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Preparing for a first elk hunt

Discussion in 'Hunting' started by 95XL883, Jul 14, 2017.

  1. 95XL883

    95XL883 Member

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    Well, I thought I was going on my first elk hunt next year. A nephew has access to 1,500 private acres in northeast New Mexico, somewhere near Brazos Peak. We had discussed me going next year when he would have a cow tag available. I had a high stress job and let my physical condition really go to pot. A few months ago, I weighed 280+ and 1.5 miles was all I could walk in a day. Thinking I had plenty of time, I had already started prepping by upping my walking substantially. I'm now up to 5 miles a day with some sporadic days of up to 8 miles. The plan was to get to 8 miles a day, get my weight down to 200 lbs and maybe add some light weightlifting or stair climbing. Regarding a firearm, my nephew had told me that my 30-30 would be enough gun, a little short but it would be enough. I shoot the Hornaday LeverRevolution ammo and can reliably make 200 yard shots on deer. I thought I had plenty of time to figure out if my old Mauser could be scoped and made to work.

    As you can probably guess, plans took a substantial change this week. One of this year's bull tag holders backed out. My nephew offered it to me and I committed. The second week of October this year, I'll be spending 5 and a half to 6 days in a 10,000 foot elevation base camp. The cabin is off-grid but does have solar power for lighting. Wood stove for heat. We have to truck in water. We'll return to the cabin each night for sleeping, I think. (I need to confirm that.) They have been hunting this ground for at least 10 years. My nephew claims a 90% success rate and judging from his pictures he isn't exaggerating.

    So pressure is now on. I'm really excited and looking forward to this but I now have only three months to prep. My biggest concern is conditioning. I haven't weighed myself in several weeks but the last time I did, I was down to 259.5 lbs. I don't think I can make 200 in three months but I'll feel pretty good if I'm walking 8 miles a day with three time a week weightlifting and stair climbing by then. My next biggest concern is my rifle. I love my 30-30 and shoot well with it but realistically it is barely enough gun. With the LeverRolution ammo, 200 yards is the longest shot I think it is capable of. I am basing that off the Hornaday claims of 1,300 ft lbs of force at 200 yards. The third biggest concern is footwear. I'm due for a new pair of boots this year. My current boots will do in dry weather but snow or rain means wet feet in them.

    So, the immediate pressure is to begin upping the walking distance and adding the weightlifting and stair climbing. (I already have equipment for both and years ago was in very good shape.) I will get this done.

    The rifle is my next immediate concern. I'll be practicing weekly with my 30-30. I'll start with stationary practice and in a couple of weeks start tromping over my ground with targets at 200 yds so I can practice shooting while tired from hiking. I'm sure it won't be like the hunt but it will be better than nothing. And if all I have is my 30-30, I'll be ready to use it to the best of my ability.

    So, any recommendations on scoping my old Mauser. It has been highly sportsterized (I don't have the original wood.) so I won't mind having it drilled and tapped. I'm open to a scout scope, especially if I can save the time of having it at a gunsmith for drilling and tapping. It is in 6.5x55 caliber. The tables I've seen have been claiming 1,200 foot lbs or more at 500 yards which is at least 100 more yards than I would be willing to try. My nephew says most of the shots are in the 100 to 300 yard range so if I can cover that 300 yard mark I'll feel adequately armed. A third option would be to borrow another nephew's 7mm Mag. I'm waiting to hear on that but I would prefer to carry my own rifle. But if all I've got is my 30-30, I'll make do.

    I'll be picking up a good pair of boots in a couple of weeks so I can have them completely broken in before the hunt.

    Obviously there are other things that I need to prep, clothing, camp gear, etc. but for right now I need to work on the first three. Thanks for any help you can give me.
     
  2. MutinousDoug

    MutinousDoug Member

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    If I were you I would concentrate on getting in shape and breaking in those new boots. In less than a year, you don't really have time now to optimise a new caliber/gun.

    Your 30-30 wil kill an elk at 100-200 yards, broadside easily. A frontal or backside killing shot on a wounded animal at that range is iffy unless you can call your shots though.

    Accept the limitations of the gun you have confidence in now and work on getting used to life a 10k.
     
