Elk hunting the Bob Marshall wilderness

Hoyt Ag

Member
Joined
Mar 13, 2022
Messages
61
I've hunted there, have you? With horse and guides it was the hardest I've ever hunted in my life. These guys knew the area and where the elk should be and we still only saw one elk. That is 8 hunters and 4 guides glassing 7-8 hours every day covering thousands of acres.

I'm not trying to hide anything. I'm being honest with the OP and trying to save him time, effort, and money, that could be better spent elsewhere. If he doesn't want to listen and go in anyway that's his choice. More spots and elk for you I guess.
Exact same story for me in 2014 and 2019. Hardest hunt I have ever been on. I love the area and want to just go and explore because of its sheer beauty and rugged terrain, but my days of hunting there are over.
 

beignet

Junior Member
Joined
May 14, 2019
Messages
25
Location
Montaña
I was fishing in the Bob for a few days last week and did see a whopping four whitetail does. So it's not totally devoid of ungulates. ;)

Two were eating leftover horse feed in the corrals at Benchmark and one was on the game range though.
 

jjohnsonElknewbie

Well Known Rokslider
Joined
Mar 16, 2021
Messages
1,473
Location
Western Iowa
No, haven't hunted there. How on earth did you convince 7 iowegians to pay thousands of dollars to go on a guided elk hunt where there is no elk? No rokslide search function back then? Did you guys happen to book with Cody Carr for this fall too? Just giving ya crap, I'm just N of your states highest point :)
LOL! It was just me and my brother from IA. We hunted with 3 fellas from AR, a guy from KS, and a father/son from WA.

I didn't know Rokslide was a thing until March of '21, 6 months prior to our trip that we booked in 2020. I was more than unprepared and naive. However, I will say that this was a bucket list hunt for my brother and me and it checked all the boxes (old school adventure, spectacular scenery, physical challenge, absolute remoteness) we wanted minus his filling a tag. Honestly, I was pretty confident that we'd both come home with something (wishful thinking of the ignorant).

We spent a lot of time researching different states and outfitters, and narrowed down to this unit in MT mostly because we could draw without having to wait several years. This was a hunt we'd been wanting to do for years with our older brother and Dad, but unfortunately we lost both of them to cancer before we could get our $hit together. I was 45 and my brother was 47 when we booked, and after losing our older brother at 50, we had an elevated sense of urgency.
 

jjohnsonElknewbie

Well Known Rokslider
Joined
Mar 16, 2021
Messages
1,473
Location
Western Iowa
I grew up hunting around the bob marshall mainly the south fork and middle fork of the flathead prior to entering the bob marshall. I would agree with pretty much all the comments big country and not many elk that are spread out. your chance of killing an elk on foot successfully is very low, and in addition if you do kill one i can almost gaurantee you will not get it out in time before a grizzly gets it unless you have stock.

I would like to give a little history of this area. The bob marshall used to be the best elk hunting in montana, and a lot of elk were transplanted from this areas to other areas of the state to bring back elk in those areas. they used to kill 1,200 elk out of the greater bob every year. now the objective elk population is like 300... The early rifle hunt was originally started to reduce elk numbers because they were over grazing the habit. I am not sure why it is still option because there are not to many elk in that country now. The areas i used to hunt are almost void of elk, and unless you saw the impact of wolves you cannot understand the population collapse. the area I used to hunt had small herds of about 10 elk per basins some more some less. In about 2 years after the wolf population exploded there were 10 elk in 10 basins. The population dropped so much its hard to hunt anymore because there are no game trails left to hike, which if you are not familiar with the area you need to be able to walk through the brush. its really sad to see this mass of public land that is now devoid of wildlife except grizzly bears.

if you look at grizzly estimates there are actually mores estimated grizzly bears then elk in the bob marshall. someday i dream i could hunt my old stomping grounds again with the same elk population as when i started, but i don't see that in the foreseeable future.
Thank you for sharing this, and your experience matches nearly word for word what our outfitter and guides shared in camp. In the 70s, 80s, and even early 90s, 90%+ opportunity and 80-90% success wasn't uncommon. Mixed bags of nice mulie bucks and elk were also reasonably possible on the combo tag.

It was shocking to glass so much land without seeing anything moving save birds and occasional squirrels.

Several of the guys in camp bought wolf tags, and asked if they could post up on my kill site the next morning to try and catch wolves on the carcasse. The outfitter declined, simply saying that grizz was more than likely already in route if not watching us from a distance. Spooky man...
 

