Name: Elk.png Views: 0 Size: 1.60 MB ID: 6254269 After many years of whitetail hunting I decided I would like to hunt more and new animals. Elk would be the chosen animal for this year. To hear about the hunt skip down to How did I do?
Where to start?
I did not know any elk hunters and have not spent much time west of the Mississippi River. So I used ATA, Bowsite, Rockslide, Instagram, and Twitter to research. Thank you to all that have helped me out on my journey. ATA has been a great resource and you will find many different opinions that will allow you to sort out the information from the bs and decided for yourself what opinions are facts and which are conjecture. This post will probably have a little of both in it as well.
What state to hunt?
Well, I know I wanted a tough hunt where I would definitely earn the opportunity to shoot an Elk. I also had zero points in any state so I quickly narrowed it down to MT or CO as those states offered the best opportunity for tags. Click image for larger version.
Name: Bitterroot.jpg Views: 0 Size: 277.6 KB ID: 6254271 How did I choose an Outfitter vs. DYI?
While I sure like the DYI route for all my hunting in the midwest, the task of DYI into an unknown area with an unknown animal was a bit too daunting for me. I sorted through outfitters based on cost, location, and authenticity of the outfitter. I know, if an outfitters lips are moving he's probably lying. However I did find a few highly recommended outfitters that were honest and fair with their outfits description. Alan Carter, of Two Bear Outfitters is the outfitter that I chose based on location and authenticity. Alan set an honest expectation and we discussed the education of an elk hunter being the purpose of the hunt over the sole focus of killing an Elk. Trust me though I was focused on killing an Elk. So I chose an outfitter guided 1x1, back country, archery hunt which required good physical conditioning and an opportunity to get into bulls.
How did I prepare? As a flatlander at sea level, Chicago, IL area (I know – don’t give me ** about it), I was worried about my fitness level heading into the mountains. Two Bear Outfitters hunt between 6,000ft and 7,500ft so I knew the elevation would diminish my already poor to fair fitness levels. I decided to train for a marathon. Prior to leaving for the hunt I could run 20 miles without stopping. You definitely, do not need that level of fitness to hunt Elk but after the hunt I would argue that the better shape you are in will directly correlate with your success in Elk hunting. (I am sure there are exceptions to this theory.)
What gear did I take? Merino wool. Being in the Midwest and reading inconsistent weather reports, ranging from Sunny to snow and from 70-20 degrees, was frustrating to determine what type of clothes I would need. I purchased merino wool underwear, shirts, and Kanab 2.0 from First Lite all on sale and Teton rain gear from Kuiu outlet. Feet care was a major focus using primarily Kenetrek Mountain Extremes with the Kenetrek sock system and body glide on my feet to prevent blisters. I chose to forgo a second pair of boots for lightweight Salmon Speedcross 4 GTX which I probably would have worn more if not for the snow. Click image for larger version.
Name: Camp.jpg Views: 0 Size: 765.4 KB ID: 6254273 How was the Hunt? The hunt started with meeting my guide Franco Simone and scouting on Sunday evening to setup hunting on Monday morning. We were glassing Elk that evening and into the Elk Monday morning.
Monday morning, we hiked hard to locate the herd on the backside of a ridge where we spotted them the night before. We moved in and worked the herd with cow calls in hopes of pulling a bull into range but they decided they had enough cows and moved away over multiple ridges. We gave them space but tracked the heard through the burn deadfall over three ridges away until they bedded for the afternoon. My guide Franco pushed me to move quickly when needed and had patience when needed during this setup.
We both agreed with the wind that a stalk would work and I laid out the plan to Franco which he agreed that would put me in the best position for a shot. I crossed the final valley between the ridges and closed the distance to 200 yards where I dropped my pack and then dropped down about 25 yards off the backside of the ridge. With a decent wind in my face to cover my scent and some sound I slowly crept along the side of the ridge only looking back to check with my guide if I was in the right location and if the wind was holding in my favor. Franco would reassure me with a wind check and hand signals to move forward. Finally, Franco signaled to me to check the top of the ridge where we saw a satellite bull bedded. I popped up to the ridge without seeing a bull. I looked back at Franco and shrugged as there was no bull but to my surprise out of the corner of my eye a large bull raised out of its bed at 30 yards behind two pine “reprod” trees.
I quickly drew my bow and held, no shot. I walked at full draw about 5 yards to my right as the Elk watched me through the pine trees with only a large down log as cover in front of me. Finally, I had a clear view of his vitals and was clear to take the shot. I hit the release and heard the hit but did not feel good about the Elk’s reaction or the shot. After searching for blood and a downed Elk we finally found my clean arrow behind where the Elk was standing, a clean miss. Beside myself and disappointed I looked at my new HHA single pin slider sight and realized I forgot to adjust the yardage in the excitement. Happy to not have injured the bull but severely disappointed that I missed such a dream shot with such a great stalk and setup. Never before had I hunted for two people, I really wanted to kill the bull not only for myself but for my guide as well. I was disheartened, but it was only Monday. We logged over 13 mountain miles.
Tuesday we were quickly back into the Elk. My guide, Franco, bugled and located a bull ready to fight. Again, Franco pushed me to run into position. Running over downfall on the side of a hill through marshy areas is not an easy task. My inexperience of hunting Elk would be the downfall of this setup as I ran down hill right to where the Bull would charge in instead of uphill where I could achieve a nice broadside type shot. My guide tried to direct me but with the wind and a hood over my head and with the intensity of a frustrated bugling elk at 70 yards I was only focused on the bull. I closed the distance to 50 yards and took a bad shot that was deflected off a bush. Bad choices and bad decisions by me led to another failed opportunity. This time I knew I missed and the bull was not far off still bugling. Franco encouraged me to continue and we were soon setup with three bulls bugling to each other in a valley on the other side of the ridge where I had just taken a shot. Excited for the, third times the charm, shot opportunity I scanned the woods and mountain ridge for the bulls. There were three bulls, two satellite and a large herd bull, screaming their heads off and that herd bull was about to round up the cows. Quickly a snow squall started to move in and the bulls shut up and moved away with next to no visibility or bugling to track them. The day was over but lots of excitement and three days left to close the deal.
Wednesday brought more snow and a declining promise of elk opportunity. One hunter’s bad decisions to hunt an unfamiliar area risked his life and those of the outfitters as Alan Carter, and the Two Bear Outfitter crew handled a lost hunter situation with effectiveness and care. The hunter was found, provided for Wednesday night, and delivered safely off the mountain the mountain Thursday morning. While this did affect my and other hunters hunts we all felt that it was handled the absolute right way and were happy with the results. Thursday and Friday brought more snow each. All said we had close to a foot and a half of snow. While Montana does receive some September snow in the mountains this year was a bit of an anomaly. Two Bear Outfitters made sure we were taken care of and accommodated for the hunter’s bad decisions and weather.
Summary - Montana was the right choice for me and when the weather cooperated we were in the Elk every day. The terrain was tough but the outfitters camp and food were top notch and provided the rest and recovery that are we required for a hunt like this. If you want to hunt elk for the first time work to understand what you still need to learn and find someone willing to teach you and show you how to do it. Two Bear Outfitters fit the description for my hunt. Not every hunter had the same experience in camp but I know no other hunter put in the work I did either. First one out of camp last on into camp, unless you’re a lost hunter stuck on a mountain.
The pictures sound awesome but didn't make it to the site. Can you try again?
(Can't see pics either)
Do you think you’ll go the full 1-1 guide route again or maybe a semi guided hunt?
Do you think you’ll go the full 1-1 guide route again or maybe a semi guided hunt?