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Thoughts on archery elk
Elk
Contributors to this thread:
DayDreamer 21-Oct-21
Habitat 21-Oct-21
nmwapiti 21-Oct-21
JohnMC 21-Oct-21
[email protected] 21-Oct-21
DayDreamer 21-Oct-21
JohnMC 21-Oct-21
DayDreamer 21-Oct-21
DayDreamer 21-Oct-21
doubledrop 21-Oct-21
Jordan 21-Oct-21
Burt 21-Oct-21
Jaquomo 21-Oct-21
Willieboat 21-Oct-21
badbull 21-Oct-21
Dollar 21-Oct-21
St52v 21-Oct-21
[email protected] 21-Oct-21
Popeyoung400 21-Oct-21
HUNT MAN 22-Oct-21
pav 22-Oct-21
DayDreamer 22-Oct-21
Z Barebow 22-Oct-21
Darrell 22-Oct-21
Bowaddict 22-Oct-21
Bowaddict 22-Oct-21
Missouribreaks 22-Oct-21
Dale06 22-Oct-21
wytex 22-Oct-21
Brun 22-Oct-21
StickFlicker 22-Oct-21
DayDreamer 22-Oct-21
nmwapiti 23-Oct-21
ELKMAN 23-Oct-21
Ron Niziolek 23-Oct-21
DayDreamer 25-Oct-21
WI Shedhead 25-Oct-21
nmwapiti 25-Oct-21
Royboy 25-Oct-21
DayDreamer 25-Oct-21
JCarrowthem 25-Oct-21
wildwilderness 25-Oct-21
TD 30-Oct-21
Dollar 30-Oct-21
Cheesehead Mike 30-Oct-21
Jarhead 01-Nov-21
DL 01-Nov-21
W 02-Nov-21
wytex 03-Nov-21
easeup 03-Nov-21
GrantK 04-Nov-21
From: DayDreamer
21-Oct-21
Hey guys, old-member from way back here that has been away for a number of years. Wanting to get some thoughts and opinions on starting the pursuit of an archery elk. Let me give a brief background first:

GOAL - My ultimate goal is a DIY archery elk. It doesn't have to be 350", but the hunt needs to be "right". In that I mean I want to find him, strategize how to get him, call him in, make a good shot and get him packed off the mountain. I want to EARN him, not just roll up, shoot straight and smile big for the picture.

1. I'm a southeastern US resident that has been bowhunting whitetails and a few turkeys with "decent" success for 25+ years.

2. Middle-aged with the typical "blessings / constraints" - wife, two kids, demanding job - not independently wealthy but not flat broke either.

3. I'm in "decent" physical shape, and have the experience and drive to be in whatever condition is necessary to reach my goals.

4. I have never hunted any species of western big game, but it has been a back-burner goal since I was a young boy. I currently have 9 preference points in Wyoming for elk, mule deer and antelope. No points anywhere else.

5. I have a good friend and hunting partner with the same preference points. We've traveled all over hunting waterfowl for years, but we are both GREEN when it comes to western big game.

I'm ready to move this goal from the back burner. I'm realizing I have a decent investment in time in these preference points for Wyoming. I also realize trying to roll into a good unit with no elk hunting experience is a good way to get an education in the school of hard knocks.

So, on to some thoughts I have running around- how to get experience without blowing a time investment in WY points. Should I consider booking a guided bow hunt in a neighboring state with the goal of trying to glean as much knowledge / experience that I then leverage on a DIY hunt in WY? I don't really want to hunt with a guide, but I acknowledge that I "need" someone to help me learn. Should I draw a cow tag in an area in WY that I'm interested in learning and use it as a scouting / experience trip? Should I burn my WY points with an outfitter and then go back to a different state / unit with fewer points, OTC etc.?

Basically what I'm trying to ask here is this: I have no elk hunting experience, I live a long way from decent elk hunting with no real contacts in elk country. I really want to kill one myself, but I realize the difficulty of what I'm trying to accomplish. How should I approach this goal?

