Help selecting an Elk Unit

Discussion in 'Big Game Hunting' started by Riverduck11, Nov 3, 2018.

  1. Riverduck11

    Riverduck11 Weekend Warrior

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    I have been researching for a few months in preparation for a 2020 Elk hunt. I am making headway through all the different units, tags, seasons and what not. I am leaning towards Idaho as I have talked to a few biologists from the area that were very helpful and the OTC tags make things a little bit easier.

    Since I have a year to potentially buy preference points, I thought I would reach out here to see if any veterans could point me towards a few units in any state I could research. If one preference point would put me in a significantly better area or one with less pressure, I would consider that worth the money for sure.

    I am currently researching Idaho and Wyoming. I am open to Colorado or Montana as well. I could travel farther, but coming from Ohio, I would prefer the shortest drive possible. My main goal is to harvest an elk with my bow, trophy bull is not a priority on this trip.


    Thank you for any suggestions.
     
  2. trial153

    trial153 Grizzled Veteran

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    Buy a point in WY next year because you will need least one to draw a Gen tag in the future.
    Otherwise, to be quite frank a single point doesnt really get you swat any place in the way of moving into better units.
    Can someone search and find an example someplace ...I am sure I could if I really wanted to. However on the whole it wont matter. Buy points if you can afford to and plan to do more hunts in the future.
    In the mean time then pick a location, general area for OTC units do some research and just go hunt.
     
  3. jstephens61

    jstephens61 Weekend Warrior

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    House is in Illinois, me who knows,
    What he said and ‘nuff said.
     
  4. Riverduck11

    Riverduck11 Weekend Warrior

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    Thanks. I have done a lot of searching, just thought I would ask as by time to flip through 80 units in 5 different states, things get a little blurred.

    Looking forward to my first mountain trip!
     
  5. Oldcarp

    Oldcarp Die Hard Bowhunter

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    I know here in Utah you need 7 points to get a any bull tag in a general area. Most of the state is spike or cow only on the archery. In the general areas there is some decent bulls. We do have a couple units that will take around 15 or more points but the 6+ year old elk are lot more plentiful. I put in for Wyoming points. I have a good friend I served with that lived there and he said as soon as we get 5 points we will put in. I have a son that lives in Idaho and I will hunt with him this next year also. What ever the case enjoy and have fun.
     
  6. SheddingLightTravis

    SheddingLightTravis Weekend Warrior

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    Have you tried the Go Hunt App? They had a free 30 day trial a while back. Probably all of the info you need in one spot. I went through every elk unit in Colorado and looked specifically at draw odds per preference point. I then looked at harvest success rates in each of the units that had decent draw odds. I wrote everything down so when I cancelled my trial I still had the info for look at going forward.
     
  7. MnMoose

    MnMoose Grizzled Veteran

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    I have GoHunt and if you plan on making regular trips out west, it is worth it's weight in gold. Luckily software doesnt weigh much :)

    For starters, I would change your goal from harvesting an elk with your bow to calling an elk in. Archery elk hunting is incredible difficult, and has very low harvest rates for DIY guys, and that's considering all the guys that have been doing it 20 years and harvest bulls every year. Calling in an elk is a hell of an experience and much more attainable goal your first year. That being said, don't be discouraged - elk hunting is by far my favorite passion. We have had 19 tags across the last 4 years and have shot 4 bulls (our rate on trees and tree branches is waaayy better lol).

    All of the states you mentioned have pros and cons and the tough part is weighing them.. I will break it out as I see the pros and cons just to brainstorm my ideas, but again these are just my opinions.

    Idaho
    Pros: Easy tag access, late in the draw cycle, great back up plan, lower overall hunting pressure, decent tag cost
    Cons: Wolves n Bears (the scary kind), possible tough terrain, far away for flat landers (us east river people). Have yet to know someone personally that is successful in Idaho. Paul Medel "Elk Nut" lives there and is one of the most successful archery elk hunters in the country, many of his elk came from Idaho.

    Montana
    Pros: Lots of general units and lots of overall elk, terrain ranging from easy to insane (pick your poison), closer than ID.
    Cons: Tag price, better units need points, bears, wolves, higher pressure.

    Wyoming
    Pros: Tag cost, distance, good elk populations, lower(?) pressure, less wolves and grizzlies (unless you're by the park)
    Cons: limited OTC/ 0 point units, less archery elk habitat (most of the state is dessert like)

    Colorado
    Pros: OTC Tags, Tag Cost, Most elk of any state
    Cons: Most elk hunters of any state, OTC Units get pounded.

    All that being said, Montana is my favorite state to hunt. To me it may be more the "feel" of Montana compared to the others but its my favorite followed closely by Wyoming.

    Either way, get out and get experience elk hunting. Experience is the single biggest factor in elk hunting. A beginner in the best unit in America will still likely eat tag soup and a veteran is the worst units will still find ways to contact and call elk.

    Start working out. Knowing where the elk are is half the battle, getting there is the other half. You are never in "good enough" shape. Cameron Hanes isn't in "good enough" shape.. there is always another bugle, farther away and higher up steeper hills. Cut down extra weight if you can. If you know you're 20 lbs over a healthy fit weight, thats 20lbs x 30,000 steps a day x 8 days - if each step averages just an inch of elevation change, which I would guess is a weak guess, thats the equivalent of lifting a 50 pound bag of salt over 650 flights of stairs.. that's a lot. Work out with a pack frame as well and add weight to it as you go, a lot of weight. Our group says "it's all fun and games until someone shoots an elk" and thats true. Our longest pack out was 2.73 miles, which makes for a long walk if you're not used to an extra 75-100lbs on your back.