Tock-O

Well Known Rokslider
Joined
Feb 2, 2020
Messages
1,331
Did the wolf population or grizz population explode there first? Just curious.
 

yfarm

Well Known Rokslider
Joined
Apr 24, 2018
Messages
148
Location
Arroyo City, Tx
Interesting series of posts. Is this the future with the reintroduction of wolves across the country? Friend in northern Mn tells me the moose are gone as the wolf population increases. Another friend from Wy tells me moose populations around Yellowstone are also decreasing as wolves increase.
 

Ralphie

Well Known Rokslider
Joined
Feb 18, 2019
Messages
198
It's crazy to me that outfitters can still sell hunts in there. jjohnson, was your outfitter upfront and honest about the elk hunting?

Wolves don't have much of an impact on elk and moose. It's really just ticks and worms, global warming, etc. :LOL:
 

Flatgo

Well Known Rokslider
Joined
Aug 10, 2015
Messages
207
Did the wolf population or grizz population explode there first? Just curious.
There has always been a fairly healthy grizz population, but what i witnessed was the wolf population exploded and the grizz population had a significant increase after that. Now the griz population is high and the wolf population has dropped significantly from it high.

I believe what has happened is what Valerius Geist calls a predator pit. basically wolf population explodes drops the ungulate population to a low level, the wolf population decreases but the grizzly bear population increases on the tale end. this grizz population is too high and to many calves/fawns get killed to allow for the ungulate populations to bounce back. the grizz population can sustain because they can eat berries and other food sources and are not souly relying on ungulates. there has recently been a little movement from fwp to increase elk populations in this area but i am not overly hopeful.
 

Jack321

Well Known Rokslider
Joined
Apr 15, 2020
Messages
110
Hunted the early rifle season in the Scapegoat Wilderness Area last September, it's part of the Bob Marshall Wilderness complex. Hunted with my dad, brother, cousin and buddy. Guided week long trip, horseback & wall tents. Me, my dad and buddy didn't see or even hear an elk.

My brother and cousin saw a "nice bull" the first full day of hunting. My cousin luckily got a small rag horn the last day of the hunt.

Gorgeous country.

There were 20 hunters scattered in 4 different camps the week before, 1 elk killed. There were 22 hunters scattered the week we were there and 2 elk killed. Nothing to write home about.

Physically demanding hunt. Every step was up or down. We prepped and bought gear and worked out at home to get in shape. Nothing could ultimately prepare you for the physical exhaustion and lack of oxygen.

Everything was 4x as hard.

My cousin is a semi-pro cyclist in Salt Lake City Utah and he and his guide went crazy up on peaks and having to crawl on hands and knees in some of the most crazy, rocky, jagged peaks. If anyone deserved an elk, it was my cousin. My brother is also a hard core cyclist, works out 5x a week, lots of cardio and the two of them were even gassed every day coming back to camp.

Crazy rugged country.

You kill an elk there it's a TROPHY no matter how big/small it is.

I'd skip it and go elsewhere. I'm probably never going back.

$4,500 + $1,000 non-res tag, $7-10k in gear + time and energy to work out and get in as best of shape as possible all to look at empty mountain sides devoid of elk.

Gotta be honest, I was kinda heart broken to put that much money and energy into the hunt and put so much expectations on a hunt that it felt like a gut punch that knocked the wind out of me. Yeah, yeah, I know it's hunting and all that, but I had saved for 6 yrs for this hunt and was supper bummed it didn't work out the way I wanted.

So much that It'll be 5 yrs before I'm considering another elk hunt elsewhere with a different outfit for sure.
 

jjohnsonElknewbie

Well Known Rokslider
Joined
Mar 16, 2021
Messages
1,473
Location
Western Iowa
Your trip prep, costs, and mine are nearly identical and my brother felt the same as you do. I’m not sure if I’ll ever get him to go again.
 

CJohnson

Well Known Rokslider
Joined
Mar 28, 2019
Messages
251
Location
SC
Hunted the early rifle season in the Scapegoat Wilderness Area last September, it's part of the Bob Marshall Wilderness complex. Hunted with my dad, brother, cousin and buddy. Guided week long trip, horseback & wall tents. Me, my dad and buddy didn't see or even hear an elk.

My brother and cousin saw a "nice bull" the first full day of hunting. My cousin luckily got a small rag horn the last day of the hunt.

Gorgeous country.

There were 20 hunters scattered in 4 different camps the week before, 1 elk killed. There were 22 hunters scattered the week we were there and 2 elk killed. Nothing to write home about.

Physically demanding hunt. Every step was up or down. We prepped and bought gear and worked out at home to get in shape. Nothing could ultimately prepare you for the physical exhaustion and lack of oxygen.

