If I'm choosing a guide or an outfitter and going to a place I've never hunted before, I want to talk to the guide before I arrive to hunt. One of the biggest problems in selecting the best guide for you is putting a man who is 60 years old or older with a guide who is a top-of-the-mountain kind of guide. On our hunts, we send out questionnaires with our contracts. On the questionnaire, we ask the hunter about his or her physical condition. Some hunters aren’t completely honest in filling out the physical-condition form. We don’t want to put an older hunter with an athletic guide who wants to reach the top of the mountain to hunt. Hunters are hunters. They're not necessarily athletes. Each hunt needs to be tailored to the type of terrain that the hunter is physically able to negotiate. Elk hunting doesn’t have to be a body-building sport.
I have guided hunters who’ve said they’ve been running stadium steps, climbing ropes and pushing weights. They’ve said that they’re in tip-top condition, and I'm sure all that is true. However, when we’re hunting at 7,000 to 12,000 feet, physical conditioning helps, but it doesn’t solve the problem of hunting at high altitudes.
To get ready for an elk hunt, you need to start more than 2 months before the hunt doing plenty of cardio workouts. However, fitness for an elk hunt is not only a 2-month training program. If you want to be in the best shape you can be in, fitness has to be a lifestyle. You have to start getting in shape 6-9 months before the hunt. I say all this to say that if I’m booking a hunt for myself, I’ll be extremely honest with my elk guide. I’ll tell him what I’ve done to prepare for the hunt. I’ll give him a full list of any physical or emotional problems I have, and I’ll be extremely honest about what I think I can and can’t do during the hunt.
For instance, if a man tells me, “I'm 75-years old. I've been walking every day, but I don’t think I can run up to the top of a mountain.” The right hunt for this hunter may be a Colorado elk hunt where the hunter will sit over a watering hole or a wallow or in either a tree stand or a ground blind. Or, we may take this hunter to a spot where we know the elk are bugling and say, “Let’s take a short walk, and see if we can call one of these elk into gun or bow range.” You can expect the guide to go slowly or an ATV, take his time and not expect you to climb any high terrain. Or, I may arrange a horseback hunt where an older fellow can ride a horse or an ATV into the area we want to hunt, instead of his hiking. There are ways to get hunters to the elk without having to climb a mountain. I’d want my hunt to be tailor-made for me and my physical condition. Before I went on the hunt, I’d want the guide to know all he could about me and my physical abilities. If I were an older hunter, I’d want to know how I was going to get to an elk. Would I be walking, climbing, riding a horse or riding on an ATV?
Most gun hunts are much easier than a bow hunt, because the guide doesn’t have to try and get the hunter as close to the bull as he does an archery hunter. A gun hunt may start off at about $1,000 more than an archery hunt. You can expect those hunts to be about $6,000 or more. The gun hunts will be later in the year. You'll have cooler weather for the hunters who don’t want to climb steep hills in higher temperatures, and you'll spend a lot of time glassing. There may be some long-range shooting, but you still can get into some horseback hunts, and some truck or ATV hunts.
Another big advantage of a horseback hunt is that most of the time, you can lead the horses into a spot where you’ve downed an elk, load the horses with the meat and ride back to camp. Even if you have to make two or more trips getting the meat out on horseback instead of a hunter’s back, this usually results in a much-more comfortable hunt. For the older fellow who wants to take an elk, I say that paying the extra money to go on a horseback hunt rather than hiking in to elk country is well worth the cost. For that type of hunter, I recommend a private-land hunt where you'll stay at a ranch that has elk living on the property or migrating into the property. You want your elk hunt to be a fun hunt. You don’t want it to be an endurance contest between you and your guide, or you and your body.
I've been with some hunters who hunt elk strictly for the meat. If you only want to take a cow elk, you only may have to pay $1,000 to $1,500, but those cow elk hunts are often an add-on to a mule deer hunt. Some ranchers have so many cow elk on their ranched that they’ll offer a 3-day hunt for $1,500. However, the hunter usually gets his cow elk on the first day. Quite a few ranches do cow-specific hunts. If I’m looking to just collect elk meat, this is the type hunt I’ll book.
To learn more about how to pick an outfitter or to hunt with Mossy Oak Pro Parrey Cremeans and the guides he knows, you can go to the www.justforhunting.com website, or call 650-888-0808.