From: Habitat
21-Oct-21
There are some drop camps that you can have a guy that will point you in right direction or he could guide you just a couple days and then you hunt rest of time DIY. One that come to mind is Compass west Outfitters.Chris has a drop camp in CO so you wouldn't to use those points.I don't know what unit he hunts though as I have only hunted ORYX with him.Getting in the mountains isn't that hard getting elk can be alittle harder.

From: nmwapiti
21-Oct-21
If you have the time, you might want to try a couple otc or easy to draw hunts before cashing in your WY points. Learn to chase elk, then have a good time in a decent unit. You would probably have fun, but it would be a really steep learning curve to go for everything in one shot.

From: JohnMC
21-Oct-21
Have your buddy burn his points, go with him to help. Learn as much as you can then burn your points the next year. Not sure he would love this plan, but would be good for you. Assuming you all will be hunting together killing two elk on a week or so hunt would be a tall task. Y'all would be getting a lot more bang for your points doing it that way and get to enjoy chasing elk twice as much.

21-Oct-21
Regardless of where you hunt elk with the bow, your success rate will be in the 10-11% range. An outfitter elk camp could produce better results.

How much time can you afford, for the hunt including, also travel time from So Carolina. Seven to ten days goes might fast in the elk woods.

From: DayDreamer
21-Oct-21
So good points all around. I did think about only one of us drawing at a time just knowing it is such long odds and doing it twice in the same trip is really really long odds. I used the analogy with him that it felt like we were trying to get struck by lightening at 10:04 PM outside the courthouse in our DeLorean - TWICE. Those of you that grew up in the 80's will get my analogy ;)

From: JohnMC
21-Oct-21
Good luck what ever you decide Marty McFly. You guys will have a good time no matter what you decide as long as you don’t correlate fun and success to having to kill an elk. If you don’t kill one there’s always an opportunity to go back somewhere.

One thing to add if your first hunt is in a high point area and that leads to spending more time in and around elk. I think that might help in future years more in a low point or OTC hunt when you don't get many chances. Than going on a OTC hunt when you might not get many opportunities there for not learning as much as you think you might,

From: DayDreamer
21-Oct-21
Paul you are correct, time is the big factor. I think I have the logistics worked out to be able to ship gear ahead, fly in, rent a truck, pick up gear and be on the ground in elk country ready to hunt in 2 days. Another 2 days on the back end to get out, ship gear and fly home. That's 4 days I'm not even hunting. I'm not saying I have to do it in a single trip. I really have not put a timeframe on when I achieve this goal, but I know that I'm not getting younger and if I don't start making some good progress towards the goal, it wont happen. Given the other parameters of "life" , I see this being a multi-year effort comprised of several week-long trips (5 days of hunting with two weekends for travel / logistics). That's why I'm thinking about how to effectively build experience before burning points.

From: DayDreamer
21-Oct-21
John that's exactly what I was thinking as well. Experience is the best teacher right?

Neither of us is going to hang "success" on whether we kill and animal. That being said, I've been out there several times backcountry hiking with my wife and taking pictures. I'm ready to go with my hunting buddy and take a quiver full of sharp blades!

From: doubledrop
21-Oct-21
Rock, paper, scissors for who hunts first and it could be good on the first outing, so not all bad. You could both learn more about an area twice and it's a team experience anyway. Go hunt and have fun, or even consider going together on an OTC, but it personally sounds like you are similar in goals as I was and it can be done on your own and is super rewarding when it does come together. It takes incredible amounts of work and mental toughness, but so do mature whitetail and other game you intend to be successful with.

From: Jordan
21-Oct-21
Talk to Forest about one of his drop camps........flattops adventures.....google the website and check out the thread on here (four bulls down I think is the title) on how his guided hunters did this year. And for pete's sake.....don't do like Jordan and stand there slack jawed looking at the elk......when you make contact in range DRAW and look for the shot. sigh LOL

From: Burt
21-Oct-21
I've had successful DYI rifle hunts in OTC units in Colorado after driving in from Illinois. It's not easy and in many respects luck plays a big hand. I would not chance a first time experience using points without a local guide of some type regardless of weapon choice. It's different for people who live their or can take a few weeks of time away to cover a big chunk of ground. With only a few days available you are basically hoping the mountains you chose have animals and no other hunters. Get a guide.

