"Accepting the Challenge of Western Hunting," By Rokslide Member Justin Smith

robby denning

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"Accepting the Challenge of Western Hunting," By Rokslide Member Justin Smith



Hey Roksliders,

had the pleasure of meeting Justin last fall when he came out hunt elk with our operation. Justin is from West Tennessee and is a fair jaunt from good elk hunting, yet he's pulled of several successful hunts.

He's also killed over a 100 Whitetails! That woods savvy has certainly given him a leg up out here. I suggested that he share how he prepares to hunt out West for the best self-guided and OTC opportunities and all the logistics a hunter living a 1,000 or more miles from elk country needs to think about.

So please, welcome Justin and give his article a read. It's big, but well worth your time if you're ever planning a hunt out West.

Accepting the Challenge of Western Hunting


 
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DWinVA

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Jun 17, 2014
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Welcome man. I'm in SW VA.

You addressed some of the items that no one else does......and you did it very well.

God Bless.
 
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twall13

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Good read, and should be helpful to non western guys looking at coming out on a big game hunt.
 

Hall256

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Justin, great write up...when i read about guys from out here (east coast) heading west to hunt I kick my self. For years I have wasted opportunity saying it would be too difficult. Thanks for showing us that it can be done.

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Justin, great write up...when i read about guys from out here (east coast) heading west to hunt I kick my self. For years I have wasted opportunity saying it would be too difficult. Thanks for showing us that it can be done.

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Hall256, I sat on the sidelines until I couldn't stand it any longer. After my first trip, my only regret is not taking these adventures sooner! Thanks
 

SlimWhitman

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Aug 28, 2016
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Blows my mind how I can't get my buddies as excited about out west as I get. Only thing I can think of is they just don't see how easy it really is to do.


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bz_711

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May 7, 2012
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Great stuff...thanks for putting that together.

I can related - several family summer trips to CO during my youth had me so amped to hunt elk one day, but just seemed too expensive and too much to put together. A simple invite from an online hunting forum buddy tipped me over the edge - and he gave me all the tips on how to do it cheap (as well as let me stay in his tent the first year I drove out myself).
After that year - we'd pack 4 guys in my suburban and head to CO...splitting gas and meals 4 ways makes it so attainable. The tag is the only "big" cost each year. Yes, you can spend thousands on gear if you want, but you can also just get some comfy boots and cheap pack and head west if you really want to kill an elk...the Elk don't care one bit if you're using walmart grade camo that you hunt whitetails in back east.

I've gone 7 straight years now, taking my Dad on the last 5 with me...and I've taken a new friend every year...my kids will soon be old enough to handle the mountain hunting as well...I won't ever be able to get enough of it.

So thankful for all the help I got in making it happen that first time - and have made some lifelong friends around camp from all over the world. If there is something better to hunt than elk - I don't want to know yet...
 

Hall256

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Great stuff...thanks for putting that together.

I can related - several family summer trips to CO during my youth had me so amped to hunt elk one day, but just seemed too expensive and too much to put together. A simple invite from an online hunting forum buddy tipped me over the edge - and he gave me all the tips on how to do it cheap (as well as let me stay in his tent the first year I drove out myself).
After that year - we'd pack 4 guys in my suburban and head to CO...splitting gas and meals 4 ways makes it so attainable. The tag is the only "big" cost each year. Yes, you can spend thousands on gear if you want, but you can also just get some comfy boots and cheap pack and head west if you really want to kill an elk...the Elk don't care one bit if you're using walmart grade camo that you hunt whitetails in back east.

I've gone 7 straight years now, taking my Dad on the last 5 with me...and I've taken a new friend every year...my kids will soon be old enough to handle the mountain hunting as well...I won't ever be able to get enough of it.

So thankful for all the help I got in making it happen that first time - and have made some lifelong friends around camp from all over the world. If there is something better to hunt than elk - I don't want to know yet...
What state do you drive out from? Also, for guys that don't live out there what process did you go through to narrow down GMU, and then decide access point to hike in or camp?

I have been doing a lot of computer scouting and researching. Through the process of researching draw odds vs. OTC units, NF vs Wildlife areas, archery vs. Rifle I getost in the options.

Last big push I had decided on an OTC rifle tag in the West Elk Wilderness...now I just need to figure where to hike in from...my whole next year is shot with military requirements, but I will hope 2018 is the year I stop dreaming and start making it happen.

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What state do you drive out from? Also, for guys that don't live out there what process did you go through to narrow down GMU, and then decide access point to hike in or camp?

I have been doing a lot of computer scouting and researching. Through the process of researching draw odds vs. OTC units, NF vs Wildlife areas, archery vs. Rifle I getost in the options.
Hall256, thank you for your interest in this topic. To answer your fist question, I travel from Tennessee.

As far as the second question goes...In my opinion, the internet and map research gives you valuable information to determine your starting point. You can research success rate percentages for different areas through harvest reports to nail down a GMU that you believe will offer your best chances of harvest. Then you can use maps to dial in the areas within the GMU that you want to hunt. That being said, nothing beats "boots on the ground".

