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Idaho - Frank Church Wilderness of No Return


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Jun 2, 2004
I'm thinking about hunting in this area(units 20a,26,27). Does anyone have any experience hunting this area? How are the airtaxi services? How is the elk population? Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks
Originally posted by littleben:
I'm thinking about hunting in this area(units 20a,26,27). Does anyone have any experience hunting this area? How are the airtaxi services? How is the elk population? Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks
There are big bulls but it's hard ass Hunting and the Wolves have made it even harder! There are better units to hunt if you want a Trophy Bull. There is an air strip at Landmark or Chamberlin Basin, but you gotta have Horses and a good knowledge of the country to hunt that area, trust me!!!
Don't know, but welcome to Moosie's Hunt Talk.
27 is huge mooseman, the crags is just the very northern 1/8th of the unit.

Good luck Ben, its huge country, you just gotta find where the elk are hanging. You could probably walk all day in the wrong place and not see any fresh elk sign. If you got in the right spot though, you could be mauled and gored and stampeded with good bulls!

Looking forward to adding your elk report to Tbones moosie. Maybe us Montanny boys could rendevous with a few of you on a bull hunt down there! Rifle rut, big bulls tumbling all over the hills, what more could we ask for!?
I'm going to be hunting 27 this year... But for Sheep :D . I will be scouting for Future elk hunts though. Rumor has it there is a Few good ones in that Area. I thought 27 was the Crags though ? Isn't frank Church Higher ? (Shows you what I know... So I'll jsut welcome you aboard and tlet the Northern Idaho Boys take it from here :D )

Welcome to HuntTalk !!!
I have hunted the river of no return area since 1985. been there ten times, more or less. I have killed deer and elk on most trips in late season, did poorly in early season hunts. Typically the best hunt success has been opening weekend rut still on, or really late if the snow falls. It is not all steep. some is steeper. And the only places that are not straight up are straight down. But once you can get up on top, there is some beautiful, rolling meadow god-made-it-perfect elk country. between these oases are some mighty steep canyons. I once spotted a bull cross canyon. took two days to get there. As far as I know he is still alive, and next year he will be about right for harvest.

I plan on hiking 40 50 miles during each trip to get a bull. Carry-out on back is 5 miles each way. I am sure there are easier places nad better bulls, but the place I go has a little-known hot spring to soak in after a four day spike camp.

This year we are in November for the late deer hunt only. I do not expect to see huge animals, but then agian I never see more than one or two, and usually not any other hunters. Except the wolves. they have knocked down some of the animals the drought has not knocked down already.

If you go for elk, either fly in high: chamberlain basin or mile high or cold meadows, or plan on a 2,000 foot elevation hike up to the elk elevation. The air strips are about 4,000 to 4500 feet along the river bottom. the elk are seldom down that low during season. I am sure they have been seen, but not by me. ever. We plan on a day to spike up. then 3 days hunt, then down for food and a hot soak, then back up to a lower place for deer. If you get a nice bull, plan on 3 trips for a spike, 4 for a raghorn, and 5 for a big bull. thats a lot of hiking. There are also some access points from the edges, like loon creek, camas creek, big creek, but these are also all up hill to game lands.

How is that for a good news bad news report? I once again did not draw sheep in backcountry units. My record remains pure: no sheep tag anywhere, anytime.
jameister is right.
If you’re going to pursue the elusive Wapiti, better be prepared to cover ground. The farther you can get from the road the better. And be prepared to spend the nite out any time you leave the road.

Welcome To the Better Board

Water Wapiti
There are no elk in Frank Church.

Unless you plan on working hard for them.

While sheep hunting I saw a handful of 300 class bulls waaaaay back in there. There is no way in hell I'd pull the trigger on an elk back in there unless it was 375 class. A person would have to have a crew of packers to get it out without spoilage.

There are areas you could cover for days,without seeing a fresh track. Then little hotspots that stink with elk.

Killing a bull would be relatively easy giving you have a week or so to do it. Getting it out would take another 2 weeks.

