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ADVICE ON GUIDED ARCHERY ELK HUNT
Having unsuccessfully completed two archery elk hunts in Wyoming and Montana, I wanted to share some thoughts with people considering an archery elk hunt. These comments are based on my experiences as well as discussions with outfitters. First, you need to decide what degree of physical exertion you are prepared to endure. Some of the public land hunts involve a long horseback ride to camp, others will allow you to drive. However, most public land hunts will involve daily horseback rides to hunt sites as well as extensive hiking up and down steep terrain and over fallen timber at 6,000 to 9,000 feet. The altitude alone is a challenge. The hikes up and down steep terrain add two more degrees of difficulty. You will improve your personal fitness condition by going on an archery elk hunt. To survive the trip and improve your chances of success, you should exercise a lot before the hunt. Second, I have been on two archery elk hunts where no elk were harvested. One trip with 3 hunters generated no shot opportunities. My recent trip as one of 5 hunters led to no elk harvest – but one quality shot was taken. However, this was the third week of archery elk hunting and only one elk was tagged in three weeks of hunting. Many internet reports confirm this experience, suggesting that you only have a 10-15% chance of harvesting an elk on a public land archery elk hunt. Some say that the chances of harvesting an elk on a private land hunt can be much higher. The bottom line - your chances of getting an elk on a public land archery elk hunt are not that great. You will have a remarkable outdoor experience in rugged, beautiful country – for a premium price. Third, the lead outfitter will say a lot of very positive things before the trip to get you booked and motivated. Most of these things will be gross overstatements and generalizations. Yes, there are a lot of elk in the wilderness. One of my outfitters hyped the ability to hunt in public lands adjacent to a national park. He failed to mention the wolves – three of our hunters saw wolves, and elk do not hang around wolves. You should pick an outfitter carefully, do your own research and test everything they say. Press them for details on their harvest rate in recent years. If they are vague, consider another outfitter. Finally, you need a great guide and a lot of luck to harvest and elk with an arrow. Most outfitters will only recommend a broadside or quartering away shot. Think about the challenges of getting an elk within 30-50 yards in this favorable shooting geometry. It is critical to have an experienced, capable guide to potentially create these rare shooting situations. In both my trips, I had rookie year guides. The rookie guides made mistakes, and I did too. However, you are paying a premium price and should get an experienced guide to help you avoid mistakes and be successful. Guiding is very difficult, seasonal work – there is a lot of turnover in these positions. You should work proactively before signing up with an outfitter to ensure you are guaranteed an experienced guide. Bottom lines - Expect a strenuous experience. Prepare to enjoy the great outdoors and realize that the chances of getting an elk are modest. Carefully decide whether to hunt on public or private land. Press the outfitter on his/her true success rate. Ensure that you get an experienced guide for your investment.
I don't hunt with guides, but if I were considering spending money on an elk hunt for the purpose of increasing my odds of a good experience and shooting an elk, I'd look into paying a tresspass fee to a ranch and hunt DIY, staying in a campground or a hotel instead of going on a guided hunt on public land.
I can't imagine paying money to hunt right next to guys who were doing the same thing for free. Public land hunting for elk is difficult as the bulls are pressured and only the ones that know how to dodge humans hunters survive. How difficult is it to kill a 4 or 5 year old white tail? Isn't a lot of that difficulty because there's less of each age class every year that passes and because they do what they have to do to stay alive and get educated or die?
A bull is a raghorn even when it's 3 years old. They often times don't become 6x6 till they're 4 years old. They're not maxed out till they're 9-12 years old. If you want a nice elk, you're dealing with an animal that's had as much to much more of a lifespan to learn how to avoid dying than a white tail. Public land bulls are survivors. And just about every population of elk cows are hunted and viewed as more of a trophy than white tail does, thus often times more heavily hunted than your average doe. The entire herd is looking to avoid humans. And some of these cows are 20 years old.
Ike, that's an interesting perspective. Makes a lot of sense. A pope and young whitetail is so much easier to kill than a comparable elk, the two really shouldn't be compared.
