Preparing for a Colorado Elk Hunt, what do I need to know?

shotgunshooter3shotgunshooter3 Senior MemberPosts: 5,457 Senior Member
Alright folks, for now I'm assuming that the forum elk hunt is going to happen and I'm going to go. Failing that, at least I'll be ready.

Background: All my hunting has been "Texas style." IE Sitting in a blind watching a feeder or common deer trail anywhere from 25-200 yards away, usually around 100, waiting for something to show up. I know some people say that isn't very sporting, but if you saw the kind of brush in the areas I hunt, you'd understand why we do it the way we do.

However, as such, I've never really bothered with spot n stalk techniques, calls, scent cover, or even how to pack out an animal. We gut 'em and load 'em up in the truck when it comes around that night. Yeah yeah, not sporting, whatever. It feeds the family.

Anyway, so what do I need to do to prepare for a Elk Hunt out in CO? I'm not so much worried about the physical aspect of walking around on mountains: I do triathlons, run marathons, have gone on field exercises in 8K altitude NM mountains during the winter, and am training for the US Army Air Assault Course in January.

What I am worried about is technique, how to draw and quarter an animal, calls, scents, etc... What do I need to know?

As far as the shooting part, it's TBD if I get a new rifle or not. If I did, chances are it'd start with a "3" and end with a "Magnum." I'd handload midweight loads for it, and practice out to 300 yards or so, and tape come-ups on the stock. Failing that, I'd just borrow one and bring the 7mm-08 as backup...

Thanks in advance for any advice.
- I am a rifleman with a poorly chosen screen name. -
"Slow is smooth, smooth is fast, and speed is the economy of motion" - Scott Jedlinski

Replies

  • JerryBobCoJerryBobCo Senior Member Posts: 6,707 Senior Member
    The time of year we'll be hunting is post-rut, so bugling will not be effective. A cow call might come in handy, though. Cows sort of chirp for lack of a better word, and cow calls are easy to use and master.

    I can't ever recall using a cover scent, although I probably should have a time or two. Just don't wear after shave, cologne or anything strong smelling, and try to keep yourself as clean as possible.

    Use your nose. A herd of elk will literally smell like a cow lot. If you're still hunting through timber and get a whiff of something you'd expect to smell on a farm, it's probably elk. Slow down, look, and move very slowly and deliberately.

    There's nothing wrong with sitting and waiting. Find a trail, a water hole, a meadow or something that will either draw elk or something they use to move from one location to another, and sit.

    Unless you're watching a very large opening, keep your scope on its lowest power. If you get a quick, close shot, it may be the difference between a clean kill and wondering where the darn thing went.

    Watch far out. You may see something that is way further than you're used to seeing game.

    Pay attention to what other hunters are doing, and where they are going. If they can move elk to you, all the better.

    Practice still hunting. The rule of thumb is take one step, stay put for 2 or more. In heavy cover, you cannot move too fast.

    As for drawing and quartering, there should be plenty of online websites that show how this is done. Also, I like to carry a saw of some sort. Some like to carry a small hatchet. Elk bones are big, and you need something more than a knive to get through the bones.
    Jerry

    Gun control laws make about as much sense as taking ex-lax to cure a cough.
  • sakodudesakodude Senior Member Posts: 3,339 Senior Member
    Jerry pretty well covered it. Add to that:
    prepare for widely fluctuating temps.
    Hydration is key to warding off altitude issues. also pack a roll of rolaids which help nutralize the acid imbalance that will preceed alt sickness.
    Prepare to spend a night lost. Survival essentials in your pack.
    don't forget a small light weight camera, you likely will see seanery beyond description.
    Be prepared to have a really great time. Looking forward to meeting you.

    Sako
  • calebibcalebib Senior Member Posts: 1,701 Senior Member
    If you don't have a really good set of binoculars, start saving for one. I have a set of Swarovski SLC 10x42 binos and I think they are just about perfect for this type of country. Yeah, they are really really expensive (and thankfully I got them as a gift) but I think they are worth every dollar spent on them. That said, get the best glass you can afford.

    Really good, well fitting hiking boots are another must. I wear Vasque Sundowners and they've been great but I'm planning on getting something heavier duty for my next pair, probably La Sportivas. A pair of lightweight gaiters are very hand too.

    A Camelbak (or another bladder type hydration pack) is great to have, they take up less space than bottles and they don't make as much noise. Hydration is essential in the high country.

    I am a big fan of shooting sticks, I have a set of Stoney Point Polecats and they been great. They give you a nice solid rest that will work for a wide variety of positions but they do require practice.