I don't recall exactly what number podcast it is (#30 perhaps), but Randy Newberg goes into detail about honing in on certain areas through digital research before mobilizing to hunt a new area (good information there). Also, in Robby Denning's book (Hunting Bug Mule Deer - How to Take the Best Buck of Your Life), he describes this type of research as the "big picture" scouting. Once you have done your big picture research, then next step is getting into the woods.

You can see a lot from google maps, but I have yet to see a bull elk from a satellite image. Once you get two or three areas in your GMU selected, get in there and hunt. If you can squeeze in a pre-season scouting trip, that would be so beneficial, but that is tough to do. Once your hunt begins, your first area may prove to be a bust. But since you picked a few additional areas, you'll have a backup plan to relocate.

The goal is always to come home with an elk, but I never look at a trip where I did not kill an animal as unsuccessful. I learn something from every trip, if nothing more than learning the small details of the area I've chosen to hunt.

Thanks for the post.
 

johnafields

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Apr 6, 2017
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Thanks for the post. Great information! I am a west Tennessee guy also (Medina/Jackson). We are planning our first elk trip this fall to CO, and I see a lot of similarities from our story getting started. Thanks again, and good luck!
 

billy molls

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Great article! The true essence of adventure... Like anything in life, what holds most people back--simply put--is fear. The first step is always the toughest. As an Alaskan hunting guide/outfitter who visits with prospective hunters regularly at sport shows and elsewhere, in less than 5 minutes of conversation, I believe I can guess with 95+% accuracy with a person will actually commit. The "unknown" scares most people, but that is where you find adventure, and where you ultimately find yourself.

I had recently discussed with Robby about writing a similar article, but you did a great job. When you purse your passion you inspire others to pursue theirs. That is the greatest reward of all. Well done.
Good Hunting,
 
Joined
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Great article! The true essence of adventure... Like anything in life, what holds most people back--simply put--is fear. The first step is always the toughest. As an Alaskan hunting guide/outfitter who visits with prospective hunters regularly at sport shows and elsewhere, in less than 5 minutes of conversation, I believe I can guess with 95+% accuracy with a person will actually commit. The "unknown" scares most people, but that is where you find adventure, and where you ultimately find yourself.

I had recently discussed with Robby about writing a similar article, but you did a great job. When you purse your passion you inspire others to pursue theirs. That is the greatest reward of all. Well done.
Good Hunting,
Thanks Billy, I agree totally. My intent with this article was to inspire someone to pursue that primitive desire to face the unknown. With the positive feedback I've received from writing it, I have found myself inspired to do more. Funny how that works.
 

Felix1776

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Dec 3, 2015
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Colorado Springs, CO
Great read. My approach was a little more drastic. After visiting CO a couple of times and falling in love, I sold my crap, sold my house, quit my job, and just moved out here. Starting over is tough but I knew that a once a year, week long trip wouldn't be enough for me. It was a tough decision, but I'm so thankful to be out here. Can't wait for elk season!
 
Joined
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Messages
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Arlington, TN
Great read. My approach was a little more drastic. After visiting CO a couple of times and falling in love, I sold my crap, sold my house, quit my job, and just moved out here. Starting over is tough but I knew that a once a year, week long trip wouldn't be enough for me. It was a tough decision, but I'm so thankful to be out here. Can't wait for elk season!
That was definitely a bold move Felix1776. I admit, I have talked about making that move more than a time or two. In the end, I feel my roots just run too deep where I am at. I envy the fact that you took that leap. That takes courage! Thanks for sharing.
 

PA-R

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Feb 26, 2013
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Location
Missouri
Great read, and lots of info. Hunted in CO. three different times, two times by myself, hard to fine guys that want to put forth the effort,training, etc. Again very good information. Peter.
 

Blackflht05

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Apr 14, 2017
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Location
SE MI - Michigan
Excellent read and information, thank you for taking the time to write and share. Sent the link to my son as our goal is a trip together. Like you, just the chance to spend time with him in the woods makes a hunt worthwhile, meat for the table is a bonus.
 
Joined
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Messages
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Location
Arlington, TN
Excellent read and information, thank you for taking the time to write and share. Sent the link to my son as our goal is a trip together. Like you, just the chance to spend time with him in the woods makes a hunt worthwhile, meat for the table is a bonus.
Hey Blackflht05, that is great! You said it...with the ultimate goal being a heavy pack back to camp, the success is in the journey.
 

sovapatriot

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May 28, 2016
Messages
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Wow! This was an excellent article! This all rings so true for me being from southern Virginia and hunting white tail and black bear but have always dreamed of going out west after elk. 5 or 6 years ago I priced guided hunts and quickly put the thought out of my mind, they were way out of my reach. It wasn't until reading an article in recoil magazine about a DIY elk hunt last year that got me thinking about it. I read it over and over. I'm working on planning a 2018 elk hunt (I'm leaning towards Idaho). I still have a lot of unanswered questions and some of that fear about all that could go wrong on the trip but I will make it happen. The biggest thing I have in my favor is time. I work a 4 on 4 off schedule and next year will have 21 vacation days, so I can have 12 days off and only use 4 days or 20 days using 8 days of vacation.

Thanks so much for the article Justin!
 
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