  3. jmr40

    jmr40 Member

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    Tough call. In a different rifle I'd take the 6.5X55 with good bullets every time over a 30-30. But in this case, between the 2 I'd stick with the gun you're more familiar with. Energy numbers can be useful, they can also be misleading. The general rule of thumb for most modern cartridges is about 1500 ft lbs of energy at impact to cleanly take an elk or 1000 ft lbs for deer. Your 30-30 might well be a 200 yard deer rifle, but is probably closer to a 100 yard elk rifle.

    Of course the real key is to have a bullet that will penetrate deep enough to hit vital organs. The energy numbers CAN be fairly accurate in predicting that, but there are other factors to consider. It takes a tough bullet. Some bullets are designed for deer and expand more rapidly and wouldn't get deep enough on a larger animal like elk. I simply don't know what those rubber tipped bullets are designed for, but I suspect with deer in mind rather than elk. A 170 gr conventional bullet might be a better option. They do have a reputation for good penetration that exceeds the paper predictions.

    With 3 months to go it isn't too late to consider another rifle. There are several options by Ruger, Savage and others that can be bought for under $400, or you could borrow one. The 7 mag option is a valid option. You don't really need a magnum cartridge, but the 7 mag is pretty mild mannered. Recoil is almost identical to 30-06. I'd do one of those rather than spending money to modify the old military rifle. A rifle in 308, 7-08, or 6.5 Creedmoor will have recoil simlar to the 30-30 but with much better downrange performance. Stepping up to 30-06 or 270 and you're as big as you need to go.

    Congratulations on the weight loss and the opportunity you have. Don't get too caught up on equipment. The 30-30 will work, it will just limit your range. It wouldn't be my 1st choice, but I sure wouldn't stay home if that were what I had. Even the guys who hunt with magnum cartridges capable of 700 yard shots end up taking the shot at under 200 yards more often than not. If you have to pass on shots out of range you are still getting an opportunity few get to enjoy.

    Boots are a personal thing. But I've found that boots sold and marketed as hiking boots work better than those sold as hunting boots. This is what I've been using for the last few years. This exact boot may not be best for you,but I'd look for something similar.

    https://www.rei.com/product/881783/salomon-quest-4d-ii-gtx-hiking-boots-mens
     
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  4. david58

    david58 Member

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    You'll be in some big, high country. You won't likely be out here long enough to get used to the altitude, so ANYTHING you can do to get in aerobic shape is going to be of benefit. I am not much of one for hunting with long-range cannons, so I won't ever recommend the .338 or some other big rifle - 30-06 is fine by me, I will use a 308 this fall, my wife a 7mm-08. So the 7mm mag should be a good rifle for the job. Some really like the 6.5, I am not familiar with it. As to scope, I am a minimalist there - 3x9 is pretty good for me, higher mag means I can see my heartbeat and it looks all to wiggly out there a ways, but in the 3-9 and I get along (being an iron sight, muzzleloader shooter for decades, I am still not a scope expert).
    For me, the biggest issue is fitness. If I can cover the miles, I increase my odds tremendously. Last season, I was only a bit out of a mild heart attack, and my wife had finished chemo 2 days before we went to camp. We had a good time, hunted our butts off, saw elk (well, my wife did), and we set our sights on this year and being in better shape. Good boots, dry socks, and lots of walking. Lots.
     
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  5. RPRNY

    RPRNY Member

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    Are you timber hunting down there? I'm not familiar with the area. If you're mainly in woods and valleys, 30-30 and the Leverevolution 160 will be fine for broadside shots up to 200 yards. If it's open country or you'll be hunting above the treeline, I would get a new rifle. I have no experience with the Ruger American rifle but it gets good reviews from real people, not just the gun rags. The T/C Venture is another sure bet. And Savage makes some the ugliest, most accurate rifles going. You should be able to find a package with a Nikon or other decent scope in the $500-$550 range.

    My view is go big enough. I like 30 cal 180s. A 308 can get you there but the 30-06 will get you there 150+ fps faster. Of course the 30-06 will weigh as much as several ounces more. And that extra almost 1/2" of bolt throw could just ruin your hunt...

