Three Tips to Make Your Elk Hunting Hike Easier

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I just got back from my elk trip to Colorado and must say that I learned quite a bit about hiking in that one trip.  I researched all I could on the internet and thought I was prepared going out.  For the most part I was but I want to pass on a few major things I learned that helped me drastically!

1. Pack light.  I know this may sound like common sense but believe me.  After reading everyone's advice on what you need to pack, chances are your pack will end up weighing more than you do until you get out there.  I ended up calling it a safety anchor when I picked up my buddies pack.  He asked me what I meant so I said..."well, all that gear IS keeping you safe.  It's like an anchor you're carrying on your back so you can't get far enough away from camp to get in trouble in the first place"!

2. Control your breathing.  It's amazing how this can help you walk further and feel better when you arrive.  From the time I leave the truck until I get back I take full breaths timed in sych with my walking.  For me it works best to take one deep breath in over two steps and exhale one full breath over the next two steps.  Once I get in this rythm I can keep my blood oxygenated and walk much further than if I just pant randomly like I used to do.

3. Carry a walking/shooting stick.  I never carried one prior to my colorado hunt as I never had much need to.  Believe me, it saved my hide many times while out there.  Not only did it provide a steady rest to shoot from but it also saved my gun.  On more than one occassion I would have hit the dirt and more than likely banged my rifle had I not had the stick to catch me.  When you're that far back in with only one rifle in your hand, anything that can protect you and it is definitely worth having.


BikerRN's picture

3 Great Tips

I find that the further I plan to hike the less I take although my need for some items that I leave behind may be greater than if closer to camp, the truck, or home. For me it's about comfort and part of that comfort comes from "packing light". The heaviest thing I carry is water. I can go hungry but thirst will kill you faster than hunger in my desert environment.

Hiking/Shooting sticks are worth their weight in gold, and then some, as far as I'm concerned. It sounds like you had a very educational hunt. I love learning something new every time I go out even if it's just a reinforcement of lessons already learned.


Retired2hunt's picture

Well Heeded Advice!


Obviously very good tips... well maybe not so obviously because I had to learn two of these the hard way! 

My first year hunting here in Colorado I learned the hard way for the weight within my pack.  After 2.5 miles into the hunt I quickly realized that the "must haves" in my pack were not needed along with the extra poundage.  Second time out I was at a much higher elevation and needed to get even higher - that "flexibility" thing... and quickly had to control my breathing so as to not exhaust myself.

I'm still working on the third tip though.  I guess next weekend when I am out for 1st rifle season I will learn that one the hard way!

Anyhow - great tips and thanks for sharing them!


arrowflipper's picture

Wonderful advice

Thanks for the sound advice..... but like you said, it's often easier to talk about it than do it.  For some reason, we tend to add just one more thing to our pack... and than another, and another.  Things we "know" we'll NEED.  I have gone to the mountains with at least twice as much as I really needed.  I have to force myself to take things out and leave them behind.

I really learned that lesson on my goat hunt.  We walked close to six miles a day and 3/4 of that was straight up or straight down.  I only took that portable stove and frying pan and coffee pot and extra goodies the first day.  But rather than leave them at home, we stashed them high on the mountain beside a trail we knew we'd be using every day.  We stopped there and had our hot coffee and some hot food each day.  On the day we carried my goat out, we went back and got all that stuff too.

I am just now learning to carry my shooting sticks.  I have carried them in the most compact position but since getting on this site, I have learned to open them up and use them as my walking sticks.

Great advice.  Leave all the extraneous "stuff" at home, or at least in the car.  You'll come home in a lot better condition than you did with it.  Now if I take anything that is heavy, it's more water.  I have found that when I do a lot of hiking, I need a lot of water.  And by the middle of the day, you've gotten rid of most of that extra weight.

hunter25's picture

Great advice about pack

Great advice about pack weight. I think most of us out here have made the progression to what it really take sto put a proper pack together. If there is room we want to keep filling it. But there are really very few items we need after all is said and done.

As far as a walking stick goes I have gotten pretty used to carrying a set of sturdy shooting sticks that fold open for a solid shot.

I don't think I would carry a spotting scope back in with me on a normal deer hunt as I find a good pair of binoculars has always been enough. I do use one a lot but usually when scouting and I will not be carrying meat out on the way back, or from my truck when spotting distant hill sides or into ling canyons.

ecubackpacker's picture

Good advice to heed. LOL

Good advice to heed. LOL about the safety anchor.
You're right, a light pack is the way to go. I did the same thing CVC did on his hunt. The second day I was discarding useless items. It's best to scrutinize all the items you put in your pack. Try to find multiple uses for the items you pack. Another thing I did was replace heavier items with more compact lighter items.
Controlling your is a great point to raise. I've always done it because of training but it's a good point for the beginner to follow.
The shooting/walking stick always goes with me, not only on wilderness hunts but I carry it around when hunting in NC.
Thanks for posting.

CVC's picture

"1. Pack light.  I know this

"1. Pack light.  I know this may sound like common sense but believe me.  After reading everyone's advice on what you need to pack, chances are your pack will end up weighing more than you do until you get out there. "

This is the single best piece of advice that anyone can heed.  I knew to pack light for my mountain goat hunt, but it wasn't until I actually started humping up the mountains that I fully understood the meaning of pack light.

After the first day, i was going through my pack and deciding what i really need and what I didn't need.  GPS - nope don't need it.  Two knifes?  I can leave one back.  And so on.

Just a pound makes a difference in how hard it is to climb the mountain.  Apparently it is something that one has to learn by experience.  I always thought it was silly to worry about whether the rifle weighed six pounds or eight pounds - really i thought, but now I understand why.

You're right about the breathing and I found that pace was important.  I needed to go at a pace where I was covering ground but not where I would get winded.  I could keep going if I maintained a steady pace as opposed to a too fast past where I would have to stop and catch my breath thus making me slower. 

Critter done's picture

Thanks for Sharing.

Thanks for sharing your experience, I'm wanting to go out to Colorado and hunt elk but all the stories a guy hears it just scares the heck out of a guy. This will help out a bunch and let me know what to expect.

Awesome tip!!

GooseHunter Jr's picture

Great tips and with the

Great tips and with the country up there you always wanna be ready fir all kinds of terrain.  I will add one....take plenty of breaks as to tire yourself to early in the hunt.

jaybe's picture

Great Advice!

I have a buddy who has hunted Mule Deer in Wyoming numerous times and all he uses is his 6-pocket pants and a light vest that doubles as a blaze orange garment and a back pack.

It has a game pouch in the back where he carries his lunch and extra water bottle.

Aside from bino's around his neck, all he has to carry is his rifle.

I am already thinking of toting a spotting scope along when I go with him next fall, so that will add an extra couple of pounds

But I'm thinking that if I have extendable legs on it, I can use it as a walking stick at times and it will also work for a shooting stick.

Since we will be "day hunting" out of our 5th wheel campers, a large pack with all our gear won't be an issue.

Good advice on keeping it light as possible.