been on three elk hunts guided montana, diy with a buddy in wyoming, and guided colorado
montana elk saw one elk first day bout 150yds, nothing after...
wyoming saw a few elk on our own and was fun, just not a great hunting match
colorado no elk, guide got turned around in the woods, couldn't call...
i have arizona and wyoming points that i am not ready to use yet, i want to keep elk hunting and really thinking i just want to go solo, that way if i strike out, it's all on me...
just think guided hunts are not for me based on what i have experienced so far
it's a big solo trip and honestly kind of nervous, but i can't get the elk bug out of my head..
just not sure what to do next
Most all my elk hunts are solo. I suck at elk killing but I can ALWAYS find elk. There's only a handful of guys that I'd share my precious elk hunting time with and they are all experienced elk killers that are just plain fun to be around.
Pick a state, do as much research as you can, get a tag, get in top shape, get your shooting game at your very best, and go for it!
If it's an early season hunt, it would be wise to find a pack service or outfitter in the area you can help you get the elk on ice in a day.
I hunt solo all the time. Can spend weeks by myself, but I will admit it's more fun when you have someone you like to hunt with in camp. Either way though, I'm still going hunting :)
sounds like you found some areas where elk are not, which is often the first step in finding where they are.
learning an area inside and out is important to having long-term opportunities and success. unless that spot in wyoming you refer to was just a dud, i'd reconsider trying again since you are somewhat familiar with it.
where? sounds like your options are OTC unless you get lucky and draw a limited entry or decide to use your PP's.
as far as going solo, yes you should. i've done it a lot and prefer it. the occasional times i have hunted with someone we almost always split-up, and either agree to meet mid-day somewhere to recap the morning hunt or, back at camp after nightfall.
don't over think it. sounds like you got enough experience to figure it out. it's hard work.
I really like hunting with a few select guys too- either way, its all good.
I did have a rough solo elk hunt in 2013. My dad was on his last legs…and I couldnt leave with him like that. When he passed, I was in a funk. My truck was packed…but bowhunting solo just didn’t sound fun.
My wife kicked me out of the house and the long drive and then setting up in the rain was a slog. In hindsight, that solo hunt was just what I needed to set me right. The first couple days were tough…and it rained hard pretty much every day….but as I got into hunt mode…and adjusted to positive thoughts…it was a catharsis.
I recommend trying it….oh and shot a decent bull too
I think there is something to it. It helps me get away from the noise of everyday life and focus.
Now some folks with the wrong mental attitude will drive themselves crazy…….
I've always been somewhat baffled by those who have hunted multiple years without ever killing an elk. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. If somebody has been repeatedly unsuccessful, it's time to take a long hard look at their methods and completely change the way they are doing things.
Don't listen to that BS! I'm a flatlander from Indiana that never set foot in the Rockies until I was 40 years old. First few elk hunts were DIY with a flatlander hunting partner with no western hunting experience. I arrowed bulls on each of my first three elk hunts. My next two elk hunts were solo DIY in states that I had zero experience. Arrowed my two best bulls on those hunts (my best the Wyoming bull in the photo)...and learned I really enjoy solo DIY!
Only hunted moose once...that was a solo DIY hunt in Wyoming. Arrowed my bull on day six of that hunt...after passing a 32"ish bull on day two...and getting winded by a good 40"+ bull on day four. Had a close encounter with a 50"+ giant bull two days after I filled my tag...while mule deer hunting the same unit.
Don't let anyone lead you to believe bowhunting elk (or moose) is rocket science. The toughest part about solo DIY is AFTER the animal is on the ground. Lots of work, but well worth the effort!
Hunt OTC until you can draw your better tag.
Whether or not you want to hunt solo - only you can answer that question. I’ve always hunted with someone, I enjoy the company - as long as it’s the right company with a good attitude. I’m getting to the point where my boys are both almost grown and gone though so there will probably be some solo trips in my future.
Understandable to be a little nervous but its really just camping and hiking with a purpose. Plan out food, water, shelter and meat recovery. If uncomfortable being in remote spots alone (not abnormal), a good GPS and satellite communication set-up makes that easier.
Life is short. Trips like this will be the stuff you remember when time steals the ability to do them anymore. Don't cheat yourself out of that memory.
