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In 2 years I'd like to make a first trip out West. I've done enough dreaming and reading books about it and want to start getting my information together to give it a go.

I'd like to make it DIY and want to hunt mule deer or elk. If you had to pick a state for either that would give me a good chance at harvesting and a possibility of getting wallhanger (one that most guys would mount) then where would you go?

I ask on here because people that will hopefully answer are in my boat having to make a long trip of it and know I can't go multiple times to the same place in the season.

I know these states are probably out due to app/license costs and odds of drawing: UT, NM, AZ, KS, NV.

Any opinions and personal experience would be welcome.
 

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Been a real long time, but we went to Colorado with an outfitter who ran drop camps. They took you back in on horseback and mule train and someone checked on you once every day. If you got an elk down, they'd come back with some pack mules and pack out the quartered animal.

The only thing they did besides packing you in and out was have a canvas wall tent set up. Everything else, from firewood to cooking to gutting and quartering, you were on your own. Took your own food and camp gear in on the mules.

Don't know if anyone still runs anything like that, I'm sure the guy we went with is long retired. But it was significantly less that guided hunts. Got you way back in, further than even the most dedicated hikers would hike. That's where you want to be, unless you have a real good local connection who knows where animals are in the easier accessed public lands.

Two of three of us got elk, mine a 4x4 and 32 inch spread, my buddy's a 6x6 with 38 inch spread and good mass. The other guy saw elk, one huge one, but no shot, less mule deer up where we were (around 9,000 feet I think), weather unusually warm that year. I did see an unreal mule deer buck the day after the season ended, I was taking down my trail marker tape. Probably a 3 to 4 hour ride on horses from base camp to the tent, then they dropped us off and took the horses back.

You smack an elk, you better have some good buddies with you, or make arrangements with a local outfitter to pack it out on a horse or mule. We passed two hunters who were hiking and backpacking in, camping light, everything carried on their pack frames. They made a deal with our guy to pack out an elk if they got one, the outfitter said he'd do it for $100 cash. You had to leave the hide on, and the genitals on one quarter, not as if you could bone it out in the field. Don't know the rules today, this was two decades ago. Couple years later the kids came along and now I've got six more years of tuition before I can think of that again, so my trips are confined to Ohio.
 

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i have a friend that moved to colorado 13 years ago. i've gone out twice on diy hunts. if your looking for a wallhanger those are tough tags to draw. most of those tags require preference points. it is a very tough hunt that you must be in shape for.
 

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DethFrumAbuv said:
Been a real long time, but we went to Colorado with an outfitter who ran drop camps. They took you back in on horseback and mule train and someone checked on you once every day. If you got an elk down, they'd come back with some pack mules and pack out the quartered animal.

The only thing they did besides packing you in and out was have a canvas wall tent set up. Everything else, from firewood to cooking to gutting and quartering, you were on your own. Took your own food and camp gear in on the mules.
I've done the same in Montana! Been out there 4 times, used an Outfitter for their drop camps / semi guided camps. They provided the tents, food, horses, packing, wrangler and cook if you wanted one. Tough hunting, but was fortunate enough to go 3 for 4 on elk (2 6x6 & 1 5x5) and mule deer. Quartering and packing an Elk is a lot of work and takes time. Having the right equipment is a must! My suggestion would be Montana and to never pass an opportunity to go out West!
 

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Mulies: Eastern Wyoming
Elk: colorado or montana

as stated by others, so much public land and more game than you can imagine. Management done properly
 

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I would go where there are no wolves.....

I was reading yesterday that Co. is in line to bring the wolves back, if so it is a big mistake....

Just my .02$
 

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I would go to Montana, and have many times. Have a brother living there since '87 and has all the camp gear, horses, and bought a cabin this year (we're getting too dang old to be cold and wet for 10-14 days straight
).

But for someone looking to go on a semi-outfitted, with an easier chance at a license, I would recomend Colorado to start. Also, MT's license has jumped quite a bit since last time I was out.

