A common denominator in success

porkchop401

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Dec 19, 2010
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Fairview Alfa, Louisiana
Elk have been in many ways my nemesis, 4 unsuccessful trips, a couple of almost but no cigar. Recently I started quizzing some locals here in rural north LA with excellent track records on elk and there is one common denominator , horses! after talking to these folks they are either camping at the truck and riding out 3-5 miles or packing in 5-15 miles , either way the horse seem to be the difference between the folks that kill almost every year and those like myself that gets an opportunity every so many years. I am sure that this gap is wider for us flatlanders than it is you mountain men . It seems to be the getting in deep where there is little are no hunters and after a few days of hunting they either see even more game pushed in from outlying hunting pressure or they have the mobility to look for greener pastures. I enjoy riding though I have to work up to extended rides and am considering purchasing a mule and possibly a pack mule as well . Your thoughts , thanks Mike
 

Timber338

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I think the most important part is getting back further into the mountains, regardless of how you get there. I don't use horses but shoot elk every year, but hike my a** off. I've seen a lot of guys on horseback where I hunt that never shoot elk because they stay on the major trails on top of their horses. I'm sure plenty of horse folks here have run into elk on horseback, but I like to hunt on foot.
 

rooster740

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Feb 13, 2008
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Paradise Valley montana
Two riding animals that pack is a better bet. A pack animal just burns grass once you get to where you want to be. Two riding animals can be given a half a day rest once you get to camp. I almost always take two horses. Either with two riding saddles, or I swap the pack saddle and ride both during the day. If you kill something, you are set to travel, home or to camp!
With a horse you can ride past the hikers, tie up and your legs are still fresh. Don't be foolish enough to think all horse hunters don't hike.
Plus with a horse you can take all of the elk meat home, and not leave half like a lot of hikers do.
 

Timber338

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I know there are obviously lots of horse guys that slay elk. I guess my point is that I do not think horses are the common denominator of successful elk hunters. That is one way to do it. A very good way when you do it right, but not the only way.

I do not think there is any one thing I could put my finger on that would spell out elk hunting success.
 

desertbull

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I think if you live in an area that is far away from your hunt area and cannot do any pre season scouting, then horses that can get you into the back country with fresh legs is an advantage.

You can hire a pack service to pack you and your gear into the mountains then hunt on foot from there.
 

porkchop401

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Dec 19, 2010
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Fairview Alfa, Louisiana
I think if you live in an area that is far away from your hunt area and cannot do any pre season scouting, then horses that can get you into the back country with fresh legs is an advantage.

You can hire a pack service to pack you and your gear into the mountains then hunt on foot from there.

You make a good point, also I have been considering renting horses . Here in the south owning a horse is fairly inexpensive compared to other parts of the country. Not to mention they keep the fence rows clean.
A year ago I would not have even considered owning horses but after going on a adventurous horseback bear hunt in Wy that quiet frankly left me questioning my sanity I have had time to reflect and heal . Where those animals carried us was nothing short of amazing.
 

Timber338

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I think if you live in an area that is far away from your hunt area and cannot do any pre season scouting, then horses that can get you into the back country with fresh legs is an advantage.

You can hire a pack service to pack you and your gear into the mountains then hunt on foot from there.

I agree that a pack service is an excellent option for anybody regardless of where you live. I would guess that hiring a pack service for a hunt once or twice a year is going to be cheaper than owning horses year round. And you get the benefit of having horses pack you and your gear without having to take care of them during the entire hunt. That's the #1 reason I don't hunt with horses... They require maintenance and are something I've got to return to every day. They take time away from hunting.

Of course that is how my brain works and how I hunt. You're either a horse person or your not, I have nothing against horses or guys that use them to hunt. Just providing perspective.