I am still working on eating the moose I shot 1 1/2 yrs ago- Its a LOT of meat. fwiw, making chili for the game tomorrow.
That was a good comment to have a plan for the meat. Every timeI pack one of these out solo..i say never again, then 2 hours later its forgotten. That bull in the pic above was shot at 7am…and It took me till about 10pm to get it all out. I love every scrap of elk and moose I can get- its fantastic meat.
I learn something New every year it seems.
You'll be fine,
Good luck, Robb
Being alone for a bit is quite different than being ALONE. Some people are just naturally built for it, but I think for me I was just determined (at least then). I'm not sure I could do a couple weeks, but a few days I can. Again, going in, I figured that would be no problem.
The most dangerous part indeed will be the drive to your hunt. However, it makes no sense to discount the potential danger you could find yourself in. You get a serious injury on the highway, and you are likely 30 minutes from a decently equipped hospital. Get the wrong knife wound or suffer a heart attack 3 miles from your truck, and you are likely dead, regardless of that InReach you have in your pocket. I wouldn't say that is something to be nervous about, simply cognizant.
As far as strategy goes, I never really focused on calling (was never real good at it). Spot and stalk or mobile spot and stalk ended up getting me into elk. If you do plan to call your elk to you, be very mindful of setups as noted above. Something to be learned from turkey hunting if you've done that. When it comes to meat, 3 miles in near a good trail might be better than 0.5 miles in through the brush or in a hole. It's been a few years since I've gone, but most people that want to hunt from the road didn't really want to walk 3 miles in to start hunting. I didn't want to either, but I did some. That right there knocks off some of the pressure. Of course that's where you start getting into people spiking too (which I also did).
1. well, i want to make it happen this yr, just not sure where, due to possbily spending 2 weeks in iowa, just depends if i can draw.. Wont know the results until May/June, which is frustrating when trying to plan everything..
2. OTC definitly limits options. I would not be against buying landowner tags for better hunting, just concerned about getting the wrong deal.. I think i need to get another state going.. I am 45 now, have arizona in ten yrs or so and wyoming in 2024
3. I think i can "stand" being alone.. just never did it before. Mostly "nervous" about breaking an ankle, accidental cuts, not having anyone to help out if i get in a physical situation
4. Getting meat out.. I know how to break deer down and pack out and think i can do an elk on my own, will just take a long time and then that pack out. sounds hard with buddies let a lone solo.. but i think i can handle it, just never did it before
5. C3, not opposed to a cow hunt.. Figure if i am working on it, i would like some antlers too though
6. The drive for me from PA will be brutal... I have done it a few times, definitely the worst part
7. Joehunter, thanks man...
8.. i will be planning a 2 week adventure.. 1 week is just not enough time especially with the drive..
9. Just really not interested in outfitters, especially public land outfitters
10. RonP.. I'll always listen to advice on "where" to go.. but this was more for "how/if" i should go solo, and what are some of the bigger risks i should look at for and be aware of.. Been three times so feel like i have some experience to pull from.. Just not what to do when i get a shot opportunitly lol..
11. beendare! i would be very happy with an elk like that!! congrats
12. Cheesehead, thats big advice!! If what your doing is not working, do something else.. That is the current path i am on.. its time for something else and man if i just lived closer
13. Hey Rocky, nervous just about the grand scheme of the undertaking and really about safety precautions that i could be overlooking.. i think the drive is probably the most dangerous...
14. Damn PAV!! looks like you have this all down!! Congrats on your success!!!
15. Glunt, life is short, and the time we have left gets shorter everyday.. I have wanted an elk since in HS... Never went until 2016...
16. Once i have an idea of where i am going, i will determine a plan for getting the elk out.. good advice!
17. RockyD, sorry for the delay
18. Franzen, good points..
thanks guys, really appreciate the feedback!
If elk really is the one you want, why not put Iowa off for another year and really put all your time into an elk? I assume you have killed whitetails before, and one more point in Iowa wont hurt, so if you could draw there this year you could next as well. Elk tags are much harder to draw than deer tags, so doing these tags justice is as important to drawing them to me.
I am in the same general situation as you, with the exception of never having hunted elk before. I will be 44 this elk season, and most likely will not have a chance at this tag again until my late 50s with point creep/potential tag reductions.