From: Jaquomo
21-Oct-21
DayDreamer, I would suggest the alternative- get a few OTC hunts under your belt before burning points on a premium unit. Every year some hunters cash in points on premier units without knowing how to close the deal. They are around a lot of elk, but usually strike out. I know five inexperienced elk bowhunters who have done that in CO unit 2 and 201 in recent years, burning from 19-23 points and going home with only memories.

From: Willieboat
21-Oct-21
Jaq x2

From: badbull
21-Oct-21
DayDreamer, 5 days bowhunting elk might be enough to gain experience but I would allow a minimum of 10 days ( and longer if possible) when you burn your points. As Paul says from experience "time goes fast in the elk woods " and you don't want to leave just when you've got it all figured out. Badbull

From: Dollar
21-Oct-21
How about a guided archery elk private land in Co with otc unit.They are reasonable still and you should get plenty of action and learn tons.Most likely get a elk and all learned will apply.

From: St52v
21-Oct-21
I would look at hunting dear or fall bear in the unit you want to hunt bulls in if possible. Don’t overlook Type 6 cow tags as well. Learn the unit before burning those points. We did that several years ago. First year we had snow and cold weather, lots of elk. I killed a cow. We did the same thing the next year, warm weather and no fresh elk sign. Scratched that unit off the list.

21-Oct-21
Life is short. I would plan on an OTC tag and an early flight. You could kill an elk that same evening.

Elk hunting doesn't have to be a grueling death March with thousands of dollars in gear. Research and pick at least 3 spots close enough to relocate in a couple hours or less if needed. I wouldn't spend points on a first trip. Even a mediocre OTC experience will provide a huge amount of experience with the process, gear and logistics. Could also result in a dead elk. Most elk here in CO are killed on an OTC tag, public land and starting from a road that morning. In fairness, that describes most unsuccessful hunts as well.

Read Public Land Elk Hunting by Matt Dworak. Great beginner info from a fellow Bowsiter.

From: Popeyoung400
21-Oct-21
DayDreamer, first you are are doing the right thing by moving elk hunting from the back burner, as many including myself would tell you it’s their favorite hunt with a bow. Having killed quite a few elk I can tell you that I agree with the other fellas here in that the more time you can take to hunt the better. In most of the seasons I have hunted, it usually takes well over a week to score. Paul says it best with his success percentage statistics. It’s a tough hunt that usually requires years of experience before success happens. OTC public land adds a whole other layer of difficulty. I would recommend trying to find private land maybe for a decent trespass fee or drop camp hunt on private. I’ve seen/experienced here in Colorado where very few if any elk were encountered in OTC public land the entire season. I grew up hunting elk from a kid and learned over many years but I think if I had never done it before I would consider hiring a guide to speed up the learning curve as much as possible. No matter what you decide, just keep your expectations realistic and enjoy the whole experience.

From: HUNT MAN
22-Oct-21
I would team up with a couple elk killers by sharing your Wy points and let them Take you under there wing. Hunter

From: pav
22-Oct-21
I'm a flatlander from Indiana and was 40 years old before ever setting foot in the Rockies. Received much of the same advice here on Bowsite that you are getting now.

Bowhunted elk three times in Colorado before burning a bunch of points on a premium elk tag. My fourth elk hunt was solo on a LE tag in Utah. Can't imagine what that hunt might have been like without the experience gained in Colorado?

Have never planned an elk hunt for less than ten actual hunting days. Shot a raghorn 5X5 that first Colorado hunt on day seven. Had I only planned a week long hunt, would not have been bowhunting elk that day. You are headed into unknown territory after an animal you have never hunted...give yourself time on the mountain to learn about both.

Back then, I really didn't have the option of teaming up with an experienced elk hunter. That said, I sure gleaned alot of valuable information from experienced elk killers here on Bowsite. Definitely shortened the learning curve! Best of luck to you!

From: DayDreamer
22-Oct-21
Man....thank you very much to all who have shared thoughts, and please keep them coming.

It will be hard to burn a bunch of good points so while John had the similar idea I did about using the good unit with lots of encounters to get the experience, I really think I agree with the majority here that getting some experience on an OTC, private land, Landowner etc. tag somewhere else is probably what I need to do.

