Should you hunt elk solo or pay for a guide or an outfitter? That is an easy question to ask but the answer depends greatly on the many variables that are unique to your situation and goals. On this episode I provide some insight which can help you make the best decision for you.

Take Aways

  • Guides are people you pay who know the land and the game and are able to help put you in an advantageous hunting situation.
  • Outfitters are companies that make your hunting accommodations, often including ground transportation, lodging, meals, guides, butchering, and transporting your meat back home.
  • Guides usually have a day rate.
  • Outfitters usually have a trip rate that varies based on the number of days.
  • A guided elk hunt is not someone taking you to an elk ranch where you pick your elk, shoot it, and have your antlers sent back home. That isn’t even hunting.
  • A guide is someone who shares their experience, knowledge of the land, and insight into the game to help you locate and get close to elk. They don’t hunt for you; they mentor you through the hunt.
  • The best time to use a guide or an outfitter is when you are investing a lot of time and money into travel and want to position yourself for the most enjoyable experience and best chance of success.
  • The best time to go solo is when your investment or risk is limited. If you can drive to the area to hunt, and make regular weekend excursions, you can easily and cheaply work at it until you learn.
  • Since so many people travel great distances and invest so much to hunt elk, guides become a very important part of the process
  • Always do your homework, research a guide or outfitter, look for reviews, talk to past customers if possible, make sure they are legit and that people enjoyed their experience.
  • Listen to the episode for all of the info.

Elk hunting requires a specialized approach, but the guns and gear used are not uncommon. You may need to buy a little gear, but chances are you already own a capable rifle for the job. On this episode I talk about the equipment you need to hunt elk.

Take Aways

  • A magnum rifle is certainly fine for the job, but many hunters shoot worse with a bigger gun.
  • Do not just go out and buy a heavy caliber for elk hunting, you need to train with big calibers for years, mastering how to use them effectively. Else you are better off with less gun.
  • The most common range for taking a shot at an elk for most hunters is 100-200 yards. You should train for that.
  • Practice shooting off hand, after hiking or climbing, and in various positions and circumstances.
  • A 308, 30-06, and 270 are very common calibers that are all ideal choices for elk with the right bullets.
  • Use high quality bullets rated for game of this size, a Nosler Partition is a great place to start.
  • When it comes to gear, boots make all the difference. YOU MUST have good boots, and two pairs of them. You must break the boots in well in advance, hiking miles and tens of miles in them regularly.
  • Base layers are the next very important piece, you need something that doesn’t itch, that will keep you warm when wet, doesn’t stink and wicks moisture and evaporates it quickly. Merino wool is the best option. I recommend the First Lite 150 wick or 250 kiln base layers.
  • Good socks also make a world of difference, again merino wool is the best. I recommend Darn Tough socks because of their lifetime guarantee.
  • You should bring 4 pairs of hunting socks. One to wear into the field, one to change into at mid-day, and two for the next day. So you can rotate and your socks will always have a day to dry, just like your boots.
  • Beyond that, you need some pants, nothing fancy, just something ripstop that can take walking through brush.
  • Coat wise, you will want something windproof, because it will be windy, but it doesn’t have to be too fancy.
  • Then it is just a matter of layers, adding them and taking them off throughout the day. Keep extra room in your pack for when you take layers off.
  • Depending on the weather, a good pair of gators can help keep your feet and pants try and free of debris, snow, and wear.
  • Have multiple hat options so you can adjust over the course of the day. And of course you’ll need some gloves, binoculars, a knife, food, water, etc.
  • The biggest thing you should do is ask your guide, outfitter, or local friends what to expect weather wise and what gear you should bring.
  • Do not go based on the forecast of the closest major city, in the country and at higher elevations, the conditions can be very different.
  • Listen to the episode for more info!

There are different ways to hunt elk based on the terrain, habitat, and what your opportunities are. In this episode I talk about how to hunt less than ideal areas, unconventional tactics, and the most common way elk are pursued

Elk are most often hunted on foot, hiking, covering ground, glassing big areas, and pushing through rough terrain. But that is not the only way to hunt them, it is just usually the best way.

Elk are sometimes ambush hunted. If you have limited property or access points, you can scout for the freshest sign in pinch points, travel corridors or near food, study the wind, and settle in to an ambush point.

Believe it or not, elk are sometimes hunted from fixed position tree stands or hunting blinds. This typically works best in more wooded or rural areas where there is less migration and big heard movement and the elk have become more accustomed to living around people. I would say this is less than 5% of all elk hunts though. In big spaces, this doesn’t work.

There are many more strategies but they are often tailored to your specific area. Search those out, study them, and get ready.

Listen to the episode to learn more.

Elk hunting is a slippery slope because it can become all-consuming for those who develop a passion for it. On this episode I talk about the basics of elk hunting and how to get started planning and preparing for your first hunt.

Beginners Checklist:

  • Determine where you want to or are able to hunt and what the seasons are in that area.
  • Figure out how much it costs to get a tag to hunt there and if you can readily purchase one or have to enter a drawing.
  • Create a strategy for scouting that area, be it through a guide, preliminary trip, or coming in early for the hunt.
  • Study the tactics that are most effective to hunt in that area, I share some in the episode.
  • Have an exit strategy to get you and the meat out of the woods. Elk are big animals; they can be upwards of 700 pounds.
  • Start a regimented and growing fitness routine to get you ready for the rigors of all day hikes, carrying gear, and hunting in high elevation as needed.
  • Prepare yourself physically, health wise, and mentally for the challenges you may face. I cannot overstate how hard it can be to hunt elk in high elevations no matter how good of shape you think you are in.
  • Decide if you will hunt DIY, with a guide, or using an outfitter. There are benefits to each. But it is very hard to hunt elk in an unfamiliar state without someone who knows the land and the heard.
  • Begin to assemble your gear based on the season you plan to hunt in.
  • Elk are masters of the wind, far beyond whitetail deer. They can smell you a mile away, literally, and disappear before you knew they were there. You must plan for the wind.
  • Do not waste your time, money, or energy on elk calls if you are new to the sport. You will likely cause yourself more problems than anything else. Leave calls to those who are experienced.
  • The average first or second elk hunt is usually planned a year or two in advance. That much time is needed to nail down everything on this list.
  • Do not expect to just show up with a gun and expect to take home a great elk. It doesn’t work like that unless you are hunting a farm.
  • The best guide and outfitter does not do the work for you, they simply make it possible for you to put in the hard work and have a chance at finding an elk.
  • Listen to the episode for all the information.