Planning My First Elk Hunt

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Drenalin

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Calling isn't too hard to learn. At first you will think it's impossible. Youtube has tons of great resources. I'd highly recommend learning some cow calls and bugles with a diaphragm. If you don't know how to call, learn with what you wish you knew, not what is easiest. Diaphragms are amazing because they're hands free. I couldn't call at all until this summer. But, with some practice I learned and was amazed that I called in bulls with bugles. The elk I shot during rifle season I basically cow called in. It's totally doable, just takes practice. Primos has a 4 pack on amazon so you can get a feel for single vs double reed, and practice until you find which ones you like.
I'm going to order some Phelps diaphragms I think. I haven't decided on the bugle tube, but I think that depends on what time of year I go. Archery yes, gun maybe not?
 
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Drenalin

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He can get a cow tag in WY in 2020 I'd bet.

I'd plan on 300 quarts of cooler space. 250 minimum and that's pushing it IMO.
Holy chit, 300 quarts? My understanding is I can't bring the full carcass back into TN because of the CWD stuff, so I'd have to bone it out before I bring it home.
 

AaronMColeman

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I'm going to order some Phelps diaphragms I think. I haven't decided on the bugle tube, but I think that depends on what time of year I go. Archery yes, gun maybe not?
Get a tube for sure. Phelps makes a nice compact one. I use a longer Rocky Mountain (Something I forget) tube. They may not respond, but I feel like the bugles, even late season, get their attention and may get them moving. The single reeds are easier to learn with, but the doubles sound better for mature cows and bullls. Two single, and two double in that primos pack.
 

justin84

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I'm going to order some Phelps diaphragms I think. I haven't decided on the bugle tube, but I think that depends on what time of year I go. Archery yes, gun maybe not?
Not sure but since you mentioned Phelps I thought I'd share why I decided to take the elk hunting thing more seriously.

On 9/1, me and a buddy were glassing in WY and watched some guys chasing elk on the hill across from us. We only saw a few deer, but saw a ton of cows and a handful of bulls. We lost them as it got late and wondered what happened. The next morning four guys stop right by our truck camp, all decked out with kifaru bags, cameras, etc. We mentioned watching guys on the opposite ridge last night and they were right on top of those bulls. Turns out Jason Phelps was one of the guys; he shot a nice bull that evening. I decided if these guys are out here chasing elk, what the heck am I doing deer hunting. Of course it's easier to get a tag, but still gotta try.
 

AaronMColeman

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Holy chit, 300 quarts? My understanding is I can't bring the full carcass back into TN because of the CWD stuff, so I'd have to bone it out before I bring it home.
I'm a hack, and sorry to keep filling up your post. But you're gonna want to do a gutless quartering pack out anyway, might as well bone it in camp. No big deal...I did my first, at night, in grizzly country a few days ago. I might as well have used a chainsaw on that poor guy. Boning it for transport is no biggie.
 

Dos Perros

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Holy chit, 300 quarts? My understanding is I can't bring the full carcass back into TN because of the CWD stuff, so I'd have to bone it out before I bring it home.
My buddy's bull in MT last year boned out 110+110+35 (255!) quarts and honestly needed more ice.

My bull this year boned out the same, except a grizzly got one bag of meat so there was more room for ice, but I'd like more space for next time.

If it's cool (rifle season) and you can hang the meat to get the initial cool you could maybe get by with less. But I'd just be nervous about driving home in any heat.

I don't generally buy nice coolers, my two 110's are Coleman Xtremes ~$60/each. Yeah they take more ice but they're cheap and functional for my use.
 

rayporter

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coolers are not a high priority. take a cheap one and if you need buy a cheap one out there. I have seen them stacked to the ceiling for 19 bucks often. dry ice is available most places and a chunk will cool everything easy. you will have to debone the meat and more will fit in your coolers.

I have honestly just piled meat covered in tarps and blankets with dry ice and driven to ohio with frozen meat when I arrived.

and don't forget that many states do not allow bones to go through from cwd states- the reason you have to debone. Arkansas it one and since Tennessee has cwd you might have that there.
 
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Drenalin

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My buddy's bull in MT last year boned out 110+110+35 (255!) quarts and honestly needed more ice.

My bull this year boned out the same, except a grizzly got one bag of meat so there was more room for ice, but I'd like more space for next time.

If it's cool (rifle season) and you can hang the meat to get the initial cool you could maybe get by with less. But I'd just be nervous about driving home in any heat.

