Outdoors in Maine: The low-budget elk hunt

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Author’s note: This is part three of a three-part column series about my recent Colorado elk hunt.

Let me be up front: Even a low-budget elk hunt involves expense.

But if you are one of the many deer hunters who have dreamed about an elk hunt in the Western US, it may be within your reach, financially and otherwise. Although Western outfitters and private ranches charge anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000.00, my scenario involves significantly less money.

My 10th Colorado elk hunt, and one of the best yet, is a recent memory. Only one of these elk hunts involved an outfitter; the rest were low-budget hunts like I am about to describe. The last trip, involving six hunters, cost me just under $1,000, and that includes some new gear purchased for the trip. And I wound up with half an elk in my family freezer.

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That’s the good news. The not-so-good news is that low-budget hunts involve hard work and personal discomfort. Take it from me, no matter how much experience you have had, there is just no escaping the aforementioned downside of a low-budget elk hunt.

Here are some of the basics that will keep you on course and your costs within reason:

1. The Colorado elk lottery is your best statistical chance of being awarded an elk tag. Bulls are too expensive. A cow tag is $450.00.

2. A group of hunters, three and no more than 4, need to drive, preferably nonstop, from the East to Colorado. At today’s prices, gas for the round trip will be between $800.00 and $1,000.00. (Remember you are dividing this expense among four hunters).

3. The first rifle season in Colorado is always your best bet for hunt success.

4. Start planning now for either 2018 or 2019. Do your advance work, which includes acquiring maps of the National Forests ( Routt is a good choice). Begin a savings program. Give up beer and smokes, or some other discretionary expense, and put the unspent money in an elk-hunt kitty.

5. Don’t go crazy buying new gear, which is the temptation. The must-have gear for an elk hunt are quality boots, a big backpack that will hold at least 45 lbs of gear, and a warm zero degree sleeping bag.

6. A pickup truck with four -wheel drive and chains is highly recommended. Bring lots of coolers.

Some final thoughts. Give careful consideration to selection of your hunt buddies.. It’s best to select hunting partners who are field tested. Sometimes your best buddy is not the best choice for a trip like this. You need hunt partners who are in shape, even- tempered ,woodswise and resourceful. You want individuals who can tolerate sleep and calorie deprivation, tough hiking conditions at altitude and uncertain weather conditions.

There are many other “tricks” of the trade that I am more than willing to share, but this will get you started. You can get additional information from the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website, which is: cpw.state.co.us. If I haven’t discouraged you, and you are still considering this hunt adventure, which, by the way, has meant so much to me over the years, I will be happy to answer any questions you may have. E-mail questions or comments to me at: vpaulr@tds.net.

One final thought: Beware, elk hunting and the Colorado high country can be a tough habit to kick.

The author is editor of the “Northwoods Sporting Journal.” He is also a Maine guide and host of a weekly radio program — “Maine Outdoors” — heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on “The Voice of Maine News – Talk Network.” He has authored three books; online purchase information is available at www.maineoutdoorpublications.com.

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