Choosing an Elk Hunting Guide / Do it Yourself Elk Hunts

Hunting for Elk can be very demanding, especially considering the type of terrain that hunts are typically carried out on.  With the right preparation before-hand you can turn a so-so hunt into the hunt of a lifetime.  The American West holds some of the most beautiful country in the United States and for a lot of folks that means mountainous terrain.  The very first tip that I can offer to you is to get yourself into good enough physical condition before considering an elk hunt.  If you expect a guide to piggy-back you around, you are probably going to be a little let down when the time comes to start trekking into the heart of Elk country.  Conversely, if you are hunting public land, the very first thing to consider is getting a little background knowledge on the area you are going to be hunting.  The reason guides are so successful and oft-used is due to the fact that they live and breathe the land they are responsible for guiding on.  Elk guides know the habits of the particular population of animals in their area and play by the rules dictated by the Elk.  Another variable that makes guides so popular is that they know their quarry.  If you want to perform at the level of a guide, you must have background knowledge of Elk habits.  Armed with this knowledge of territory, the typical habits of Elk and being in shape enough to tackle back country, you can become an effective hunter.

Choosing a Guide / Outfitter:
Hiring an Outfitter or Guide is an excellent way to cut down on the preparation that is typically required for a successful Elk hunting trip.  Your guide supplies the brains and you supply the bullet or arrow.  The main drawback to hiring out a guide is cost.  Elk hunting is typically not a cheap endeavor, but if you want guaranteed results in almost every circumstance, a guided trip is the way to go.

Another benefit of hiring an outfitter is that once you put the animal on the ground, they will haul it out for you.  In addition, a majority of guide services either offer butchering or have very solid working relationships with processors due to the amount of business they typically bring in. oogle_ad_client = “pub-5569030158825604”; /* 468×60, created 11/22/09 */ google_ad_slot = “5171795343”; google_ad_width = 468; google_ad_height = 60; // –> <!– google_protectAndRun(“ads_core.google_render_ad”, google_handleError, google_render_ad); // –>

One of (if not the most) important benefits of hiring a guide or outfitter is the amount of knowledge you can glean from these men / women.  For the most part, guides have spent years upon years perfecting their craft and almost all are more than willing to answer questions and to give insight on animal behavior, etc.

When contracting a guide another perk is that they will typically provide all of the meals as well as lodging.  If you are dragging on a guided trip the chances are that you will not perform up to snuff and may not get an animal.

Do-It-Yourself Elk Hunt:
If you have the equipment and the stamina, there is probably no greater challenge than packing up and setting off for the backcountry on your own.  One caveat to this is that you MUST be prepared and have a working knowledge of wilderness survival if by chance you get lost or injured.

The most simple method of hunting for Elk on your own is to pack up a backpack with enough supplies to ensure you have shelter, food and most importantly water.  The human body can survive for several weeks without food (albeit at lower performance levels), but if you remove water from your daily intake, you survival time drops drastically.  Make sure you pack light as you will have to carry your kit on your back for extended periods of time.  Conversely, you need to make sure that all of your needs with regards to clothing (temperatures can swing wildly depending on the season), shelter, etc. are covered.  Something that I used to do before going on long outings in the wilderness is to test out my pack as it will be loaded during a trip.  Obviously you won’t be carrying your bow or rifle around with you, but a simple test run or two should be sufficient enough to tell you whether you have packed too heavily.  Never sacrifice water for items that are not necessary.  Another suggestion on top of packing an ample supply of water for your trip (several liters for a day or two trip), is to invest in a water purifier.  There are numerous products out on the market, but for my money, I went with the Katydyn Vario Microfilter water purification system. Spending money on a good filter / purifier is an excellent investment.

Before setting out, make sure that your trip is planned carefully and that you notify friends or family where you are going to be at what time and when you expect to return.  In the event of an emergency, people need to know where you are, this greatly increases your survival rate if something bad should happen.

One major advantage of a DIY Elk hunt is that you set your own pace, allowing you to set up a small base camp and branch out from there.  Another benefit of packing in yourself is the freedom you have to set up camp wherever you want.  If you spot a couple of 6×6 bulls in the distance, you can move camp easily and hopefully set yourself up to take an animal down when the time is right.

The major challenge despite the obvious physical one occurs if and when you take down an Elk.  If you succeed in your mission you will most likely need to mark the kill spot, return to your vehicle to lighten up and then come back for the animal.  It may even take several trips to do so.  If you do research beforehand, you may find that an area rancher or land owner has horses on call for a fee of money or a couple of Elk steaks after all is said and done.

One of the most important things you can do before going it alone is to go on a guided trip.  Pick the brain of your guide and get as much information as possible from him or her.  This knowledge will prove priceless when in the field and having no one else to rely upon but yourself.

A DIY Elk hunt is the thrill of a lifetime, filled with challenge after challenge.  In the end, if you do take down an Elk, you can take pride in knowing that you did things your way, on your own time.

Nick Admire is the owner of, an online hunting, fishing resource and community.