I don't generally buy nice coolers, my two 110's are Coleman Xtremes ~$60/each. Yeah they take more ice but they're cheap and functional for my use.
Good info, I appreciate it. I had underestimated the meat yield for sure.
 
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Drenalin

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coolers are not a high priority. take a cheap one and if you need buy a cheap one out there. I have seen them stacked to the ceiling for 19 bucks often. dry ice is available most places and a chunk will cool everything easy. you will have to debone the meat and more will fit in your coolers.

I have honestly just piled meat covered in tarps and blankets with dry ice and driven to ohio with frozen meat when I arrived.

and don't forget that many states do not allow bones to go through from cwd states- the reason you have to debone. Arkansas it one and since Tennessee has cwd you might have that there.
I've moved deer across the state with a couple bags of ice stuffed inside em and wrapped in a tarp, so I could definitely see that working. I'm pretty sure you're not allowed to bring any cervid carcass, or bones, into Tennessee from another state. Either way, I don't want to bring the bones home with me.
 

fatlander

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We brought meat back from MT to Virginia this year in a cheap igloo and a cheap Coleman. The meat was cold when we picked it up from the processor but not frozen. Threw some 10 lb blocks of regular ice from a gas station on top of each cooler and the blocks were still there when we got home 32 hours later.

Be in shape. Be ready for quiet elk. Be in shape. Go where people don’t want to go. Stay mobile. When you find fresh sign slow down. When you don’t keep going. Don’t waster time hunting where elk aren’t. Oh and be in shape.


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Elker

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4. Planning to do a truck camp.
5. Coolers
6. 10x42 binos.
Lots of good input. I'll throw some ideas of my own...
#4- Truck camp good. Be ready to move if needed. Kodiak tent is a must for big western mountain weather. Good cot and 0 degree bag + Big Buddy heater will make life great. You'll go be out of camp pre-dawn, go hard all day get back after dark, so having a good camp set up can make or break. Here's another little gotta have. Cheap microwave and generator + Costco chicken/veggie bowls. Keep frozen in your cheap WalMart cooler (yep, good advice from others. See #6). Laugh all you want but it was a game changer for speed, connivence, prep/cleanup, cooler space. I love to cook at camp but I'm there to hunt.
#5- Cooler(s) Walmart! $68 Coleman Xtreme6 150 qrt coolers. x2 and you will have plenty of food and elk capacity. Frozen 1 gal water jug in each corner and filled with COSTCO ice. Coleman claims 6 days... after 8 I had 60% of ice and 80% of the jugs were still frozen. it was 60s-40s during the day and 20s at night.
#6 - 10x42 are just fine. For OTC, you'll likely spend more time just locating elk vs trying to judge size/quality like you would on a limited tag. If you are packing in, save the weight. Out here if you need a spotter and you're two days into the backcountry... good luck getting there and back. :).

AaronMColeman is right Boots and Binos! After that pack... Exo is what's on my back now. Not a single complaint. For clothes, I hunted all this year in $20 Costco performance pants with $25 FroggToggs in my pack for rain. No complaints. I dress for running a cool/cold weather marathon with a gun first and foremost and camo second. That said, I added a First Lite marino wool top this year and loved it. From 30 degrees to 90 degrees, it does it all.

And yep as stated before get in shape. That will dictate everything. if you don't have mountains to train on, buy a sturdy chair and do 60 minute sessions of step ups... every day... multiple times a day. 800-1400 foot climbs are normal if you are going backcountry day trips- and then you have to come back down - and then do it again the next day. I dropped 12 pounds in 8 days this year doing 8-14 miles every day. All of it up, down or sidehill. Never flat. I joked to a friend the best way to prepare is do 40 mins on your treadmill on max incline. Then add two cinder blocks to the front corners for 40 mins, then turn them on the long ends for 40 mins. Then add one to one of the back corners (sidehill training) and do that for an hour before switching it to the other side. :).

Calling - Elk 101 is worth every penny if you have not hunted elk before. Also, watch a lot of you tube, get a reed call and drive your family crazy. Keep it in your car and constantly practice with You tube blaring through your speakers.

Take it or leave it. I'm out!
 