I feel better about my struggles with elk after reading that. Wind is the biggest problem I have. Elk seem to live in places with incredibly inconsistent wind. Great for them, bad for bowhunters. Plus, most deer are shot out of trees and are much easier to get to than a public land elk.
Elk, on the ground with a bow on public land are not easy.
Archery hunting can be difficult and perseverance is needed to succeed. Good luck on your future archery hunts. C
Maverick, I do not think that you are getting what you are paying for on your hunts. Agree with several of your individual comments but not on the collective whole. I would look at some premium areas and apply and build points. Hiring a guide can make a big difference if you get the right outfitter especially on public ground.
I have a friend that has hired sis outfitters and had very limited success and little overall enjoyment. I have recommended three and he has had 100% success and wonderful hunts. I have only been on one guided hunt but I have researched the outfitters that I have recommended.
10-15 percent success is debatable like all statistics. Just look at some of the guys on here and they kill almost ever year. My question would be, what are they doing different. I have only been on 4 elk hunts but I have killed three bulls and all of those were DIY. I am going deer hunting in November out of state public ground to hunt for a buck that will score 150 plus. Now what percentage of success range do you think that falls into? I am very positive about the potential outcome. Time will tell but I would not be going if I thought my chances were 10 -15 percent.
My advice to you would be is to do more research on the areas, the hunts, and outfitters that you are going to hire. Also, I may choose to go on one cherry outfitted hunt versus two or three cheaper options. If you want a recommendation then I would start a thread and state what my goals are and the states that I want to hunt and ask bowsiters to for recommendations.
" A pope and young whitetail is so much easier to kill than a comparable elk, the two really shouldn't be compared."
Sorry, but what an absurdly broad statement! Are you comparing an Iowa private land hunt to CO OTC or something? I've hunted whitetails in PA, public land for 17 years and have seen probably less than a dozen PY bucks total and killed one. Something like 21 days of OTC elk hunting over 3 years I've seen 6 PY bulls and killed one.
But agree that when it comes to outfitted elk, go big or go home and just hunt a ranch. It's lunacy to pay thousands to hunt next to a guy doing it for free.
Of all the Western Big Game, guys first choice always seems to be Elk... Probably one of the tougher western big game animals to consistently harvest with archery hunting-
Like any hunting, the right set-up and scenario and it can be simple or even easy. But generally speaking it usually is not.
To me elk are easy to kill. It's finding them that's the hard part ! Stick with it . Hunt
You don't really clearly state if both your elk hunts were guided.
Many say 20% of the hunters kill 80% of the elk, I believe it. What are the 20% doing right? IMO, That is the question to focus on.
I've never been on a guided hunt but to me the advice you are giving on questions to ask and what to expect sounds reasonable for those considering a guided hunt. I wouldn't know what to expect to go with a guide but I imagine my expectations would be pretty high after paying that kind of money. High expectations can lead to huge disappointment. If I were gonna do a guided hunt I would start here with Bowsite recommended outfitters. Hope you stick with it, persistence and effort go a long ways. Time spent in the woods and time spent in the offseason makes elk dead. Good luck.
I have made 6 trips out west to hunt elk with Archery Equipment.
3 of those trips have been a great success. i killed 1 time, and by brothers killed other times. 5 of these hunts were DIY - camping and hunting - 1 was with an outfitter on public land in Idaho.
i learn something every trip.
here is my recap of my Idaho Outfitted hunt.
it was a 5 day hunt and we saw and heard elk every day
the first 3 days i hunted with a guide that was absolutely Phenomenal, he was a little rough around the edges, and very quite - but man he knew the country, and knew the elk that lived there - i had some great hunts. The last two days i hunted with his little brother - Completely opposite, he had only killed 1 elk but hunted hard, was not a good caller, and hardly ever looked through his binos. It just wasn't the same after hunting with the first guide.
I have come to two conclusions.
1. DIY hunts out West for folks that don't live there - Time is your best friend Its hard to find elk and kill them in less than 7 days. the country is big, and elk are wild.
