The opportunity to submit applications and preference points for elk season has passed. Even if you're not hunting this fall, you can still prepare for the future! Start by exploring your options for a successful hunt. There are many types of draws and hunts to meet your desire to hunt a big bull. This article will provide helpful tips when planning your next elk hunting trip.
Points and Application
First, avoid missing the next point or draw cycle. Buying preference points is a good idea for any future plans to hunt elk. Skipping the purchase might cause regret if you decide to elk hunt too late. These points may prove to be a worthy investment in only a year or two!
Do it yourself with an over the counter tag (OTC) is the hottest way to hunt elk. There are a handful of states where OTC tags are available, but some of these states limit the number of tags they give non-residents. Assess the amount of hunting pressure some OTC units see yearly. Killing the bull you were hoping for is always possible. But you will be tackling a big learning curve alone, and elk are some of the hardest animals you'll ever learn to hunt. There are more things to know about Western hunting than the characteristics of the game alone.
If you really want a good DIY hunt, save up those points! Even a one point unit can lessen the hunting pressure in any elk hunting unit. There are many options to plan for a DIY hunt. How will you get your food and gear in and out, and maybe an elk pack out? Will you bring all the meat home or drop it off at a processor and have them ship it home for you? If you need a rescue, what is your plan to get help? Are you traveling alone or with a few buddies who will split a long drive?
If you've got the cash and want a greater chance of success, a guided hunt is a good way to pursue a quality elk hunt. Learn from the guides, learn from the place you're hunting, and have a very good opportunity to bring home the bacon.
Guided hunts aren't very "cool" lately. I've never met anyone who killed an animal on a guided hunt come home to say they regretted it. Another luxury of a guided hunt is the necessity of less gear. Your guides will know what they are doing and know what they need to have a successful hunt and camp. Often they will have most things you'll need, and that means less stuff you'll need to learn on your own.
Let's say you're looking for the "hard" experience of doing a hunt on your own. You may lack gear, knowledge, or time to tackle an over the counter, do it yourself hunt. If that's you, a drop camp service may be just what you need to get started.
In 2022, I did just that. I knew a thing or two about how to hunt an elk and had spent years researching. But one hunting partner with limited vacation time suggested a drop camp. At first, it seemed like a cop-out. In further discussion, what could be bad about it? A guide bringing you directly to a base camp, providing a way to extract an animal, and return you to the trail head at the end of a hunt? As a bonus, the area is where elk actually live, and someone wouldn't be staring over your shoulder to conduct your hunt. I couldn't find much of a con to the proposal.
A drop camp can be an excellent experience with a reputable guide service. That is just what you're paying for, a service. Start your search by utilizing an agent like World Wide Trophy Adventures. An agent like this places great stock in their service, so if reviews dwindle for a particular guide, they are less likely to be promoted by an agent.
What about vacation time? How much gear new gear will you need? Is there a level of difficulty to get to where there are enough huntable elk? Do you need to shop for rescue insurance?
Another perk of a drop camp is advanced planning. Many guides run their service in low point units. That way, they can send hunters on trips every year. Again units like this may see less pressure because of the planning it takes to hunt them. Some areas may offer the hunter a landowner voucher tag at a slightly higher cost.
If you're planning a backcountry elk hunt, it's important to carefully plan for all your western hunting needs. By treating the planning process with care, you'll ensure that your adventure will be unforgettable.
Author: Aaron Hepler, Exodus Black Hats Team Member