    Make sure you bring some windproof clothing, the wind up here can be incredibly strong at times and it will sap the heat right out of you. Add to that a good set of high coverage, polarized sunglasses. They will keep the wind blown crap out of your eyes and the sun here can be really intense. Remember, you'll have anywhere from one to more than two miles less atmosphere between you and the sun.
  • Wheelsman56Wheelsman56 Member Posts: 225 Member

    As far as the shooting part, it's TBD if I get a new rifle or not. If I did, chances are it'd start with a "3" and end with a "Magnum." I'd handload midweight loads for it, and practice out to 300 yards or so, and tape come-ups on the stock. Failing that, I'd just borrow one and bring the 7mm-08 as backup...

    Thanks in advance for any advice.

    Why mid weights for elk, and why come up tables for out to 300? My experience with the .300 Win Mag in Africa was excellent. I killed several animals the size of elk while there. Your bullet drop will not be bad at all with that kind of cartridge. I would go with a 180 gr bullet in a .300 Mag and call it a day.
  • shotgunshooter3shotgunshooter3 Senior Member Posts: 5,457 Senior Member
    I would go with a 180 gr bullet in a .300 Mag and call it a day.

    That's actually what I had in mind, .300 WM or .300 WSM with a 180gr Partition, Barnes X, or Accu-Bond.

    Now that I think about it, perhaps come-ups out to about 600 or so, if I did them at all.
    - I am a rifleman with a poorly chosen screen name. -
    "Slow is smooth, smooth is fast, and speed is the economy of motion" - Scott Jedlinski
  • mosseybuckmosseybuck Member Posts: 466 Member
    The following is a site published by Colorado Department of Wildlife. http://wildlife.state.co.us/Hunting/ElkHuntingUniversity/EHULessons2011/Pages/EHULessons2011.aspx There is a lot of info pertaining to elk hunting, from the dream stage to completion. I think you'll find most of your questions answered.
    USMC '59-'65, NRA Lifer, Tennessee Squire
  • MileHighShooterMileHighShooter Senior Member Posts: 4,768 Senior Member
    Why mid weights for elk, and why come up tables for out to 300? My experience with the .300 Win Mag in Africa was excellent. I killed several animals the size of elk while there. Your bullet drop will not be bad at all with that kind of cartridge. I would go with a 180 gr bullet in a .300 Mag and call it a day.

    Nothing wrong with 180's, but nothing wrong with 165's either. I've killed several elk with 165's in various 300 magnums. Bit less recoil, similar energy, and flies just a bit flatter. With modern bullets, you'll get just as much penetration and tissue damage
    Wambli Ska wrote: »
    Once again, please refrain from cutting short any baseless totally emotional arguments with facts. It leads to boring, completely objective conversations well beyond the comprehension ability of many.
  • MileHighShooterMileHighShooter Senior Member Posts: 4,768 Senior Member
    Ok didn't have time to write more this morning when I posted that last one.

    Gutting isn't any different then a deer, there is just a lot more of it lol. But do keep in mind the hide is thicker, and the bones are much, much heavier. You WILL need a bone saw to get through the pelvis and sternum. I usually prefer one that is separate from the knife, I've had some combo saw blades break on me. It doesn't have to be long or huge, but it needs to be sturdy and sharp. Speaking of sharp, a HIGH quality blade that will hold its edge with some use is highly advised, as is a pocket stone or sharpening tool, because even with really good knives, you'll be dull before you are half done skinning. Good, strong, sturdy rope is also handy to have in your pack.

    The boots were mentioned, but I'll repeat it, GOOD BOOTS! NOT hiking boots, you need good higher then ankle height boots. If you want to do more walking then sitting, I suggest something in the 600-800 gram thinsulate, if you are sitting 800-1000. I wouldn't go with the real thick 1200 gram. Waterproof is key, goretex is your friend.

    You may have caught the hunting clothing thread we did a few weeks ago here on the hunting forum. Layers, layers, layers, layers! Layers are the key to warmth, comfort and safety. Remember the old saying "cotton kills". Poly long undies, fleece, wool, all good things to have. Again try to think of how you would prefer to hunt when putting together your clothing, if you plan to sit more then walk go heavier, even coverall bibs. My uncle has hunted for 30+ years with carharts and sorels, but he doesn't walk much. Sure stays warm and out in the field for a long time though!

