Elk hunt planning - Idaho, Montana, or Colorado?

Discussion in 'Elk Hunting' started by kayaker89, Nov 12, 2013.

  1. kayaker89

    kayaker89 New Member

    Nov 12, 2013
    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.
  2. mightyman

    mightyman Well-Known Member

    Jul 24, 2012
    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.

  3. kayaker89

    kayaker89 New Member

    Nov 12, 2013
    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.
  4. IdahoCTD

    IdahoCTD Well-Known Member

    Oct 22, 2008
    Why not hunt in BC or Alberta for elk since it's the same country? BC has some huge elk in the northern portion.
  5. kayaker89

    kayaker89 New Member

    Nov 12, 2013
    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.
  6. idelkslayer

    idelkslayer Member

    Jan 17, 2013
    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.
  7. wpwarren

    wpwarren Well-Known Member

    Nov 24, 2013
    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.
  8. jwall3d11

    jwall3d11 Well-Known Member

    Nov 1, 2013
    You can hunt the Flat Tops Wilderness in Colorado with no preference points. There are a lot of elk there and you can hunt them with a bow in the rut. We set up spike camp at 11,000 feet and have had tremendous success there. And if you want with 1 point you should be able to draw a muzzleloader tag which I believe comes in there right around the second week of September so your in the rut. That being said I've never hunted in Idaho but I like idelkslayers thoughts on being able to hunt other animals especially since I've never taken most mentioned there.
  9. TLD338

    TLD338 Well-Known Member

    Jul 1, 2013
    I have a 10 day drop camp set up for November this year in the Selway/Frank Church area. Looks like a great area, and we are fully prepared to hunt our asses off to get an elk on the ground. There are some monsters taken there, and for an extra $30 each you can add wolf, bear, and mtn. lion tags to your hunt.

    I'll be taking the 338 Lapua and 280AI on the hunt looking for some long shots if they can be had. Anyone on here have any experience in this unit for us "future" hunters? how's the terrain? heavy timber or wide open? I've looked at some topos and it looks like we may be able to get a little spot and stalk in, but nothing like first hand experience.

    I am looking at a late season hunt, so the Elk should be coming out of rut, moving around a little, and the Mulleys should be in full swing. The plan is to hunt like hell for the Elk and deer, then hunt over the carcasses for the predators and see what happens.

    Y'all throw in your two cents on this unit, hunt or strategy. Any advice or input in general is better than nothing!
  10. royinidaho

    royinidaho Writers Guild

    Jan 20, 2004
    Not precisely first hand but dang close. One word - steep! Typos don't do justice.

    Use google earth and crank the elevation setting up to 3 for a better feel. :)
  11. Timber338

    Timber338 Well-Known Member

    May 10, 2011
    I just want to add that in many areas in Colorado the elk are rutting well into October for the 1st and 2nd season rifle hunts. The point being that you don't have to limit a Colorado hunt to just bow hunting (assuming you want to hunt elk in the rut).

    The Colorado either-sex elk archery tag is over the counter. So this allows you to apply for a draw 1st-season rifle tag. If you don't draw you can fall back to the over the counter either-sex archery tag.

    Even if you do draw a rifle tag, you can always turn it in and get an over the counter archery tag (as long as you do it before the archery season starts).