First OTC Elk Hunt Failure

bwilken

Newbie
Joined
Feb 25, 2021
Messages
7
So today I just left Colorado after my first ever elk hunt. I ended up going it solo, driving 18 hours one way across country. I planned for almost 10 months, escouted multiple areas, and worked out hard for 3 months to get in shape. And even after all that preparation I ended up having to go home after 3 days of a planned 5 day hunt because of how bad those mountains kicked my ass. I learned a lot but still feel super disappointed that my hunt ended early. The area that I hunted was super steep with lots of deadfall, and I made the mistake of hiking up the mountain my first day there and believe I got altitude sickness as I couldn’t eat for the next couple days and felt terrible. I have to say I was shocked at how steep and rough the terrain was compared to what it looked like on the maps. I wasn’t expecting to actually kill an elk but was hoping I would at least find some or hear bugles, which I never did. Even though I failed at my goal I am already trying to think of things I could have done differently that can help me next year . Any advice on how to better prepare next time or any stories of how your previous failures let to future success?


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Joined
Sep 15, 2021
Messages
4
Hey brother - sorry to hear. I think that this is way more common than most people think. Good on you for actually getting out there and giving it a try. The first bull I took with a bow took me 27 days in an OTC unit - so that’s not an easy task.

As far as preparation physically check out this free resource:

 

Gerbdog

Senior Member
Joined
Jun 8, 2020
Messages
378
Location
CO Springs
Work out all year ! seriously i live in CO and those mountains still eat me up too, and i train for it like everyone else.

Second piece of advice, since i didnt see it said in your writeup - Arrive early - Get into town and hang out at a hotel and do small hikes for fun a few days before season - gives you a chance to acclimate to the altitude before you head straight up the mountain looking for game
 

lyle_destroys

Senior Member
Joined
Sep 7, 2018
Messages
987
Location
Pennsylvania
Slow down, take a day to acclimate at a lesser elevation. I've heard about guys getting a prescription from their doctor to help with altitude sickness. Not a failure if you got to be in the mountains, even for a day, just lessons learned. Everyone starts somewhere.
Do your best to find a partner for next year. If you were even marginal hiking, once you get an animal on the ground is a whole other ballgame, work work work.
 

Ucsdryder

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 24, 2015
Messages
2,034
You see the 3% of successful hunters posting stories of success…you don’t see the 97% of hunters with stories similar to yours. Keep your head up, I know rokslide loves to glamorize elk hunting and at times make it seem “easy” but it’s really freaking hard!
 

Bl704

Senior Member
Joined
Aug 1, 2016
Messages
492
Location
Charlotte NC
So today I just left Colorado after my first ever elk hunt. I ended up going it solo, driving 18 hours one way across country. I planned for almost 10 months, escouted multiple areas, and worked out hard for 3 months to get in shape. And even after all that preparation I ended up having to go home after 3 days of a planned 5 day hunt because of how bad those mountains kicked my ass. I learned a lot but still feel super disappointed that my hunt ended early. The area that I hunted was super steep with lots of deadfall, and I made the mistake of hiking up the mountain my first day there and believe I got altitude sickness as I couldn’t eat for the next couple days and felt terrible. I have to say I was shocked at how steep and rough the terrain was compared to what it looked like on the maps. I wasn’t expecting to actually kill an elk but was hoping I would at least find some or hear bugles, which I never did. Even though I failed at my goal I am already trying to think of things I could have done differently that can help me next year . Any advice on how to better prepare next time or any stories of how your previous failures let to future success?


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For altitude: water, electrolytes, and simple carbs seem to help me. A day or so at lower (8-9.5k) elevation on arrival or a dialed way back first day.

Getting in shape is now staying in shape year round. And every year, after an asskicking climb or deadfall, I vow to work harder.

My first year goals were lower, and it was my 3rd or 4th year before I was able to take an elk with my bow. A small branch nicked by my arrow filled my 33hr commute (each way) to MT this year.

Now is time to suck it up and get to work for next year... Or by some miracle a second chance for me this year...a benefit of a general tag.
 

