Do It Yourself Elk Hunting?
Are You Prepared and Up to the Challenge?

Do it yourself elk hunting (DIY) in the wilderness is a rich experience if you have the equipment, endurance and back-country savvy necessary.




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Wilderness “Light Camp”

Wilderness back pack (“light camp”) hunting can be deeply rewarding, but when darkness falls and the temperature drops it tends to separate the men from the boys. In an unforgiving and potentially harsh environment, everything you have to keep you safe, healthy and comfortable is carefully measured in ounces, and is strategically crammed into a pack on your back. Those ounces are all that stand between you and the harshness of a cold mountain rain, wind or snow storm.

If you are considering a BackCountry hunt with your camp on your back, don't miss our series of pages about BackCountry hunting.

Plan carefully before embarking on do it yourself elk hunting in the back country wilderness where medical and rescue services are slow in coming and may be impossible to summon.

Click here for hunter fitness preparation.

Sometimes wilderness light camp hunts are done while carrying everything with you while you hunt. Doing this requires that you be fit enough to pull a bow or hold a rifle steady with 40 to 60 pounds of gear balanced on your hips and shoulders, even after spending all day carrying the weight. Sometimes these hunters will hike in, set up a spike camp and day hunt out from there, perhaps adjusting camp locations when the elk move or beckon from a distant mountain.

The advantage of do it yourself elk hunting with all your gear in your backpack is that you can go wherever you want in expansive elk habitat with no concern about getting back to base camp. Camp is where you are when light begins to fade. (Check out our BackCountry hunting pages here.)

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No Ridge Too Far

If you find a bull or two that you want to follow, you’re free to do that. If they move over the ridge and into the next drainage at 4:00 in the afternoon, over the ridge you go. When it gets dark, you find a flat spot to call camp, eat some food and get some rest, then go back at them in the morning. During archery season you might be camped close enough to hear them bugle through the night.

It is paramount that you be fit and know your physical and emotional limitations (we all have them) before embarking on several days of do it yourself elk hunting, hauling your livelihood on your back in potentially harsh conditions. Make sure you thoroughly prepare your own body for the incredible strain that you will put on it. You are highly advised to walk yourself mentally through the potentially harsh conditions you will face. Feel the pain, the loneliness, the fatigue and the stress. Try to see how you will react emotionally to an extended “vacation” from civilization. If you’re up to it, go for it! Each trek will make you a different person! 

You Will Not Come Out Unscathed!

In one way or another, you will become injured or sore. Maybe just a blister or three. Maybe a sore hip, a lost toenail or much worse. Somethingwill start to hurt at some point and make you ask yourself, “what am I doing here?”. Barring a painful injury, you'll soon hear an elk bugle or see sign and remember your mission!

Do it yourself elk hunting is an endurance test. You don’t want to "fail" the test so far from help. See our discussion of physical preparation of your body for hunting. You can limit the potential for injury and discomfort greatly, if you know how. Be sure to check out the experienced discussions in our BackCountry Hunting pages here.

(Have you ever been hurt while hunting in the back country?)

What if You Kill an Elk?

If you succeed at killing an elk, you not only have to haul out your equipment, but now you have meat and head to carry out. You will have to make a trip to your vehicle to lighten up. Then you may have to return multiple times to extract your quarry.

Some do it yourself wilderness hunters take the added risk and heightened adventure of going it all alone, but after a kill far from roads it might be a good time to call up some friends and share some meat.

It might be a good idea to prearrange someone with horses to agree to stand ready to help haul out your meat. The owner of the horses must be willing to be at your disposal when you call. In some areas, local ranches provide this service for a reasonable fee. With enough time, strength and energy a person can reasonably expect to bone out the meat and carry it out on a pack by himself or with the help of a friend. I've hauled a few out on my back and I weigh less than 140 pounds.

See details on packing meat out of the woods.