There is one thing in common with whichever state you decide on, those mountains are bigger and steeper than anywhere you've hunted in PA. If you're looking at going in 2 years, start getting your body prepared now. Last thing you want is a blown hunt because you couldn't make it. Good luck!
 

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I'd suggest Co.
I'd also suggest this go & ck it out yourself a airline ticket, rental car & hotel for weeks summer vacation will tell you plenty. Their are a lot of local folks & sporting goods stores, wildlife officers with assets & knowledge that will help you out for an upcoming hunt.
There's a lot of public land & options out there preparation is key....
 

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Colorado would be my choice. My father did one two years ago now..Did a pack in hunt with a outfitter. He scored a mule and a elk. Him and I are intending to head back there together this season.
 

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BcozHunter said:
There is one thing in common with whichever state you decide on, those mountains are bigger and steeper than anywhere you've hunted in PA. If you're looking at going in 2 years, start getting your body prepared now. Last thing you want is a blown hunt because you couldn't make it. Good luck!
That's an excellent point. Not only to you need to be in top shape, if you get up there in the Rockies you should educate yourself about being at altitude. You need some kind of water-filter bottle, or be prepared to be boiling a lot of drinking water. You need to drink a lot of water to avoid altitude sickness or headaches.

And despite the beer commercials about Rocky Mountain spring water, you're after elk, elk like to drink, and stand in streams and answer nature's call. Don't want to end your dream hunt with giardia.

Finally where ever you go out West, there are real chances for truly long shots. Many of us in PA never face one of those, and in general most don't practice at 200 or 300 yards. Know your gun and load, practice a lot. You might get a 50 yarder, or a 250 yard shot.

You don't need a .338 mag to kill elk. Nice, but not needed. Better to be accurate with your gun, all things considered. No sense buying a toting a cannon you don't shoot well because you only shot 200 rounds out of it total. Ours fell to a .270 Win with 150-grain and a .30-06 with 180-grain.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
I think that if I continue with my current line of thinking its Elk or Mule deer either/or during the rut, which means if its elk its with a bow. If my dad or family members want to go it'll likely be mule deer bec the snow will push them down and it'll be with a rifle.

Colorado is the leading candidate for elk
- I stopped by their F&G booth today at the show and the guy was so friendly and wanted to help. He gave me a business card for a "hunt planner" that you can call to explain the regs and walk you through the licensing and apps process. Also said when you draw feel free to call the regional office of your area to have the officers there help you to plan on things like lodging, tips based on your style of hunting, etc.

If its Mule deer I think it'll be CO or MT.

I went by where the Idaho booth was but they had already left. I was interested in talking to them since it seems the easiest over the counter tags look like ID and CO. MT got easier since the cost is freakin' outrageous for a combo tag.

As far as fitness I'll be sure to step it up. I ran a marathon a few years ago (I'm 27) and think I can prep for the trip. I have the Cameron Hanes book and like his style, though I'm not ultra-marathon hardcore.

I have a 7mm Rem Mag, but you're right I've never shot long distances.

If I do the elk trip I'm doing it all the way. Unless I convince a couple people to go with me I think I may just do a bivy hunt. Rent some of the gear from REI. I'm curious about the new UV filtration systems. That vs the pumps. For sure don't want to be coming down with a case of "beaver fever". The bad kind (giardia labliasis) that is.
 

