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First time hunting CO elk. Gear/Finess
I am planning a hunt in CO this coming season. I am looking for some helpful information as far as gear suggestions for back country and fitness/workouts for getting in shape to be able to enjoy the hunt and not be miserable while giving myself the best odd for being successful. I'm 100% expecting not to kill being my first time, but would like to walk away knowing I did my homework and work giving myself the best odds. Thanks
“ I'm 100% expecting not to kill being my first time”
Well, maybe you should first start by upping your goals. Or you will not be disappointed
I understand what your saying and I have every intention of giving it 110% effort. Facts are facts though. Lack of experience and high hunting pressures on public lands reduce the odds greatly. It won’t stop me, and I very well could harvest a great animal, but I won’t be discouraged if I don’t is all I’m saying
Put your camp on your back and get away from the roads. Be mobile, find fresh sign, be aggressive, take the first best shot you get. Make sure you have shooting lanes in your setup, get good sleep and have good boots, pack and when you dont want to go further or harder, go further and harder. Worry about the pack out after you get him on the ground. Bring rope, game bags, first aid kit. Let the bull call you in, best to get in tight without calling. Elk are never small, solo packouts are HARD. Don't skip leg day and get your cardio up! Get mentally prepared to get your ass handed to you, but be ready it can change in literally seconds. Have fun!
Be mobile, keep a mobile camp, hunt from roads and hit different drainages and ridges until you find elk. THEN decide whether you need to pack in closer to them. Figure out where others are hunting, rhen triangulate to figure out where the elk will go. Elk aren't way back in. They are where nobody bothers them.
I moved my mobile base camp five times this season, kept hitting different spots from 11,000' down to 8,000. Killed my CO public land bull at 8200', 250 yards from a busy main county road, while vehicles were driving past on the way to work.
One other thing, where I differ from Twinetickler - think about where you shoot the elk and how you'll get it out. Every year inexperienced elk hunters end up with rotten meat because they shoot an elk before figuring out how they will get it out. I hunt solo, and every year I walk away from bulls I know I can't get out before the meat spoils.
Your camp on your back does not necessarily increase your odds. I hunt CO from a truck camp mostly. That is as mobile as one can be. If I'm not finding elk after a day or two, I can hop in my truck and be 30 miles away and hunting in no time. Avoiding pressure doesn't seem to be a problem. Just hunt where others aren't. Not as hard as some make it sound. Find overlooked areas and you could hit the jackpot.
If I were hell bent on a Backcountry hunt, buy yourself the best gear money can buy. If you end up not liking this style of hunting, good gear typically holds its value pretty well compared to cheap ass gear and you could always sell it.....
Have fun and give it all you got. For Fitness work on your legs and back muscles you'll need them if you get an elk down. Buy the best equipment possible. Don't be afraid to relocate. Also learn where the vitals are elk are tough. A bad shot usually results in a unrecovered elk. Like stated have a plan. Are you hunting alone or is a buddy coming?
I see your from SC so you might want come a few days early to acclimate go to the high elevation you'll be hunting.
Most elk are killed by guys who started their morning at a road. Backpack hunting can be a blast but don't make the mistake of packing in to a place (that your remote scouting leads you to believe will be elk heaven) without an escape plan. Sometimes after the commitment of packing a few miles in, guys stay longer than they should when the hunting stinks. Days click by fast and before they know it, they have three days left and are weighing riding it out or spending the time to move.
Being in great shape is always a plus but there are some seriously deadly elk hunters who are in just normal shape. Fitness is good no matter what so of course it should be in the plan but elk hunting doesn't have to be an extreme sport. Sometimes hunting 1 square mile gently is a way better plan than making a 10 mile loop.
Time. It's one of the biggest multipliers for punching a tag. Beg, borrow or steal as many days as you can.
I tend to agree with Jaquomo and Glunt@work...truck hunter here as well. I hunt solo and you are not going to catch me more than a couple miles from a road. I do not want to hunt archery elk with an entire pack of stuff on my back. I don't even like to hunt with a frame pack empty. Try ducking underneath stuff with the load lifters 2-3 inches above your shoulders. Things can happen fast and I would rather be able to maneuver well and not make noise. To each their own though. It's your experience and I would do whatever you like. I'm no killer but I get my chances and all I really do is walk in half a mile real slow and stand around.
Rokslide has hundreds of forums on gear by category. As far as fitness, find a trainer that you trust and set some goals with him/her. They will need to assess you and address any imbalances or mobility issues. You get what you pay for. Free fitness advice or programming is free for a reason.
I'll add to pretty much everyone else here and say, be mobile! It sounds nice to pick a drainage 5+ miles in and say you will pack in and hunt for a week but your much better off to pick 5 areas 1 mile (or less) deep that you can hop around to. CO has lots of elk but you'd be amazed how many places they aren't!
Fitness is as much mental as anything, providing your in at least reasonable shape. Spend as much time as possible carrying a pack up and down hills for training.
