I went through your thinking before my first elk hunt 2 years ago.
I quickly eliminated a DIY hunt for my first elk hunt as the time to scout & having horses, mules, tack, tents & gear, and a lack of ELK hunting experience told me I wanted to be hunting with the best guides & outfitter I could find. Down the road I might go with a do it yourself hunt, but not my first hunt.
Decide what you want, rugged mountain experience with lesser chance of connecting with a nice bull, ranch hunt with a better chance, or a ranch hunt with virtually guaranteed trophy. Each of these is available — for a price.
Mountain hunting can mean shots from point-blank to "800+ yard opportunities", but most shots are under 80 yards.
I chose the rugged, mountain hunting experience, even though "success" is only about 30%, because I wanted the experience. I chose the best outfitter I could find (that fit my schedule) based on references & articles. I went with Lake Upsata Outfitters, who hunt the Bob Marshall Wilderness in Western Montana. (Montana packtrips and horseback riding
) There are other outfitters that are good, but only about 6 made my cut before I checked availability. (I WAS VERY PLEASED WITH THE OUTFITTER I CHOSE.)
Most outfitters plan hunts of 7 or 8 days, (with transportation my 8-day hunt took 14 days).
I was prepared for shots to 600 yards — and shot my 6x6 bull at all of 27 feet!