Everything was 4x as hard.

My cousin is a semi-pro cyclist in Salt Lake City Utah and he and his guide went crazy up on peaks and having to crawl on hands and knees in some of the most crazy, rocky, jagged peaks. If anyone deserved an elk, it was my cousin. My brother is also a hard core cyclist, works out 5x a week, lots of cardio and the two of them were even gassed every day coming back to camp.

Crazy rugged country.

You kill an elk there it's a TROPHY no matter how big/small it is.

I'd skip it and go elsewhere. I'm probably never going back.

$4,500 + $1,000 non-res tag, $7-10k in gear + time and energy to work out and get in as best of shape as possible all to look at empty mountain sides devoid of elk.

Gotta be honest, I was kinda heart broken to put that much money and energy into the hunt and put so much expectations on a hunt that it felt like a gut punch that knocked the wind out of me. Yeah, yeah, I know it's hunting and all that, but I had saved for 6 yrs for this hunt and was supper bummed it didn't work out the way I wanted.

So much that It'll be 5 yrs before I'm considering another elk hunt elsewhere with a different outfit for sure.
Thanks for sharing this. I know it wasn't your intention, but looking at those costs makes me feel better about what I spend on going out for one DIY hunt every year.
 

Jack321

Well Known Rokslider
Joined
Apr 15, 2020
Messages
110
Your trip prep, costs, and mine are nearly identical and my brother felt the same as you do. I’m not sure if I’ll ever get him to go again.
I have every intention of going again, just not there. But I'm not going to lie, it put a real sour taste in my mouth. And I'm still not "over" it.

I mean again, yeah I know it's "hunting" and it's "fair chase" in really "rugged and steep country," but I was at least expecting to SEE an elk. Even if it was 2 miles away as I'm glossing at last light. Just really knocked the wind out of my sails.

I had saved for 6 yrs to do that hunt. Every Christmas, birthday, Father's Day, Anniversary, all I ask for anymore is money to go on hunting trips.

And elk was my #1 bucket list hunt to do.

So it's partly my expectations that I put so much stock and effort into it and why not seeing an elk bummed me out so much.

But I just gotta save again and I'll be back at another outfit in a couple years. I also had some other hunts planned for thr next 3-4 yrs with some family and some buddies.

It's frustrating too cuz some Colorado outfits are boasting 90% success rates on 4pt or better units. Colorado is OTC tags. Granted it's a little more $$ but now that I have the gear I can swing some $$ towards the trip.
 

Jack321

Well Known Rokslider
Joined
Apr 15, 2020
Messages
110
Thanks for sharing this. I know it wasn't your intention, but looking at those costs makes me feel better about what I spend on going out for one DIY hunt every year.
I did a DIY south eastern WY mule deer hunt 2 yrs before my elk hunt and it really opened my eyes to how tough DIYs are.

Now it was SE Wyoming too! Not even mountainous!

Then to go on my MT elk hunt and the rugged places they live!

Man, combining them too experiences, I kind of chuckle at guys here on RokSlide thay say they're "First time elk hunters looking to do a DIY hunt."

Like MeatEater and Western Hunter make it look so easy, but damn it ain't!

Humping everything on ur back, cooking for urself, walking mile after mile....that ain't for thr faint of heart. Then shooting one and having to huff it out!

I thought I knew it wouldn't be an issue and thought to myself, "What's a little sweat and tired legs? I can work out and do it."

But DAMN it not like it looks on TV!

I give every credit in the world to guys who can hump in a week camp on a DIY hunt and come back with meat in their packs. God love ya for it, but those last two hunts were eye openers!
 

TheGrayRider

Well Known Rokslider
Joined
Aug 6, 2018
Messages
234
Location
IN
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I would hike or ride horses in the Bob Marshall Wilderness during the summer. Beautiful country and you will see stunning scenery like this picture of the Chinese Wall. Probably spend $1000 on fuel, travel, etc.

Make sure you visit the Buckhorn Bar in nearby Augusta before and after your trip. Great food and coldbeer.

Probably better to spend your elk hunting money on a different unit or state with higher density of elk. Best of luck, TheGrayRider.
 

Indian Summer

Well Known Rokslider
Joined
Feb 17, 2013
Messages
1,850
It's frustrating too cuz some Colorado outfits are boasting 90% success rates on 4pt or better units. Colorado is OTC tags. Granted it's a little more $$ but now that I have the gear I can swing some $$ towards the trip.
Who the heck told you that!!!!! Maybe on private land. Maybe! If you’re talking DIY OTC you better get input from someone else. That’s not realistic most anywhere let alone CO OTC. Not even close.
 
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