First time backcountry hunt

Customweld

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Joined
Sep 13, 2016
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Idaho
Planning is going to be key for your success. Success can have different meanings in this case. Harvesting would be great. Making it back home still buddies and good memories is another. Break down the logistics and assign the different disciplines to a guy. Then sit down and pick the itinerary apart. There are a ton of things to think about in a late October/early November Rocky Mtn hunt. Weather should be one of the things in the front of your mind. Just making sure that you are prepared and have everything you need for a comfortable, relative safe camp is just the beginning. The hunt and possible kill is another entirely different list that you need to nail down. As alluded to above, there is a ton of valuable info and good people on this site.
 

Scoot

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Nov 13, 2012
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Like was said above, there's a TON of info on Rokslide on this topic. Search up your questions and read, read, read. Not sure if I missed it or not, but what kind of physical condition are you guys in? You better be in good shape- you'll likely be hauling 40-50 lbs in to where you're going to sleep at night and a lot more out if you're successful. Also, if any of our buddies and you are at very discrepant levels of physical ability, it will potentially be a problem. Good luck and enjoy the journey!
 

Jxferg7

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Joined
Feb 14, 2019
Messages
201
The best advice anyone could give you right now is to make sure the 2 guys you are planning this with are the right 2 guys.

A lot of people flat out fall apart mentally and physically in the backcountry.

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This is the best comment so far. It takes a special kind of partner to hike 20-80+ miles on and off trail. Elk hunting in high pressured areas are tough. It’s tough because a lot of it you’ll be learning from your mistakes vs. someone showing you “the way”. Then to do that and come up empty handed it’s tough. Mental toughness is more important than physical…I’ve seen some guys in places they shouldn’t be able to get to haha. We went 3 years before we even had a close up elk experience. 6 years in yet to succeed in archery in OTC units. Yes we get chances every year but it’s tough. Enjoy the suck and you’ll be fine!
 
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Oldmanflanagan

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Joined
Oct 9, 2022
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This is the best comment so far. It takes a special kind of partner to hike 20-80+ miles on and off trail. Elk hunting in high pressured areas are tough. It’s tough because a lot of it you’ll be learning from your mistakes vs. someone showing you “the way”. Then to do that and come up empty handed it’s tough. Mental toughness is more important than physical…I’ve seen some guys in places they shouldn’t be able to get to haha. We went 3 years before we even had a close up elk experience. 6 years in yet to succeed in archery in OTC units. Yes we get chances every year but it’s tough. Enjoy the suck and you’ll be fine!
Right on, appreciate the comment!
 

sodaksooner

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Feb 5, 2014
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960
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Tulsa Ok
Colorado and Montana mountains are big. North Carolina mountains are hills. :) I used to live there. In all seriousness, if you haven't spent any time in the mountain west, they can be very intimidating. Be prepared for it to really suck at times. OTC has gotten worse in CO. Make sure you start putting in for PP now(next year), so you can draw a good unit. We base camp and spike out as needed. Haven't had to spike out the last two hunts as the units we have hunted have good road access.(and are typically in elk regularly) We normally will hike anywhere from 6 to 15 miles per day depending on the situation and terrain. Biggest climb day was 2500 feet this year, but have done much more in the past. Also if you see an elk/herd 3 or 4 miles away, be prepared to go after it/them. May be the only ones in the area. I would plan on just getting out there, maybe on a summer vacation, go up to 10K feet and just hike. Make a vacation out of it. Climb a few "easy" peaks just to familiarize yourself with terrain. Several years ago we went to yellowstone/grand teton and I hiked with my full hunting setup(sans bow) just to get used to it.

I am lucky as my brother is my hunting partner and we both are pretty game to try anything, even in our mid 50's. Good luck and have fun with the whole experience. It's a blast!
 

EastHumboldt

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Nov 14, 2020
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724
Good distilled wisdom here. Enjoy the suck. Being prepared for really shitty weather. When it’s sunny and nice you’ll be asking yourself why you brought all this foul weather gear, but when it turns to crap you’ll be wearing every stitch that you brought. It almost seems like bringing a lot of foul weather gear prevents foul weather!! Think about a self supplied drop camp, that’s how we do it. It tends to cost about 1000 to 1500 per camper. It can sure make the experience a lot more fun. If you do a drop camp, bring a big tarp And a bunch of 550 cord,so you can build a lean-to over your fire/kitchen area. It sucks to be stuck in a tent when the weather is bad. To lighten your load concentrate on freeze dried meals and dried fruit and such. Fresh food and canned goods are tastier but ungodly heavy. Bring a jet boil for days in the field, even if you don’t regularly drink it, a cup of hot tea is a real psychological pick me up sometimes. Above all manage your expectations and just go to have a good time in an adventure. I went elk hunting four times before I finally connected, and I was very experienced in the western mountains. (I live here)
 

gabenzeke

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Joined
Oct 28, 2015
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743
From Florida and I’ve done a bunch of stand hunting and have for the longest time wanted to do some “real” Hunting.
I am starting to plan my first back country hunt with 2 other guys. It’s a very daunting process we need some help in getting started. We had narrowed down that we want to do a elk hunt in either Colorado or Montana, preferably Montana. Some advice I got was that the country is way more wild and harsh than Colorado but I was unsure if this is actually the case. Would love some helpful input and guidance.
I've hunted both states. Like was stated by someone else, getting a bear tag to go with your elk tag is probably better than deer and elk. Doing deer or elk takes a lot of focus on different habitats. I seem to come across bears in elk country more frequently. I'd definitely suggest more of a truck camp. I started like a lot of people trying to get way in there. But after a couple years I found that once you're way in there, you're committed. And sometimes there's just no animals there. It's easier to pick up and move if you're near the truck. My key to getting into animals has been to put at least one horrible looking obstacle between me and an access point. Maybe it's a real steep climb or a bunch of deadfall. Once you do that, it cuts out most if not all your competition. Once you know you're on some animals, then you can bring the tent in and spike out in the area to make your morning hike into where you will hunt shorter. Stay mobile, use your glass, and don't give up. My first couple years I struggled after say, day five to stay positive and stay in the game. I've also met a lot of guys giving up saying something like I put in ten miles this week and saw nothing. I had an eighteen mile day this year. Burning boot leather is how you find them. Embrace the suck.