I have the deer and antelope points too. The thought process at the time was to use the deer and antelope hunts to also be scouting units for elk.

That being said, there is a big difference between finding elk on a scouting / hunt for other game, and killing and elk on a dedicated elk hunt. To me that difference is the strategy / knowledge of how to go from knowing where an elk is to knowing what to do to get the shot opportunity. That's where I'm thinking the right guide would probably be able to help me at least get some strategies in mind.

I will definitely look up the book referenced above.

Please keep the ideas coming! Thanks

From: Z Barebow
22-Oct-21
Lots of good ideas. I know I appreciate every upcoming elk hunt based upon my previous elk hunting experiences. Right now, you don't know what you don't know. I like the suggestions of hunting other states with OTC or easy draw tags. Hunting on cow tags is a good suggestion also. The key is finding elk and spending time around them. Find out what they like, and what they don't like. (And you will have so much fun doing it!) Only multi species hunt I am a fan of is when a coyote pops up in range!

From: Darrell
22-Oct-21
If cow tags are available in your target unit, by all means, take your buddy and go on an archery cow hunt next fall as a test run. You will learn more about the country and the animals on a cow hunt than you will any other way other than hunting with your ES tag. Then flip a coin and one of you draw the tag the following year and the other the year after. Each hunt will get better. I was a pretty experienced elk hunter in 2013 when I blew my WY points in 38, and I can't tell you how much I wished I would have done a cow hunt first. About the time I was figuring things out, the snow started flying and I had to leave to get back to home and work.

From: Bowaddict
22-Oct-21
Agree with the 10 days of hunting! Take the 2 weeks to account for travel time, and be able to enjoy the hunt. Thinking back, the overwhelming number of elk I’ve killed have been on day 5, that’s hunting within 1-3 hours of house and knowing their tendencies and terrain. Takes a few days to figure out what they are doing, then it’s all about as many close encounters as you can get with the bow. 5 days could be enough….probably not, and you’ll regret not having that extra 5 days!!

From: Bowaddict
22-Oct-21
Agree with the 10 days of hunting! Take the 2 weeks to account for travel time, and be able to enjoy the hunt. Thinking back, the overwhelming number of elk I’ve killed have been on day 5, that’s hunting within 1-3 hours of house and knowing their tendencies and terrain. Takes a few days to figure out what they are doing, then it’s all about as many close encounters as you can get with the bow. 5 days could be enough….probably not, and you’ll regret not having that extra 5 days!!

22-Oct-21
Being from that far away, I would book with a reputable private land outfitter. At least for the first hunt.

From: Dale06
22-Oct-21
Agree with Missouri breaks. The key word though is reputable.

From: wytex
22-Oct-21
Reduced price cow tag. get one for an area you're considering for a bull hunt and get to know the area while learning elk habits. Do not share your hard earned PP, party app with your friend. No need for an outfitter, just come out and get a little experience before the bull hunt.

Elk are not mystical creatures, they are not hard to figure out and they leave lots of sign. A cow tag would have you hunting elk and learning on your own, sounds like what you want to do. A private land hunt would be nice but not like a wilderness type experience. Do you want a backcountry type experience or just kill a nice bull?

Have the right expectations going in, archery has a low success rate but the experiences of hunting the rut are priceless.

From: Brun
22-Oct-21
Lots of good advice here. The common denominator from all these posts seems to be get some sort of experience before you use your points in Wyoming, which I completely agree with. It doesn't matter whether it's a cow hunt, a guided private or public land hunt, DIY or drop camp. The main thing is to get a feel for elk hunting. See how you do with the altitude, the weather and the grind that is any elk hunt. Whatever you choose to start with it will be helpful. Maybe you'll go OTC and then decide you'd rather go guided, or maybe the other way around. Whatever you decide it will be a learning process and help you narrow down your choices for using your points. Just be prepared to get addicted and want to keep going as often as you can. Good luck!

From: StickFlicker
22-Oct-21
Another benefit of each of you hunting in different years is that not every year is the same (hunt quality). Even if you hunted in the same place on nearly the exact same dates in two different years, they can be night and day different as to how well the elk are calling and how nocturnal they become. I'm sure you recognize that fact when hunting whitetails and turkeys, but perhaps many hunters from the east forget to think that some years are going to be much better than others hunting elk for a variety of reasons. If you go twice, you have a better chance of one of them being spectacular when everything aligns to make elk the most active.