    Get the ElkNut Playbook. Paul Medel covers all the vocalizations you will ever need to call in elk, what they mean, and how to use them. It's not a guarantee that a bull will come running, but I guarantee it's worth your $20 bucks.

    Shoot your bow an insane amount. I hear a lot of people say "Well an elk has an 18" kill zone, im good with this group". I am thoroughly convinced these people have never had a shot opportunity on an elk in black timber. While they are right, an elk has a massive kill zone, they are forgetting that you are going to have a 3 inch gap between that dead stump and the pine tree. The term threading the needle was invented by elk hunters I'm sure of it. Plus, elk are tough as hell. You want that arrow to double lung or hit the heart. People seldom recover elk on marginal shots.

    Research, test, and practice with ALL of your gear. Head to toe, sleep to sleep. Elk hunting is brutal on your body. Anything you can do to hold on to the littlest bit of comfort you can is worth it. Not being able to sleep good on your Walmart sleeping hammock will wreck your hunt faster than picking the worst unit.

    Riding off the previous point, research, test, and practice with your crew (jokingly serious on this one). The number of horror stories of bad hunting partners is pretty high. Know the guys you're going with. Are they going to cave and go back to camp when there is a bugle in some hard terrain? Are they going to get drunk and miss wake up call? Are they a team player?

    I know I spent 25% of the time talking about units to the original question and 75% talking about other stuff, but that is because I believe the other stuff will make or break your hunt way faster than the unit you pick. If you knock all these other topics out of the park, you will have a "successful" hunt, in whatever success means to you :)
     
  8. Riverduck11

    Riverduck11 Weekend Warrior

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    MnMoose

    Thank you so much. I have been dreaming of this hunt for a long time. I am working with my friends to try to get it planned before none of us can make it up the mountains.

    I am most worried about several of the points you bring up. 1. Will my friends actually be in shape? 2. Will they have the drive to go the extra half mile know we have to pack it out that much further?

    I have freelanced ducks in 4 states and 3 provinces, pheasants and Huns in Saskatchewan and Montana as well as a freelance deer hunt in Iowa. I know a lot of the traveling and hunting tricks, but elk hunting feels like a whole new level.

    I have learned over time that I am not a trophy hunter at all. I love each experience in the woods and enjoy the meals as well! For all these reasons, I have begun researching guided cow hunts. The prices are typically lower, I don’t have to worry about others being in shape and I would learn a lot about how to do it on my own.

    No decisions yet just trying to keep my options open.

    Thanks for all your advise!
     
  9. wl704

    wl704 Grizzled Veteran

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    One other addition, usually there is an offer posted on this site, for a group of bow hunters who hunt even years in CO. @soccerdan90 has somewhat been the coordinator as the host Will (aka iamyourhuckleberry) is seldom on this site much anymore.

    I hunted with Dan last year, though unsuccessful, we did see elk (and mule deer) in unit 45 of CO. The area we hiked into and camped for a few days was covered in sign (scat, rubs, and that barnyard-y smell) and we're were close many times trying to call them in, but we also bumped into some other folks who we think kinda ruined our chances...after putting our heads together and trying another spot, again were close but unsuccessful.

    My second week in CO, I met up with Matt (bz_711, likewise I haven't seen him on the site much lately) and a mutual friend (Justin) of his and Will's. We hunted another OTC unit further North in CO. Matt had an opportunity (actually maybe it was 2 close calls), and Justin was able to take a 5x5.
    [​IMG]

    Getting in shape will likely make your experience more enjoyable. The country is rougher than it appears on GE or OnX.

    Be proficient with your weapon. Practice out to distances you're uncomfortable with as your form will get better. Elk have a larger vital zone than deer too. But also know your limits!

    Acquire your gear and gain experience with it.

    Especially if you have dreams of some crazy x mile deep in the backcountry vision, you best be knowledgeable and ready to break down a huge animal and have a damn good plan for meat care/transport. A few years ago a colleague was about 5-7 miles deep and ran into some solo hunting kid who shot a bull elk but didn't know how to break the animal down nor have a plan to get it out of the back country. Once he reached a packer he learned it would be 2-3 days before the packer could get the meat out of the backcountry. Again, being in shape helps.

    Have realistic goals. If you really want an animal 1st year out, you might want to look into a guided or outfitter arrangement.

    There's a lot to learn and it's not easy as the odds most states publish prove out.
     
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  10. MnMoose

    MnMoose Grizzled Veteran

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    Alot of DIY guys look down on people who go guided, and a lot of guided guys say life is too short to do DIY.

    In my opinion, there is no shame in either route. There is a lot to be learned from watching an experienced hunter. If you are going to go guided, I would go guided on the type of hunt you would like to DIY in the future, ask why on everything he does, not from a disagreement stance, but to learn. That could drastically change the future of your elk hunting career by watching a veteran do it for a week.

    Just my thoughts, above all else get out there and learn what doesn't work!
     
  11. ELKSLAYER25

    ELKSLAYER25 Newb

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    I like Colorado for the fact that if you get to see elk all the time if you put the work in. Most hunters I meet in the mountains don't travel too far from a road or their camp/truck. Just keep hiking and you will run into elk every time.
     

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