Here are a few things to help out.
The Backcountry Pack Builder is an excel based spreadsheet. Weigh all of your items, input them into the sheet. There's an up front time commitment. After that you can sit in your living room and "mentally" be preparing for your hunts while catching up on the latest Netflix episode. If you would like a copy please send an email with the subject "Pack Builder" and you will receive a copy. If you have any questions please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hey Newbies, it's okay we all have to start somewhere
I have spent countless hours prepping for my western hunts. There are also a few places, people that are also very helpful. I'm not here to tell you that I know it all. I don't. What I can say is that I have found nuggets from some really good people out there that are as passionate about hunting and sharing as myself.
Late in 2015 I was on a plane with a gentlemen from Georgia. He and I got to talking and it wasn't hard to figure out what to talk about since I had a copy of two of my favorite magazines in the seat back(Bugle from Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Backcountry Journal from Backcountry Hunters and Anglers). He had just finished up his deer season in near Savannah and was showing me pictures of his and his son's bucks. The conversation quickly lead to "How do you go elk hunting in Colorado if you live in the East?" Well, the flight from Atlanta to Cincinnati wasn't log enough to hash out all the details so I gave him my contact information and told him that I would be more than happy to help him out and get him started. I may have given him a unit to hunt but I sure didn't give away any honey holes. I spent several hours putting together a list that I thought would be helpful in getting a guy that hunts whitetails ready to head west. So, here it is. My list for the first timers without breaking the bank
TAGS- Colorado website
Colorado has a great opportunity to hunt via over the counter tags that are sold for the 2nd and 3rd rifle season. 1st Rifle season is done through general/draw system. All applications for the general tags must be completed by April 4th. Just know that there are more elk that any place in the country and also more hunters. Be prepared to see others unless you are able to get back into some wilderness areas.
On X Maps, you can download this app on your Iphone and save the maps. The cost is around $30 but worth every penny as you can see private/public land very easily. I use my GPS with the OnXMaps chip that goes into my Garmin. On X-maps has improved this service which will allow you to do a month to month service. So, I will add the state that I'm hunting for a few months. There is also a Premium App that will allow you to access all states for the whole year. If you plan on hunting multiple states this is the way to go.
Here are a few that I really like and would recommend. Everyone’s gun shoots differently but I have had really good luck with Hornady ammo for those who don't reload. I use Hornady as well as Berger Bullets for my 257 WBY and my 7MM RUM. One big misconception is that you have to have an ultra boomer to kill an elk. They are a very hearty animal but your deer rifle can do the trick with proper bullets and shot placement. Heck, I would take a 270 WIN or 270WSM with a 150 Nosler Partition or Accubond have plenty of confidence to take an elk out to a moderate range. Here's one thing that i will say. Shoot your weapon of choice often. I will spend the summer practicing and shooting from kneeling, prone and off my pack. This is the only way to get you ready for the field.
Make sure you can hike comfortably 8-10 hike miles or more a day. Need good ankle support. Have a backup pair of laces or have some 3/32 inch 275 paracord. I’m currently running the Crispi Valdres as well as the Kenetrek Mountain Extreme Non-Insulated. As it gets colder I will go to the Meindl Ibex Pro 200 gram.
Socks-this is a pretty key piece that gets overlooked. I use mostly wool socks. I currently use First Lite, WigWam, SmartWool and Omni-Wool. I recommend wearing a lighter pair (WigWam, Smart Wool) in while hiking to your stand. When you setup to glass, I would change socks (First Lite, Omni-Wool) and let the other pair air dry. I know this sounds silly but trust me swamp foot sucks when your start climbing a couple thousand feet of elevation.
A layering system is essential to staying comfortable and on the mountain. One thing is for certain you will see some major temperature changes in a given day. I’ve seen morning where it’s been 10 and then up to 50 and back down to 20 by the time I got back to camp.
Base Layer- either synthetic or merino wool shirt. I usually make my determination based on weather. One of my favorite pieces right now is the First Lite Minaret Long Sleeve. This if a poly-wool blend and dries incredibly fast.
Here's a bargain item if you want to go after for synthetic. Type in ECWCS Gen III Level 1 into search on Google. You will probably find several military sites. Here's the skinny on this one. Polartec was contracted to make this for the military and it's a fraction of the cost vs. Cabela's. I got a complet set for $30 and they wick very well and dry quickly. This is my go to for when I'm in really wet weather.
Mid Layer- insulating synthetic fleece or merino wool shirt, another good piece here is a vest.
Insulation Layer- synthetic(Primaloft) or down. Down is an excellent insulator for sitting and glassing. I do not recommend hiking in down as you will quickly become a sweat box. A synthetic is cheaper and has one very large advantage over down. When it’s wet is continues to insulate. I'm currently running the First Lite Cirrus Puffy Jacket and it's amazingly warm for it's weight.
Outerwear-Either use your rain jacket or a soft shell jacket. My soft shell is the First Lite North Branch Soft shell.
Rainwear- It’s amazing how much you will use this. I wear my rain pants on the four wheeler when I ride to the trail head. If you are weight conscious this wear ounces become pounds quickly. I've used the Cabela's rainsuede and it worked well and kept me dry in all day rain storms and mixed precipitation. However, I also picked up their Instinct Back Country Space Saver rain wear and have switched to carrying that in my pack.
Gloves- I usually have 2 to 3 pair. I know this sounds over kill but hear me out. I do glove layering just like my upper layers. This allows to have versatility thru changes in the weather. Base is the Firs Lite Aerowool Liner, Next is the Finger Less Merino Glove and my last is the Softshell or Heavy Weight Glove. With all 3 layers I can sit and glass comfortably for hours.
This is an area where you need to use your own judgement. if you don’t plan on doing several trips out west then i would recommend a good backpacking one from some place like REI. Before getting my Eberlestock pack I used my Kelty Durango pack. I'm now going to be running the Mystery Ranch Metcalf with the new Guidle light frame. So, far I really like this pack.
I’m a huge Vortex fan but here’s an area if you’re going to spend some money it will be worth it. Good glass in the field can make the difference of wooded hillside or “holy crap” i see elk. I recommend a 10x magnification. When you get up to the 12x to 15x you will really need a tripod. I actually put my 10x on a tripod to do my glassing and then pull out the spotter for the better looks.
I’m going to include Rangefinder because that is must have as well. It’s very deceiving out there. If you have one that compensates for angle even better. Chances are you will at some point be looking at an up or down hill shot opportunity.
I try to do my best to stay in mountain shape. However, I start really hitting it hard all summer getting into good shape. I take a weighted backpack with about 50 to 60 lbs and do between 2.5-4 miles 4 to 5 times a week. I'm a firm believer in doing this. I'm It’s not uncommon to have an 80-100lb pack when hauling meat out.
Elk 101.com-University of Elk Hunting
This site is probably the most useful information that I have found on the web for a guy to learn more about getting into elk hunting and how to become successful year after year. Corey Jacobsen is the owner and is the 9-time RMEF world elk calling champion. He and several others put together one of the best training resources with Elk University. I would strongly suggest that you take a look and spend the money if you are serious about becoming a successful elk hunter.