Getting Ready For Elk Hunting Trip To Montana


Well-Known Member
Jul 10, 2001
Well I've been getting ready for this for two years since my ill-fated trip for elk to the Wind River's Range in beautiful Wyoming.

Will be hunting the second week of the season; my outfitter tells me that after the first week of the season that you can take either a bull or a cow with your bull elk tag (new rule change for this year, can't do it during the first week of the season however).

Anybody know what the elk population is like in Montana this year? I'll be hunting just south of Alder in the Beaverhead Nat'l Forest, the Gravelly Range. While you're at it does anybody know what the Griz situation is this year?

I know that the weather in Montana can change faster they a Kerry political opinion, but,on the average, what kind of weather can I expect the first week of November in this area at about 9,000 feet?

Anybody else going to this area? Any suggestions for a first-timer here? Thanks.
I thought all the outfitters here in Montana operated out of ranches
Just kidding. The Gravelly range gets hammered opening week, and with the either-sex starting the second week it looks like two opening weeks! I worked for Safeway in Dillon for four seasons, and the busiest day for sales FOR THE YEAR is the Saturday before opening day. The parking lot(large) is totally PACKED with campers and 4 wheelers!! Unbelivalbe!!! The weather during the first week of rifle season in the Gravelly range can be fatal. It has taken lives in the past!! Bring plenty of quality winter clothing! Kind of like a handgun, best to have and not need, than need and not have! If you have a outfitter, then go by their advice. They are experts
Lots and lots of Elk. Lots and lots of hunters too! But if you go at least a quarter of a mile off the potlicking roads, you should see game and have fun. Longe range shots are to be expected! The bulls stay in the timber, but the cows and youngsters(including young bulls) group up in family groups of 5 to 10 or more. They can be caught out in the clearings. Some of the sage meadows up there are tall enough to hide them, so good optics for spotting are a good idea. Have fun, stay safe and good luck
Should be snow and below frezing conditions in november especially at 9000ft. We had a little blizzard roll through this morning and it is supposed to snow throughout the week so that should get the elk moving. Lots of griz and black bears in the area. Get your meat out the same day and keep a clean camp.
Hey, thanks for all the replies. Sorry it took me so long to get back to ya'll; it's this work/job thing I have.

Meathead - I'm sorry to hear that the Gravelly range gets hammered; will I need to take a number a wait in line in order to get out in the woods? Now I'm a walker. I've walked 15 to 20 miles in a day trying to shoot a elk before, so getting 1/4 mile off the road shouldn't be a problem. Now you say that long range shots are to be expected, but you also say that the bulls stay in the timber. Does this mean I'll have long shots throught the timber? Or will my shots in the timber be more short-range?

STL - My ill-fated elk trip to the Winds was well covered in multiple postings about two years ago. So as not to bore everybody again with all the details, I'll be brief. In short I went with an outfitter who gave me a guide who was proficient in all the various and sundry duties necessary to be a good guide except for one; the guy didn't know how to hunt elk. It seems that in the part of Wyo that this guy was from, the locals who hunt elk are more "opportunists" then hunters. They kill their elk when some buddy calls and says "hey, I've got a bunch of elk in my south pasture, why don't you drive on up here after work and shoot one of them". They don't kill their elk by actively hunting them. Hence the guy didn't have the foggiest idea about how to hunt elk. It was one of those hunts where I sorta had to take over and begin to suggest hunting techniques to him.

MTBA - Thanks for the heads-up. I just love hunting in the snow; just brings out the best in me. I've got tons of warm clothing. Interesting about "keeping a clean camp". An outfitter once told me that keeping your camp clean has little to do with keeping bears out of your camp. It's what the people who have occupied your campsite for the couple of weeks BEFORE you have done that determins weather or not you're gonna have a bear problem. That's where the habbits of the bears are established. For example. This outfitter said that at one of his campsites, people had been pouring bacon fat/grease all over the place for a couple of weeks before he got there. Well everybody knows that griz's love nothing better then bacon grease. He subsequently had such a problem with them that it didn't matter what he did, the griz's were so very used to eatin bacon grease that they virtually LIVED in his campsite. Like you say, timing is everything.

Any other opinions, info, or suggestions would be GREATLY appreciated. Thanks much.
Bears are funny critters and are very one track minded. Just always have to respect them.

