Turnkey cost poll for successful DIY elk hunters - All about the Benjamin's?

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Nunya
@DawnPatrol
My Lord! What perspective. I just bought a Kuiu pro pack system and rain gear on their winter sale and I'm literally blushing with embarrassment. Last week I bought a rangefinder and I think I'm already at your budget.

Yours is a realistic "no-frills" budget though for a resident in elk country who can reliably day hunt from a truck. That could be me with a lot more experience and more local knowledge than I have now. Like you, others have pointed out that much of the gear is related to hunting style and desired comfort level for that hunt.

I can't help but ask though...looking at the purpose-specific gear you've been successful with and the extra that make you happy...where do you tip the scales?

I plan to bowhunt in the backcountry, but that bit of bravado might be short lived. Kinda reminds me of a movie I saw as a kid...

Hahaha. Classic. I’ve felt like the lion at times on most of my hunts even without trying to drag camp around on my back.

I wouldn’t discourage you from backpack bow hunting—honestly it sounds incredible, and I’m sad that I’ll probably never hunt bugling bulls.

For me, the gear investment that increased my success most was a rangefinder (although boy did I pick the wrong time to buy one; they are so much better now). I’d also say a tripod/bino adapter has really improved my glassing success and enjoyment. The value of those things depends a lot on how you hunt.

In terms of stuff that keeps me hunting longer: Boots that stay waterproof for more than a year. A good sleeping pad (qcore delux). And quality outerwear (Sitka mt pants and Kryptek soft shell). Oh and a cookstove for camp.
 
OP
WoodnotRust
Joined
Nov 13, 2022
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Northern NM
Or maybe your just built tough as nails and can hunt the backcountry without the comforts and gear. There are entire generations that got it done this way.
That's good advice. I used to be fairly tough...or at least comfortable with sleeping on the ground away from the truck. I did months of field work as a geologist in some pretty remote places back in the day and remember the basic idea. Fair to say that I'm not as tough today.

I do have a plan "B" to hunt areas closer to the road. I've seen elk on game cameras in these areas, but they are out mostly at night and very early morning. They simply vanish during the day. I'm thinking that's because there are just a lot more people closer to the roads and in the back country they will move more during the days?

This summer I'm going on a few scouting trips to the remote Plan "A" areas which is why I'm buying some stuff now.

In the meantime all this sitting down at the computer has been loads of fun and something to do while there is snow on the ground and it's 15 degrees outside. The forum has been loads of help and encouragement and I appreciate that.
 

Gerbdog

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That's good advice. I used to be fairly tough...or at least comfortable with sleeping on the ground away from the truck. I did months of field work as a geologist in some pretty remote places back in the day and remember the basic idea. Fair to say that I'm not as tough today.

I do have a plan "B" to hunt areas closer to the road. I've seen elk on game cameras in these areas, but they are out mostly at night and very early morning. They simply vanish during the day. I'm thinking that's because there are just a lot more people closer to the roads and in the back country they will move more during the days?

This summer I'm going on a few scouting trips to the remote Plan "A" areas which is why I'm buying some stuff now.

In the meantime all this sitting down at the computer has been loads of fun and something to do while there is snow on the ground and it's 15 degrees outside. The forum has been loads of help and encouragement and I appreciate that.
Once the hunting pressure starts i find the elk go "nocturnal" pretty quick. Sometimes i think they have a calendar and see its September and *poof* disappear. With all the aforementioned increases in technology and gear over the past 25 years, getting into the backcountry is easier than ever for hunters and its difficult to find undisturbed elk. That said, they are still huntable even when they go "nocturnal" and the bulls in the rut are still susceptible to being called off their beds.
 
Joined
Sep 14, 2022
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I use pretty cheap gear and a lot of it I had from years of accumulating camping gear. What gets expensive for me is closing my office for a week or 2. I wouldn't trade that time though. The office is there and will be there when I get back. Time spent with my Dad chasing elk up in the mountains?! Priceless and finite.
 
Joined
Sep 28, 2018
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VA
This is a highly subjective thread. Case in point.. I have about $30k wrapped up in firearms and associated accoutrements. Another $3000 in hunting specific clothes and accessories, $2500 in Archery gear.

Do i actually need all that stuff.. nah.. I have a friend that bought a bolt action something in 30-06. It was a clearance deal for like $250. He bought like 10 boxes of ammo and vortex low end scope for like another $500. The only gun i own that cost under $700 was my 870 and my ruger 10/22.. Neither of which i use for deer...

resident "big game" tag is $22(5 deer and 3 turkey) plus $22 for basic hunting license(required) Archery permit is an additional $22

My buddy took 3 deer last year, I think I took 3 also. I took mine with a bow and he used his gun....... You do the math. He's got me by $22 and 2 of my 3 arrows broke so thats another $30. My buddy also goes out wearing regular winter clothes that are warm and not hunt specific sans his blaze orange hat.

