• Jerud Earnest

    I thought for sure this article would be: find an elk crazy on the internet, social media stalk them, convince them you’re normal, offer to drive your fully equipped truck.

    • SoleAdventure

      That’s a solid strategy that’s worked in the past. I just didn’t want to give ALL of the secrets away. ;-)

    • Tucker

      That’s what I did Jerud…LOL.

  • John Carroll

    You are right about backpacking solo. You have to be totally comfortable with your gear, your environment, and being alone for days at a time. Just don’t start talking to the chipmunks.

    • SoleAdventure

      True, John. The idea of a solo backcountry hunt and the reality of a solo backcountry hunt are two VERY different things.

    • Tom Ryle

      I talk to chipmunks, John. There, I said it.

  • Derek Decker

    I live in Colorado and elk hunt during both archery and first season rifle. There are so many factors that come into play when you are 3-4 miles in the backcountry. Weather can turn on a switch, so clothing and gear are imperative. Good gear isn’t cheap, but it’s definitely worth it. Like you mention Mark, your footwear and pack will make all the difference in the world. Sore, wet, and blistered feet will ruin your hunt. If your feet get wrecked, there is no way you’re getting a whole elk out, especially if you’re doing it solo. You may get the meat out, but not likely before the meat spoils. Exo Mountain packs are a life-saver…enough said:). Happy hunting!

    • Terry Howe

      Agreed, I have a different pack, but good points :).

      In this corner of Colorado, I would say a Spot or the like would be required equipment for a solo hunt. No one is going to walk on by if you are on the ground hurt. People think they can just make a call on their cell phones, but you won’t even be able to send a text from a lot of peaks around here.

      Also, several miles on a trail is often way easier and safer than one mile bushwhacking. There was a guy that died out here a couple years ago because he was taking a ‘short cut’.

      One other thing, you can get outfitters lined up to help pack you out if you get lucky. I’ve done this. Doesn’t cost anything if you don’t call them in. You can increase your range quite a bit if you just need to worry about getting a mile or two to the nearest trail.

  • Tucker

    Last year I went solo to GMU 81 just south of Platoro. From the forest road there was 1200′ of elevation in .8ths of a mile, from a trailhead at 11,200. Tough, steep, isolated. So many things to say about that trip. Carried a SAT phone and even then had spotty service. Elevation can and will get you bad. I tried for 9 months to locate someone to go with me, on elk101, hunttalk forums, rokslide, a few responses but always got how do you know he won’t kill you from my wife. I found someone this year and we are in constant communication. The biggest thing, like Mark mentioned, and Cam Hanes touched on it in his book, Bowhunting on the wild side, being alone is tough. After 3 days you start get antsy. I reviewed packing lists on the internet and still packed too much, this year much different. Lots of planning – trip, hunt, after the kill, trip back, etc. Those forest roads are no joke too, could very well have trouble there and you’ll have to walk out off the mountain. But I will say this I saw elk, I got close to elk, and I was close to a shooter, legal bull. For me, the first time, high country vistas and being close to elk was enough for me. This September, things are different.

    • SoleAdventure

      Sounds like a tough, wonderful trip!

    • Michael H

      Tucker, you aren’t lying. I hunted the same area, a couple miles outside of Platoro in ’13. It is tough country, with absolutely no cell service. My favorite thing about where we were, is we didn’t see another person the entire trip, with the exception of one guy leisurely “hunting” and camping, all within 1/4 mile of a trailhead. However, I didn’t get into any elk, but lots of sign, and lots of muley’s. I may be back in the area this September as well, but still undecided on where I’ll go.

      • Tucker

        I was near Conejas Peak and Bear Lake. Still deciding on either there or a place in 78 Near Pagosa Springs, little lower. I saw 4 bucks too, and no other hunters. Just saw horse tracks on the trail, no wonder, that’s some tough going.

  • Tucker

    Become a beast in the gym, trail, where ever you work out. You can wear the elevation mask around and nobody will care. Become obsessive over ounces, gear reviews and why you can’t group at 60 yards like you can at 40. You’ll have subscriptions to Elk Hunter, Extreme Elk, DIY – The Journal, Bugle and it will be normal. You’ll remember the stock numbers of items you have on your wish list at Cabelas.com If you workout to taped elk hunting shows and check the weather of your hunting state on your phone, it’s ok. All of this behavior is fine. You’ll be addicted or broke, divorced – maybe all three…Happy Trails.

  • Rob McConnell

    I have hunted elk solo for the last couple years. And I was lucky enough to get one my first year in. The only thing that I would add, is to not discount the mental toughness required to be physically exhausted every day AND be alone. After 2 days in, my mind starts making excuses as to why i should pack it up and head back to the truck. Sitting here in my office months away from Elk season, its hard to fathom that i would want to go home. But it happens. Get out there, and spend a few weekends in the hills alone and build some confidence. And I will add that if you DO manage to be successful on your own. It will be by far the most rewarding thing you will ever do.