There is some good advice here so far. The hunting advice above is solid. So I'll give some advice about how to be more efficient on your hunt.
Use the camping equipment you've got or buy some soon if you don't have any. A beginning elk hunter will waste a lot of time with camp chores if you're inexperienced. This doesn't matter if you're truck camping or backpack camping. Either way you've got camping equipment that you'll need. So be proficient with your camping equipment. Use your tent, backpack, sleeping bag, pad, stove, water filter, and spend some time this spring at home using it. This way you'll be a more efficient camper, will sleep better, and can spend more time hunting. A lot of new guys, especially from the east, find that camping is harder than hunting.
Lastly, your single most important piece of equipment is your boots. Buy what fits your feet.
Better get an ebike or everyone will be riding right past you! ;-)
I'll echo the road camp approach and keep your camp simple so you can pack up and move quick and easy. Good luck!
Build yourself a plyo box about 18 - 24" high. Use it as often as you can !!!
Get in the best cardio shape, hike often with a loaded pack and your boots for the trip. I agree with Jaq & Glunt, hunt from a road side camp, many elk are within a mile or two of the roads in overlooked or nasty areas. Get a decent pack for meat hauling and have a plan. We only spike camp if we spot elk too far for day hunt or to research new area.
All the training you need to do is hiking with a loaded pack. I load up 50# and go up and down the local ski bump about 4x per week as many times as I can until I want to puke. You do that for 12 weeks or so before you go and you'll be just fine in the mountains. The best thing you can do for the mountains is lose weight. Reminds me, I need to put this donut down. :-)
No matter how much training you do, prepare for the altitude to kick your ass for the first few days until you acclimate. If you have the time, spend your first few days at an intermediate elevation of around 5000-6000'. Then head to the high country. Drink a ton of water.
Number one, "You do not expect to kill an elk, first time out",,,,, Why, I did,,,, Always have a positive attitude, I expect to make a kill on every hunt,,,,, it will keep you sharp.... You can go for a walk anytime, when your hunting, you should be in another mode.....good luck
Always believe. Your hunt can go from Sucksville to Yellowstone in five minutes, and that five minutes can happen in the last five minutes of shooting light on the last day.
As far as gear you can likely make it on what you have or you could spend your annual salary. Like others have said I’d stay mobile from a truck camp but have the necessities to spike out if I found elk. Good lite backpacking stuff can cost you, just do your research with what you can afford. The 3 things I wouldn’t skimp on are in order (1) boots. Get something that fits your feet and wear them as much as you can for the two months leading up to your hunt. (2) Backpack. A good pack will make your life easier wether it’s with 20 or 80 pounds. Get a higher end pack. (3) sleeping bag. Get something that will keep you warm and not weigh 12 lbs if you decide to spike out. Camo doesn’t matter, frog togs rain gear will work.
For training you can’t do enough. But the more you do the less it will suck. Cardio is good but I think strength is big. Spend a lot of time in your boots hiking bleachers with your pack, increasing weight each weak. That’s as close to climbing deadfall with weight on your back as you can get.
Get an e-bike. It will transform you into a mountain-conquering hunting machine. At least that's the impression some seem to have around here. ;-)
Never quit, and learn to "embrace the suck" !
More important than getting into great physical shape is being in great "mental" shape. If you are not mentally prepared to hunt then after a couple days you will be ready to call it quits.
As was already pointed out - hunt as hard on the last day as the first day.
If you get to the point of quitting because you aren't seeing anything, or maybe muffed a shot, or the wind keeps messing up your chances, don't get overly frustrated, take a break and sleep in on about the 3rd or 4th day. Do camp chores, wash clothes, cook a good meal, take a mid day nap, stand back and take a nice long look at the mountains and remember how long and hard you worked to get here. If your lonesome for your family, drive to get cell service and give them a call.
And make sure you head the advise of some of the "old timers" (Jaqu, cnelk, Robb, midwest, glunk, etc., etc.) on here, they have "been - there, done - that). Trust their words of wisdom.
Also, do a google search something like ... bowsite advice for first time elk hunter .... I'm betting you will come up with enough pages to keep you reading for a several days.
Not many people talk about this, but jumping rope is a great exercise. Maybe add some ankle weights while doing it. Your lungs will thank you.
Squats. Alot. Your hamstrings and quads will thank you.
Tippy toe exercises. Up/down on your tippy toes. When that mountain is steep, your heels wont even touch the ground when climbing it. Your calf muscles will thank you.
Remember. You can always stop and catch your breath when tired, but if your legs go out... you're done.
Jaq I do agree with you on making sure you can get the meat out without spoiling. That is #1 priority! I have had experiences where I mentally didnt think I could get the bull out in a timely manner and gave up on the opportunity. I have also taken that opportunity at times and have never regretted it or lost any meat. I guess the lesson is know your realistic limits to get the meat out before you let the arrow fly. Mental toughness as mentioned is as much or more important than any other skill when hunting wapiti.