MuleyFever

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I have been on 2 bull elk hunts and 3 cow hunts so no expert. Don't over complicate it though. Over those 5 hunts we have killed 5 elk, 2 cows for the wife. All could have been done from a truck camp. Two 120qt Colman Extreme coolers have been plenty and held ice fine. I believe all of them would have ended the same even if I did not have binos so 10x is fine. This year was my first hut in Sept with calling. I used one of those built in reed bugle tubes and called in 2 elk in the same day both 50 yds or less and killed one.
 
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Drenalin

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I told my wife today that I’d be elk hunting one year from now, and it’s gonna cost some money. I was prepared to take the “I’m not asking your permission” stance, but she was actually totally cool about it. Not one hint of an argument. I know I can get the time off work, so this trip has a full green light. Also talked to my brother and he says he’s in too.

Plan is to try and hunt Wyoming, need to call Fish & Game Monday and make sure I’m clear on the system. Going to go ahead and work on a backup plan too. I was pretty sure I wanted to do a rifle hunt, but now I’m at a coin flip between rifle and archery. Might let draw odds and success rates decide that point for me.

I greatly appreciate all the insight on this thread; I’m sure I’ll have a lot more questions as I start piecing this thing together.
 

realunlucky

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I told my wife today that I’d be elk hunting one year from now, and it’s gonna cost some money. I was prepared to take the “I’m not asking your permission” stance, but she was actually totally cool about it. Not one hint of an argument. I know I can get the time off work, so this trip has a full green light. Also talked to my brother and he says he’s in too.

Plan is to try and hunt Wyoming, need to call Fish & Game Monday and make sure I’m clear on the system. Going to go ahead and work on a backup plan too. I was pretty sure I wanted to do a rifle hunt, but now I’m at a coin flip between rifle and archery. Might let draw odds and success rates decide that point for me.

I greatly appreciate all the insight on this thread; I’m sure I’ll have a lot more questions as I start piecing this thing together.
Wyoming is a draw state, very unlikely but still possible to draw with zero or even one point. I'd still apply but have a otc backup plan if you want to go next year.

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Poser

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If you are planning to truck camp with the option of spiking out, my advice is to not get too fancy and over complicate your amount of daily camp chores. Keep it simple. For every comfort and amenity you add on, you’ll pay for it with time dedicated to logistics. You want to hunt supported by sufficient food and sleep, but you don’t want to be dealing with endless chores, tinkering, setups and breakdowns so skip all the fancy luxury aspects and stay focused on hunting. Everything; every single detail becomes a pain in the ass to deal with and the more you tack on, the more pain in the asses you will have to deal with on a daily basis. *It’s not a camping trip.* The camping aspect exclusively serves the function of effective hunting. It’s easy to cross the amenity line where that relationship gets out of balance. Take what you need to take to sleep well and perform well, but your choices on what to bring should be matters of liberation not excess.
 

cnelk

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This year, my 6x6 bull fit into two 120qt coolers - 230lbs w/ bone in.
Its tricky but with the right arrangement of quarters - even with frozen milk jugs


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trophyhill

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Over the last couple of days I've decided that I need to get out west and hunt elk in 2020. I'm not getting any younger and it's time to stop thinking about it and get it done. I'd like to make it an annual trip ultimately, but for now just need to get started. Here's what I'm thinking for my first trip out, along with some general questions/clarifications. Any input you guys have would be great.

1. I'm going for OTC tags. I don't need a giant bull, I just want to get into elk. I'd be ecstatic with a cow, but wouldn't be surprised at all to come home empty handed. I'm prepared for that. Total trip would be 10 days, including two to drive out and two to drive back.

2. I haven't picked a state. Considering Idaho, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana. Any reason to pick one over the other? Tag prices seem close enough that I don't want to let that be the driving factor. Within those states, any particular units I should target or avoid?

3. Planning on a rifle hunt. Figure that gives me the best odds for success, even if I miss the prime part of the season. I'm not opposed to biting it off with archery tackle though if you guys think I'll have a better hunt.

4. Planning to do a truck camp. Don't know yet if this trip will be solo or not so want to keep my pack out distance reasonable given that it will be my first pack out of anything bigger than a whitetail. Once I've identified a state and unit, I'll research packers as a backup plan.

5. If I do get an elk down and packed out, I still have to get it home. I'd prefer not to spend the same amount of money on coolers that I do on tags. From what I've read here, looks like I would need around 200 qts of capacity, with at least one of those coolers long enough to fit a 34" quarter. Any cooler recommendations? If there are compelling reasons to invest in Yeti or comparable coolers to use once a year, I'm open to it, but reluctant. I'd plan on boning out.