    First elk hunt is a big deal. You're working your butt off, quite literally, to get in shape. No matter what, you're going to spend some money. If you're going to hunt open country where 300 yard shots are likely, get a rifle that's going to help your confidence. Whether 308 or 30-06, no fancy ammo is required with heavies. Cup and core bullets like Remington Core-Lokts will do you fine. Try to get some practice in at 300 yards so you feel good about it.

    Good luck with your conditioning and remember to drink a LOT of water and go easy on the booze. You'll have a great time. Happy hunting!
     
  6. 95XL883

    95XL883 Member

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    Thanks guys. It is good to hear that fitness is my main concern. To that end, I got in 5.9 miles today and did my first weightlifting in several years. (My weightlifting is more conditioning than strength training. I do relatively low weight, 100 lbs on bench press, 55 on curls and military presses, sets of 15 with no or minimal resting between sets. It's an add to the walking.)

    MD and JMR, I think you are right on the old Mauser. I love the gun. It is a soft shooter but there just isn't time to get it sorted. The gunsmith I like has an 8 week back log right now.

    JMR, thanks for the encouraging me to look at lower end rifles. One of those might be a nice addition, if borrowing the 7mm Mag doesn't pan out. Have those Salomon Quest hikers really been waterproof for you? Wet feet will be a big concern.

    Condition, condition, condition. I will get this done.
     
  7. david58

    david58 Member

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    Boots - it is rocky country and twisted ankles can happen. I went retro after this last hunt - Danner boots, all leather, 10" tall. Not as light as my Vasque hikers, but more secure. Lots of things to watch, and I tend to sometimes not watch every single step if I am putting the sneak on a deer or elk.
     
  8. FL-NC

    FL-NC Member

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    Get your boots broke in REAL good. If you can, walk on ACTUAL stairs. Yes, the machine works- but real stairs with your pack are more realistic. Maybe there's a high school stadium or something like that you can use. You probably won't be able to carry your gun walking stairs, but you could carry a 2x4 or even a piece of steel stock.
     
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  9. ZeroJunk

    ZeroJunk Member

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    If you try to lose 60 pounds between now and October it may make you weak. I would concentrate on getting your legs and stamina strong and let your weight go wherever it goes. I have seen some big men that could get around.
     
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  10. Klint Beastwood

    Klint Beastwood Member

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    Start rucking with a pack and some weight. Full up some water jugs and throw them in, and do like a mile and work your way up and add more weight. It will help condition the body faster but slowly work your way up, it doesn't help if you hurt yourself
     
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  11. Robert

    Robert Moderator Staff Member

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    Boots:
    Dry or light wet weather- I wear Danner Mountain Light hiking boots. A bit heavy but they are all leather, Gor-Tex and solid.
    Heavy wet or snowy weather- Schnee Hunter II 13". There is no better pack boot on the market. They are not cheap, but they are not cheap.

    As far as a rifles go, I am a big fan of the Winchester Model 70 and you can't go wrong with a 30-06.

    There is a thread at the top of the Hunting forum dedicated to gear for hunting in the mountains. It is well worth a read.
     
  12. Mr. Hill

    Mr. Hill Member

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    Get a map and check Google maps for your hunting area. Your cousin already knows some good spots, so you have that advantage, and you can both review those maps before the hunt. See if you can get down there a day or two before opening and do some scouting of areas your cousin knows. That'll (hopefully) cut down on the tromping around you'll have to do. Find a good spot and still-hunt it hard the first day.

    Use a bonded bullet made for elk in the rifle you're most familiar and accurate with. If that's the lever action, then so be it.
     
  13. 95XL883

    95XL883 Member

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    Thanks again guys. I do appreciate the suggestions and support. Yesterday's weigh in shows me down another 3 lbs. There is no way I'll make 200 by the hunt but 225 might be doable. To that end conditioning, conditioning, conditioning. I got in 6.5+ miles yesterday. Three of those were on some vacant ground, weeding and spraying weeds. It doesn't sound like much 3 miles of bending, stooping, pulling, chopping and watching to be sure I wasn't about to step on a copperhead in 90+ degrees had me drenched and exhausted. I'm just short of 6 miles for today.

    FL, thanks for the stadium suggestion. I realized earlier today that there is a pretty good hill and trail next to the archery range. I'm going to check that out this week, hopefully tomorrow. I'm hoping it is at least a 100' descent/ascent. I hadn't thought of the stadium. I think one of the local high school stadiums is unlocked. I'll check that out as well. First couple of times I'll just hike it and then start adding the back pack and weight.