Im in for the WY draw, and if I get a tag, I will be spending pretty much all of September working to kill a bull. I will have a partner who is very experienced elk hunter, but want to get the most out of this tag. He will not be with me the entire hunt, and I am ok with that and feel that if I hunt most of or the entire season and do not kill one, Im going to know I left it all on the mountain so to speak.
Ive been on several hunts where if I had just a few more days or was there a week later or earlier my hunts would have turned out much differently, outfitted and diy. Im sure many of us can say this also.
Its just a thought for consideration.
One of the rules is that it's okay to talk to yourself. Same for answering. The problem arises when you start having arguments.
Thanks for the chuckle.
Buy it on-line in June/July
Good luck, Robb
Having a way to contact home helps me. The longest I went alone was 13 days, called home every 4 days or so, and saw some other hunters. So no problems with being alone.
Be aware of lightning risks, and getting snowed on. I was camped way up high once and a snowstorm was coming. Nearby hunter was calling home to get weather forecasts. I wasn't prepared for that, and wish I had been. I was mostly worried about not being able to get out.
Lightning has caused me more gray hairs on a couple hunts than any other thing. I've gotten caught a couple times and it's no fun. Once a bolt passed by so close it electrified my hair and made it all stand up (or at least I imagined it did:) Not very fun. I should have gotten lower immediately as I watched the front move in, but I waited too long, and I was loath to give up that hard-won elevation.
Make the effort to take some decent food. I can barely stomach backpacking food for very long. It tears me a new one anymore
Have fun. Solo is rewarding when it comes together.
Aside from all the good advice above, a really good survival kit with multiple fire starting methods, space blanket, a good first aid kit, a tourniquet, a filet glove for your non-cutting hand, and an Inreach. The filet glove has saved me from many cuts on my left hand, and a tourniquet can save your life while waiting for the SAR you called in with your Inreach.
+100 on Matt Dworak's book, "Public Land Elk Hunting".
Don't be paranoid but be careful. Have some reasonable 1st Aid and safety items but don't get bound up with them either. Enjoy your hunt. I worked for 35 years for the U.S. Forest Service. It was very rare that anyone was called out to go find a hunter. On the rare occasion Search & Rescue was called out somewhere it made the news. If you are reasonably cautious, your hunting time will be the safest part of your trip.
If your found unconscious, first responders will have a start.
Name. Emergency contact number. Blood type. What your allergic to. Medications. Etc.
This was completed after a real life situation hunting elk in 1991, in Colorado.
Suggestion was from an ER Doctor.
Have a Plan. Know the Plan. Follow the Plan
I'm 53 and might use PP in Colorado this fall and apply and if I do? I'll solo again. Its tough, its hard, and its all you
get in shape now, don't wait, work hard, put in hundreds of hours of gym/workout time in and then go for a 7-10 day hunt, and have an experience of a lifetime
if you tag an elk, even frickin better
My first solo hunt was out of necessity… then it became a challenge, a personal test. Simple- If its not fun for you don’t do it.
I can really get into hunt mode after a couple of days..and thats a good feeling. My bet is Im not the only guy that feels that…
lots to learn and PLAN!
If you can handle the solitude and intimidation part, you can handle the rest. The main concern is putting a limit on how far you are willing to pack the meat out on your own. A young bull will give you about 200-230# of boned out meat. That should be 4 trips for the average guy. If you are close enough to the road to do 2 trips a day then saving the meat is not big deal. A big bull might yield over 250# of boned meat, plus the cape and antlers. At least 5 trips, maybe 6. I would rather take an extra trip that try to pack too much and get hurt on the first trip. I self impose a limit of about 2 miles when hunting solo unless it's fairly flat. I can make 2, four-mile round trips with 60# pack in a day, no problem, hence 2 days to get the meat out.
Plan B is to have a horse packer on call ahead of time. This will cost $500 or more but this also allows you to hunt way off the road. With satellite communications this is no big deal anymore. Send them a text and they show up the next day to get your meat.
My only concern would be, can I pack 60# for a number of miles for at least 2 days? The rest is pure joy.
