Bowhunters that hunt whitetails often want to go on a western elk hunt as well; it is ultimately a bucket list item for them. Elk hunting in the mountains; well, there is nothing like it, being able to chase those screaming bulls and bring home multiple coolers of meat. The problem with this, though, is that hunting elk can be an expensive hobby. In fact, on average, a guided elk hunt can cost over $5,000—that’s a lot of your hard-earned money to spend!
If you have been wanting to experience an elk hunt but also don’t want to empty your pockets completely, you may want to consider taking an unguided elk hunt in the backcountry. These are low budget, but it is still possible to head home with some meat in the cooler. Here are a few tips to help ensure that you can succeed without completely breaking your bank.
Get Yourself in Shape
Before anything else, it is important that you get yourself in decent physical shape. If your interest is to kill a do-it-yourself backcountry bull, then you need to be prepared to and be able to walk a number of miles. To prepare yourself, you should consider hiking several miles a day, with a loaded backpack, a few months before the hunt. Be sure to stay hydrated to maintain your energy.
Choose Colorado or Idaho
When you are planning a low-budget elk hunt, focus on the states that offer the over-the-counter tags. Two of the most popular states for this are Colorado and Idaho. Colorado tends to be an easier state for hunting since the mountains aren’t quite as steep as the ones in Idaho. However, there is less hunting pressure in Idaho. Some people like to hunt on public land areas that are significantly large so that they are able to hunt several miles off the road. Generally, the further you are able to hunt off of the road, the less pressure you will run into.
Camp in the Backcountry
There are some hunters that tend to prefer to stay in a hotel and drive to the area where they are hunting on a daily basis. However, others prefer to stay in a tent and camp in the area where they are hunting—right where the elk live and roam. This not only minimizes the cost of the overall hunt and how many miles you will walk every day, but it also increases your overall odds of success since you will be right there in the middle of the action.
Put in for the Draw
Though you should probably plan for hunting in an over-the-counter unit, you should also apply for limited draw tags in certain states, such as New Mexico. This will boost your overall odds of success for larger bulls. The disadvantage is that the probability of drawing a tag is generally less than one percent. However, if you are lucky enough to draw a tag, the probability of killing a big bull is significantly good.
Shoot Long Distance
If a low-budget elk hunt sounds intriguing, then you will want to ensure that you plan the trip plenty of time in advance so that you have time to determine where you want to hunt. A year in advance in advisable, giving you plenty of time to shoot the bow and shoot at targets roughly 60 to 70 yards away. Shots further away like this will make it easy to hit a bull in the ribs at 40 yards. When you are hunting in the west, your ideal range should be 40 to 50 yards. Hunting elk is very different than hunting whitetails, as you can’t expect them to come within 20 yards of you. It’s always a good thing to strive to be able to make a shot at roughly 50 to 60 yards with a bull screaming at you.
As a general rule, elk hunting is an expensive sport, but it doesn’t have to break the bank all the time. You can spend under $1,000 to hunt elk, and this includes your gas, food, and elk tag. If your bucket list includes elk hunting, then start the planning right now.
For more information on hunting elk, get in touch with Full Draw Archery.