    David, Robert, thanks for the specific boot suggestions. I'll definitely check out the Danners. I've read the elk hunting gear thread several times, dreaming of the day I might get to go. Looks like that day is fast approaching so it is time to prep and not dream.

    Mr. Hill, thanks for the suggestion. I've already tried to locate the area on google maps but I'm not certain yet. My nephew is trying to send me a pinned map with the 1,500 acres marked on it. If I read the the NM hunting regs right, we are going close to the end of their season. My nephew says this has worked well in the past as most people hunt lower and pressure the elk to where we'll be at. This is going to be fun. I will take lots of pictures.

    Thanks again, all.
     
  14. T.R.

    T.R. Member

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    I advise you to train yourself to fire two quick shots from makeshift field positions. Due to moderate recoil and a quick lever action, this training can be accomplished in a fairly short time. Two quick shots into the chest organs will down any elk that ever walked assuming shooting is within reasonable distances.

    Good hunting to you.
    TR
     
  15. Robert

    Robert Moderator Staff Member

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    Something I do to practice follow up shots is simple dry firing focusing on running the bolt as fast, and fully, as I can while coming back to the target. I do this in the basement and it has paid off. I can put three rounds of 375 H&H on target in rapid, accurate, succession.

    Be warned the Danner boots are not cheap, like $385 last I looked, and they take some breaking in but I LOVE mine.
    http://www.danner.com/men/hike/mtn-light.html

    The Schnees run about $320 or so. The 13" are perfect, and get a second set of liners so you always have a dry pair to wear.
    http://www.schnees.com/product/SCHNEES-Hunter-II-pac-boots/Schnees-Pac-Boots

    I have bad knees and feet so solid boots are a must for me. Not cheap, but well worth it.
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2017 at 11:16 AM
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  16. Mr. Hill

    Mr. Hill Member

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    Sorry about that, don't know how I mixed up cousin for nephew.

    If you can get there a little before opening and walk the areas your nephew knows to be good, you'll be a lot more familiar and comfortable on opening day. 1500 acres is a lot of acreage. And you won't be a "walker", which is what I started calling hunters who had obviously rolled in the night before, had no idea where they were or where the elk were, and resort to wandering around and occasionally glassing for nothing. They'll tromp right through the middle of a meadow, stop in the middle, use the binoculars (???) and then continue randomly tromping around, hoping to run into a deaf, blind elk without a nose. They do occasionally serve the purpose of driving animals into your area, though.

    To an extent you'll just roll with whatever your nephew wants to do because you're his guest and he can teach you a lot.
     
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  17. RPRNY

    RPRNY Member

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    Tremendous! Love the "Walker" terminology.

    As you note, they are a many edged sword. They do of course provide comic relief if spotted during a period of tedium. They scare the heck out of me when it comes to shot time - is there a "walker" lurking around in the shot corridor? While they can drive off animals that you were otherwise well situated for, they do sometimes move them in your direction. I think they may also lull the elk into a false sense of security "Hey, Fred, look down there. There's one of those humans clomping around like a freight train looking for us. They're sooo stupid. Wanna go over the north meadow and get a bite?"
     
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  18. 95XL883

    95XL883 Member

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    Just spent my first $$ on the hunt. Ordered a pair of Schnee's Hunter II Pac 13" boots with an extra liner and some Seam Grip. My current boots are okay when it's dry (I started feeling the moisture leaking in during last season's whitetail hunting.) Wet feet when I'm a 1/4 mile from my truck in eastern KS is one thing. Wet feet at 10,000 feet and maybe several miles from the cabin is another. I'm going to enjoy this hunt and not worry about my feet. The boots should be here Friday so I'll have plenty of time to break them in.