I won't even get into the amount of time and fuel spent on hunting
 

prm

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I haven’t read all the comments yet, but this is a fair question. I was just wondering the other day what my list of required gear would look like. Not a bare minimum necessarily, but what gear do I need to keep vs. what could I sell. It would in theory be a reasonable starting from scratch list. I’ll work on that…
 

Kurts86

WKR
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Aug 15, 2020
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As a nonresident I’m usually spending $2-3k on a DIY elk hunt each year in just trip costs. If you factor in additional gear, rifle range membership, etc it’s at least $5k+ per year. I also have relatively more money that time plus the added complications of distance. I also really like gear regardless of the activity and that provides a year round hobby in and of itself.

The kicker for elk is the number of tags you are going to realistically eat before you kill one as an inexperienced nonresident. If you want to be really economical you would be better off going for 14 days every other year than 7 days every year. I think if you can put in 20-30 good days elk hunting you will kill an elk and shorten the learning curve.

Hunt the same season/state/unit to focus on gear requirements and learn elk rather than bouncing around states/seasons/units.

Also decide if you want to be an elk hunter just kill an elk. They are not the same and it’s pretty easy to burn more money over 3-5 years to kill an elk DIY than pay for an outfitter one time.
 

prm

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Here is a rough start from scratch list. Other than some small misc items in my pack, I think you could pretty much hunt the world with this. Most of these costs are not recurring so it gets amortized over the years. Also, these are neither the highest nor the lowest possible costs, just some examples. My annual costs are roughly $1790 for license ($850), Gas + Hotel ($938) (1850mi ea way @$3.40/gal, 18mpg; $120/night for two nights). Of course ammo for the year is not factored in here.

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Joined
Jan 16, 2018
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So I'm weighing in only to give you some lower end numbers because I'm the kind of guy that doesn't need $4,000 glass. If he (or she) is good enough through my $300 binos then I'm getting closer, I'm not trying to determine if he's a 300 vs a 310 bull. Mainly because I'm probably already making a move on the 240inch satellite bull!

Here are some of my costs from about 5 years ago when I started some backpack archery vs car/trailer camping. I'll throw in the other gear that I had as well.

Used hoyt Spyder turbo with drop away rest: $475

Cabela's pack: $300
Kelty Salida 2 tent: $150
Boots: $200 on sale
Arrows: $140
Broad heads and field tips: $100
Used rokslide sitka clothing: $200
Black ovis wool baselayers: $150
Vortex binoculars: $260
Marmot sleeping bag: $200
Sleeping pad: $60
First aid/water filtration/misc: $120
Trekking poles: $65
Knifes: $120
Tag: $800ish
Travel: $350

So all in on a new setup about $3,600. Now like many have said about $2200 of that is non reoccurring. Yes someone will probably comment on my vortex Binoculars (they work just fine!). And I've certainly upgraded my pack, but for the most part I'm running the same line of stuff. My travel is cheaper because I love in Nebraska and hunt with a buddy so travel is split. But I'm also figuring travel to Idaho so it's 2400 miles round trip for reference.

Outside of my pack, I've gone to different arrows and broad heads but just for preference and messing with my setup not from need. Boots are still going strong.

So it depends on what you think you "need". In my opinion experience is your best gateway to success! For my partner and I elk hunting went like this,. Years 1-2 cow tags 0 elk just morons in the woods learning, years 3-5 mild success on either sex tags, year 6 to present hitting our grove and confident we will kill at least one elk per trip. But we arent picky either!
 

JC hunter

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Jan 7, 2017
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michigan
Well I'v been elk hunting for a long time 30 years as N.R. living in Michigan. I arrowed my 20th elk this year. I am cheep but i'm old 67yo. I hunt with a 10yo bow. arrows I make up myself. A tent and sleeping bag I'v had for years and stayed in for 30 days this year. Tags and gas to drive out west is my biggest cost. I'll go till i can't the cost is not that big to me. hope to chase bulls for years to come!!!
 

Jethro

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Does anybody really go from having absolutely zero hunting equipment to doing an out of state, back country spike camp elk hunt for their first hunt?

Learn to walk before you run. Accumulate gear as you go. That way you are less likely to obsess over what it costs.
 
OP
WoodnotRust
Joined
Nov 13, 2022
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Northern NM
Does anybody really go from having absolutely zero hunting equipment to doing an out of state, back country spike camp elk hunt for their first hunt?

Learn to walk before you run. Accumulate gear as you go. That way you are less likely to obsess over what it costs.
I'm only applying as a resident, but with that exception... "Yes" that's the plan.

I didn't mean to obsess over the costs, but because it's all hitting me at once (more or less) and since I am essentially starting from scratch (for reasons stated) it was foremost in my mind. I started with a number in my head and was really surprised at the actual cost.

It's my expectation that I'll land somewhere around the total cost that @prm lists above...easily more than double my first estimate, but as I learn more about what folks actually take for a spike camp-style hunt it makes a lot more sense.

Probably more than the final $$ number, the posters on this thread have helped me refine my list of needs vs wants. Most of the items are needs and the quality of that item is a want...if you know what I mean.

