By Jason Reid
Rochester, New York (www.ammoland.com) My watch read quarter after five in the morning and I had already dropped close to 900 feet in elevation to reach the visual cover of the creek bottom. Long, deep, water eroded drainages with sparse timber patches and sun bleached grasses make up the terrain in which we again chased elk this past season.
Due to his recent heart surgery, my father stayed high above me, glassing the small chutes and rock slides. The plan worked and he was able to find a group of elk for me to stalk. This gave us the advantage over our neighbors who had rode their horses over the ridge above me and were glassing the same small bull and dozen cows. Advantage: New York Boys.
Understandably, not many people from the East will have the chance to head West to chase one of the most majestic animals God put on this earth. It is a true blessing and privilege I do not take lightly or for granted as it does not happen without the help of having friends in the West. I once felt guilty about having the chance to hunt elk, but a much older and wiser friend said it would only be a true travesty unless I could share the lessons learned in order to keep the dream, passions and stories of the West alive for others. With the challenges the western hunters face, they need the full support of their brothers and sisters in the East so public land and proper management can be a reality long after we are all dead and gone. In my young life I am willing and able to help stand with those in the West since we all bleed the same passion. However, my neighbors were completely surprised to find the New York kid on the insane side of the canyon and in bow range of the five point bull. I walked away from the encounter all smiles. They did not.
It is not enough for me to just go on an elk hunt. For me, I want to become a true hunter of these animals. Like with my beloved whitetails, my goal is to learn their habits, mannerisms and how they act in relation to the mountains. This may mean I go years without a kill, but that is ok. To gain an understanding of an animal the best teachers are the animals themselves and the country. But the lessons about hunting elk as an eastern hunter go beyond the behaviors of the animal themselves, but also in the style of the hunt and the logistics of getting away from the crowds on public land.
Logistical Lessons: Hunting elk may not be the biggest obstacle for other Non Resident, and even resident hunters to getting quality hunts. Logistics are the killer. If you want ten days of hunting, which is what I recommend for any non resident trip, you need to plan for two weeks away from work and family as travel takes up time on the front and back ends of the hunt. From a planning perspective, I try to plan travel on a Thursday and Friday from home to camp and hopefully can steal half an evening’s worth of hunting on the Friday night.
Road or Air: Traveling from out of state always poses the big question: Should I drive or fly? While both have a significant cost, the choice to fly to your specific state, then drive to the trailhead, does make the trip slightly faster and allows one to lose less time in travel. The advantage for driving if you are within a day of driving of your destinations is by having the ability to split the cost of gas and food with any hunting partners as well as bring a bit extra gear.
How To Get To Good Country: If you have the opportunity a drop camp hunt is well worth the extra cost in order to get away from the crowds and have the ability to have an outfitter be able to pack extra gear and food. Meat care is always the first question to ask when planning a hunt for something as large as an elk and will dictate how far in you end up hunting. 300 pounds of boned out meat is not nearly as romantic to carry out as when you first think about hiking in ten miles. Can it be done? Absolutely. But you must be committed every step of the way.
Bikes: Bikes have increased popularity in recent years and have caused some controversy. We rode bikes over tough terrain for the better part of 15 miles, even with a man who heart surgery scar still looks fresh. This gave us mobility beyond what even the outfitters horses could provide and we were able to control our destiny a bit more on when we wanted to come and go. Additionally, riding bikes was a blast. Just remember to check all of your hardware before leaving the trailhead. The sprocket on my father’s bike came off when the bolts came undone. We had to use zip-ties and coast the bike to camp. If you or a shop tunes a bike before heading into the backcountry, make sure the bolts have Loctite on them. It looked like we had a yard sale on the mountain trail and we are lucky Dad was not injured while riding.
There are several options for hauling gear in with a bike if a drop camp is not an option. Trailers are a great option to give hunters the ability to alleviate the pressure from carrying 70 pounds of gear while trying to ride over tough terrain. However, some veteran bike riders do not like having to tow trailers over rough terrain and prefer to carry their pack on their backs despite being slightly top-heavy. Saddle bags are readily available and do help spread some of the weight around.
Logistics can kill any dream. You must try to plan for the major routs of travel in order to avoid possible disasters. Non resident hunters traveling out of state can have much more enjoyable hunts by planning their travel well in advance.
About: Dedicated to preserving and promoting the legacy of hunting, Pushing The Wild Limits creator, Jason Reid, balances a day job with his passions for bowhunting, capturing the stories and sharing information through writing and photography. Follow Pushing The Wild Limits on Facebook for consistent and unique outdoor content.