This is my experience of one small area in Unit 27
There isn't any where in the lower 48 that I wouldn't pull the trigger on a large bull, well even small bulls and cows for that matter, the last one I drug out was a mile and a half to the truck, the one befor that was two and a half miles, I had help from Doug and his friends on those two and they were cows. The one before that was six and a half miles back and I packed that small bull out half at a time.... I would probably draw the line on some thing that took more than a full day to walk out with a load. Then just take 2-5 loads and walk it out. I am currently looking at some ground that is about 4-5 miles away from the truck as the crow flies. It looks like some good bowls they may hide in and it is plenty far enough back to keep all but a few horse men out of the area.. :D
Russ.. This makes for a good topic I hope. You say there is nowhere you wouldn't pull the trigger in the lower 48 on an elk. Now my question is this. Everybody has to know there limitations.I am planning my first elk hunt"if drawn" and will be hunting with one other hunter. Daypacks with the the option of a spike camp out if we feel we can get into some better animals. Now question is, what would you limit your range to? I know the farther you go in the farther you have to pack and alot of variables play into the situation also. Weather, size of animal, ruggedness of terrain. Just trying to get some ideas to have in the back of my head if the time comes to pull the trigger. We also owe it to the animal to get it out without spoiling and waste so care after pulling the trigger has to play into the taking also.
:D We are both in fit condition so that is not the problem . Just would like to get some feedback from people that have been there before and any tips that come in handy for a two man pack team. :D
That is hilarious that ElkCheese boasts that there is nowhere in the lower 48 that he wouldn't shoot an Elk, and proves it by bragging about shooting cows within a couple of miles of the road. :rolleyes:


A lot of it depends on the country you are in, as to what is reasonable. There are a ton of factors to consider as to what YOUR personal limits should be. If you are Archery hunting in September, you have a race against time to get the animal out before spoiling. If you are hunting in November, then time is not a problem, as most of Idaho is perfect for "aging" in that month.

I think you posted that you were hunting the Clearwater, and lots of that has been logged and is now gated. Glassing old clear cuts is effective, and if you drop something, you can haul it out pretty easy on a pack frame via the old roads. And the Clearwater doesn't have the extreme terrain that the Middle Fork drainage that ElkCheese was dismissing.

You and your pack buddy need to be realistic, and know your limits. I know some guys who like to carry heavier loads than I like to, but I prefer making more trips. I would rather see an Elk go out in 4 loads than in 2, as I am paranoid about blowing my knees or breaking an ankle in the back country. But some guys like to try and get it all out in one trip.

Sometimes 1 mile is an impossible pack, sometimes 5 miles is easy. The places T-Bone was alluding to are difficult from the Terrain, the Vertical nature, the length, etc.. etc..

Again, it depends a lot on the local situation. If you can, you are always better off to spend time butchering it on the Mountain, and not haul out extra bones and fat. But the trade-off is you can spend hours prepping the Elk for packing.

For the most part now, we are hunting with Pack frames, with the expectation that a couple of quarters go out the first day to camp, and the rest of the Elk the next day. Once YOU drop an Elk, your buddies no longer are hunting for THEIR elk, as they are busy helping you. Therefore, you need to agree as to what Elk is big enough to interrupt the other guy's hunts.

We hunt two different areas. In the Odd years, we all agree not to shoot anything smaller than a 6x6, except for one guy, who is allowed to shoot spikes.
In the Even years, nobody will shoot anything other than a HUGE 6x6, unless it is the last day, and then we will take a smaller 6x6. But nobody shoots spikes or raghorns. It is because we know how much work it is to get a Bull out, and we know what kind of Bulls are available in the areas.

But don't listen to people who will tell you there is no where in the lower 48 they wouldn't shoot an Elk, as they obviously haven't been to much of the Lower 48, or at least to some of the places in My Own Private Idaho. ;)
I go with a line bag cross country for a week or so at a time. I have been working on learning edible plants and any thing that is edible is on the list to eat...Including bugs... I have went to the point that I stay away from most all of the fancy gadgets, they only take up space for more important things, I do take a compass, GPS, and now a cell phone, but the rest is really pretty simple equipment. I also make Pemican, it has every thing that you need to keep going for months with out any other types of nurishment. I can tell you of a couple few plants that you can use quite redily and they are pretty prevelent every where you go. The bugs are up to you if your interested... :D
Keep me informed or e-mail me and I will give you what I can..
EG.. Thanks man that is some good food for the brain to think about when the time comes. We're looking at Unit 49& 50 and from the topos it looks like some Fuggin rugged stuff :eek: Looking forward to it :D Russ.. As far as the bugs and plants, I'm more of a meat and potatos kind of guy with some bacon and eggs for breakfast ;) :D I do appreciate the menu though and will save it forwhen I am in the survival mode ;) Do like the idea and appreciate your style in going light. That really shows some dedication and self disipline.
:cool: Thanks for the input from both of you. :cool:

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