From: DayDreamer
22-Oct-21
Alright, so on the idea of drawing a cow tag in a unit I'm interested in learning...

I apologize in advance if this is a ridiculous questions - How similar are the tactics / strategy for a cow hunt vs. a bull hunt?

As I understand hunting bulls the general approach seems to be to find the elk by listening for bugles, glassing, and finding fresh sign. Once the target bull is found, the attempt is made to slip in as close as possible and call him in either challenging him with bugles, raking etc. or call him with cow / calf calls.

Is the strategy for a cow hunt the same, except you are trying to get the cow to move in to cow / calf calling?

To the question above about the type of hunt I'm looking for - I'm not looking to go into the highest, steepest, toughest place in the most far away canyon unless that's what I have to do. I don't think I want to hunt them on the wide open sage, mostly because I don't think I'll be able to slip in close enough.

The places my wife and I have hiked out there that were not in a national park have been on national forest / BLM land and what I have in my mind is a big meadow surrounded by aspens and pine, or a dense timber stand - I guess you would call that a "backcountry" experience. I don't know that I have another picture in my mind of what it could look like, so educate me.

The idea of a private land, trespass fee type hunt is appealing from the standpoint of hunting less-pressured elk.

From: nmwapiti
23-Oct-21
If you're hunting during the rut, the initial tactics will be similar. You are searching for herds of elk. Glassing or calling, whichever is best for the terrain you're in. Once you find them, I think you would be best served stalking into the edge of the group and trying to pick off a cow. Calling a cow out of the group could be tough. You don't have to pack in 10 miles to find elk. Just understand that they prefer to be wherever people aren't.

From: ELKMAN
23-Oct-21
Problem is point creep never stops... I say opportunity vs waiting. JMO

From: Ron Niziolek
23-Oct-21
Lot's of good info here from some very successful elk hunters. One thing to keep in mind - If you plan to hunt a unit with an archery only (type 9) license in the future, you may not be able to hunt a cow there during September to gain experience. Make sure to check that before applying.

From: DayDreamer
25-Oct-21
nmwapiti, "Once you find them, I think you would be best served stalking into the edge of the group and trying to pick off a cow. Calling a cow out of the group could be tough. You don't have to pack in 10 miles to find elk."

So again please forgive my ignorance, but when you say stalk into the edge of the group and pick off a cow, what I imagine that to be like is finding a herd and slipping as close as possible ahead of where I anticipate they are traveling and letting them come in close enough to get a shot at one of the cows. Obviously with the wind in my favor. Is that correct?

Amazon dropped off the book "Public Land Elk Hunting" by Matt Dworak this weekend and I started going through it. Looks like there should be some good info in there.

From: WI Shedhead
25-Oct-21
Check out wagon hound outfitters in unit 7 Wyoming. Might be the only time you get out to use those points. Life happens.

From: nmwapiti
25-Oct-21
Day, yeah. The herd will probably be spread out on a hillside, a clearing or in some timber. They're also usually on the move to some extent. They tend to move into the wind. If they're moving slow and you think you can ease into range of the back of the herd, that can work. If they're moving faster, you think you know where they're going, and the wind allows you can try to get in front of the group and let them file past. Lot of variables here, but all you need to do is get within bow range of the nearest cow.

From: Royboy
25-Oct-21
The last cow I shot was when we bugled just before daylight and got a little squeal from a bull so we moved in and basically trying to call the bull. He walked past us looking for that cow and his cows slowly came into range . About a two hour scenario

From: DayDreamer
25-Oct-21
10-4 That's helpful.

From: JCarrowthem
25-Oct-21
I"m from Michigan not as far as you to the western mountains. I started along time ago with cow tags just to learn. I filled my elk tag after 2 weeks this year (my 19th elk with a bow) wound not try to hunt with less time. A lot of good info. here. but once you get started elk hunting your hooked!!

25-Oct-21
Change your Handle from "Dreamer" to something else! like Do-er or Git'r Done!

