks. They function just fine. Mine now is 149 from Cabelas.

Another idea if your on the fence about going is to go there. Dont worry about hunting. Just go there, learn the animal and the area. See how close you can get, practice calling. Learn when to move in and how to play the wind. One thing I havent seen mentioned is windcheckers. I keep 2 with at all times. These animals are not white tails. From experience, I have no problem leaving my bow in camp and guiding for someone. Its just as fun. If money is an issue thats a way of saving a couple hundred.
 
M

MN Public Hunter

Guest
You do not need a real expensive pack. I have hauled hundreds of pounds of elk and deer meat in a Cabela's Alaskan pack. It has suited me well, is very sturdy and not very expensive-all considered. I retired my first one after it hauled at least 1200 pounds of meat. I have two more, one of which is loaded for training purposes and the other has hauled several hundred pounds of meat. Like anything else, if you want the Cadillac version, then the sky is the limit.

.

yeah, I guess you can go on the cheap and get a less expensive pack, if you can get one that fits properly. I guess I have been drinking the Mystery Ranch/Kuiu kool-aid :)
 

peeenl

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Aug 16, 2015
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That's a lot of advice. I'll have to digest it a little bit. I'm not really planning on just walking in and walking out with an animal (cow or bull) on my first try. I've known other people that it always seemed to work out like that for; but it hasn't been me yet. I would also hate to have a great opportunity, and no tag to go with it. A lot of the point for me is to get the experience necessary to be successful in the future. I don't want the first time to be the last time, and feel like I do right now about having no clue.

My first instinct on the family was not to take them, but if they're willing; I might be able to plan something fun out for them. I'll probably give the hunt planners a call and see what happens.

But like I say to my soldiers sometimes, "Whatever I need to tell you for you to make progress; imagine it was said, and make progress." Perhaps I'll take my own advice.
 

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