Twinetickler, 100% agree with your last post. I think what raised eyebrows and caused disagreement was your previous statement ..." Worry about the pack out after you get him on the ground". Also, many of us aren't fans of putting our camp on our back, but if that's what you prefer, then that's what you should do.
Here is a scenario we ran into last year actually hunting CO. We were truck camping and covering country. We were getting into elk cows, and small bulls, but no mature bulls, we were also running into people chasing the same elk. We meaning my Dad and I. We pulled out our maps and found a "pocket" that didn't have a road within a couple miles of it from any direction. We decided to chase a bugle up into the nasty hole and ended up finding the holy grail, 8 different mature bulls going crazy. My Dad killed his bull that morning a nice 320 6x6. I do agree that truck camping can be productive, but my experience has been you need to get away from the roads to find the the better hunting in most public land scenario's. The pack out was work but it was doable and I'm eating a burger off of that bull as I type this. That was the first time we set foot in the area. We could have continued to hunt the high pressured elk off the roads with everybody else, but the experience was much better away from the people. I should draw the tag this year and plan to be spiked out in that basin the last week of September!
For fitness I strongly recommend finding a local CrossFit class and going 3-5 days per week with supplemental cardio anything (hiking, running, biking, swimming). I also recommend doing a weekend backpacking trip in this summer with your elk camping gear (minus the bow) to test out what work and what doesn’t.
Great story, twinetickler. I think your example is exactly what we're suggesting. Rather than plunging off five miles into the wilderness with a backpack, find the elk first and if they're too far to hunt from camp, then spike closer. Congratulations on your dad's great bull! Sounds like you've found yourself a little honeyhole. Now just provide the coordinates and all will be well!
Some perspective - I havent EVER done a lick of Crossfit - doesnt affect my ability to kill elk.
Only affects his cougar hunting game. ;) ^^^^
Get in decent shape. Make sure your legs are in great shape. Stay mobile until you find them. Then slow down and hunt them. And, use your cow calls.
Don't get old, the mountains get steeper when your 71.
Ya know, I've noticed that too, nailer. Global warming?
Some good advice. I usually start hiking in late May or June. That way I don’t burn out by September. You’ll be surprised how fast your body will adapt to moving up mountains. Put some weight in your pack and do a few miles a few times a week. You don’t need to punish yourself with Rona of weight....but you want enough so you feel it. Leave the heavy weight out until late august if you want to see what a pack-out might feel like. And make sure your pack is set up properly for weight bearing.
Otherwise, hit legs in the gym. Deadlifts. Squats. Leg press. And lunges. Go at your own pace and enjoy the fun. Do lots of reps with the heaviest weight you’re comfortable with. And do legs at least twice a week on top of hiking. Before you know it, you’ll enjoy the mountains.....welllllll, maybe not. ;)
Cardio, no lungs/heart, no hiking, especially at altitude CLIMB, up and down and across hills From SC, altitude could be an issue, I second someone above, if you can get to 5000 feet for a few days first, do it.
Do 1000 miles in your boots between May and September even if it's just wearing them to work. As long as you are in good cardiopulmonary shape, the only other thing that can slow you down is your mind and your feet.
'I'm 100% expecting not to kill being my first time' With elk, you can never expect anything except surprises. You might have one come right in on you for a shot. And often failure is the best learning experience. Don't go in thinking your are not going to kill. Go in thinking your are going to have the elk in your lap, and then you will be ready for it, otherwise, you will not. Get on some hills and hike your tail off with a 50+ pack on to get in shape, and do hours of side hilling with pack on too. Bust your ass because you will be in CO in order to get into elk. It is work, and so worth it all. Best of fortune in your hunt. TK
I've been bowhunting elk in CO for 47 years. Every season I go in expecting to have one good shot opportunity at a nice bull. That may happen on day one or in the last half hour of the last day. That's why you must always be ready, always expecting it to happen.
Every year I hear from new bowhunters who tell the same story: something along the lines of "We were eating lunch and let out a few cow calls. Next thing we knew a bull was right behind us. No chance for a shot".
For what its worth....
Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement
One day I just got tired,,,, sat on my ass on a water hole, and watched ducks... I kid you not..... that late morning a 6 x 6 just walked in,,,, shot was 10 steps.... my best bull,,,,, sometimes its just that easy........
Again my best advice, is to know, how you are going to get the animal out, once it is down..... In my last case, I had a 4 wheeler about a mile away.... I am good with a knife, and after my first trip, came back with friends for the rest of it......
I will echo above comments. If you are not ready - elk will walk in. So, never stop where you can not shoot. If you stop for a break -knock and arrow. Never call and then just relax and loose focus. If you are in the woods - expect elk! Be ready to kill!
Never just go for a "short hunt" and not be prepared with your safety kit, rain gear, and kill kit. Elk can make you loose track of time, distance, and weather! Safety first! However, also killing one when it is going to be a high of 75 or at last light with no game bags, tools, or pack to take care of the meat right then and there is just stupid!