For elk experience I have zero...but for general backcountry and small-game hunting experience I have a lifetime. I'm looking at this first elk hunt as a total learning experience. Trust me...I won't be running and have no expectations. Others have suggested guides or day trips from a truck base-camp as a way to start and I see the sense in that advice...so much so that I will likely split up my time so I hunt 6-7 days backcountry and 6-7 days from the truck.

As for guides I'm a little wary after reading lots of stories about people that have bad experiences. Maybe that's just a way of rationalizing my DIY instincts. I understand that if I had a really good guide it greatly shorten the learning curve. Same way with a good hunting partner that had experience and wish I knew one...
 
Joined
Aug 25, 2016
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"Good Will" is your friend. Go to the one on the "wealthy" side of town.
You can buy clothing , Camos, high end work out shirts, Thermals, tents, propane lanterns, Stoves, Pots & Pans, all kinds of cook ware utensils, bikes, sleeping bags, sleeping pads , silverware, Plastic Water jugs, containers/ tool boxes to carry all this stuff in, it goes on and on. Go once a week the next 8 months! You might hit the woods first to see if it is for you before you invest too much. Go look at the classifieds adds in here at all the " High Quality" stuff for sale. I always wonder how much of that is one time hunters who will never hit the elk woods again.

#1- Never Quit
Attitude
#2- Water and /or way to get water
#3- Boots / Quality Socks

#4- Clothing for the elements
#5- Good Shooting
Equipment with which you are proficient with and you practice with
#6- Shelter System & Sleep System ( Adapted to your style of hunting)
#7- Ability too make fire (when
necessary)

The rest will fall together.
 

prm

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No. VA
Looking at cost, it could definitely be done, and done well, at a lower cost than what I have listed. There are plenty of excellent hunters out there in jeans and very basic gear. My BIL is one of them and he shot a really nice bull elk and moose this year. Other than a Kifaru LPP that I gave him for Christmas one year, I don’t think he owns a single hunting branded piece of clothing. A good attitude, some woods sense, and a good work ethic are more important than fancy gear. I do think everything on there (the function), except for pillow, is on my minimum needs list. I could get away with much less spent on binos. I can say stepping from 8x Vortex Viper HDs to Swaros had zero impact on my success rates. One of the reasons I made this list was to help me purge excess. With others doing the same, some very good gear can be found in the classifieds here at a good savings.

edit: still hunter posted while I was typing. I agree with what he said. I would add a good pack to his list if you’re carrying camp in somewhere and packing an elk out.
 

5MilesBack

"DADDY"
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Does anybody really go from having absolutely zero hunting equipment to doing an out of state, back country spike camp elk hunt for their first hunt?
Learn to walk before you run. Accumulate gear as you go. That way you are less likely to obsess over what it costs.
I do both types of hunting, and I'll tell you right now that a decent base truck camp will cost you a lot more than a backpacking setup will.
 
Joined
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Nunya
I'll tell you right now that a decent base truck camp will cost you a lot more than a backpacking setup will.
I don’t think it has to, but it easily can.

The ability to bring lots more gear really lends itself to splurging on camp items (and I’m not totally immune). One of my favorite games while hunting is, when driving past a camp, try to guess the total value of all the cr@p they have parked/set up there. I’ll note that I don’t see a correlation between $100,000 RV/sxs setups and hanging elk (although you could hang an elk in some of the toy haulers I see parked the woods, so my sampling technique may be biased).
 

5MilesBack

"DADDY"
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I don’t think it has to, but it easily can.
Well of course nothing has to. But Jethro implied that a backcountry hunting setup was beyond what a truck camp would cost, so he should "learn to walk before you run" and accumulate gear as you go. You can do that with either means of hunting. I mean if a guy really wanted to, he could use his backcountry setup at the truck and it's going to be identical to using it in the backcountry. But the advantage to a setup at the truck is comfort.......and IMO that will cost you more. My backcountry setup is a simple tent, pad, quilt, and Jetboil.......effective, but not big on comfort. And all those items were bought new at deep discounts.
 

Jethro

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My perspective was not solely based on the cost of truck camp vs spike camp gear. The OP has no hunting gear and no elk hunting experience. He is considering land owner tags, packers, new gun, new bow, quality optics, top of the lines clothes, side by side, etc. Which is fine, but he was clearly focused on how much everything cost and was throwing around start up costs of $10-20k or more.

I was just pointing out he doesn’t have to acquire every piece of high quality gear between now and September. I believe he is a NM resident, so with the exception of a landowner tag, should be able to pull off an elk hunt for lot less than $10k.
 

Coues123

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Dec 18, 2020
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Arizona
Lots of good advise here.
I know Im one of the lucky ones.
I rifle hunt and bow hunt. I truck hunt, backpack hunt and have horses and mules to hunt and pack with.
IMO Your gear will never never make up for knowledge gained in the field. Your gear will keep you in the field to gain knowledge.
Balance the two with the knowledge you gained here that fits your budget.
Go hunt
Good luck
 
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