Coveyleader

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 27, 2013
Messages
936
Find someone that has been and killed before. Once you learn the ropes, know what to look for they will hit the ground more, and more often. We killed 4 in 3 days, and if you saw the shape of 2 of the guys, you'd laugh. Way more to hunting elk than getting in shape. Way more!

I killed my bull an hour after I set camp. Lucky? Maybe, but this is the 4th time I've done that (killed elk same day camp.set) Way too many things were done correctly to be lucky 4 times. Elk are not hard to kill if you understand them.

Good luck
 
Last edited:

Jbenson

Member
Joined
Sep 6, 2015
Messages
96
Well maybe I suck, but I've been elk hunting with archery for about 12-13 years and haven't killed one yet. Haven't even shot at one. Some years I made 2 trips out to hunt. I'm in decent shape. I can get anywhere, but it'll take me longer than some guys. And we hunt hard, not drive around on UTV all day or hike 1/2 mile from the truck. I've hiked 12-16 miles a day more than days than I can count. My point is, it's not easy but I haven't missed many years being out there. The experience is still awesome, the close calls and bugles keep you coming back! Keep after it, keep learning. Maybe this year is my year 😁
 
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bwilken

Newbie
Joined
Feb 25, 2021
Messages
7
Find someone that has been and killed before. Once you learn the ropes, know what to look for they will hit the ground more, and more often. We killed 4 in 3 days, and if you saw the shape of 2 of the guys, you'd laugh. Way more to hunting elk than getting in shape. Way more!

I killed my bull an hour after I set camp. Lucky? Maybe, but this is the 4th time I've done that (killed elk same day camp.set) Way too many things were done correctly to be lucky 4 times. Elk are not hard to kill if you understand them.

Good luck

You guys must have one heck of a spot! The only sign I even saw was at 11k feet and 2+ miles deep


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GringoBling

Senior Member
Joined
Apr 23, 2021
Messages
140
If you are like most people, you don’t have a couple of days to acclimate to the altitude. I take concentrated electrolytes called Recover ORS. I put them in water early and often on and throughout my trip. You can buy compressed oxygen over the counter, as well. Don’t drink alcohol while you’re acclimating and have. aproxen sodium or ibuprofen handy if you feel a headache coming on.

As for being in shape, I bring a group out to Colorado from Texas every year. Despite me telling the newbies how in shape they need to be, they never listen. But that hasn’t stopped four of them from getting bulls in either their first or second year out there. So sometimes it’s better to be lucky than prepared.
 

kentuckybowman

Senior Member
Joined
Jun 12, 2020
Messages
108
So today I just left Colorado after my first ever elk hunt. I ended up going it solo, driving 18 hours one way across country. I planned for almost 10 months, escouted multiple areas, and worked out hard for 3 months to get in shape. And even after all that preparation I ended up having to go home after 3 days of a planned 5 day hunt because of how bad those mountains kicked my ass. I learned a lot but still feel super disappointed that my hunt ended early. The area that I hunted was super steep with lots of deadfall, and I made the mistake of hiking up the mountain my first day there and believe I got altitude sickness as I couldn’t eat for the next couple days and felt terrible. I have to say I was shocked at how steep and rough the terrain was compared to what it looked like on the maps. I wasn’t expecting to actually kill an elk but was hoping I would at least find some or hear bugles, which I never did. Even though I failed at my goal I am already trying to think of things I could have done differently that can help me next year . Any advice on how to better prepare next time or any stories of how your previous failures let to future success?


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start right now getting ready for next season. I have the luxury of going a couple days early and I set up camp, fly fish and shoot my bow and by day three I am acclimated enough to hunt all day and not die. Now I am in pain from walking through mountainous terrain but still alive.

You already have the fortitude/determination to become a good elk hunter and kill some animals.

You have learned and now go and learn some more and find an area with elk and start building your own secret spots to return to year after year.

I was fortunate the first time I went and hunted with a friend who was a local and that one trip gave me the confidence I can go anywhere there are elk and find them and get a shot.