Pyrannah, if you're fairly good at breaking down a deer then you can an elk no problem. I imagine you can do it in a little over an hour and definitely less than two your first time. The only thing I can say you're definitely wrong about is the drive. IF you kill an elk and it's more than 200 yds from the road the drive will not be the worst part and if it's a mile or two your idea of brutal will most likely change & that drive will be one of the easiest things you've ever done! Don't sweat the small stuff!!
But it is really a good idea to consider, even though it’s not cheaper any more.
There's a military saying 'amateurs focus on strategy, professionals focus on logistics.' To give a solo DIY hunt a fair crack of the whip, you have to have the logistics down. No such thing as bad weather, but there is a lot of bad gear. Don't let blisters, too much weight, too cold or wet, take you out of your game. If you don't do practice hikes with a 60+ lbs pack where you live, you are going to be sucking air at altitude, and fatigue leads to mistakes or at a minimum bad attitude. Give yourself LOTS of time, and plan for some easy days to go with the dark to dark days. A good GPS is almost essential for solo dark to dark - how are you going to find your camp if you are set up until last light a ways away from it?
A buddy to split logistics like driving, expenses, gear, etc is nice. Plus a good caller can make a big difference, especially with a lot of mature bulls that are only going to come in a certain distance before they want to see miss sunshine or the bull that's been pissing them off. And splitting the weight hauling is great. In my experience solo hunting in unfamiliar area usually ends up being an endurance contest and doing the toughest packing at the very end of a long lucky hunt can lead to problems.. If you team up, try to clarify that your partner has the same goals and has done the same hard prep, or is cool chilling in camp while you finish out the number of days planned to hunt.
Definitely get out there. Experience is a huge teacher, and nailing an elk, particularly one you've worked really hard for, is one of life's peak experiences.
My other comment is on the time it takes to break down a bull. I've broken down about 20 bulls, many of them solo. There's no way in hell I could do it in just over 1 hour or even 2 hours. I don't think I've ever broken one down solo in less than 4-5 hours. Even with 2-3 guys working on the bull it takes at least 2 hours. Depending on how the bull is positioned when he dies, if he's on a steep slope, tangled up in trees, etc can have a huge impact on how long it takes solo.
EDIT: UPON FURTHER REVIEW, I DID ACTUALLY BREAK ONE DOWN SOLO IN ONLY 2 HOURS.
I will agree though, I actually enjoy the long relaxing drive home in a comfortable truck seat after a long brutal solo pack out...
I’ve probably done 20 deer doing the gutless method - that’s a whole different game when you can flip, flop and move the animal to the desired processing position.
I've only skinned, quartered, and bagged maybe around 100, either solo or with one other person. So I'm probably not as experienced as you.
I think you must be Superman Pop-r or at least maybe Clark Kent ;-) I've been processing all of my deer for over 40 years and all of my elk for over 20. I know how to break them down and how to do the gutless method. I'm never in a hurry because that's a recipe for disaster with a sharp knife in your hand. I stuck a knife in my wrist one time and missed a major blood vessel by 1/4 inch. I patched it up with super glue, paper towel and duct tape but it could have been disaster packed 6 miles into the wilderness. Often when breaking a bull down solo I have to use Paracord tied from legs to trees to position the heavy quarters while I cut meat. All that takes time. I also bone out all meat, lay it out to cool and then bag and hang. I take all neck meat, most rib, brisket, flank meat and inner tenderloins.
One time I had a bull die on a steep slope in some fallen trees. When I was trying to move and reposition him he slid down the slope and one hind quarter wedged under a fallen tree. I tried with all my might and nearly threw my back out but I simply could not move him by myself. I spent a lot of time and energy trying to move him and It took me at least an hour, possibly more just to get the meat off his hind quarters. Working around those fallen trees was a royal pain in the butt and very exhausting. I wasn't able to roll him and get to the bottom side until I got most of the meat off of him and his large rack didn't make things any easier getting caught on the trees, ground, etc.
Edit: after looking at my time stamps, I agree that 2 hours is not out of the question if conditions are favorable...
I’ve been processing my own deer for 40 yrs so I’ve done a few.
1 factor that slowed me was such little shade on my hillside. I would have to stop cutting and move already hung bags to follow the shade. When finished I had trouble keeping my hands from cramping closed. I survived though. 1st one solo.