7 replies [Last post]
Aaron77's picture
Joined: 08/19/2011
Posts: 55
elk at last light?

I have never killed an elk, but plan to take a real run at it next week up in 28/37. Have some access in an area I've hunted and gotten familiar with, and me and my son have the either sex tag. I've wondered for a while if you get one at last light and you are a ways out, what is the best route to take. Leave it ungutted over night in the cold (as the guts might attract varmints). Or, gut it and leave it because meat could still go bad if it isn't gutted. Or pack it out in the dark no matter what. I'd appreciate any thoughts, experiences. Thanks, great hunting

elkkill06's picture
Grand Slam Challenge Winner!
Location: Fruita Colorado
Joined: 02/02/2009
Posts: 2069
Elk at last light !!


Almost all of the elk I have ever taken have been right before dark. I have always gutted them and I also try to get them off the ground. Usually by getting some small logs underneath them to allow the air to flow. If it is a big bull they will hold alot of heat in there neck so I try and get the hide off the front end also.

Good luck on your hunt and I hope to see some great pics and read a great story.


Critter's picture
Grand Slam Challenge Winner!Moderator
Location: Western Colorado
Joined: 03/26/2009
Posts: 4423
 I agree with Quintin, but

 I agree with Quintin, but will add a couple of things.  

I have seen a elk spoil overnight in temperatures below 20 degrees and in snow.  That hide will hold more heat in it than you can believe.  What I would do is to gut it and get it off of the ground how ever you can.  If there are a couple of you you can cut off both front shoulders and bring them out that night, you can do this without even skinning it, or at least open them up while still leaving them attached to the body.  Skin out the neck and get the air to it. That is a lot of meat to cool off.  If you are carrying a saw and you should, split the pelvis and briskit and open them up as wide as you can.  If you do this and have some logs or rocks under the elk to get it off of the ground it should be OK.  But if you plan on packing it out the next day you could even go as far as cutting the front shoulders off, splitting the pelvis, and removing the hinds and hang everything in a tree.

A few items that you should have with you on a elk hunt are:  Pack saw with both a tree and bone blade.  It doesn't need to be a expensive one but fairly sturdy.  One that I used for years cost me less than $10.00 but now the are still less than $20.00.  100' of paracord and not the cheap stuff but cord that has the nylon strings for a cord.  I have hung a lot of elk meat off of the ground with this stuff and it is cheap enough that you don't mind cutting and hacking it.

Good luck on your hunt.

Joined: 10/31/2013
Posts: 2
Can I add headlamps to that

Can I add headlamps to that list.  If you plan on hiking in before first light and hunting all day they are an essential piece of gear, especially if you get an animal down towards the end of the day and have to dress it in the dark.


I think the ideal scenario would be to skin & quarter the animal and remove the backstraps/ camp meat, pack out what you can and hang the rest.  We ussually hunt first season so the faster we can get meat back to camp and get it in the cooler the better.  Because of this we use the gutless method of field dressing.  There are some good videos on youtube and elsewhere if you aren't familiar.  It does speed up the quartering process and the only real challenging part is removing the tenderloins.  This method does not require a saw.

Make sure you have good game bags (not the cheap cheesecloth looking ones) such as alaska game bags or t.a.g. bags.  There should be plenty of trees where you are to allow for hanging the meat with some paracord.  Nightime temps should be <20's.

Aaron77's picture
Joined: 08/19/2011
Posts: 55
great info

Thanks guys. I hope to put your advice to work if I end up taking a late day shot. I'm getting the headlamps ready!


Location: north idaho
Joined: 06/11/2004
Posts: 610
I have gutted a few elk with

I have gutted a few elk with a headlamp on.
gut it and prop it open and be at it first thing the next morning.

SoCoKHntr's picture
Location: Pueblo Colorado
Joined: 12/18/2006
Posts: 1821

tim wrote:
I have gutted a few elk with a headlamp on.
gut it and prop it open and be at it first thing the next morning.

Pretty much sums up our last light kills.

Striker's picture
Location: Kuna, ID
Joined: 10/29/2012
Posts: 223
Elk at last light.

Everyone seems to be spot on for this one. Couple things to add. Someone mentioned the neck. You don't necessarily have to skin out the whole front part of the elk. Just skin around the neck until it's nice and open to the air and make sure it's off the ground. I always use sticks to prop open the rib cage after splitting it open or to hold back the pelt from the meat. I wouldn't worry about predators so much. As late as you are hunting it will be colder and the odors from the gut pile will not travel as far. Heat tends to spoil everthing and put off a stronger odor. That being said it's still a possibility just a smaller one. When I was in 37 last week I saw 1 coyote and very few tracks. I've only had two problems with game I've killed and they were in earlier seasons and unlike northern states we don't have to worry about wolves around here other wise it would be a different story. Seen several hunters lose kills to wolves over night in Idaho. Also, make sure you have the necessary gear to spend a cold night in the snow incase you have to.