Lessons from a first elk hunt for those considering the same

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gobears870

gobears870

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Feb 13, 2018
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99
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TX
If your drive is over 18 hours and there’s no altitude along the way, consider the following. Drive a little less than halfway your first day. Make a long haul the second day all the way to your destination, putting you there in the late evening. Set camp and go to bed. Get on the trail first thing in the morning.

Or leave home late, drive nonstop through the night, and get there late on the second day. That’s one way to save a vacation day if you can manage taking turns driving and sleeping.

Bottom line is this: if you are trying to acclimate, avoid driving straight to the trailhead and getting after it immediately. I think a night at altitude before you get moving will help you a lot. Even though I’ve just done this one elk hunt I’ve been to CO and NM enough times to know what has worked and what hasn’t.


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Drewby

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Jan 28, 2021
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If your drive is over 18 hours and there’s no altitude along the way, consider the following. Drive a little less than halfway your first day. Make a long haul the second day all the way to your destination, putting you there in the late evening. Set camp and go to bed. Get on the trail first thing in the morning.

Or leave home late, drive nonstop through the night, and get there late on the second day. That’s one way to save a vacation day if you can manage taking turns driving and sleeping.

Bottom line is this: if you are trying to acclimate, avoid driving straight to the trailhead and getting after it immediately. I think a night at altitude before you get moving will help you a lot. Even though I’ve just done this one elk hunt I’ve been to CO and NM enough times to know what has worked and what hasn’t.


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Thanks for the advice, I think sleeping at the truck the night before heading in makes sense, and should work out well from a driving perspective for me anyway.
 

John.45

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Mar 21, 2021
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Great write up! I also watched Randy Newberg, listened to podcasts, and searched on here for general info my first elk hunt.
 

jjohnsonElknewbie

Well Known Rokslider
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Mar 16, 2021
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Western Iowa
I’ve used several bipods. A Harris back in the day. A Versa Pod which was a nice bipod. More recently I was given a Swagger Pod to try. A bipod allows movement. I used a Dead Shot Field Pod for 2 seasons too but it was too bulky, took too long to set up. And it caved in to the abuse.

When it comes time to send it I want as close to benchrest stability as I can get. That means no movement side to side or front to back. For that I much prefer a tripod. It’s just way more of rock solid pivot point. With wind, adrenaline, elk movement, and any other variables coming into play I just like the feeling of a rest that stays put with 3 legs. When you start shooting out past 400 yards it makes all the difference in the world but I’ll take it at 150 yards too.

There are lots of great shooters who use bipods. Many of them shoot prone which requires flatter ground. That’s not common where I hunt elk.

The other thing is you can’t use a bipod for a spotting scope or binoculars so I’d have to carry a separate tripod for that. Don’t get me wrong it’s all about the gun rest but it’s nice to have tools that serve more than one purpose to keep weight down.

Agree on the tripod and I love my Trigger Stick. It has multiple uses mentioned as well as the ability to be a stout walking stick. I can shoot standing up, kneeling, seated, and prone, and the legs are pretty fast to deploy and adjust.
 

A.Grift

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Apr 21, 2020
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Awesome thread. My first elk hunt was last year too, solo archery elk in the Idaho Panhandle. I couldn't find a partner, and in late July I got a new job so couldn't take much time off. I had to bail on my original plan, luckily my job is 100% remote, so I just took some money I had been saving for the trip, rented an Airbnb in the unit (got a huge COVID discount for staying over 30 nights), and moved for the month. Stayed working East coast hours so I could go out in the evenings, and took a few Mondays and a Tuesday off.

The mentality advice is the best in my opinion. I was real down the first couple of times I went and struggled in the steep and the deadfall and worked hard all day and didn't see a thing. I took a page out of my fishing-in-the-rain playbook, and started reminding myself that out of every life I could have drawn in the cosmic lottery, I was lucky enough to get one where I got a chance to chase elk in the backcountry. There are billions of people in the world who will never spend a day in the backcountry, and billions more who will never get to even try to chase elk. That is worth appreciating.

Another thing I learned is that I simply did not know enough about elk behavior. I showed up ignorantly expecting a hunt like the ones I had watched on youtube. Screaming elk, huge herds, spot and stalk. I arrived in a place where the only things comfortable enough to be chatty were the wolves, the elk were silent and mostly holed up in bottoms and always in the thickest, nastiest, steepest places on the map, the weather was hot, and for a week and a half the smoke was like fog. I should have been preparing by understanding the unit, learning about how elk react to predator pressure/heat, identifying pockets of land that would hold elk that might be overlooked, etc. I know that sounds obvious, but I guess I am dumb enough to need to learn things for myself.

I also needed to learn to commit to critical thinking. This is another one that sounds obvious, but it helped a lot. The learning curve is steep, and mistakes are inevitable, so I tried to focus on not making the same mistakes twice (or at least three times). For me, that meant slowing down. It would have been really helpful to talk things over with someone.

All that said, despite everything it was probably my favorite time I have ever spent in the backcountry. So I guess the final thing I learned is that conditions are rarely perfect, and you will never have a chance at an elk from your couch. Don't wait for it to be perfect, go take a crack at it.
 

SargeAU

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Apr 3, 2021
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10
Thank you for the write up and the information. Me & my two 21 year old sons are planning our first elk hunt next year in Colorado. We are looking forward to the experience and the opportunity to spend time together in the backcountry of Colorado. We have set our base for success as follows: Travel from Alabama to CO & back safely 2. See an Elk. Anything else will be gravy for us greenhorn’s.
 

Pocoloco

Well Known Rokslider
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Oct 17, 2021
Messages
161
You were so close, good chance you fill tag next time. We started elk hunting last year and filled our freezer both years, secret to our success as a family: I bow hunt the same unit in what I call scouting season and then we harvest the bulls in rifle that I failed to harvest with a bow. This year we upgraded our optics: NL pure 12s and 8x32 on tripods with Outdoorsmans stud. Upgrade paid off, we climb straight up to 9500 where we can glass 4 drainages, we glass the elk and then drop down and stalk them. Last year’s glass was leica trinovids and swaro companion with no tripod, this year the elk were so easy to spot and upgrade is totally worth it, kids used last years glass and I hope to upgrade them to NL pures as well. Keep after it and you will learn the hardest part of elk hunting is getting them broken down and back to the jeep, that is where your workout program will pay off
 
OP
gobears870

gobears870

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Feb 13, 2018
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TX
This thread took off a bit more than I expected. I’m really glad people found it useful. I’ve actually written a version similar to my original post and submitted it to Backcountry Journal for their “How-To” column in a future issue, so we’ll see what happens.


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Roeshaa

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Nov 3, 2020
Messages
25
Thanks for sharing, definitely good info for us guys looking into first western hunt!
 
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