Flying for a DIY elk hunt?

Scott/IL

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Jan 1, 2014
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186
Has anyone flew out west for a DIY elk hunt? I'm trying to maximize my time this September, and if going solo, driving straight through will not be feasible and really eats into my days available. I'll be off work September 9th at 5:00 pm and will not have to be back home until the night of the 19th. Flying to Boise or Bozeman and renting a vehicle seem to be the "cheapest" options. Getting meat back at a reasonable price concerns me, as well as finding a reliable vehicle for mountain hunting.

Hunting Colorado makes the most sense logistically but I want to avoid the ML season.

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westrnwild

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Feb 13, 2014
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Colorado
Alot of guys will tell you not to. When i was working for the Military i did it all the time. You can do it. If you fly into Bozeman its easy. Rent a truck from the toyota dealership (Ressler), not a car rental place, they will pick you up and give you a Tundra, Tacoma or 4Runner. My other recommendation is look at the cost between first class and coach, I used to fly to bozeman first class cause it was only like $300 difference and i could pack 3 bags and not worry about weight, and on my return flight i can use coolers and bring the meat on the flight and just ship my gear. I loved it for the same reason, i didnt waste 2 days on each end and i could spend those days hunting, plus doing the solo thing i was way less tired flying then driving.

Good luck
 
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Scott/IL

Scott/IL

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I am looking at 20+ hours of drive time from my home also, if that helps put things in perspective.

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wyosteve

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Jul 1, 2014
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cheyenne
If you fly, just remember to factor in the time it will take to get to your departure airport early enough to get screened and checked in. Then the time to fly and finally after you arrive the time to get rental vehicle and still drive to your destination vs. the time to drive all the way. Plus there's always the potential for delayed/cancelled flights. I find if I'm going 1000 miles or less, it's often about the same time to drive or fly, but with driving I can do it on my terms.
 
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Scott/IL

Scott/IL

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Jan 1, 2014
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If you fly, just remember to factor in the time it will take to get to your departure airport early enough to get screened and checked in. Then the time to fly and finally after you arrive the time to get rental vehicle and still drive to your destination vs. the time to drive all the way. Plus there's always the potential for delayed/cancelled flights. I find if I'm going 1000 miles or less, it's often about the same time to drive or fly, but with driving I can do it on my terms.
I would be roughly 1500 to 1750 miles, depending on which state/unit I decide on.

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DEHusker

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Jul 5, 2014
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Colorado, US of A
Why does the ML season cause you concern? It is not a given that you'll see muzzleloaders or have to deal with them much at all. Larger units will have lots of space to roam and hunt. Especially if you are solo, you'll be able to be mobile and fast to get where you want. Make sure you have a plan once the animal is on the ground...Good luck and have a blast.
 

Devonian

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Dec 20, 2013
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Baltimore
I've done both and coming from the east coast flying is the way to go. We have driven straight through, 30 hours from MD to CO, and trust me you don't want to start your hunt exhausted from driving a couple thousand miles.
I haven't flown back heavy so I can't comment on that aspect but it was better in every other regard.
 

njdoxie

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Apr 1, 2014
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476
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New Jersey
Flying or driving is not for everyone, remember different strokes. Driving 32 hours one way is just too much for me, flying is way more relaxing, you don't have to concentrate and I can move around far more during the day, than if I was stuck in a vehicle, the flight from east coast to Denver is 4 hours, that's the only time I'm confined. When driving, the ride home sucks. Bad. I prefer not to do it again. Ever. Stuck in a car seat for 16 hours a day for 2 days is a lot.

I keep a fair amount of gear at my friends house, and my buddy has horses to help me get an elk out and take it to the local processor. I pick up the hard frozen elk the day before I fly out and and divy it between a cooler, a suitcase and my backpack the morning I fly out, hopefully first class so I won't be overweight, but if I am, I pay the overage. I ship a lot of gear home in a box instead of in my suitcase and leave the rest at my friends house. I have super light camping/hunting gear. I have the logistics dialed in for flying.
 
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gbflyer

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Feb 20, 2017
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I fly from Alaska to Colorado nearly every year for Elk. I leave all my stuff there with family though. And if I get something, it stays there too.

I've never figured out how to travel or camp light so I cannot imagine doing it all with checked baggage. If I had the option to drive only 20 hours, that would be my choice.
 

DWinVA

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Jun 17, 2014
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434
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SW Virginia
Hunted CO from VA the past 2 years. First year was guided and last year was a drop camp (our goal is DIY next time). My cousin and I drove out the first year, pulled into a Wal-Mart in KS for a few winks after midnight then back on the road. Last year we flew and was picked up at the airport by the guy that owned the drop camp. Flying was easier but I stressed over it a lot more. What if our gear got lost or damaged, how will we get the meat back? Those type of things. In the end we didn't have meat to bring home either trip but flying home unsuccessfull was so much better than the 30 hour straight drive home unsuccessful. All the research I did on flying home with meat equaled just biting the bullet and spending the $$$ to get it home. Flying out for a DIY hunt would be a bigger challenge since it would mean even more gear (tent, stove, etc). As far as hunting CO during MZ season we did it last year & never saw another hunter or heard any shots. The main thing is we had 2 awesome trips with memories made that will last a lifetime. We cannot wait to go again with the only negative results being a major elk addiction and hunting VA whitetails will never be as good as before we went elk hunting.