    We'll go over this stuff again when the time gets closer, but here is another point to keep in mind, especially in a few months when hunting stuff goes on sale. In Colorado you MUST wear 500 sq" of blaze orange on your upper torso. Orange camo is NOT legal. You MUST wear a blaze orange hat. A vest is plenty, in fact I don't like straight orange jackets, you'll stand out more to the animals if your arms are orange and moving around. Your back pack doesn't have to be orange, but mine is anyways.

    Good binos have already been discussed, buy as much as you can afford. They don't need to be huge, in fact the really big pairs are nothing but extra weight. A compact spotting scope can come in handy if you have room for it, but good binos can make or break the hunt. You can't stalk game you never see. I use Pentax, I love them. Nikon, Zeiss and Leopold all make some good glass in the 250-500$ range.

    You are already in great shape, but this winter I would consider hitting the stair climber in the gym as well. Its one thing to run on flat land for 5 miles, its another to go 1 mile at 10k elevation dang near straight up hill on uneven terrain carrying a 10lbs pack and a 10lbs rifle in anything from 10 degrees to 50 degrees. Load up a heavy pack, fashion a "rifle" from PVC filled with sand and fashion a way to attach a rifle sling. Hit the stair climber with this stuff on.
    Wambli Ska wrote: »
    Once again, please refrain from cutting short any baseless totally emotional arguments with facts. It leads to boring, completely objective conversations well beyond the comprehension ability of many.
  • calebibcalebib Senior Member Posts: 1,701 Senior Member
    I actually dislike insulated boots unless it's well below zero and that's when I go right for the Sorels. I find that the fit of most insulated hunting boots is far too sloppy for serious hiking. I do also have a pair of heavy weight, unisulated, hunting boots that are roomy enough for heavy socks. I guess it depends how easily your feet get cold.

    This is my idea of an ideal mountain boot.

    http://www.sportiva.com/products/footwear/mountain/karakorum
    lasportivia_karakorum.jpg
  • Ernie BishopErnie Bishop Senior Member Posts: 7,108 Senior Member
    Personally, I do not need a axe or saw to take care of an elk. It is extra weight I don't need.
    If I want antlers only, without the head, then yes, I would need a saw.
    Use a rifle you can shoot well from a number of shooting positions.
    Elk are not bullet proof. I have taken several bulls and a number of cows with the performance of the 7-08.
    Good bullet, plus proper placement=get out the knife.
    Not sure what the terrain is where you would go or potential distances, but make sure you have proven to yourself from field positions to your max distances.
    Don't worry about cover scent or even camo. I would suggest black pants--Think about the color of elk legs...?
    The non-scented baby wipes are a nice way to clean up if you don't have access to a shower.
    Keep the wind right, don't get sky-lighted, use your optics to your advantage.
    I use Ecco Track II boots-most comfortable I have ever had. If it is cold and real snowy, then I use my Sorrel pac boots. I take both with me.
    Make sure the boots are broken in good-likely already know that. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
    If you need help with being set-up to shoot distance in hunting situations I would be glad to help is you want that.
    Make sure you reconfirm your zero and your max distance once you get to CO.
    You may have to adjust your drops, depending on the elevations/temps you are shooting.
    Use a a powder like Hogdgon's Extreme line which are not temperature sensitive.
    Ernie

    "The Un-Tactical"
  • MileHighShooterMileHighShooter Senior Member Posts: 4,768 Senior Member
    I've never really had a problem with insulated boots and hard hiking. I've put 10+ miles on boots like these without issue

    http://www.irishsetterboots.com/irishsetter-shoe/2822-irish-setter/2822-irish-setter-mens-trail-phantom-coffeerealtree-ap-camouflage
    Wambli Ska wrote: »
    Once again, please refrain from cutting short any baseless totally emotional arguments with facts. It leads to boring, completely objective conversations well beyond the comprehension ability of many.
  • shotgunshooter3shotgunshooter3 Senior Member Posts: 5,457 Senior Member
    Thanks for the info guys, keep it coming!

    What is the weather usually like during the time frame we're looking at? I've got base layers, sweaters, Gore-Tex jacket, fleece, etc, and an internal frame 3-day pack. Boots wise I'm just going to use my Army issued Danner GTX (military version of the Gore-Tex lined Pronghorns). Heck, since I have to have orange anyway I might just put a blaze orange vest on over my Army Gore-Tex jacket.