“Heavy” Wilderness Elk Camp

If you have horses that are up to hauling camp and elk meat, you can do complete “heavy camp” do it yourself elk hunting. But read our section on do it yourself elk hunting with horses before doing this for the first time. Not every horse will haul gear. Even fewer will pack meat safely.

A horse that you have done day trips on may be unpredictable under the demanding circumstances of do it yourself elk hunting trips. Any horse can cause all kinds of trouble when they get the itch to think for themselves and rebel against your plans. You will be at their mercy once you get miles from the trailer. Losing control of a horse may mean losing your gear when you are dependent on it for safety and survival. 

Learn From a Guide First?

That brings us right back to the idea of using an elk guide at least once. Even if you have horses, if you aren't familiar with the commitment of extended overnighters with them, or with the necessary tack and equipment, learn from watching some good elk outfitters before jumping into the expense and risk of an extended do it yourself hunt.

We recommend using Huntin' Fool's vetted outfitters and superb hunting consultant services. You can try Huntin' Fool free for 60 days.

Licensed elk hunting outfitters are indeed the highly experienced, trained experts. Consider hiring the services of a reputable elk hunting guide at least once. The learning experience will be well worth the money.

(Do you use horses for big game hunting?)




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Forum Topic Discussions:


How often should I use my cow call?, I am new to the sport of bow hunting elk and my question is how often should I use my cow calls?

295 yard kill with a Kimber Montana 325 WSM, by Don from Dallas: My ELk did not even twitch once. He was dead when he hit the ground.

325 WSM is worth considering, Palmer Lake,CO: I believe that the .325 WSM is the ultimate elk caliber...

30-30 for Elk? : I have a 30 30 with 170 grain round nose bullet. Will this work to shoot an elk ?

(More comments about Best Elk Rifle below)

Submissions

2013 elk bow hunt around Pagosa Springs: by Bobby (Little Rock , Arkansas), looking for someone to join my DIY hunt!...

Unique Elk Talk by Idaho Steve (Hailey, Id ), In the middle of the night, a herd of elk came traveling through the drainage and right past my tent...

Smelly Elk Areas? by Jimmy (New Mexico), I've come across many areas that just stink of elk, literally. I have heard two somewhat contradictory stories...

DIY Gear List Must Have's! by Craig (Florida) "Here are some of the items I use on my DIY hunts in the CO backcountry..."

Elk and Deer Hunting and Mountain Bikes, by Skip Shepherd (Tucson, AZ)~ At 67 I am thinking a lot about investing in a mountain bike to get back into remote areas...


Solo archery hunting -- tips for calling/set up?, by Idaho Steve (Hailey, ID )~ I hunt by myself a lot...I'd love to hear your thoughts on strategic set-ups when solo hunting and calling.

Non- Lead Bullets for Elk?, by Dave, Elk Hunting Tips.Net (Garrison, MT)~ What do you ballistics guys think about the use of non-lead bullets for elk? According to this story...

Rage Broadheads by Chris, ...my buddy gave me a rage practice tip and when I shot it you could not pick out the broadhead from the field points. I was sold...

Recent Submissions:

Finally filled the freezer..., Colorado Rockies~ "I was bummed when I got to the property and no elk, nor any hoof prints in the snow. ...I pulled each of the elk into shade then started gutting..."


Wounded Veteran Elk hunts, by Joshua FL), I am a disabled veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and have always dreamed of hunting elk. I am posting this to see if anyone would know of any elk hunts free to disabled vets....

First Elk with a Bow, by Ryan H. (Colorado), ...Finally after many years of hunting with a bow "I got er did"!

First Elk!, by Tater (Sheridan, Arkansas) I took the advice I received from this website and was successful…I wanted to Thank You and Your Forum and the folks that share on here for the knowledge and information that helped me find an elk I was quite happy with.


Questions

Any success in Unit 14?, by: Dave (MI), "I'm planning on doing a DIY in Unit 14 for 2012..."


Share Elk Hunting Secrets


Bugle in Herd bulls, by Swiltbank (Az) The key to calling in a herd bull is to get into his bedding grounds and threaten his herd. Start off sounding like…


Best Big Game Rifle?