Don't be discouraged at all, elk hunting is hard as hell.
 

Ridge Hunter 83

Junior Member
Joined
Sep 15, 2021
Messages
49
Location
Colorado
You guys must have one heck of a spot! The only sign I even saw was at 11k feet and 2+ miles deep


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There you go; you said it yourself. When possible, I focus on 11,000 plus feet (12,000 is even better) and the rougher the better. Get away from people, noise, and activity; I don't want any of that but the less the better.
The entire game is played differently by everyone but that's how I've approached it for many many years. For some, it may be easy (or they claim) but I don't necessarily want "easy." I want to "live" it... all of it, and I want results! In thirty+ years of this, not one year has been easy... a couple of those years, I was certain I was going to die... winter storms, wind, cold, wet, ice, frozen rivers, partially frozen rivers, mud, and more. Even when I was very young and just went along to watch, it was never easy for anyone.

Start high, working higher, up in elevation in the mornings, in cool weather, working higher; it's temperature and weather dependent though; learn the thermals; learn as you climb in elevation; then, if you get to the top or a ridge, glass, glass, glass, and think about working down... very seldom straight down... usually, more miles coming down than going up... working the temperatures, wind, and thermals again. Forget about hurrying; walk a little, stop, look, and listen. How does an elk walk? How does a deer walk? Again, forget about hurrying; walk a little, stop, look, and listen, while working higher, around something, over something, etc. I could type fifty pages but this is enough for this one. I hope it helps to at least give you something to think about and imagine putting it into action.
 

Brillo

Junior Member
Joined
Feb 8, 2021
Messages
42
Location
West Michigan
If it makes you feel better I had a complete failure and I was in decent shape with elk all around. I know because I saw some and heard others run away. Otherwise total silence. Not even crickets. Blowdown sucks, it was hot, I had a partner who loves to hunt but he got sick and discouraged, etc. plus it was expensive and an 19 hour drive. I am thinking about going back next week because it was a ton of fun and I love the mountains. We can do this!
 

CTXhunter

Junior Member
Joined
Feb 3, 2021
Messages
44
Good on you for getting after it! One day you will look back on this experience and laugh at how far you have come. Take the advice on altitude sickness and hopefully you’ll get more hunting time in next year. Some people are more affected by it than others, now you know you have to be more cautious with it.
 

Dos Perros

Senior Member
Joined
Jul 30, 2015
Messages
2,647
Location
Lenexa, KS
You should only be disappointed if you give up. There are lots of talented hunters on here, folks of all types, and comparing yourself to them is apples to oranges.

I agree with the above, 5 days is too short. Leave work on Friday afternoon and get there as soon as you can, hunt as long as you can, and drag your ass to work two Monday's from then. That's at least 7 days, but 14 is better.

If you're tired, don't leave, just stick it out. Even if that means hanging around camp. You're going to learn something even doing that.

Take a scouting trip or two in the summer. You can get cheap flights to Denver and rent a vehicle and go for a long weekend.

Did you even call the game warden or the biologist of the area you were hunting?

This was my 7th year hunting elk and 3rd in a row I've killed a 6 point bull. My first year we saw a handful of elk at distance and that was it. The next year I drew my bow a couple times. The year following superficially wounded two bulls. The year following (likely) mortally wounded a nice bull. And then finally I started killing things. It didn't happen overnight. It took me extreme effort and dedication. I took scouting trips during the summer. I hunted 14+ days a season. My life was rather singularly focused on killing an elk. I kinda developed my own local 'street cred' and then was able to hook up with people who were more experienced than me and learn from them. Go look at the Elk Meat Pole thread and you'll see some real killers and plenty of folks who killed for the first time, but only after 'failing' plenty of times before that. I don't know you from Adam, but I know if you don't give up you will eventually succeed. Keep at it. Nothing can take the place of persistence.
 
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bwilken

Newbie
Joined
Feb 25, 2021
Messages
7
You should only be disappointed if you give up. There are lots of talented hunters on here, folks of all types, and comparing yourself to them is apples to oranges.

