Before I dive any further into the detailing the elk hunt that I am going on, and how I am preparing for it, I feel like I need to stop and address the topic of Guided vs. Do-It-Yourself (DIY) hunting. My hunt will be completely DIY, but that doesn’t mean that I am against guided hunts, or that I think everyone should only go on DIY hunts. Guided and semi-guided hunts are great options to consider!
The answer to the Guided vs. DIY question usually begins and ends with one topic – money. But there is more to it than that. After all, as we will see in future posts, even a DIY elk hunt can be quite expensive. I believe the answer to the Guided vs. DIY question is found by answering another question…
Do you want to go on an elk hunt, or do you want to become an elk hunter?
If you want to go on an (meaning one) elk hunt, then I highly suggest that you save up and go on a guided or semi-guided hunt. Becoming a proficient elk hunter is a long, hard process. I recently talked with a gentleman that has been successfully hunting elk for over 40 years and he emphatically told me that “anyone that has hunted elk for less than 7 years is actually quite inexperienced.” Agree or not, he has a legitimate point. There is a great deal to learn about elk hunting, and the once-a-year season isn’t very long, so there is not a lot of time to gain experience each year.
If you dream of one good elk hunt – and have expectations of killing a bull – then start collecting points, playing the lottery game, saving up some cash, and go on a fully guided, fully outfitted hunt with a limited-draw tag.
Photo by 111° West
Now the rest of you – those that want to begin the journey of becoming an elk hunter – don’t assume that you have to go completely DIY on your first trip. It would be wise for many of you to go on a semi-guided, or “drop camp” style hunt.
A drop camp is where a guide will load you and all of your gear and drop you off in the backcountry at your base camp. From that base camp you will be able to hunt on your own, but you will have the support of your guide, if and when you need him. When you shoot an elk you can radio in to the base and have a guide and his crew pack the elk out of the backcountry for you. In this scenario you are typically doing all of the hunting on your own, but the guide is there to assist you with the logistics of camp and transportation into and out of the wilderness.
A drop camp hunt is a great choice for many first-time elk hunters, including those that don’t have the time or resources to plan a DIY hunt. These hunts are relatively affordable, and will often be just as cheap as outfitting yourself for your first DIY elk hunt. If you want to get some experience elk hunting before you begin spending considerable money on quality hunting and camping gear, then I would definitely consider a drop camp.
I have decided to go completely DIY for several reasons, but you may be surprised to hear that – although I’m not rolling in cash – money wasn’t really one of my deciding factors. In fact, by the time you consider all of the gear that is necessary for the type of hunt that I’ll be going on, I could have probably saved money by going on a drop camp! (We’ll talk more about gear and budget real soon!)
I decided to go DIY because I want the challenge and experience of learning the hard way. Yes, I want to kill an elk, but I also want to learn how to be an elk hunter – even if such learning comes by making stupid mistakes.