Best Rifle Caliber?, by Buglemup (Superior, MT), "I've been reading what people have been writing about rifle calibers and here is what 16 years of guiding elk has taught me."

7mm Remington Magnum, by Dean (Helena, MT. USA) I use my Liberty Ruger M77, 7mm Rem. Mag. for antelope, deer, elk... Comment: "What do you guys think about the idea of hunting elk with a 270? I also know a guy who kills elk with a 243."


338 Marlin Express, "Light, fast shooting, hard hitting, manageable recoil, and for a lever gun - very accurate."


Guns I like for Elk, by Mountain Walker (Kootenays east B.C. Canada),"I think the gun you shoot Elk with should be one you shoot a lot with... "


.35 Remington, by Bill Smith "...my .35 Rem appears to have dropped a medium deer flawlessly, but I now have serious doubts as to its capability to take an elk."


Arizona Elk Hunting

Where to hunt in Az unit 3B?, by Cliffjumper (Tucson, Az) ~ I got a late bull muzzle loader hunt in Arizona unit 3b. Does anyone know how to hunt bulls in the late season?...

First time elk hunter hunting Arizona unit 6A , by Rob Marchio (Omaha, Ne)~ I'm a first time elk hunter hunting Arizona's unit 6A. I'm planning on staying in the Pine Grove campground...


Elk Hunting Colorado

Help needed for 1st DIY Hunt w/Son, by Patrick (Parker, CO), "I was looking for some advice on my 1st DIY hunt for 2014 in CO with my 13 yr old son. I have countless hrs going over stats, topo maps & Google Earth"

Elk Hunting Colorado in 2013, By William (Midland, TX) "I am planning an elk hunt next year in Colorado and I wanted to know if hunting Gunnison National Forest..."

Unit 60 Elk 4th Rifle Season Nov 13-17 Either Sex 2013, By Chester "...Any general advice about the unit would be appreciated!"


Idaho Elk Hunting


Elk Hunting Idaho Unit 8 8A 11, This is my first year seriously trying to track down some elk. Is there anyone that has hunted in any of these units and can give me some friendly advice? Mitchell, Moscow Idaho

Elk Hunting Pocatello by Cameron (Pocatello) Where is the best place to elk hunt around Pocatello, Idaho? I'm a student at ISU and I'm looking for somewhere around here to hunt next season.

How is the elk hunting in unit 30A in Idaho?, by Terry (Richland Center, WI) Has anyone archery elk hunted in unit 30A in Idaho? What can you tell me about the area?


Elk Hunting In Montana

Hunting in Western Montana, by Mike A. (Alabama)

I did not draw a tag for Missouri breaks where I have hunted in the past. Having to start over and try western Montana.


New Mexico Elk Hunting

New Mexico Unit 49, by Silas (Los Alamos, NM)

If anyone has tips on areas to start scouting, I'd really appreciate it.

First Elk Hunt First Elk Hunt, by Big "R" (NM)

I finally got drawn for a late elk hunt in Unit 28, north of Road 506 and south of the boundary line of the Lincoln National Forest...


Elk Hunting Nevada

Cow elk in Nevada's unit 222:

"Any good places known in unit 222?"

Northeast Nevada Early Elk hunt, by John (Carson City,NV)

"Any suggestions on what areas I may see some signs of elk?"


Questions from Novice Hunters

Retired USMC MSgt Needs Advice, by Ken Wing USMCRET (Bealeton, Va)


Big Game Recipes

Popcorn VenisonPopcorn Venison with Maple Syrup?

Elk or Venison Steaks Grilled to Perfection Here's how to turn them into steakhouse steaks!

Spice-Crusted Grilled Venison Roast Recipe This Spice-Crusted, Grilled Venison Roast recipe works great for any red meat roasts, including elk, deer or beef roast...

Corned Elk Recipe You can easily make corned venison and elk, moose or corned beef from these instructions...


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