Know Before You Go
When you are looking at booking a wilderness elk hunt with an outfitter there are some very important things to consider before you send a deposit check. The average wilderness elk hunt in today’s world ranges from about $4500-$7500 for bow and $6000-$9500 for rifle. That is a lot of money and you want to make sure you are spending it well. In this article you will learn the most important things to consider before ever booking a wilderness elk hunt, and why those things are important. I will hone in on one distinct aspect of elk hunting; that is the type of elk hunt you are wanting to go on… The wilderness with all its glory and grief. I will also tell you a little about myself, so you have a reference point to my “leanings”. I’m almost 50 and have killed 28 bulls with my bow, mostly in the back country of Idaho. I own Top End Adventures, and as a hunting consultant, placing clients on elk hunts now for over 10 years. These are a few things I wish people knew before they called me about their first wilderness hunt.
First, you need to decide what type of experience you are looking for. I know we already spoke about wilderness, but; what weapon, what time of year, are there any extra critter tags in your pocket? All these questions carry different implications and costs to be considered. After we discuss the previously mentioned, you will have a much clearer view of what you want and what you are getting yourself into. Lastly, we will discuss outfitter selection once you know what experience you are looking for on your wilderness hunt.
Horses and Fitness
Let’s dive in and discuss wilderness hunts which may be the most memorable hunt you ever go on. In my opinion everyone should do a hunt like this at least once in their lives. Wilderness elk hunts will almost always mean horses, and you will need to be very fit. I find most people aren’t already physically prepared for the “back country”. Many think the horses will make it easy and what you need to realize is how hard it is to be in the saddle for hours each day. It’s much harder than people think; it’s work too. Once you are out of the saddle you will need to be able to climb, hike, and often “fight brush”. I train year-round to be ready for elk season at almost 50. If you live at low elevation or are not fit, you will need to train to be most successful. Guides will not be able to just ride you to your bull. These things are just a part of elk hunting and you will need to be ready for it. You will likely be in a wall tent and sleeping on a cot. Meals will be better than you think, most likely, and if the woods are your thing; the escape from gadgets is second to none.
Rifle vs. Bow and Dates
Many times, in wilderness elk hunting you can hunt the rut with your rifle. This can be an amazingly affordable way to go on one of the most in demand hunts in the elk world. The rifle rut hunt is very high success as you can locate and call bulls with a led slinger in your hands. You will also be able to be out there in the month of September when the weather is so much more mild; cool in the morning but mostly warm in the afternoons. There are not many of these tags available and most of them are very, very hard to draw or very expensive outside of the wilderness. As far as bow hunts go, these can be amazing as well with the bonus of a chance at some very nice bulls. I find that with my clients, if they are willing to go on a wilderness hunt, it helps me to get them on larger average bulls for cheaper. As far as dates go, September and October are when most wilderness elk hunts happen. As October progresses many elk hunts move to lower elevations. You might be hunting migrating animals and that can be spotty sometimes. I like my clients to be on hunts Sept – Oct 20 or so. Almost never later than that. After Oct 20, the high country gets snow and the animal movement can be unpredictable year to year, and it’s just ass cold…not a lot of fun to be freezing.
One of the coolest things about wilderness hunts is they can often come with “extra critters” for no additional cost but the tag. In one of my Idaho hunts you can get tags to shoot a bear, cougar, wolf, and deer on your elk hunt at no additional fee. “If it’s brown it’s down” just doesn’t exist many places out west anymore, but it still does there. If money is no object get all the tags, but if it is, the deer will be hit or miss on most elk hunts. It can be uncommon for them to be living in the same places in most of elk country. But bears and wolves however…get one of each for sure. Bears will often be on your gut pile the very next day. It’s quite common on wilderness hunts to encounter bears, and in the wolf states, the wilderness is the best place to have a chance at them as they aren’t as savvy as on the front ranges.
I’m in the outfitter selection business and finding the “right guy” can be super hit or miss. Please remember that in North America, about half of the outfitters (and that is being generous) are really, really good at what they do and have an awesome area. It is way harder to find than you think. Many times, you have a great outfitter, but his area is poor or vice versa. Unfortunately, there are also many outfitters that are not so good, but ALL of them will tell you they are great. I advise you to give me a call 208 867 6675 or look me up at Top End Adventures and let me help you find the right fit. My service to you is free and I love helping people get on elk. I have both wilderness and private land hunts and almost all my hunts come with guaranteed tags.