View Full Version : Self guide/drop camps?

May 13, 2001, 10:22 PM
Planning a fall 2002 elk hunt, would like a semi guided or drop camp type hunt.Any and all ideas welcome.
Thanks in advance.

Jay Baker
May 14, 2001, 12:02 AM
Huntersun, a bit more infor would be helpful.

What state do you intend to hunt in?? How many days do you intend to hunt? How many hunters in your party??

Have you elk hunted in a western state before??

That said, there is a magazine called "Bugle," published by the Rocky Mtn. Elk Foundation, which has a lot of ads in it by various outfitters in the elk states. Some of them take hunters in on drop camps, and they usually list if the do.

Frankly, if this is your first hunt for elk, I suggest you spring for the fully guided hunt by a reputable outfitter. You can spend a lot of money just being "dropped" and you might not be in a good area. You certainly won't know the area and a good outfitter will, plus he keeps up with the movement of elk during the summer and fall, so he can put his dudes on them during season.

I live in elk country, and spend a fair amount of time scouting for them... and it still ain't easy.

Just my opinion. J,B,

May 14, 2001, 10:16 AM
Thanks Jay,
Two in our party, neither of us have hunted out west but do have many years in the woods. We are open to any ideas
but were looking towards Colorado or Idaho. 7-10 day's
will be all the time we have.
You are right about the guide service being a better chance
of success and this might be an option, that is why I posted this question. Thanks again.

Keith Rogan
May 14, 2001, 12:55 PM
I can't help you on Elk, but if you want to consider a Mulchatna Caribou (which are damned near the size of an elk, and with bigger racks), then you can do a pretty reasonable fly-in hunt here in Alaska with about a 90% hunter success rate.
Season runs from August through the end of the year (though anything later than October can turn into a death march), and non-residents can take two or even (I think) three, in some areas, along with mixed bag tags of grizzly and black bear, moose, wolf and all the ptarmigan you can knock down with a shotgun or tennis racket.

Art Eatman
May 14, 2001, 01:15 PM
Huntersun, think of it as a training school. You pay for the teaching, more than the kill. You learn the local-area "how-to" stuff, and then you can come back later on your own.

You need to figure out how to get the free time to spend a week just scouting territory, and BSing around the local huntin'/fishin' hangouts for any tips. Jay Baker's comment about living there and scouting and it still ain't easy is absolutely dead on target.

Now, if you do go for a self-guided deal, just be practical and regard it as your own version of a learning experience. At worst, you'll see beautiful country, and I'll take luck over skill, any day: You might find an El Muy Grande!

Keith: Roughly, what is the cost for that caribou hunt?


Ron Ankeny
May 14, 2001, 01:23 PM

My goodness those are some huge Caribou. The average Rocky Mtn. Elk bull will weigh 700 lbs and I have personally shot them over 900 lbs. I always thought a Caribou was smaller.

Paul B.
May 14, 2001, 02:30 PM
Keith. I would like to see more details on that Caribou hunt. TIA.
Paul B.

Dave R
May 14, 2001, 04:42 PM
And Keith, how does Caribou taste? Is there a favorite recipe?

Keith Rogan
May 14, 2001, 05:59 PM
Ron (and all),

Caribou bulls run 300-400 pounds generally, but there is a lot of variation among different herds because they are genetically isolated from each other.
The Mulchatna caribou herd in SW Alaska are the biggest of all, and it's not unusual to take bulls in the 500-600 pound range. The racks on these caribou are also much larger than average and if you look at the B&C records over the last few years you'll see that most of the big ones are coming from SW Alaska - Mulchatna. The herd is real healthy and growing - about 200,000 animals right now.
To hunt them you have to charter out from Anchorage or the Kenai area. The charter can cost over $1000 a head but it's well worth it because a good pilot will put you down on some lake all by yourself - right in the path of the caribou migration.
Most of these guys will check in occasionally and move you to a new spot if the herd "missed" you - which can happen.

But anyway, when it works (and it often does), you can glass thousands of animals as they pass and pick a true trophy.

The bad news is that it doesn't always work. You see a massive herd of animals from the plane and get put in at a lake ten miles ahead of them. Then, the next morning (you can't hunt the day you fly), you awake to a huge empty expanse of tundra and don't see a caribou for days because they decided to turn left somewhere - they're herd animals, so it's either feast or famine. That's why it's important to pick a GOOD charter pilot who will move you as needed to stay in front of the herd. Ask for references and follow up on them.

Keith Rogan
May 14, 2001, 06:02 PM
Oh, and caribou taste like deer - they are deer! The bulls are stanky in October because of the rut. The best eating are ones you pick up in August or early September.

Keith Rogan
May 14, 2001, 06:13 PM

A link to a very good charter outfit with some mulchatna info.

May 14, 2001, 10:05 PM
Huntersun: I've been on four drop camp elk hunts in Colorado, and killed one bull elk. I saw elk on every hunt, but whether they were close enough to hunt on foot from camp was another question. It's something of a gamble whether you find elk close to your camp or not. Drop camps are a fine way to hunt if you value a do-it-yourself wilderness experience over going home with an elk every time.

You may have some trouble finding an outfitter who will take only two hunters. Most want three or four hunters for the sake of profit. The drops I took ranged from $500 to $900 per person. Most were a two to three hour horseback ride into wilderness areas where hunting pressure is minimal.

I initially went on drop camp hunts because of limited finances, and then moved up to guided hunts when I could afford them. Frankly, I liked the drop camps better.
Good Shooting, CoyDog

May 20, 2001, 10:27 PM
Thanks for the info folks.
Keith your caribou hunts sound interesting. I got an e-mail back from Talon and it seem's they have an open season for the fall of 2002. Have you hunted with them before? Any others that you might recomend? Best I can tell all
license fees and tags can be bought over the counter, this is a plus. How important is timing when hunting this area.
Thanks again.

Keith Rogan
May 21, 2001, 11:24 AM
I have not personally hunted with Talon, but have good friends who have and were quite happy with them. I've hunted with several charter outfits flying out of the Kenai/Soldotna area and had good luck with all of them. There is a charter outfit in Anchorage that is notorious for dumping out-of-state hunters onto the first lake on the far side of the range regardless of whether there is a caribou within 100 miles (I call this the "Whitefish Lake Scam"). Beware of an outfit thats name rhymes with "bust" - beware of any outfit that advertises cut-rate charters. It takes a lot of gas and time to get to the area and search out a herd - if someone is offering a cheap hunt, there is a reason for that.

Timing is always important with any hunt, but particularly important with Caribou because you want to catch them as they begin to gather together for the migration, but before the rut starts. Traditionally, mid-September is best.

In addition to timing, give yourself plenty of "time". The reason outfits like Talon can advertize near 100% success rates is that they move hunters mid-way through the hunt to a new area as part of the package - because the herd is constantly moving.
That sounds like a sure thing but you have to remember that to get there these small planes have to thread high passes through the Alaska range and the weather can shut them down for days at a time. Give them, and yourself, enough time to overcome weather delays.

Also, give yourself plenty of time at the end of the hunt to get your meat and trophies properly packed for airline shipment - keeping in mind that a 24 or 48 hour delay in getting out of the bush is almost routine. You'll have to do this yourself or pay someone to do it. Most of the better outfits will have the boxes and a freezer for temporary storage, but don't count on it - ask.