2. Outfitters - ask WHO WILL BE GUIDING YOU - ask for references on that particular guide, and follow up with them. The guy that is out there in the woods with you will make or break your hunt. Even if you find an outfitter in a great location - and you get a 19 year old guide who has only killed 1 elk, don't expect big results.....
2 guided hunts without a shot opportunity is an outfitter problem. Plenty of outfitters can come through on an 75%+ shot opportunity. Do your research otherwise do as idyllwild suggest and spend that money on a LO tag in a target rich unit and diy.
The est. 10% success rate is not debatable. It's math. You take tags sold divide by harvested and get the percent of success.
Elk hunting, like all other hunting, is hard.
There's really only one major factor for success. Location, location, location. So whenever I can I always try to find areas where I can up my odds no matter what I am hunting.
I also decided a while back I would rather pay 25+% more for a guided hunt where success or shot opportunity was 100%. That has made a difference as you would expect. I know not all can afford that but if you can - do it.
Everyone falls into that trap when they go on a hunt regardless of guided or not with big dreams to kill giant animals. Then as Tyson said, "Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face."
So I stopped putting pressure on myself on killing and focused on enjoying the hunt and putting myself into situations where I could be successful.
Tend to agree with those above me. You don't have to pay a large amount of money to enjoy beautiful country during the elk rut. If you go DIY you're not married to an outfitter and don't have to hunt the area they tell you, options are limitless. If you have a poor hunt on a DIY, you can find peace in the fact you did it yourself, and you didn't pay a boatload for it. When you do finally drop an arrow on that first bull it will also mean more to you that you did it without someone holding your hand.
Elk can be killed, I've only been on two elk hunts but I've arrowed 2 bulls on general tags and have had multiple shot opportunities on each hunt, 4 last year and 2 this. Start doing some research and you may run into some people that are willing to help (as I have in both Wyoming and Montana). Pick a state, start looking at draw odds, grab google earth and go get em!
"I can't imagine paying money to hunt right next to guys who were doing the same thing for free." That is because many people do not live in elk country and have no idea of where to go and how to find elk. Half the battle is just finding elk that you can then hunt. The outfitter also provides a hunting camp and transportation to and from the hunting area. Logistics make it nearly impossible to do a fly in do it yourself hunt due to limitations on how much gear you can check for baggage.
Maverick, sounds like you did not book with a very good outfitter. In most outfitted camps, people get into elk every day with several or more elk taken each hunt. If you are hunting public land with an outfitter, they are going to do their best to set you up in areas with elk and where the number of competing hunters is not too great. After all, outfitters rely heavily on repeat customers and if no one is seeing or shooting anything, they won't have repeat customers.
I agree with much of what the OP says. The main issue I have is the "press the outfitter on his/her true success rate". This really isn't a fair or accurate clue as to the quality hunt imo. The outfitter can't control if the hunter can't hike 200 yards because they are grossly overweight and out of shape, or they can't hit the broadside of a barn at 30 yards. The outfitter or guide can only do so much, a lot falls on the hunter and it isn't fair to hold that against the outfitter.
Never been on a guided hunt, but much of what is stated in the OP seems like it would be pretty well common sense to check on when going guided. I imagine one could cross their t's and dot their i's and still on occasion have an issue though.
For perspective, I actually do believe killing a book whitetail is comparable to killing a book elk if you are considering apples-apples hunting scenarios. The may not be just exactly the same, but comparable. Pressured, public land whitetails, are no walk-in-the-park just like public land elk. The physical part of chasing elk is generally more difficult. However, people often spend countless days chasing whitetail, while they spend maybe a few chasing elk.
BTW You can also get an idea if what the outfitter is selling sounds logical. For example, most guided hunts that are 100% are $5k+ min. So if a guide is at $3,500 and offering that he's probably stretching the truth a bit and if he isn't jump on that ASAP.
Just look what the market is offering and what you are buying and ask, "Does it make sense?"
I know many preach DIY but for the out-of-state guy who has 5-7 days to hunt including travel that's a stretch if you are only going to hunt elk once every few years or less.