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I just started going west the past 3 seasons. Went to Co. to same outfitter but going another route next year. Co. for elk has over the couter elk tags for most areas thinking 2nd and 3rd. season. 60% of there state is Blm ( public ) but it can be very rough on your own. It would be nice to be with someone who has been there to show you the ropes. They are divided off in units like Pa. but they have no sighns telling you that. For example this i will be hunting 62 where i can get otc elk tag 3rd. season. the adjoining unit 61 is a trophy unit recquiring around 8+ prefernce points for licence. If i would wonder in to it by mistake i would be hunting w/o licence and heaven forbid shoot an elk very serious. outcome. Diy first time could be real tough, obtain and learn maps, talk to there Dow, plan very well. I would pick out maybe 2 states and start appling for prefernce points this year even if you dont plan on hunting for a few years. Someone suggested a summer vacation of flying out and renting a vechicle and driving around. I wouild highly reccomend this. Last thing, becareful choosing an outfitter do your homework with them. Im not going to knock any outfitter but they are business people and they need hunters. Most of these places out west it is very hard to make a living. Your likely not going to find an outfitter under 3k, i dont know about you but i work hard for my money. The only thing about outfitters at sport show, etc, and im not bashing any of them but they are there for a reason. They spend couple k for a booth, travel, and living expences to and from there home they need business. Also if they had enough repeat business there would not be a lot of need to be there. Good luck to you.
 

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After 14 backpac trips DIY Id say COLORADO lots of public land there and The biologist are very helpful.Odds are better if you (GET IN) deep..Get a topo and find the steepest stuff that is furthest away from the roads or atv trail,and most times you WILL find elk.GOOD luck ELK
 

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Check with some Dude Ranches. We did a family vacation at Rimrock Ranch near Cody eight years ago, and they did some hunting in the season but it wasn't their main business, so the rates were better than a pure hunting outfitter but higher than a semi-guided or DIY. In-between in terms of cost, you still need to get your tag, but they had cabins and horses. Be prepared to ride your fanny off and be brave, this ain't PA horse trails.

But if the owners live there year round and so do some of their wranglers, when the snow hits the tourists leave and they pick up some extra $$$ doing hunts.

And for family vacations - greatest time ever. Awesome.
 

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If you want to hit the rut, go early bugle season in Montana. If you go back country wilderness you can use a rifle and that starts September 15th. I use a 7mm Mag and the longest shot for me was 222 yards! Montana use to include black bear in there combo tag. I think the first year that stopped that, I did not buy a tag and of course saw a beautiful chocolate bear.
 

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I have been looking into doing a DIY hunt with some friends in southwestern colorado. We plan on backpacking in during the archery season for elk. I read a lot of mixed reviews. Are there going to be a lot of other hunters in the OTC tag areas? Is it better to go early in the archery season or later to avoid the crowds? My main concern is that I don't want to invest all of the time and money and find out the OTC areas look like a KOA.
 

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I've hunted Co.,wy, and Mt for elk and deer.If I were you, I'd go with Mt.They have far better bulls on average then otc in Co,and alot of average size muleys.Wy. would be #2 on my list for elk,and will take you buying a point this Sept to be certain to draw the following year
I'm looking for a partner for my Montana hunt next year for archery elk.archery elk is the most fun and the elk talking will give up their locations making them easier to find.I have an awesome spot in Montana for elk so anyone interested should send me a pm if they want to join me next year.I won't give up my spot but you could hunt it with me.Bulls in there average 300",and a guy I met shot one just over 400" 2 years ago where I hunt
I'm doing wy. again this year,and they also have alot better sized bulls then Co.I'd be willing to help you with a spot there for elk
best bets for deer would be eastern Mt. and Co.Co. have the best deer but require building points to hunt the better units.I'm still building points there for a chance at a giant.I'm also building points in Co. to be able to hunt better trophy units for elk
Being in top shape will help your success without a doubt.get in a few miles and your generally all alone hunting elk pushed back from the roads.I use google earth to scout new areas.Look for water with north facing slopes near by.They like to bed on north slopes to stay cool,and they are generally thicker in cover.Cut them off coming or leaving their bedding areas,but don't go in them or you'll blow the elk out.Elk don't like being bothered or feeling threatened and will change zip codes if you push too hard or become predictable
Elk hunting is addicting so buy the best camping gear you can afford as chances are you'll want to chase them every year after your 1st trip.Way more fun to hunt then a whitetail for sure
Contact me if your looking for a partner and willing to do Montana.I'll be going twice next year.Once for elk and once for muleys in the rut
 
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