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Elk hunt planning - Idaho, Montana, or Colorado?

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Old 11-12-2013, 06:49 PM
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Join Date: Nov 2013
Posts: 3
Elk hunt planning - Idaho, Montana, or Colorado?

I am planning an elk hunt in September 2016. It seems a long way off, but taking unpaid leave is the only way I can get leave from my job during the fall and that is the soonest it is possible.

I'm looking to backpack into a wilderness area (either unofficial or official) in pursuit of elk. It will be my first elk hunt. While I have no experience hunting elk, I chase whitetail deer through square miles of "big woods" here in Canada and have done extensive backcountry travel out west mountaineering, white water kayaking, backpacking, etc. I am very comfortable with backcountry travel of all kinds and have the fitness to tackle any challenge within reason.

I fully expect that I will not kill an elk, although I will try my hardest! Really, it is about the experience of pursuing a majestic animal in a pristine wilderness setting.

My first choice is rifle hunting the early rifle seasons in the wilderness zones of Idaho (e.g. Frank Church) or Montana (e.g. Bob Marshall). My back up plan would be bowhunting in Colorado.

Where would you go? My criteria is being able to hunt during the rut, being in a pristine wilderness setting, and having a realistic change of elk encounters. All feedback welcome and appreciated.
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Old 11-12-2013, 07:07 PM
Silver Member
Join Date: Jul 2012
Location: Suwanee GA
Posts: 130
Re: Elk hunt planning - Idaho, Montana, or Colorado?

I hunted a very wilderness, back pack elk hunt a few years ago in the Frank Church and it was tremendous, remote, and a great experience.

I killed a nice 6X6, but you do have to hunt them, which is the whole objective as opposed to walk out on some properties, and see 300 head of elk.., but the price is high for this as well. We spent at least 50 hours on horseback, and many hours daily walking and riding a horse.
In some cases we rode horses for 2 hours in the am, got off the horse, and the other wrangler took the horses, and moved them 2, 3 mountains over, and we had to walk to them by the evening...! In the bugle season in ID we hunted late due to Daylight saving time (Sept), got back to camp at 9pm or 10, ate and then crashed on the bunk.
Food, experience was great and the elk was a bonus.

It is expensive with the fly in on crop duster from Boise to a remote landing strip in the Church, and then 6 hours further back to camp.

The Idaho license is a little high compared to other states, but again a great experience.
I've elk hunted in Montana, CO, and Idaho...like them all...all remote wilderness camps which give one the true experience of an elk hunt, but each different based on what you are looking for.

Colorado is a good bet, easy to get to, and tags over the counter.
CO, Idaho Montana, Idaho, and WY allow a hunter to rifle hunt during the bugle season, but more expensive, depending if you use a guide, or hunt on your own.
Check with local agencies, and outfitters, as well and get their customer list for good/bad experiences and check them out.

Some now are more prone to have wolf problems as it relates to elk kill, so try to pick an outfitter that has little pressure from wolves, grizzlies to help improve your chances.
Many western states do not allow an out of state hunter to hunt alone without a guide in wilderness areas as I recall.

Whichever you chose, it is a wonderful experience. My guide in the Frank Church was Travis Bullock, Mile High outfitters....be ready, and walk and ride before you go on any of these hunts...Travis will work hard for you, but walk your dang legs off...

All in all, once you do it, you will never be the same, and yearn to go back every year,
Mighty man.
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Old 11-12-2013, 07:24 PM
Junior Member
Join Date: Nov 2013
Posts: 3
Re: Elk hunt planning - Idaho, Montana, or Colorado?

It will be a DIY hunt. I realize this lowers the success percentage significantly, but I accept that. I will likely be hunting with one other person whose background is similar to mine.
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Old 11-12-2013, 08:54 PM
Gold Member
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Boise, ID
Posts: 820
Re: Elk hunt planning - Idaho, Montana, or Colorado?

Why not hunt in BC or Alberta for elk since it's the same country? BC has some huge elk in the northern portion.
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Old 11-12-2013, 09:10 PM
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Join Date: Nov 2013
Posts: 3
Re: Elk hunt planning - Idaho, Montana, or Colorado?

I would hunt Alberta or BC in a heartbeat if I could. Problem is, I live in Ontario and that makes me a non-resident in those provinces. Only way I can hunt either of those provinces is with an outfitter or with a resident of those provinces who can "host" me. I'm not interested in an outfitted hunt and I do know a few guys in those provinces who hunt, but they aren't into the backcountry hunt I'm looking for.

It sounds crazy as a Canadian, but if I want to hunt out west my option to is travel to U.S. states instead of Canadian provinces.
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Old 11-14-2013, 05:25 PM
Junior Member
Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 13
Re: Elk hunt planning - Idaho, Montana, or Colorado?

I don't know what other tags are available for the same dates in Montana and Colorado but if you choose Idaho you can also purchase tags for bear, wolf, deer (good for whitetail or mule deer), and mtn lion all with overlapping season dates in the Selway zone and Middle fork zone. That would give you more options if you are going to make such a long trip and travel so far it would be a shame to go home empty handed. Better to go home with at least a deer than nothing at all. Also, in Idaho, your non-resident deer tag can be used on bear, mtn lion or wolf.
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Old 11-24-2013, 10:02 PM
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Join Date: Nov 2013
Posts: 39
Re: Elk hunt planning - Idaho, Montana, or Colorado?

I don't know how it is in other states, but if you want to hunt in Colorado I would start applying for preference points now. It will increase your chances of landing a tag in a better area. Over the counter hunting is an ok option, but you can only hunt 1st season and or in premium units if you draw a tag.
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