And you can hike in and still be plenty fresh to hunt and pack an elk out on your back. If just the hike in tires you out then horses are definitely a better option. The best compliment I have ever gotten was from the outfitter on the mountain where I hunt. He called the division of wildlife and tried to turn me in for leaving a dead elk on the mountain and only taking out the head. I actually called him because I was so shocked at the accusations... his words "there is no way in hell somebody can pack an elk out on foot in that short of a time ... so you must have left the whole elk up there". He was just that ignorant. I know all the field officers in that area, so they just kind of laughed too.
 

geo4061

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Jun 25, 2014
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Southern Oklahoma
The best thing I ever did was hire a local guide. He charged fifteen hundred for three days and two hunters. We used his horses that were use to the mountains and in great shape. His camp and local knowledge. These things made for success and a very enjoyable hunt. You can not own horses and all the equipment for that. Plus this takes a lot of the work load off you and your partner.
 

cohunter14

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Oct 11, 2012
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Colorado
If you were to ask me what the common denominator in success is, it's people who have hunted the same area for a lot of years and know it like the back of their hand. The people who are filling their tags every year are not jumping around from spot to spot every year. Sure, success might not be that great for the first few years, but give it 3-5 years of hunting the same area and your success rate is bound to go up. Hunt it for 10 years straight and you should have a great chance at filling your tag every year.

Keep in mind that success rates in the best units are 25%-30%. So if you are filling your tag once every three years, you are above average. More than that and you are doing something right.
 

Mtngoat690

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Mar 4, 2012
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If you were to ask me what the common denominator in success is, it's people who have hunted the same area for a lot of years and know it like the back of their hand. The people who are filling their tags every year are not jumping around from spot to spot every year. Sure, success might not be that great for the first few years, but give it 3-5 years of hunting the same area and your success rate is bound to go up. Hunt it for 10 years straight and you should have a great chance at filling your tag every year.

Keep in mind that success rates in the best units are 25%-30%. So if you are filling your tag once every three years, you are above average. More than that and you are doing something right.

+1 on this one.
I've hunted the same area for many years and for the most part I can just guestimate by the conditions where I'm going to find the elk. I use this method for deer and antelope as well with better than average success.
 

Dosh

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Aug 6, 2013
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Arizona
401, the hire of a guide or horses would be a plus for you. Living here I the west we probably don't consider the hurdles an out of state hunter encounters. I've hunted the same spot for 13 years with friends from here (Az) Calif., Michigan and Nevada. We all have met on this hunt over the years and our camp has grown to 5 trailers. The ranch we hunt doesn't allow horses, quads or side by sides. We have to hoof it but not over a mile to be successful. Geo4061's experience is appealing if going out of state. Good luck
 

sp6x6

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Dec 8, 2009
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NW MT
Im pushing 40 elk,dont own horses and dont hire guide for elk. I couldnt tell you how many elk Ive found near road or bulls shot from a road.Its knowing your animal. I passed 2 6pts from rig this year.The elk that are closer to people and ranches are more like 'whitetail' elk. The tough country I hunt they see or smell you and they are in next drainage, which is a half day away or more. I shot this bull from road, now I was 1-2 mile from my rig. I saw cow cross in dark while on way out early drinking my coffee,stopped,raised a bugle.Chased a lesser bull all morning,lost track of him and called this one in,while I was on edge of a main logging road,that is what I had on in call in got hot and took off my camo trotting after elk all morning.
 

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bigngreen

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Nov 24, 2008
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SW Montana
Knowing you area in invaluable, I grew up, worked, lived and hunted in the area I hunt. I bow hunt, trap, lion hunt and rifle hunt, I've talked to the old timers and found old blazed trails and poked around and found the old cabins and learned all I can from anyone who knows something about the area.
I've just walked many of the trails just to know where they go and I GPS them, figure out how the elk move through the area and you have a good idea where they've come from and where their going because you've done it also.

We spend a LOT of time on glass, we used to spend a lot of time on the shoe leather but the more we slow down and glass the more successful we are. It's very rare when we go up that we don't find elk, very rare!! We bow hunt for fun but come rifle season it's about killing elk, glassing pus more elk in the truck, beating around the timber looking for elk is a low percentage way to kill elk in this area. When we go into the timber it's because we know there are elk there, where they are at, how to approach it and we're killing some elk, flat out elk are dieing!!
 
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