Who only hunts elk once every few years? ;)
"A pope and young whitetail is so much easier to kill than a comparable elk, the two really shouldn't be compared. "
Says the guy from Iowa....poll about 47 states or so in the union and see if they agree.
Elk yinzer...nothing absurd about it. I stand by it. Whitetail are easy. Public or private. Small home range. Not hard to find or kill.
Walk into the woods. Put a tree stand up near a trail bedding or food. There are multiple deer within 1/4 mile. Sometimes a lot closer. Public or private.
Go elk hunting, there might not be one within 5 miles and it might take a week to find some. The terrain, altitude and wind conditions complicate it even more. Then let's talk getting meat out. Kind of a joke to even have this argument. It's not even close. The pope & young thing MAY have been a stretch, depending on your location, but the rest is true.
I'm for the most part a do it yourself (or with friends/family) hunter. I have been fortunate to hunt with guides twice. I paid for neither. One was a turkey hunt. Most recently I was in the right place at the right time and got to hunt with some guides on my elk hunt. Still not exactly sure how or why I got so lucky! I guess they just didn't want to go home or sit in camp. I have never hunted on private land but all of our hunts are limited entry for elk. Always get in the elk, have a tough time closing the deal. I can say without question, the guides I hunted with helped me close the deal. I did not have to worry about anything but being in the right spot at the right time and executing a shot. I did not have to worry about calling or any of that. I simply would not have killed the bull I did in that situation without their calling and tactics. Just had to follow the leader and make a shot when it counted (maybe not quite that simple). A lot less pressure than making every decision that affects the outcome of the hunt, that is for sure.
My comparison wasn't really an apples to apples look at difficulty, but to point out that a mature elk is older and has more time to learn than a white tail. Most hunters will kill a 3 year old white tail and few will pass on a 4 year old. Many non-1st timer elk hunters are looking for something older than 3 and many won't even take a 4 year old. And the elk that everyone wants is 10ish as opposed to the 5 or 6 year old white tail.
And Ollie, I don't live in elk country... And hidden in my point, was the fact that you don't need any extra gear or knowledge to hunt a whole bucket load of ranches across the Rockies. You just need access and you're right there on top of elk that are unpressured. No horses, camp, or hidey-hole knowledge necessary - and often times at the same price. This is even more true for some other western species for which your outfitter is often times just a middle man that collects ranch contracts and sells them to hunters +his profit margin.
Last week was my 5th Elk hunt and 3rd time to the same place in Idaho. I have never been on a guided elk hunt. One hunt was a ML hunt in NM and the other four where with a bow an arrow (two with a recurve and two with a compound). So far I am zero for five. However, three of the trips I had shot opportunities and either passed or choked. The following is my two cents for NR elk hunting:
1. Time is your enemy. I say this because if you only go for a week then you are severely limited. Public or private, unless you have hunted the area before, have a guide, or someone has told you exactly where to go and when, the odds are against you. IMO the same applies for whitetail hunting too. Most people have several weeks in a stand before they have a quality opportunity (not always, but rarely do my friends have opening day success on a big buck). My next trip will be a minimum of 10 days. Other things effect the clock such as acclimating to the altitude, weather, hunting pressure, predators, location of elk, rest, and etc. Also, in a short five to seven day hunt you may only get one shot opportunity (if you are lucky). You better make the most of it because you may not get another. The more time you have, IMO the better your odds of success.
2. Physical Fitness. Man, I can't stress this enough. Three of the four hunts I was still on active duty and "thought" I was in elk shape. Last year I hardly trained, spent to much time in the bottle, and dealt with altitude sickness and exhaustion the whole trip. This year I quit drinking and started training by hitting the weights and doing three to four mile hikes up steep terrain with 25 to 35 pounds on my back. Normally at the end of the hunt I'm exhausted, but at the end of last weeks adventure I was still ready for more.