    Looks like all I'm going to have to buy (hopefully) gear-wise is blaze orange, a bone saw (mine is a $10 Wal Mart special), and a rifle (of course)...
    - I am a rifleman with a poorly chosen screen name. -
    "Slow is smooth, smooth is fast, and speed is the economy of motion" - Scott Jedlinski
  • wildgenewildgene Senior Member Posts: 1,036 Senior Member
    ...well, you might consider WY elk for a "first", since they aren't armor-plated like CO elk, the following are my opinions taken from my experience, take 'em for what they're worth, but I'm running about 87% over 40yrs. of hunting elk...:devil:

    ...starting from the top, get a hat/ balaclave/ neck gaitor, hopefully in a combo that will work together, ball caps are fine until it gets nasty...

    ...be prepared to use your eyes, ears, & nose, you'll hear or smell 'em as often as you see 'em. Speaking of seeing 'em, start w/ a range finder, a good 6/7/8X will sub for binos if needed, or @ least learn how to use your scope as a rangefinder. I've got big binos, I pack a pr. of small 10X28 Steiners, or a 10-20X Leupold Compact spotting scope, along w/ my rangefinder. Large binos quickly become an inconvenient PITA, if you don't carry 'em, they don't do you any good, no matter how good they are...

    ...windproof outer layer, I like a quiet soft shell type, most "waterproof" material gets crunchy when it get cold, adjustable mid-layers, wool base. Gloves & liners, sock & liners, if you have a servicable pr. of boots, consider a pr. of paks, buy 'em as small as you can get your feet in, 2 days of wearing 'em will compress the liners to where your feet a sliding around in 'em, add an extra insole...

    ...I pack a Wyoming saw, a small hachet, a couple knives, a steel, & lots of rope on my belt, an ax on my packframe, places you can't saw quarters, you can split 'em pretty handily down the vertebrae w/ a couple axes...

    ...a little perspective on cartridges, a 7mmRM will deliver the same bullet, say a 140gr. NPT, w/ the same velocity/energy @ 600yds as the 7-08 @ 300yds, but it's the same bullet @ the same velocity/energy, no reason it won't work if you can pick your shot. Going on to .300's, Nosler shows a max. vel. for the 180gr. NAB/NPT of 3198 from the .300 Wby, 3160 for the .300WM, & 3082 for the .300WSM or 4% more V/E using 17% more powder or 2.5% V/E w/ 8% more powder. The .33's will deliver considerably more energy @ any range, but under 400yds. w/ good bullets/ bullet placement it's just degrees of "more deader"...
  • Ernie BishopErnie Bishop Senior Member Posts: 7,108 Senior Member
    That is a great success rate on elk. Something to be proud of for sure.

    Sounded like he had a 7-08, and from his post I am not sure how far he feels competent as far as shooting goes in the field.
    It is not my first pick for elk, but it will work fine if he hammers the lungs out to 400 yards or so.
    7RM would be better IMO or a 30 cal in that class, and certainly a 338 would be fine, but not needed depending on the distances he would limit himself to.
    My "elk rigs" are 7 SAUM, 7WSM, 7mm Rem Mag Imp, 7 Dakota, and the 338 Lapua Improved.
    Ernie

    "The Un-Tactical"
  • JerryBobCoJerryBobCo Senior Member Posts: 6,707 Senior Member
    Thanks for the info guys, keep it coming!

    What is the weather usually like during the time frame we're looking at? I've got base layers, sweaters, Gore-Tex jacket, fleece, etc, and an internal frame 3-day pack. Boots wise I'm just going to use my Army issued Danner GTX (military version of the Gore-Tex lined Pronghorns). Heck, since I have to have orange anyway I might just put a blaze orange vest on over my Army Gore-Tex jacket.

    Looks like all I'm going to have to buy (hopefully) gear-wise is blaze orange, a bone saw (mine is a $10 Wal Mart special), and a rifle (of course)...

    Ah, the weather.

    Nights will be cold. Some will be colder than others. Expect night time temps in the teens or lower, and there may or may not be snow on the ground. And, even it the hunt starts without snow, that can change.

    Mornings start out cold, and you'll swear you didn't bring enough clothes to wear. Don't be surprised, though, if you find mid-day temps in the 60s, with lots of bright sun-shine.

    Those are the two extremes I prepare for, with anything in between.

    I almost forgot. I typically haul a daypack, and in the bottom of the pack is a 4x6 tarp. So far I've not used it. But, it will be in my pack for use as a ground cloth, emergency shelter or whatever I think I may need it for. I also like to carry a military style canteen, on a web belt, that has a metal cup that holds the canteen in the cloth container. It's hard to heat water or melt snow if you don't have something that will hold it.
    Jerry

    Gun control laws make about as much sense as taking ex-lax to cure a cough.
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