Thanks for all the great info guys!
Here's what I've decided.
You all brought me to the conclusion that I expected, which is that for a group of archery elk hunters with limited experience, going later in the season is the way to go. We'd have the excitement of hearing more bugles and have more chances of seeing, hearing and encountering bulls, which is really what it's all about.
With that said, I'm planning our trip for the first week in September.
It ends up I was invited to be a groomsman in a buddy's wedding the last weekend of the archery season, so that last week (after muzzle loader season) won't work. Doesn't he know he's screwing up my hunt planning?
I really don't want to archery hunt during the ML season this first time, so that leaves the week before.
Here are the positives of going early as I see them:
- Relatively small chance of having to deal with difficult weather up at 11-13,000 feet .
- We'll be hunting an area with good access to above-timberline - hopefully we'll have success glassing elk up high - less pressured too.
- A couple of us will try to draw muley tags - hopefully we'll see some velvet bucks up high too.
- Hopefully bulls will come to calling as some early season hunters have said.
- Easier (warmer) camping.
So there you have it. If anyone has any early season archery elk advice, I'd really appreciate it.
As I said, we'll be at 11-13,000 feet. In addition to the above-timberline terrain, we'll hunt several long valleys with small open parks thoughout and plenty of water (so hunting water probably won't be a priority). We'll plan to focus on north facing slopes and benches. We'll spend the early days with some of us glassing up high and some of us burning some boot leather in the timber trying to locate the elk.
My wife and I will be heading out to the hunt area in late July for some scouting and camping. Hopefully I'll learn some things about where the elk seem to have been in past seasons (I understand that if we see elk in late July we shouldn't expect them to still be in the same locations come September).
I'm planning to really work hard between now and then to get in the best shape I've been in years. I'm in pretty good shape, but I want to really step it up.
This hunt is something I've been dreaming about for a long time. It's going to be hard to sleep for the next 6 months.