3. If are a NR and heading out west with high expectations of killing an elk (either sex) with a bow and arrow you will most likely not enjoy the experience as much as you should. Of course we all hope and want to bring some meat home or kill a 350 bull, but there is a difference between hoping for success and expecting it. The odds are not in your favor and most likely you will come home with a handful of wonderful memories. For me this burden was caused by a sense of "failure is not an option" and the high cost of NR tags. During my recent hunt I had a completely different attitude. This time I went with the expectation of not getting an elk and the result was by far the most epic and soul cleansing experience I have ever had. Spending a week in elk country, hearing the bugles, the thrill of the chase, and spending time with some of the best friends I have ever had, was worth its weight in gold.
Elk hunting is addictive. I love it and can not wait until next year. If I could talk my wife into it we would move to Idaho, Utah, or Colorado.
My wife and I have been on a combined total of 5 archery elk hunts (together twice, I went alone once). We have 1 bull, 1 hit/lost and 1 had I done exactly what the guide said would have resulted in a 10 yard shot rather than hearing, but not seeing him :-) We have decided that our odds can be improved, and since we really don't need 2 elk in the freezer we will pay more for a better quality on a ranch or ... and have one person hunt and one person tag along.
When we have to do everything * 2, it makes a difference. We'd rather pay a bit more and up the quality of the hunt.
Private land hunts generally offer much better success.
For those of you that talk about going on a guided hunt and enjoy the country and be thankful you get into elk.....I'm on the opposite end of that spectrum. When I've been on guided hunts, I want to be in elk every day and kill one. I don't take the time to enjoy the trip. My hunt has a limited amount of days and I'm there to place one perfect arrow into the chest of a bull. I'm paying for everything else to be taken care of so I can get in front of an elk. You should ask your guide a ton of questions that you aren't comfortable asking......it's your trip and you're paying for the opportunity to be in elk. AND you want to be prepared when things aren't as discussed.
Example, on one of my first hunts I just expected that went into the mountains when it was dark and you walked out in the dark....well, the guides basically hunted the mornings and tried to figure a way out of the mountains back to the trailhead the rest of the day. We never hunted the PM's. so my 5 day hunt was really just 5 mornings. I was not happy that they hunted this way. And when I inquired about it they said they never hunt afternoons so they wouldn't bump elk for the morning hunts. Didn't make any sense.
On my DIY hunts, that's where I appreciate everything and how hard it actually is. That's when I can take the time to enjoy other stuff. I'm not limited on time. I can hunt a few extra days or cut it short if I want. It's MY time.
I add way more pressure on myself on a guided hunt vs. a DIY.
"Logistics make it nearly impossible to do a fly in do it yourself hunt due to limitations on how much gear you can check for baggage. " Two bags and a carry on. Been doing that for a good many years. Many if not most times flying into an area we've never hunted before. We've done alright. As stated above..... you need time. 10 days in the field minimum IMO. All our hunts have been DIY, it's a spartan camp, but it works. Usually spike in with packs..... base is a rental car with a few items like a couple coolers and such that double as suitcases when you flew in. Pretty mobile really. Rental car companies hate us though.....
Reading the OP..... sounds like there was a physical aspect to it that might have been an issue...... that catches a good many people off guard. They don't know what they don't know. You don't have to be a Cameron Hanes or a triathlete to hunt elk. But you best have some kind of work in the preseason and be in some kind of shape. Some folks are just genetically built for the mountains, it's what they do. Most of the rest of us have to bust our okole to get to the point were we are somewhat OK with it.
I think some are over stating their "hunting" prowess. I don`t care who you are or what animal you are hunting, if the animals are not there you`re not killing anything. A lot of DIY guys that score consistently LIVE in the area. It`s the same as a guy from Wisconsin getting dropped in Colorado and a guy from Colorado getting dropped in Wisconsin. By the time figures out what`s going on and finds the animals it`s time to go home.
A couple things that stand out to me is first you need to be in shape. I guide on a 12,000 acre ranch and have elk hunted over 30 years in multiple states and you need to be in shape . Elk hunting is tough stuff be prepared! Also the point about asking about your guide is new to me but makes sense. If I was going on a guided hunt I would not be happy with a complete rookie. Even tons of experience doesn't necessarily make a good guide.