When I pick a guide I'm going to hunt with, I'm won’t tell him I'm an elk guide. I will expect him to deliver whatever he’s promised me when I’ve talked to him on the phone. I'll expect to:
- see the type of hunting area he's promised;
- have the help provided that’s been promised;
- have the guide do all the calling;
- see elk, because the guide’s responsibility is to get you to elk. He already should have found the elk and have them located before you arrive at camp. If I’m not seeing elk on the first morning of the hunt, I’ll believe something is wrong; and
- have a decent place to stay and good food, if my package includes food and lodging.
Elk hunting is usually a long day. You rise before daylight, and you may not get back into camp until 10:00 or 11:00 pm at night. So, having a hot meal and the possibility of taking a shower before you go to bed are amenities that can help a hunter recover after each day’s hunt. Sleep is in short order on an elk hunt. You want the sleep that you do get to be as comfortable as possible. Depending on what type hunt you go on, elk hunting can be work. You’ll either be riding or hiking. So, good food is a critical part of a good elk hunt.
If I have a successful hunt, I'll expect the guide to help me field dress, quarter and get that animal back to camp. If I'm going on an early-season elk hunt, which may be in September, the weather will be warm. I’ll expect my guide or outfitter to help me get my meat cooled down or under refrigeration fairly quickly after I've harvested a bull. The guide or the outfitter is probably not going to process your meat for you, but he more than likely has a butcher that he works with who can process your meat after you’ve tagged your elk.
Elk meat is much like deer meat in that it tastes best if it’s aged. If you're on a 7-day elk hunt and take your elk on the 5th day, that’s not enough time to hang that elk meat for 3-10 days, and let it age and then butcher it. So, you need to be prepared to transport that meat in your vehicle using an ice chest and ice until you can get it to your home butcher. Or, leave the meat, have the butcher age it and process it, and then either:
- drive back, and pick up your meat after the hunt;
- have the meat shipped home to you (which can be pretty expensive); or
- donate the meat to a local food bank.
The guide should be prepared to tell you and/or help you decide what you want to do with your elk meat after you’ve had a successful hunt.
The Price of an Elk Hunt - What Should a Hunter Expect to Pay for an Elk Hunt?
Whether you're hunting with a bow or a rifle, on an average elk hunt out West, you're looking at $5,000 for a week-long hunt. I prefer to go on an archery hunt for elk. In most western states, the archery season is at the same time as the bugling season. Hearing those big bulls bugle, chuckle and growl is what really makes the hunt for me personally. That $5,000 price tag should provide everything you need for your week of hunting. If you're willing to pay more than $5,000, you'll have better ground to hunt and increase your odds for seeing a bigger bull. You may not only enjoy better hunting but also a better place to stay and better food.
The hunts that cost more than $5,000 are private-land hunting, rather than U.S. National Forest land hunting. That hunt probably will cost you around $7,500. Then for a high-quality elk hunt, more than likely, you'll have to buy a tag for a private-landowner hunt. Those hunts can cost from $12,000 to $20,000. Many of those landowner tags allow you access to the land but don’t necessarily include a guide. So, if you get a landowner tag, I suggest you hire a guide. Most landowner tags are bought through a guiding outfit anyway. Then, the guide sells a lock-and-key type hunt where they’ll guide you on that private land. Those hunts that sell from $12,000 to $20,000 are the best option to take a quality bull.
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.