    • SoleAdventure

      Props to you, Rob. I’ve struggled with the same “I should pack it up” mental battles on solo trips that I’ve done.

  • JT

    Hunting alone? Most important piece of equipment? Sat phone. You can rent one short term. Extra battery. Keep it on your person at all times. Call home to let your wife know you’re safe at prescribed intervals and specific locations. It’s very easy to seriously injure yourself. Who is going to know??!!
    Next most important piece of equipment? Small first aid kit complete with sutures or surgical stapler and pressure bandage. It’s way too easy to cut yourself badly. I’ve done this at home!! So if you do……………pressure on the wound. Call 911 or some emergency # with your coordinates. Then do your best to stem the bleeding. Staplers work using one hand.
    Finally and the most obvious. Expect that you’ll get yourself lost and have to spend a few nights out there. Shelter, fire, water, maybe food. And expect the weather will go from 70 degrees to freezing rain in no time.
    Some would reverse the order of importance. Figure out what works for you and lock it down.

    Almost forgot. A whistle. Get the orange ones used for marine purposes. Extremely loud! I believe REI sells them. All the above adds perhaps 5#s.

    p.s. ASAT sells really good camo rain suits that stuff into two little sacks and add almost no weight to your load. Plus they breath and have the scent blocking cloth and seem to be quite durable. Might come in very handy.

    p.p.s Practice doing solo backpacking trips with everything you’re planning to take with you. Figure out where everything is located in your pack and what NOT to bring. Take along a good book because hunting solo make it really easy to just pack it in and quit so you have to keep your mind strong and positive.

  • Kyle Hankey

    Jerud, you’re comment is spot on!

  • Nick Myatt

    Most of my archery elk hunting in the past has been solo. The greatest worry I have with a solo trip back in the wilderness is warm temperatures and getting my meat out before it spoils. If it is cold you can hang your meat and work at packing it out over a couple days. However if it is warm as it typically is during our Sept season, you often have a short window of time to get an animal out of the wilderness before the meat spoils – this can be a tough timeframe to beat, especially if you see sleep as something that is necessary each day!

    • SoleAdventure

      Sleep is for the off-season, right? Joking aside, that’s a very valid concern. If I were going solo and had the choice of when I could hunt, I’d go later in September for that reason alone.

      • Scott Thompson

        I usually do not hunt in the morning due to the possibilities of meat going bad. Evenings are best for me, but I hate the idea of taking 2 to 3 three mile trips throughout the night. Would love to get some goats

  • Tom Ryle

    Guess what, Mark? You, my friend, are now a bonafide elk hunter! The tone of this post can only come from someone who has put in all the work and effort to produce a backcountry elk hunt out west. Elk are big, tough animals to hunt and everything you mention is serious business.

    One point I’d add related to hunting alone pertains to elk size, range estimation, and shot placement. For a flatlander experiencing elk for the first time, accurately judging distance can be difficult. A quality rangefinder is a must. Shot selection is critical, as is shot placement. In short, don’t “push it” on high-risk shot situations. Elk are high-octane 4×4 critters that need to bleed out quickly in order to create short, easy to follow blood trails. This can’t be over-stated. I’ve seen bulls cover several hundred yards in seconds, often piling up in tough to reach, low-visibility spots. Without a prolific blood trail – and being alone – poses major concerns in recovery. Add September heat and you risk losing your meat. Wait for the right double-lung shot opportunity, make a speedy recovery, and sleep like a baby.

    • SoleAdventure

      Thanks, Tom. I think my process of becoming an elk hunting is going to be a lifelong journey. I have a lot left to learn and experience, which excites me to no end.

      That’s great advice. One of the reasons that I didn’t pursue another bull after Jerud shot his was because of this very thing. I know that elk can vanish, and I couldn’t dare risk shooting bull #2 before bull #1 was recovered and processed.

      • Tucker

        Mark, I’m passing through St. Louis early Sunday morning Sept. 13th, returning the 25th, there’s room for one more…LOL.

        • SoleAdventure

          I wish I could afford for my trip to be that long!

  • Timmy VanNguyen

    Wow, your site and writings are really creative and well put together. Everything you put together couldn’t be any more relevant to my life. I’m preparing my journey for a solo Idaho otc archery hunt this Sept2016. I’m constantly reading every single thing I can find about elk hunting in the mountains. I taught my self everything I know about hunting within the last 6 years, gaining knowledge through media and complete strangers. You are one complete stranger whose writings I know I will benefit greatly from. So Keep on doing what you are doing mang!