Elk Hunting For The Layman - Part 1
First aid supplies are on your needed list and should include a basic first aid kit plus a blood clot kit, a couple of feminine napkins, and an ace bandage. Visit your doctor prior to your hunt and ask him to prescribe you the strongest general antibiotic and pain pills he will give you. If you become sick you are a burden on everyone else on the hunt. If you have a serious injury, the pain medication will be very useful as you walk or ride horseback several miles back to the nearest vehicle. Getting a prescription for Valium or Xanax is not a bad idea, as it can come in very handy if you have to deal with a panicked injury victim.
Other items you may want to take on your hunting trip may include:
Range finder, meat saw, gloves for butchering, day pack, folding chair, playing cards, books or magazines, beverages of choice, camera & film, spare rifle with ammunition.
Now we will get back to the question of whether to utilize a guide or outfitter, or to hunt as a self-guided hunter. Guides and outfitters usually offer three levels of services, and some will also be able to provide licenses and tags. A fully guided one-on-one hunt providing the services mentioned above is the first choice if available and affordable. The guide will be at your side at every moment. They will help you choose your animal, offer advice on shot placement, and tell you when they feel that the shot is not advisable.
Guided hunts that are two to one are usually a little lower in cost to the individual hunter, and can be very rewarding for family members or friends that are hunting together. The downside here is that both hunters must decide who will be the first shooter prior to going into the field, and then live with that decision.
Third type of guided or outfitter hunt is hunting from a drop camp. This is a camp that has been previously set up and maintained by the guide and outfitter. You will be transported to the camp and left for a predetermined amount of time to hunt on your own. You will also be responsible for preparing your own meals and providing your own food. Someone will usually check on you every couple of days. You will be at the mercy of this schedule if you are in a region without cell phone service. Once you have taken your elk, the guide or outfitter will usually provide help in processing the animal in the field and transporting it back to the lodge or base camp for you.
To me this is a very good fit for experienced hunters who wish to utilize their hunting skills without the hassle of having to set up a camp. The down side to this type of hunting is that a drop camp will usually facilitate six to eight hunters. If you and/or your party is not large enough or you do not opt to buy out the total camp for your hunting period, you will find yourself camping and hunting with strangers. Letís face it, most hunters are the best people on earth, but there is always the chance you could share the camp with Jeffrey Dahmerís twin brother.
Now we will get to the self-guided hunts. If you are not a resident of the state you will be hunting in, this is the most challenging type of elk hunt. It can also be the most expensive if things are not very well planned. Successful or not, a self-guided hunt can be the adventure of a lifetime. I do not recommend self-guided hunts for a non-resident hunter who will be hunting alone. Besides, it is more enjoyable sharing your experience with family or good friends. A party of three to six well experienced hunters and woodsmen is about perfect in size to provide enough people to share the duties of setting up and maintaining the camp, while still keeping the size to only two tents, one for cooking and one for sleeping.
Remember the items on your required, needed, and want list. All of these items are going to be transported to your campsite. You may camp in a designated camping site (you may be required to in some areas), or you can camp in a remote area closer to where you plan to hunt. You didnít think you were going to kill your elk stomping around with the other thousand hunters that never get further than a quarter of a mile from the road, did you? Remember, you are here to kill an elk, not just go camping.
Plan to get at least two miles from the nearest place a motorized vehicle can get and you just might have a chance of killing an elk on public land. If you are not hunting in a wilderness area you can transport your camping items directly to your camping area with your truck, jeep, or RTV. If you are hunting in a wilderness area you have three choices. You can haul your pack animals from your home state, you can rent pack animals in the state you are hunting, or if you are Superman you can pack your camp on your back.
If you plan to haul your own animals, remember to have current health certificates before you leave home, and your brand registrations if you live in a state that requires them. Any and all feed taken into public lands must be certified weed free. I usually use alfalfa pellets in 50 pound sacks. They meet the weed free requirement and easily pack two to a side for a 200 pound pack load per horse. There are several ranchers or outfitters in every state that will rent you horses or other animals for riding and/or packing. Most will deliver and pick up their animals at the trailhead where you are parking your vehicles. The cost for this service is $350.00 - $500.00 per animal per week. You will still have to provide feed during your hunt. Sombrero Ranch outside of Meeker, Colorado is one such provider.
If you plan to pack light and carry everything on your backs get the best pack frames and packs you can afford. Forget those two wheeled ladder looking things as a means of transporting your camping items. I have followed several groups into the wilderness that were using these contraptions and all ended up looking like the German Army leaving Russia with more items left on the trail than reaching camp.
In all of my successful hunts I hunted in a self-guided camp of 8 to 12 hunters on each occasion. This, in my opinion, is too many people. We hunted in a remote area of California Park west of Steamboat Spring, Colorado and about ten miles south of the Wyoming state line. We utilized horses to pack in and out of our camp. Each and every hunting trip is an adventure in its own right, a detailed account of one such hunt will follow in Part Two of this article.
I hope you have found this information both helpful and entertaining. If you have any questions I can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tommy Cornelison was raised on a working ranch in South Florida where his time was spent hunting and working with cattle and horses. He is a General Contractor/ Construction Manager by profession which has allowed him to travel the country, working and hunting. Tommy is an avid hunter, shooter, and reloader and can proudly say he has taken all of his game with his own ammunition for the past forty years. Tommy is now building a custom 6.5 X 47 Lapua with plans for a 338 Norma Magnum to soon follow.
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