Good luck and God Bless.
 

cgasner1

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Mar 12, 2015
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Use to fly home and hint Oregon every year with my dad one year they lost my rifle luckily I flew I a few days early to spend time with the family and scout and they found it 48 hours later that will stress you out real bad

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Dougfir

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Feb 12, 2015
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I shipped meat back from CO a couple of years ago and the cost was real, but not ridiculous. I think it would cost about 250 dollars to ship a whole elk home (I split one elk with a buddy). Not having to worry about the meat at all, after dropping it off, was kinda priceless (and I'm a guy who always butchers his own deer). The rental vehicle issue can be real too, depending on where you're going. Getting a little suv with all wheel drive is pretty easy, but a big 4x4 not so much.
 

elkguide

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Jan 26, 2016
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Vermont
Hunting solo in the West from Vermont, I can never get the gear I need out there along with not having the mobility that I need when hunting if I need to change locations. I'd rather miss work and not get paid rather than spending money on the airplane and still not having all of my stuff. I can't even imagine what it would have cost to ship the elk and muley home last fall.
 

gansettx

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Nov 17, 2016
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WV
I shipped meat back from CO a couple of years ago and the cost was real, but not ridiculous. I think it would cost about 250 dollars to ship a whole elk home
FWIW 2015 I shipped a portion of my processed Elk from Bozeman to WV and the cost was $5 lb. I shipped 50 lbs and donated the rest to my guide.
 
Joined
Dec 16, 2012
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74
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Loveland, CO
I just got back from a trip to Kentucky. I left Kentucky at 6 AM EST and drove straight through to Loveland. I arrived home around 12:15 AM MST. I wasn't especially tired the next day. I tried to pattern my bathroom breaks to coincide with my fuel breaks. (As much as possible anyways) To each his own though.
IMO, the hassle of an airport with a carry on, is enough to make you want to drive. Not to mention trying to get all of your hunting equipment out here.
 
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wjohnson1983

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Jun 23, 2016
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Location
Harvest, AL
I made the mistake of flying last year for an antelope hunt in WY. I actually flew into CO Springs to meet up with a friend, and we went in his truck towing a pop up camper.

I had bought a round trip ticket, but we tagged out 3 days earlier than I allotted. Basically I ended up having to buy a new one way ticket using all of our airmiles because that was cheaper than changing flights. Baggage fee with a 99 lb cooler, gun case, and a bag was around $300. I also had a box of gear shipped to and from my buddies house for around $120 on each end. So with baggage fees, shipping, and plane ticket, I was up around $900. That could of bought a lot of gas and a night in the hotel on the way out. They also broke my gun case to where it won't lock anymore, so its useless on an airline. Apparently the locks must have hung on something along the way and the metal snapped off the case.

I'll drive next time.
 

Beendare

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May 6, 2014
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In Traffic
Flying is do-able. You just have to refine your gear list down to a backpacking type hunt.

If I go the drive solo route....I do the books on tape to make the drive less arduous.
 

sasquatch

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Jul 26, 2015
Messages
226
If u have a decent amount of time off drive, if not fly to maximize hunt time. I drove 28 hrs last year solo. Left the evening of day one and was hunting the morning of the third day. Drove straight and only stopped for a 4hr nap. You just gotta be determined!


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Tank76

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Aug 8, 2016
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29
I've done both and both have pros and cons. My buddy and I flew to Utah two years ago and drove to Co last year. In Utah we rented a furnished cabin near our hunting area so, our gear was minimal for that trip. We rented a small AWD SUV but were still limited due to ground clearance. In Co we were backpacking and the amount of gear we were taking didn't seem feasible to fly with. I travel at least two weeks a month and even with my airline status the baggage costs and the air fair were much more expensive than driving. If cost isn't the deciding factor and you can pack light enough flying isn't a bad way to go!
 

Whip

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Nov 28, 2015
Messages
201
If you fly, just remember to factor in the time it will take to get to your departure airport early enough to get screened and checked in. Then the time to fly and finally after you arrive the time to get rental vehicle and still drive to your destination vs. the time to drive all the way. Plus there's always the potential for delayed/cancelled flights. I find if I'm going 1000 miles or less, it's often about the same time to drive or fly, but with driving I can do it on my terms.
Really think about this point and break it all down. For example, it takes me an hour to drive to the airport.
Arrive 1.5 hours before the flight. Shortest flight I can find is 5 hours to Bozeman, and I have to go by the airlines schedule. If I wasn't bound by that I might have been able to leave the night before the flight.

Now add another hour to get my bags and rent a car. Next, how far too drive from there top the hunt area? You could easily kill an entire day by flying if everything goes perfectly. And it often doesn't go perfectly. Flight delays, lost baggage, etc. really throw a wrench intro the best laid plans. On the back end it is very likely you'll need to quit early to return the rental car and get a motel room the night before your flight home.

I've flown on a number of hunts to places I can't easily drive to, but I hate it. If there is any choice at all I'll drive every time, especially if DIY. To me, a 20 hour drive is almost a break even time wise. And I much prefer to be on my own schedule. Guided or with someone to help you on the other end is not such a problem.
 
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