I agree with the above, 5 days is too short. Leave work on Friday afternoon and get there as soon as you can, hunt as long as you can, and drag your ass to work two Monday's from then. That's at least 7 days, but 14 is better.

If you're tired, don't leave, just stick it out. Even if that means hanging around camp. You're going to learn something even doing that.

Take a scouting trip or two in the summer. You can get cheap flights to Denver and rent a vehicle and go for a long weekend.

Did you even call the game warden or the biologist of the area you were hunting?

This was my 7th year hunting elk and 3rd in a row I've killed a 6 point bull. My first year we saw a handful of elk at distance and that was it. The next year I drew my bow a couple times. The year following superficially wounded two bulls. The year following (likely) mortally wounded a nice bull. And then finally I started killing things. It didn't happen overnight. It took me extreme effort and dedication. I took scouting trips during the summer. I hunted 14+ days a season. My life was rather singularly focused on killing an elk. I kinda developed my own local 'street cred' and then was able to hook up with people who were more experienced than me and learn from them. Go look at the Elk Meat Pole thread and you'll see some real killers and plenty of folks who killed for the first time, but only after 'failing' plenty of times before that. I don't know you from Adam, but I know if you don't give up you will eventually succeed. Keep at it. Nothing can take the place of persistence.

I 100% agree in that I should have done a better job scouting. I was going to call the local biologist before I left and I just never got around to actually doing it. I think before next years trip I am going to take a summer scouting trip too. I definitely plan on taking a longer hunt next year and already have a couple guys who are interested in going along just unfortunately couldn’t plan a longer hunt this year due to other obligations.


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fatlander

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 11, 2016
Messages
995
You should only be disappointed if you give up. There are lots of talented hunters on here, folks of all types, and comparing yourself to them is apples to oranges.

I agree with the above, 5 days is too short. Leave work on Friday afternoon and get there as soon as you can, hunt as long as you can, and drag your ass to work two Monday's from then. That's at least 7 days, but 14 is better.

If you're tired, don't leave, just stick it out. Even if that means hanging around camp. You're going to learn something even doing that.

Take a scouting trip or two in the summer. You can get cheap flights to Denver and rent a vehicle and go for a long weekend.

Did you even call the game warden or the biologist of the area you were hunting?

This was my 7th year hunting elk and 3rd in a row I've killed a 6 point bull. My first year we saw a handful of elk at distance and that was it. The next year I drew my bow a couple times. The year following superficially wounded two bulls. The year following (likely) mortally wounded a nice bull. And then finally I started killing things. It didn't happen overnight. It took me extreme effort and dedication. I took scouting trips during the summer. I hunted 14+ days a season. My life was rather singularly focused on killing an elk. I kinda developed my own local 'street cred' and then was able to hook up with people who were more experienced than me and learn from them. Go look at the Elk Meat Pole thread and you'll see some real killers and plenty of folks who killed for the first time, but only after 'failing' plenty of times before that. I don't know you from Adam, but I know if you don't give up you will eventually succeed. Keep at it. Nothing can take the place of persistence.

^^^This fella gets it and he killed an absolute tank last week. Heed his advice.


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lyingflatlander

Senior Member
Joined
Sep 25, 2017
Messages
152
Location
Wisconsin
Make a list somewhere of all your bullet points for improvement. Reading your story brought similar failures to mind. Until you physically see the mountains, there isn’t a map out there that can tell you what you can and cannot climb. The maps we have on our phones lack a lot of detail. Use your hunt this year as a reference to what areas you can climb and what you can’t. For example, what I learned this year is how to “read” what’s on a map and what is reality in the shading in the foothills and vegetation. If you see a scree field anywhere on a map, you probably can’t traverse it!
No matter how much I work out, I always overdue it on the first day. Although I don’t have altitude sickness issues, even as a flatlander, the ligaments in my knees always pay. Thankfully this year two days of ibuprofen fixed that mess without me slowing down.
 

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