Seriously just start going west and it it will all work out. On a side not I don't understand shipping anything to hunt and then renting etc- with that much problem just drive out. Or learn how to hunt light and fly it all out, do it all the time.

From: TD
30-Oct-21
What Lou and Willy said. If you wanted to go DIY then go on a couple DIY OTC hunts the next year or two, get your gear together and your head wrapped around it, maybe even shoot something. Then drop the points on WY. Also, what Paul said. Archery elk is no slam dunk anywhere you go. Five day hunts in an area you've never hunted are maybe less odds than at a crap table in Vegas.

A bunch of those folks above are guys that beat the odds year in and year out. What's that 80-20 rule? 20% of the hunters likely kill 80% of the elk. In most cases these guys don't just show up and hunt elk. Often they hunt areas they've hunted for years, sometimes decades. And they don't just dedicate 5 days to doing so. If in a new area they've even found elk before the season started. I remember Bigdan's magic year, he killed his NV bull on like the 3rd day, his AZ bull on the first. And went home to MT and killed that one in a place he'd hunted for decades. He spent a couple weeks in NV and AZ just scouting before the hunts. These guys that get it done year in and year out have a talent, great skills. Don't get me wrong. But IMO mostly what they have is dedication. Commitment.

Planning for just "the", as in one single elk hunt in your life..... honestly does not compute..... =D

From: Dollar
30-Oct-21
One other thing to do religiously is practice on a life size target.2D or 3D get one or two.Practice in a wooded lot at every angle you can imagine.Thru trees and holes up and over limbs.Coming from back east no matter how many deer you've taken will not be the same as 6-700lb elk at 10,20,30,40 yds.You can't count on a partner to give yardage.Cheapest is a 2D target with a backstop. Also always knock an arrow never just wing it.Assume one is right around the corner.When the opportunity presents it's self you'll almost be prepared.

30-Oct-21
I wouldn't even think about burning your hard earned points until you figure out a way to hunt for at least 2 weeks.

It's been mentioned or implied that it's an advantage to become familiar with a unit by hunting it multiple years. That may be true but for what it's worth, I've killed the majority of my bulls the first year I ever hunted a specific unit. My success rate is actually lower the second time I hunt a specific unit.

From: Jarhead
01-Nov-21

Jarhead's embedded Photo
Jarhead's embedded Photo
Lower your expectations. Elk are REALLY hard to kill.

From: DL
01-Nov-21
If you like deer hunting I’d advise you to not go elk hunting. If you get a bull in close screaming it’ll ruin deer hunting for you. I really enjoyed deer hunting, then I went elk hunting. Pretty much ruined deer hunting for me.

From: W
02-Nov-21
Save your points and get a cow tag for year one in Wyoming. Go back the next year with a bull tag.

From: wytex
03-Nov-21
A private land hunt will not prepare you for a public land hunt, just too different. Look into cow tags in Wyoming and make sure you have enough time to hunt. Some type 9 tags do allow archery cow hunting for half of Sept.

From: easeup
03-Nov-21
lots of good words contained herein. Trying to find something to add I ran across this months Bugle magazine (sept/Oct 2021). In the back is Wayne Van Zwolls monthly read about the rifles used hunting elk. "In the Red Zone" . I fine writer he is and his words contained remind of the proverbs of King Solomon as one would apply them to elk hunting. As I read I was thinking of that all that is contained within the deal to get an elk tag and prepare for the hunt in elk country. While Van Zwoll wrote about rifles, his experience is so very true for archers.

From: GrantK
04-Nov-21
I'd echo what everyone is saying and get some OTC experience first, pick a WY unit and get an idea of the terrain and vegetation, then try to find something similar on an OTC or easy to draw tag to get a feel if your fitness is on par, I would say it is important to find something similar to the area you are wanting to go in WY, tactics vary between open mountains and thick rainforest for sure... if you go cow hunting I'd just hunt like you were hunting bulls, you will probably end up getting shots at cows while you are at it... knowing the unit is nice but definitely not mandatory, if you go to a couple of different units/states OTC then you will get better at finding elk quickly. and I'd definitely try to get that hunting time closer to two weeks, that gives you time to adjust if plan A isn't working...

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