First Elk hunt advice
I am looking to go on my first elk hunt and actually it would be my first western hunt. I am a whitetail hunter from Wisconsin. I am shooting for 2015 and would likely be taking a rifle although I have not ruled out my bow yet. The main reason for the gun is to up the odds a little but hunting the rut and hearing the bugling would be awesome. But I prefer bow hunting. Do to my inexperience with that kind of terrain and western style hunting I am considering an outfitter. Scouting would be tough because of the distance.
I was considering Wyoming but am concerned about the wolf and grizzly predation on the herd. I have read that in spots the wolves have had a tremendous impact on the herd. Colorado is another state I am looking at.
Any advice on another state or a good outfitter in the states I mentioned would be greatly appreciated. It doesn't have to be a pack-in wilderness trip.
get in shape, idaho is one to look at, possibly start putting in for the draw but i know guys that get it done very year over the counter public land. and yes wolves have impacted it but hey, buy a wolf tag!
You can still buy a point for Wyoming until the end of the month. I'd start with getting that done, not sure on some of the other states.
Then the get in shape part can't be overstated. I'm headed to Wyoming late October for an elk hunt. I've been putting in about 3.4 miles through the steepest hills around with my pack loaded heavy since mid August. I try to go every day I can but make it a priority to get in at least 4 days per week. I'm also doing squats and lunges on the off days to strengthen my legs. Today I ran for the first time, put in 2 miles to switch things up and push my body in a different way but I need to go further. Some of the books I read say you need to have your heart rate up to your exercise level for at least 30 minutes 4 days per week to improve fitness, so I need to add distance to get that time in. A typical day of elk hunting will entail 10-15 miles of hiking over rougher terrain than I can practice on at around 7000ft more elevation than I'm used to. It seems no matter what I do at home I can't get in good enough shape for that country, it would be a full-time job. That's where desire to hunt and drive to keep going need to make up the difference, mental toughness has to fill in the gap between physical fitness and physical activity.
A good rangefinder that calculates angles and gives a true ballistic range is something I'd not go to the mountains without. I currently have a Leupold RX1V that works well, but want to upgrade to a new Leica with the angle compensation. Bullets are only affected by gravity over horizontal distance so the angle compensation is important. Good optics are also really important. I'd recommend saving your money and only buying once rather than buying cheaper stuff to get by and then upgrading. I spent to much doing it the other way. If you have decent 8x or 10x binos use them until you can afford one of the top end models from Vortex, Leica, Swarovski, or Zeiss. These can be picked up from SWFA or Cameraland as demos or used sometimes to save money especially with time to shop. My Zeiss Victory 10x42's are the best piece of gear I've bought in years. If you use an outfitter he will likely have a spotter so I'd start with the binos. Good boots, great socks, a good pack, and good (non-cotton) layering clothing sure make a hunt more enjoyable also. I either cooked while walking or froze while sitting my first hunt, I had way to many clothes on and soaked them with sweat on the way in. The Russel, Core 4 element, and Sitka stuff are all good especially if you can find them on camofire or a close-out sale so they don't break the bank. You don't have to buy everything the first year, just get what you can afford and it will accumulate and fill out over time. Every hunt you will find things you wish you had and things that aren't worth packing.
Shooting practice at longer distances is important too. I like to shoot a good controlled expansion bullet like the Nosler accubond and shoot lots of rounds in practice. I set up a range where I can shoot to 600yds on a 10" steel gong from field positions. I've taken 2 bulls between 400 and 500yds with no good way to get closer, but plenty of time to get prone and take a good shot. For times when I can't get prone I'm a real big fan of the Stoney Point rapid pivot bipods, especially the sitting/kneeling model that allows me to get up to 40" off the ground for vegetation. The quick-detach feature is great also, it can stay in the pack until it's needed.
Going with an outfitter is a good plan for your first hunt. It eliminates problems that can arise as they know the country, know where the herds are, know the best way to get a bull packed out of some deep nasty canyon, etc. I hunt with a retired outfitter I became friends with years ago and the biggest advantage is his network of friends. He has a group that will tell him where and when they see a good bull in his unit, and he does the same for them. This information can sometimes pay off big, other times you just have to go in and find them.
Last I guess I'd say take time to appreciate the country while you are there. Even on an unsuccessful hunt there is accomplishment in making it to the top of a ridge you put maximum effort into climbing. The view from the top of the world into some truly breathtaking country is there to greet you making it worth all the pain.
mcseal2 has some great advice. Buy points for Wyoming, The 2013 random draw for a General tag had 564 tags with 2715 applicants (Not Great Odds). Applicants with 1 point had an 80% chance to draw a General Season Elk Tag. You can also go for the Special Tag with will cost you I believe an extra $400 or so. I think most people will agree that if you prepare and hunt hard you can tag a respectable bull in most of the Wyoming General season areas but Hunting is Hunting.
You could buy a point and still buy a cow tag somewhere. That might get you acclimated to Elk hunting as well.
What caliber rifle do you shoot? What area were you thinking about going to hunt?
That's a good idea. Gain a point, see what elk hunting is about, possibly put some meat in the freezer and learn the area before you have a bull tag. I am doing something similar this year.
Originally Posted by mattdeere
Thanks mcseal. That is good stuff. Ever hunted or have any thoughts on Colorado?
I am getting the preference point in Wyoming for sure. Even if I choose to hunt somewhere else for this first hunt. I am purchasing a new bolt action rifle for this hunt. After reading several forums and internet research I almost hate to say the caliber because it seems to be so divided on that front but I am a accuracy over magnum guy. So I believe it will be a 7mm-08 but am considering a 270 also. I guess because I got the shit kicked out of me by guns that were to big for me when I was younger.
I DO realize that I may have to pass on some elk at distance but I am fine with that.
I have looked at a couple outfitters in the Bridge Teton National Forest area.
Any thoughts on an erea o a good outfitter.
You could buy a point for colorado in 2014 and probably draw a decent elk tag in 2015 for 1st rifle season. It is an earlier rifle season with no overlapping deer season (elk hunters only). Also, several of the 1st rifle season tags are either-sex so you can shoot a cow if you dont have an opportunity on a bull. Colorado also has a muzzleloader season too.
Nothing wrong with Wyoming, just another option to consider.
Your best bet is to pick your state and get in the points game. Advantage to Wyo over Co is that you could buy your point this year and next going into 2015 draw with 2PPs, as Co you will only be able to get 1 next year going into 2015 with 1PP. Points give you more options and are the best starting point, you have time to decide if you are willing to take the bow or rifle. Being in shape is critical, but if you are already fit and active, you don't need a ultra-marathon training regiment to prepare you for elk hunting. Just be honest with your abilities and expectations, and train accordingly. Mental toughness is a very important side of elk hunting that sends many hunters home early. I do very little to train for my elk hunts, but my job keeps me in good shape year round and when I get to the mountains I can still hike all day for as many days as needed.