6. Any reason I wouldn't do just fine with 10x42 binos if I'm just going for general elk? If a good pair of binos will do the job, I can put more money into those and skip the spotter/tripod.

7. I'm thinking I would target areas between trailheads, assuming the right habitat exists. I'm not foolish enough to think I'm going to come from the Appalachians to the Rockies and out hike everybody to get to elk. I assume I need to focus on the basics of water, open feeding areas, and benches in steep terrain. Is that about right as a starting point? Without scouting beforehand, I would plan on hitting areas I can identify off maps/aerials and then keep moving till I get on fresh sign.

I don't want to get hung up on gear for this trip. I assume since it'll be my first elk hunt, I really don't know what I want anyway until get out there use something. I can piece together the stuff to get it done and then adjust for future trips.

What are some considerations I'm missing? What screw ups have you made that I can learn from so I don't make all the mistakes my first time out?
Sounds like a great plan and great attitude for a first hunt. Fair warning I though, You will be addicted and you will start spending mucho dinero's ;)
 

Farmingdale's Finest

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Are you saying I should spike camp it? Sounds like I would be in a similar situation as you if I'm striking out from a truck camp every morning. I'm open to it, just clarifying.
What you are thinking and what he is saying are two different things. I did my first archery elk hunt this year in Colorado and we camped by the truck and hiked in to our spot but when it went dry from pressure we were more moble than packing in and setting a spike camp where you are limited in how far you can travel. In a truck you cn quickly drive 5 miles down the road and hit a different drainage.

Do you remember what model you got? I've been looking at Igloo and Coleman a little.

After seeing many YouTube video's i bought two 120 qt Coleman Marine extreme coolers for about $60 each. We froze enough 1 gallon jugs to fit the bottom of the cooler packed the cooler with food and covered it with cubes. It was between 88 to 91 degrees every day for the week ad when we got home we still had some of the jugs frozen.

I'm still trying to find a boot that works for me. Considering EXO packs, MR Metcalf, or Kifaru. Will probably come down to the best deal I can get on one of those three.

Boots are a personal issue I bought 3 pairs in the year prior to our trip and finally settled on the Cabelas Meindl Denali's after trying Lowa Camino's and Salomon Quest 4d's that didn't work for my wide high arch feet. Any of the pack will work great based upon what I have read. We used MR Glaciers not hunting specific but the same size as the MR Metcalf rated to 90lbs without a meat shelf. It worked out great carrying 45 pounds when we bivyed and in training with 75 pounds. And at a fraction of the cost of the hunting specific packs.


Good info brownie, I really appreciate it!
Good luck!
 

Farmingdale's Finest

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This is one of my biggest concerns, especially with the pack out. I can hump around in Apps with a pack on no problem, but it's not the same and the elevation isn't even close. We used to PT in our gas masks in the Marines and I am considering mixing some of that in to help get my body used to not having oxygen.
How old are you and do you have any physical limitations?

I am 53 and did my first elk hunt this September in NW Colorado with elevations from 7500-10,000 feet. I live a block to the water on the NJ Shore so you can't get much lower elevation than I live.
In 2010 I had a Widow Maker Heart attack at the age of 43. Seven months after winning the Pan Ams for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I have had surgery on my right knee 3 times from college football. I also had a construction accident after Hurricane Sandy where I fell through the steps between my first and second floors of my home due to rusted nails from the flooding we experienced. In the fall I herniated 3 discs in my neck and 3 in the lumbar region. I was in PT for 7 months and had an epidural and could barely walk around the block for a year.

I worked out doing a combination of yoga, body weight exercises heavy on planks to work the core and a kettle bell lifting program and rucked 2-3 days a week before work 2-4 miles with a 40 pound pack. It worked out well for me!

I also wore a Fitbit and watched my heart rate. I had it peak as high as 196 beats per minute on the elk hunt which is crazy high. When I got it over 180 I would rest and drink water for 10-15 minutes to get the heart rate below 140. I could go all day as long I keep the heart rate below 180 which is still much higher than what would be for most people my age.

I am addicted now and looking forward to next year and plan on being in better shape which should make the experience even more fun! Good luck with your upcoming hunt!
 
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UserName529

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I am considering the Elk101 course online to help with the learning curve.

Anyone else done this? Thoughts on it?
I started down the same road as you Jan 19. I devoured every podcast I could find and still think UEH was the best $$ spent. I will more than likely keep it another year and go through it again.
 
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