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View Full Version : Beginner's Guide to Public Land Elk Hunting?


bclark1
October 13, 2009, 01:51 PM
Well, I'm sure it's an age-old topic, but I couldn't find anything comprehensive.

I've got 5 years, all successful, of whitetail hunting behind me now. Self-taught in my 20s, and I don't really have anyone to teach me more or that I can travel with to learn the ropes. I'm basically the one imparting what little I know on my friends who also want to hunt but never had many opportunities.

Because work has been so slow, I have a ton of free time to hunt this fall. Only problem is the money's not really available, but I figured I could use the time to learn more about different hunting opportunities.

I've always wanted to get out west and do a hike-in elk hunt on some big public land. I know a number of friends who share the desire as well. I was thinking about trying to get a group together one of these seasons. So where do I start?

I read the usual hunting and gun rags, read the Internet, read some books. With a little field practice, I imagine I could discern elk sign, food, etc. as well as I can with deer at least. The technique I imagine we'd be using on public land would be a spot and stalk. From an actual hunting behavior perspective, I can certainly use any advise.

However, my biggest questions are more in the logistics, which don't seem to come up a lot in the published work. For example:
-How much time needs to be set aside for a reasonable probability of success? From whitetail hunting I know there is no good answer to this question - however, I can swing a long weekend in the deer woods without feeling like I wasted time. Do you need considerably more time for elk?
-Where is it easiest to get tags? Where is it easiest for a group to all get tags? Where are tags least and most expensive? Either-sex or cow only?
-Is it possible to succeed without scouting if we only get one shot to travel to the area annually?
-How are the equipment requirements different than on local hunts? My sense is that a proper base camp requires considerably more than a couple 2-man tents. Can this be done on a budget?
-How far can you get on foot? Is it necessary to have something between a truck and your boots?

I'm sure there's other stuff I'm forgetting, but my bottom line: Success isn't vital - I think my friends and I would really enjoy the experience either way - but is the trip possible for beginners on the cheap, or would we just be overcomplicating a camping trip?

kplender
October 13, 2009, 04:44 PM
My elk hunting has been limited to Colorado only, so here is what I know about hunting in Colorado:


-How much time needs to be set aside for a reasonable probability of success? From whitetail hunting I know there is no good answer to this question - however, I can swing a long weekend in the deer woods without feeling like I wasted time. Do you need considerably more time for elk?

I don't believe you need more time to be successful hunting elk over deer. However, the more time you have to properly scout and get to know the area you are hunting and the local elk population, the better the odds are to be successful. Can you be successful hunting a long weekend, definitely yes (with a little skill, which appears you have, and a little luck).

-Where is it easiest to get tags? Where is it easiest for a group to all get tags? Where are tags least and most expensive? Either-sex or cow only?

In Colorado you can get bull tags for any of the 3 combined rifle seasons. I believe out of state tags are running about $350.00? I have never bought out of state tags, so I'm not entirely sure, but that figure is in the ballpark. Since bull tags for any of the combined season are not "draw" tags, you can get them for everyone in your group (keep in mind that certain "areas" do have restrictions, but generally the tags are available to anyone in most "areas" of public hunting lands in Colorado). Cow tags are typically draw only and you have to apply in the spring.

-Is it possible to succeed without scouting if we only get one shot to travel to the area annually?

Yes.

-How are the equipment requirements different than on local hunts? My sense is that a proper base camp requires considerably more than a couple 2-man tents. Can this be done on a budget?

A proper base camp is more than adequate if you have the equipment to camp in 70 degree sunshine, or 30 degree below zero white out blizzard, (which can happen in the same weekend, here in Colorado). Yes, this can be done on a budget. When I was younger and was a starving student, we were able to do our long weekend hunts for less than $100.00 or so (of course in state tags were only $35.00 and we didn't have to drive more than an hour or two).

-How far can you get on foot? Is it necessary to have something between a truck and your boots?

How far you can get on foot all depends on your physical shape. Depending on where you are hunting, you could be at 6000 feet of elevation, or as high as 9000 to 10000 feet of elevation (but more than likely somewhere closer to 6000 to 8000 feet). Hiking at 10000 feet is a whole different ballgame than hiking at 6000 feet. Of course if you are coming from sea level, or close to it, just coming to Denver can be taxing (5280 feet, a mile high). But again, if you are in decent shape, you should be able to cover at least 5 miles a day or so, and that wouldn't really be all that necessary as you can typically camp within a mile or less of where you want to hunt. No, you do not need anything other than a truck and your boots to hunt Colorado. Keep in mind, once you drop an elk, and you realize you are a mile back in the wilderness, then the real work starts, getting it out.

Tomas204
October 13, 2009, 08:59 PM
Well I live in a rich area with Elk I live in Oregon if your going to travel go to a state with lots of Elk ,and where you have talked to a BIO they will tell ya start buying points so You can hunt in a good place JMHO if ya have more questions PM me no problem

JD 500
October 13, 2009, 09:20 PM
Colorado Division of Wildlife Website has some info , I imagine other states do as well.

http://wildlife.state.co.us/Hunting/BigGame/SuggestedHuntingAreas/

tumbleweed2
October 13, 2009, 09:40 PM
My website...http://www.tumbleweed-camping-shooting.com/...has much information on hunting in Western Colorado and what to expect when elk hunting. My info links page has many links that could be of interest to you even if you don't hunt Colorado. I hope this helps and good luck...Howard

cornbush
October 14, 2009, 06:33 PM
Unit 78 in southeastern Idaho is a good spot. Over the counter tags, almost all forest service land, good roads and alot of area to hike with no roads. There are alot of elk, but you will have to work a little to find em, once you find em, take your pick. My personal favorites are Bloomington canyon, St. Charles canyon and Paris canyon. You can choose between a cow tag or a bull tag, archery is either sex on one of the tags. The locals are really nice people too, not much of the "your one of those out of staters huh".

oneounceload
October 14, 2009, 07:16 PM
You need to allow a few days to get used to the higher altitude to avoid altitude sickness

If you're not using horses, you should know how to bone an elk and be prepared to haul it out. SURVIVAL is the primary concern - you're going to get into areas where you don't walk a half mile to a house for help - you might walk a half day to get to jeep trail to walk another half day where you might find someone - you need to be able to survive snow, blizzards, heat, etc......

I lived in ND, CO and NV, have hunted at altitudes over 9,000 feet. It's tough, challenging, rewarding......but it can be deadly very quickly if you're not prepared

bclark1
October 14, 2009, 09:08 PM
Thanks much - quite useful. Sounds like deer hunting on steroids, which is sort of what I'd hoped. Nothing too foreign or unattainable.

Sounds like altitude would be a big concern. While I think the crew I'd be talking to is in pretty solid shape, none of us have spent much of life above 1,000 feet. General cardio work is obvious, but I'll have to look into how to prepare for thin air.

Good to hear where over-the-counter is available. This is a concern of mine in terms of not being sure the availability of my friends and such, it's helpful to know where some flexibility is available in terms of tag access.

I also appreciate the areas in terms of specific suggestions. Some people are incredibly protective of telling even generally where they hunt. Glad to hear at least a few general suggestions.

I'll start checking out specific DNR websites once I narrow down to a state or two. Seemed daunting to be reading into a half-dozen or so at once, wanted to see if I could focus on a state or two that is particularly simple for nonresident beginners first.

tumbleweed, tried to click your link but it gave me "no such URL" as the address was truncated by the forum software. However, site looks good - I'll poke around, but not sure what specifically you were directing me too.

Thanks all!