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TwoBear's picture
Joined: 12/13/2010
Posts: 43
Types of elk hunts clarified.

OK, I'm going to try to help out here as this topic seems to come up all over the board.  There are two types of basic hunts: DIY and outfitted.  I will deal with the outfitted side.First, let me say that all outfitters vary slightly.

Outfitters offer two main hunts:  Pack in and lodge hunts. 

Lodge hunts are simply hunts that are based out of a lodge, they can be guided, semi-guided, or hunt on your own.  The advantage of a lodge hunt is that you have a bed to sleep in every night, tiolet etc.  Lodge hunts are probably the lesser of the two types in terms of seeing game, as often the general public will be competing with you unless it is on private land.  Another disadvatage of a lodge hunt is in order to get back to where the elk are, you either hike all day, or ride horses every day, and that can get old.


A pack in hunt means you are packed into a remote camp in the heart of elk country.  There are two kinds of camps for most outfitters:  Base camp, and Drop camps.  Base camp typically has all the ammentities of a classic western camp, livestock, wood cut, latrine, heated shower tent, cook on staff, guides, heated client tents etc.   This is typically where the guided and semi-guided hunts are done.  Drop camp is a little more primitive in there is no heated shower tent, no livestock, and you cook your own food.  When checking rates, make sure to see if outfitter supplys food for drop camp.  My outfit does have the cook pre-make and freeze meals, where the hunters warm them up in the drop camp.  However, most outfitters have you bring your own food. 

Guided: Best chance of seeing animals and highest success rates, also the most physical, which is why it has the best success rates.  Guides will motivate you and push you to near your limits, and you will feel great by the time you are out of camp.  The hunt is best for beginners.

Semi-guided:  Another reasonable hunt at a reduced cost as compared to full guided.  Usually, semi-guided hunters have some expirence.  You should really be up to speed on map reading and gps use to maximize the info you will get from outfitter and guides.  We send a guide out with the semi-guided hunters for at least one day, and maybe more if a guide is available, however, other outfitters policy may very.  For the money, this kind of hunt is great.

Drop camp hunt:  Your on your own here.  We send a packer down to our drop camps ever other day to check on you, all hunting is done on your own.  Outfitters pack you and your gear in and drop you off, pack out whatever you get down.  This hunt is for folks who have some good elk hunting foundations, and typically has the lowest success percentage.


Final note:  It is said all over the internet that drop camps are where outfitters put folks who don't pay the guide fees, and thus, the area isn't as good as the base camp area.  Generally, this is patently false.  First, any outfitter worth his salt wants his clients to put elk on the ground.  Secondly, base camps are put in where the is room for livestock, water, available firewood, and room for all the gear, tents etc.  Finally, this is the age of the internet, if an outfitter puts his clients where there is no elk, the whole cyber-world is going to know.  Always check references.


Hope this helps.  I thought of you Jim when I wrote it:)




Ca_Vermonster's picture
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Location: San Diego, CA
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Posts: 5813
That is great information.

That is great information. Thanks a bunch!!!

GooseHunter Jr's picture
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Location: Colorado
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There is alot of great

There is alot of great usefull information there.  Thanks for taking the time to put it all togther in one post.

jim boyd's picture
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Joined: 07/06/2010
Posts: 889
Two Bear - I do genuinely

Two Bear -

I do genuinely appreciate it and you have done a FABULOUS job... that is a great service not only to me but to all of the newbies that need help and guidance - as I clearly do.

I think this should be made into a "Sticky" so that it stays at the top (Moderators - can you help please???)

This is information straight from the mouth of someone that knows EXACTLY what they are talking about.

I have often wondered if the drop camps were in the less productive areas so the guide could say "see, I told you that you should have taken a guided hunt" but your reasoning is incredibly persuasive....

Put in bad areas, you have customers that do what dissatisfied customers always do... they go away and they may not go quietly - and in this cyber age - a poor or bad report can carry a lot of weight whether it is fact based or not... that is definitely one sad thing about the "instant" information flow that we have these days.

I promise you I am listening... and trying to reel it all in.

I can give you one analogy - I started as a blue water angler many years ago with no help or advice and while I eventually became fairly successful - the learning curve would have been a lot shorter had I taken some professional help.

I am 53 and do not have an unlimited number of hunting years left in me... so I need to shorten the elk and mule deer curve a great deal.

Thank you for your constant input and wisdom... not only do I benefit from it but so do all the other readers on BGH.

Your sage advice spreads further than you likely realize.



jaybe's picture
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Location: S.E. Michigan
Joined: 10/19/2010
Posts: 832
Thanks, TwoBear

That was perhaps the most informative and helpful read on this subject I have ever seen - and I have been reading outdoor magazines and such for a long time.

I'll have to be sure to bump your arrow up on that post.  Thumbs up

Just for a little further clarification, I have heard a lot about "Spike Camp".

I was expecting you to say that on a Lodge Hunt, a hunter(s) might go out from the lodge or base camp for a few days and hunt from a spike camp.

Is that ever done, or is the spike camp basically the same as a drop camp?

Thanks again for the great read.


Topgun 30-06's picture
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Location: Allegan, MI
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A spike camp isn't a drop

A spike camp isn't a drop camp like he was talking about.  It's exactly as you mentioned where you go into a base camp and then go further into the bush by foot or horseback, then set up a small camp with a tent or individual shelters, etc, and enough food/water to get you by until you go back to the base camp or someone from there brings more stuff in to your spike camp.

TwoBear's picture
Joined: 12/13/2010
Posts: 43
Topgun pretty much nailed it.

Topgun pretty much nailed it. Some outfitters don't even have  a base camp, they run all "spike camps" scattered throughout their area.  Guides may even guide out of a spike camp.  It is confusing because "drop camp" is a term used to describe a hunt type, that is being "dropped off" and being out on your own, however, it is also a camp type, hence the confusion.  Spike camp simply means it is not a base camp w/ cook etc. 

So you can do a drop camp hunt, or guided hunt out of a spike camp, make sense? 

Traditionally, if I had a hunter who was on a big bull but we could never get position, we may take off from base camp and stay overnight in an area to get out in front of the bull in the morn, that would be a spike camp. 

groovy mike's picture
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Joined: 03/19/2009
Posts: 2544

Thanks for the overview!

Outfitters do indeed vary slightly - and more than slightly too.  It is amazing that two outfitters can have the same fees for a given hunt.  one outfitter does a fantastic job and is worth twice the money.  The other may barely show up, be surly, and not be worth half of what he is charging!

Definitely do you research and check refernces - do all you can to check out your prospective outfitter and his camp so that you don't regret gambling your hunt on his word or advertisement!

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