Contributors to this thread:
New to elk hunting - seeking advice
I've never elk hunted. i live in east TN and I am planning on my first elk hunt fall 2020. I am mostly interested in bow hunting during the rut (likely colorado), but my hunting partner is pushing hard for a later season rifle hunt (in Montana). What do you guys suggest? Should I ditch him and go with my bow or gear up for a late, cold rifle hunt?
If it's your first elk hunt and bowhunting means you'll be going solo, you might want to rifle hunt with your buddy.
I do both but bow hunting elk in September is my overwhelming favorite.
Compromise with your buddy bow hunt during the rut in Montana. You will thank me later :)
If you hunt Sep in Montana with a bow and don't tag out, you could go back and try again during the rifle hunt.
^^^This is the answer if you have enough time off to make two trips.
Nothing like a sept rut hunt. Stopped using my rifle 30 years ago. Have tag 19 bulles now . Most in WA where I live. Prior to moving to WA I hunted with both. Once in WA you have to choose your tag. Its not that cold in Oct in MT
I guess it depends on your accommodations. If you are tent camping in the backcountry then September weather will likely be better and safer.
I would do the MT route and try and get both trips if you need to. I've been on 3 archery hunts and no rifle hunts and have 3 elk racks on my wall, hunting them when it's not the rut doesn't interest me. I wouldn't hesitate to go solo, I would likely do more of a truck camp if you're going solo but it's very doable.
Is he asking this same question (in reverse) on a rifle hunting forum? :)
he has outside circumstances that mean he can't go in september, but will be able to go in october/november. i could go either time, but feel like i would rather experience the rut (or closer to it anyways) with a bow in hand rather than sitting behind glass most of the time.
Elkpacker1 I hunted at 21° below in MT this October. If that's not cold then idk what is.
I live in Montana . I would not put all my eggs in one basket. Archery season is night and day difference from Rifle season. I would hunt the rut . Sept 10-25 would be my days. Like others have said can always come back for our 5 week rifle season!! Good luck and Pm me if you want. Hunter
Go to Montana - Colorado is full
I think you will have a great time either way.
nmwapiti has the answer. I bow hunt, and usually spend one season if not more guiding family and or friends. I have one more rifle elk hunt in my life and that is an GMU 2 hunt in 2021. I gave up rifle hunting elk several years back and don't want to go back. The only reason I am for the 2021 season is a promise I made to my hunting buddy when we started saving points for this hunt 24 years ago.
HUNT's killed more elk than most of us dream about, take his advice.
Go in September even if you have to go solo ! If they are bugling they are a hell of a lot easier to find.....And since he offered..Reach out to Huntman...he won't steer you wrong !
September rut hunt hands down! Even if you don't fill your tag, experiencing the mountains, warm days cool nights, bugling elk, the smell of the quakies...I could go on and on....take yer bow and go get some.
An elk is a big animal. If you've never dressed one, September in the heat is not the time to learn. And, an elk is not like a deer of any sort.
Why not come out, hunt in a temperature that lends itself to learning the ropes before you have to balance the tightline with heat, flies, etc.? Give yourself as much chance to do it right, before you come out and do a bowhunt.
Go with a bow in Sept., but do your homework - a lot of it.. Go to an area with the least likelihood of encountering other hunters, and a place that likely has the fewest wolves. ie., somewhere in central or eastern MT.
RE: Chasewild, good points, but think about this. anytime from the last week of Oct. it CAN become BUTT COLD in Montana, as in well below zero with some really harsh storm potential, so be prepared to be kept out of the woods from heavy snowfall (or be trapped in them), or experience really frigid condition. There are tradeoffs in either scenario. Montana is a wild place. Be prepared during either season, just saying. Not trying to be negative, just real.
JMO, but I think elk hunting when elk are not rutting is fine- it's time in the mountains and that's always a good thing. However, elk hunting during the rut (regardless of weapon) is better than sex! I bowhunt, and it just so happens that typically is during the rut, so it's a beautiful thing for me! I'd pick archery 10/10 times for those reasons. However, as pointed out above, you can have the best of both worlds if you draw a tag in MT that allows for both. Good luck!
If the OP is a competent camper and hunter than going for an archery hunt solo would be great, mostly because the elk rut is amazing. But, if the OP isn't as experienced and is hesitant about hiking, camping, and hunting an animal that is 5x bigger than a TN whitetail then it would be best to go with a buddy (even if he had to go later).
BTW the mountains in east TN would be a good training area for the Rockies (except for the thin air).
Something to think about, if you are hunting the mountains during rifle season, good tracking snow is a must to locate a good bull. Elk hunting success for me was guaged by quality and quantity of snowfall. If there is a few inches of good trackng snow, that is better than dry obviously. But the amount matters and if there is no heavy snowfall, they will remain in the high country. If there is a heavy fall, that is the best scenario because they will start migrating down to lower country and the lesser amount of snow down there will reveal the most recent sign. Be prepared to do Alot of hliking and tracking if the elk somehow get on to you. Parallel them with their tracks in sight, don't follow directly in their tracks. They often stop, turn around and check their backtrails. I've killed more than one that way....staying 20 or so yards off to one side or other of their tracks, depending on the wind direction. ( this is my rifle hunting tactics).
A solo Elk Hunt is one thing.
Dealing with a downed Elk all by yourself is something else entirely. Especially if you go where most people won’t go. They don’t avoid those areas because they don’t like solitude, incredible scenery and undisturbed Elk.
Well, maybe some of ‘em do.... LOL
The thing you have to know about late-season hunts is that the Elk are likely to be down low.... where the private land is. If you have access to the lowlands and want to fill a tag, there you go.
Weather? CO in September ranges from too hot and dry to hunt most of the day to cold enough to make me seriously consider tossing a highway road flare into my pack as a last-ditch fire-starter. And that's just between 9 & 11 thousand feet.
Sept experience will definitely be better IMO. I’ve never hunted CO but sounds like a lot of pressure.. much as I hate to invite another NR to Montana (lol) a sept hunt here would pry be “funnest”. Rifle season gets a ton of pressure here to. And x2 Popr oct. can be very cold!! It was -10 where I live the first week of rifle this year, hasn’t been that cold since. That’s not exactly the norm tho.. It did make for some excellent hunting tho, less pressure. My bro killed a 356” PL bull that week, but you sure shouldn’t expect that!
You ready for -15 below zero??? it was that and more for the first 3-4 days last season during the start of the rifle season in Montana where I hunted. But then again 3 seasons ago there was also 18 inches of snow in late September during the bow season
Sounds like me almost 40 years ago I too live in Tn a buddy of mine from Mt who just passed helped me and my brother so much.If you bowhunt go during the rut and if you do kill the first legal elk you can do not go for 300 inches bull the first hunt. Good luck Lewis
It would be a no-brainer for me to go archery in September, but you could make a list of pros and cons. It's hard to give you advice without knowing your hunting, packing, camping and navigation skill level. If you have butchered your own deer you can certainly bone out your own elk. If you're in good shape and take your time you can pack it out solo, I've packed out several solo myself and I'll turn 60 next elk season. As far as weather goes, I've never lost any elk meat due to heat and is has always been cold enough in the mountains at night in September to cool the meat. Then if you keep it in the shade or lay it on rocks next to a stream and cover it with pine boughs it will keep for at least a few days. I've had a few pack outs that took me 4 days solo.
When you compare the odds of warm weather in September vs extreme cold and dangerous snowstorms in October I'll roll the dice with September any day.
I've only rifle hunted elk once and I got caught in a huge snowstorm and if I wouldn't have had tire chains my truck would have spent the winter on the mountain.