More snow today and looks like it will continue for a while
idn't mean to confuse.The Gravelly Range is a wonderful place to hunt in, and I am sure you will have an enjoyable hunt.You will see lots of god-awfull big camps with lots of hunters and quite a few of them like to employ 4-wheelers as a hunting tool instead of leaving them in camp and using them to haul meat out. That said, serious hunters like yourself will be able to figure out what is going on and avoid the buzz!
The country has very large open areas surrounded by thick tracts of timber.That's where the big boys are hanging out. You should be able to spot small groups of cows,heifers, calves and young bulls on the edges of the clearings during the early AM and just before dark. Sometimes they will pop out in the middle of the day, depending on hunting pressure. With the general Elk Tag going to either sex in the second week, I predict another wave of hunting camps and increased pressure. There have been problems between groups of hunters as the competition is sometimes fierce. It has lead to gunplay in the past, and is spoiling the whole atmophere. Just a friendly warning, I am not trying to spook you or spoil your plans. Get on up there and enjoy yourself. Good luck and let us know how things went! And now I must go repack my hunting pack, again! Feels just like Christmas eve when I was a kid. I am off to the Highlands myself, as they are just outside my back door.
meathead - Wholy Mackerel!! Hunter-to-hunter gunplay in the Gravely range!! Sounds like I should be taking my AR instead of my AI. Wow, what a sad state of affairs. Guess I'll be looking for the remote rugged country. But thanks for the wonderful intel. I have a much better feeling for what kind of territory and what sort of environment I'll be encountering.

As I write this, you're probably out hunting. I hope that when you read these comments that you will have returned with an awesome story about a huge 8X8 that you bagged.

Thanks again for the great intel.
meathead - I've just returned from Montana, and I told my outfitter and guides what you said about the "gunplay" in the Gravely range. None of them had heard anything about this. My outfitter said that they knew all the game wardens and the local Sheriff and nobody had every heard of any gunplay in the Gravely range. Could you do me a favor and provide a reference such as a newspaper article for me to send to them. Thanks.
Well, it happened sometime between 1999 and 2001. I heard of it second hand from a local in Dillon. Then there was a small write up in the Montana Standard. It happened between Blacktail Creek and the Robb Ledford area. Argument about access or something of that nature. There has also been "road rage" incidents on the back country roads. "Guided" hunts and outfitters usally don't operate in the real busy areas, and not all outfitters are from the local areas either.Hell, alot of outfitters and guides aren't even from Montana!! On your other posting, us "locals" rarely have the time to hunt the five weeks, or to run out at our leisure when the snow flies. Alot of us take vacations{usally one week} and are stuck with hunting whatever conditions are delt us. Same boat! Better luck next time, mabey in Idaho?
Meathead - Thanks much for the info I shall pass it along to my outfitter. It seems that you are right on a number of points. Many of the guides working for my outfitter were not from Montana. Hell one was from Pennsylvania and another was from California; just to think of two off the top of my head. You're also correct that outfitters don't operate in the really busy areas.

I'm sorry that you don't have the opportunity to hunt more. My cousin lives in Wyoming and whenever the weather is good, he just goes out and bags his elk. But he waits till the weather is good; doesn't go before then.
Roadrunner- Just came back from the Notch and my friends just got back from the Robb-Ledford area. Saw lots of elk but country too rough for me to get into. My friend -Ron- drew a buck tag for there and saw some huge bucks and some nice bulls -far off and up high. Not much snow yet.
My friend has been hunting the "Devils Hole" for years and does real well there- he is like you -walks 10 miles a day-sometimes knee deep or better. Carries his sleeping bag and just beds down in the timber when night catches him.
He missed a very big buck at 400 yards with the Lazzaroni war bird-finally gort him to admit it is too much gun for him-flinches cost him a 32-36 inch buck. Next year he will be carrying a 7mag or something like it.
One hunter had a 35 incher with 15 points on a side and said he saw two larger- Ron missed the biggest one in the timber one day and the next biggest 5 times at 400 yds the next day. Brooded about it and went home and says he quit.Lol-- We think we have him talked into going out the last two days- maybe I'll lend him my Ruger 7mag with 4-16 Burris Signature scope. 3 inches high at 100 should put him in the kill range at 400 if he aims at the top of the brisket. Have to see.
Good Luck, man.

Leep Out:
Yep I do! A buddy of mine just got back from taylor fork.
Last year it was hot really hot. Camp was at 8400' and no snow, we din't see anything for six day's. On the other hand this year was much better, Mike shoot a cow a close range but he has meat for the winter. The weather was better to much colder, with snow. It can be really cold though. My brothers and I have seen it get to -70 in Bozeman!, winter of 2003 or 04 can't remember. So take cloths for both. It's 10 degree's here now. Brian Anchorage,Alaska
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