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isItFallYet

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Sep 24, 2019
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620
That’s what I’m thinking , would be great to get a good solid kill. But there is so much that goes into it that I’m sure the 2nd time around will be night and day compared to 1st time.
I’d recommend that you get rid of that mindset. I think you should set your mind on killing elk the first year. That’s the whole point of the trip, right? It can be done with a lot of research, proper planning, and hunting your asses off. The best advice that I think a new elk hunter should receive is that the more work that you put into it, the greater your chances of success will be. This includes the year of research before the season, the physical training to get in mountain hunting shape, and the proper planning of actually hunting elk.
 

Gerbdog

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Jun 8, 2020
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663
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CO Springs
If you see them, make your best effort to get after them. Even if its getting late. The one and only time i hunted CO rifle season i had spotted some elk about a mile away feeding ..... It was getting towards nightfall .... and it was bitterly cold with a foot of snow.... my hunting partner said we should get after it before legal hours went and i said "nah, we'll get in early early in the morning".

He was right. IF you see them, get after them, you may not have another chance.

Early early came around and i got into place just in time to see them leaving the valley and the ATV rider that booted them out of the valley. Guy had the wind at his back and was having the best hunt of his life.
 

trophyhill

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Feb 27, 2012
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2,310
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Tijeras NM
What i did was start out doing truck camp and a couple days of spike camp here and there while i accumulated the gear needed for extended trips. That was a 5 year process from 2010 to 2015. Not saying it has to take that long.

During that time i found out what gear worked and what did not and needed replaced or just didn’t need.

I tried listening to the weight weenies and soon found out that wasn't for me and started going in heavier with some comforts and discovered that if im comfortable at camp, comfortable in the tent, warm in the tent and ate good, i will outlast the competition, and most days hunt from dusk to dawn and to the last ounce of daylight on the last day, instead of quitting early. Despite my empty pack weighing 2 or 3 pounds more than the UL made in china packs.

As far as extra weight goes, im talking a heavier bag, a heavier pad, a camp chair and a 2 instead of 1 man tent. I don't bring extra food than i need. Food is heavy. Where i hunt in NM i typically have to pack water in too. And then there's my sidearm for another 4 or 5 pounds. Not really sure what that weighs.

This has allowed me to keep my energy at a high level as well as stay mentally sharp and in the game until the end. The Rocky Mountains will test everything you have. Both gear and intangibles. Most who havent experienced a hunt like this really have no clue the toll it can take after only a few days until they get there and experience it. The west is big country.
 
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Oldmanflanagan

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Oct 9, 2022
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I’d recommend that you get rid of that mindset. I think you should set your mind on killing elk the first year. That’s the whole point of the trip, right? It can be done with a lot of research, proper planning, and hunting your asses off. The best advice that I think a new elk hunter should receive is that the more work that you put into it, the greater your chances of success will be. This includes the year of research before the season, the physical training to get in mountain hunting shape, and the proper planning of actually hunting elk.
All the other guys have said to get rid of the mindset your talking about haha. At the end of the day my personal mindset either way will be sufficient. However, i am interested in what sort of exercises actually translate to useful muscle and endurance for the field.
 

isItFallYet

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Joined
Sep 24, 2019
Messages
620
All the other guys have said to get rid of the mindset your talking about haha. At the end of the day my personal mindset either way will be sufficient. However, i am interested in what sort of exercises actually translate to useful muscle and endurance for the field.
Yeah, don’t listen to them. Did the little engine that could keep saying to himself, it’s not going to happen, it’s not going to happen? If you work your ass off, it can be done. Ask me how I know?
 

ilikefunkymusic

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Dec 8, 2020
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Colorado
All the other guys have said to get rid of the mindset your talking about haha. At the end of the day my personal mindset either way will be sufficient. However, i am interested in what sort of exercises actually translate to useful muscle and endurance for the field.
Hit as many of these elements as you can, as regularly as you can, for several months preceding your hunt:

Hike 4-5 miles over uneven ground at elevation with a weighted pack (70lb).

I'm lucky enough to live in an area that allows me to do this before or after work.
I guess you gotta find some stairs or a stairmaster if you're from lower elevation.

The best training is replicating the event.
 

Hnthrdr

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Joined
Jan 29, 2022
Messages
407
Location
Co
If you see them, make your best effort to get after them. Even if its getting late. The one and only time i hunted CO rifle season i had spotted some elk about a mile away feeding ..... It was getting towards nightfall .... and it was bitterly cold with a foot of snow.... my hunting partner said we should get after it before legal hours went and i said "nah, we'll get in early early in the morning".

He was right. IF you see them, get after them, you may not have another chance.

Early early came around and i got into place just in time to see them leaving the valley and the ATV rider that booted them out of the valley. Guy had the wind at his back and was having the best hunt of his life.
Rifle hunters and hunting with the wind at their back is like peanut butter and jelly… good advice though, make your move fast and hope that their aren’t any “long range hunters” around lobbing 900 shots at them. Seen it way too many times helping friends during Co otc rifle tags
 
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