    Robert, thanks for the encouragement on these boots. Like you I have a bad ankle so good footwear is very important. One thing that has really helped my ankle is hyaluronic acid. It is a naturally occurring substance in the body that is a joint lubricant. I couldn't find any definitive research on it, just anecedotal reports. The first mention I saw on it was in another thread here on The High Road. This hunt would be extremely difficult for me without the HA. I would be swallowing a fair amount of anti-inflammatories (ibuprofen, naproxen, etc). I still have some pain but is minimal. On my rural ground I was always using a walking stick before the HA. About a week after starting it, I found myself a 1/4 mile from my truck without my walking stick. I never even thought about it until I realized I was in the deer blind without it. I only use the walking stick now in the neighborhood to keep the occasional off-leash dog away and alert the occasional skunk that there is a person coming. I have been using the NOW brand, just HA, not glucosimine or other additives. It's about 10 cents a pill. I take two a day, one in the morning and one at night. Hope this helps. And thanks again for the boot advice.
     
  19. 95XL883

    95XL883 Member

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    Mr. Hill, thanks for the advice. We have a long travel day arriving late on the 7th staying in a hotel. Next morning we head to the cabin and spend the day acclimating, learning the property and relaxing. As soon as I learn where the property is, I'll definitely be studying the maps.

    Am I correct that elk are like whitetail in that you don't want to be in the open. I've only been hunting a few years but I've learned, and have a definite preference for traveling the edge of forest around openings. If possible, I like being a few feet in the woods. The less chance of being seen and spooking deer. Are elk likewise skittish at the sight of humans? Am I correct that they also have a keen sense of smell so hunting with the wind is highly advisable?
     
  20. 95XL883

    95XL883 Member

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    Walkers??!! Great, the zombie apocalypse comes to hunting. :rofl: On a serious note, I hope there are no walkers that wander onto our ground. My nephew is 6'4", 240 lbs of big, pony-tailed Irish boy. I've never seen it but heard that if those eyes stop smiling you don't want them focused on you. He apparently has a way of making people take him seriously if he tells them they are trespassing.

    I hear you on the shot selection. I've only got 40 acres to hunt whitetail on but am very careful that any bullet I launch stays on my property. My neighbors know that and know that I expect the same of them. I don't want any hunt ruined by a shot coming anywhere near another human being, livestock or pet. I've not had a problem yet and won't make a problem for someone else. Okay, rant mode off. This is going to be a fun hunt. I hope everyone has a great hunting season this fall.
     
  21. Robert

    Robert Moderator Staff Member

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    Do you have a decent day pack? I carry my rain gear, extra food, dry socks and other odds and ends in my day pack as well as a 100oz water bladder. I highly recommend Osprey packs. While they are not hunting specific they are very well made packs. Trekking poles can make all the difference in the world as far as moving in rugged terrain is concerned. Get the clamp lock, not the twist lock kind if you can. Twist locks tend to wear out and collapse at the worst times.

    H&Hhunter taught me the mountaineering rest step and it is the best thing for going up steep, rugged ground. Take a step, rest. Take another step, rest. I can cover a lot of steep ground using this once I get my pace set. I'm not an athlete by any means. I'm 38, 5'9 225 lbs and have asthma. The biggest thing about hunting the high country is move at YOUR pace.
     
  22. 95XL883

    95XL883 Member

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    No, I don't have a decent day pack. I'll look at the Osprey packs. Thanks for the suggestion.

    I like the idea of trekking poles, especially as the terrain becomes more challenging or the fatigue factor creeps in as the day wears on. Can trekking poles double as a standing shooting rest? I started using an old camera tripod as a shooting rest last season. I used that as a trekking pole/walking stick but it wasn't particularly strong. I'm not sure how well it would hold on an elk hunt.

    Thanks for the mountaineering rest step suggestion. I'll be sure to use it. Seems like a version of still hunting or that it would be easier to incorporate some still hunting with it.

    PS. Just shy of 6 miles walking/hiking yesterday. I tried a local park that held some potential for steeper walking but the paths really toned down the incline. I would have loved to have walked the dam face but there were signs and barricades telling people to stay off.. I did find a local high school stadium that is open to the public so I'll start climbing those bleachers tomorrow.
     
  23. harrygunner

    harrygunner Member

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    Once you're there, I suggest you don't press over what your body is telling you. Whatever walking distance you're up to before you arrive, will be reduced at 10,000 feet altitude.

    Elk are beautiful animals. I live in a place where one must occasionally stop for them crossing the road.

    Hope you have a great hunt.
     
  24. Don McDowell

    Don McDowell Member

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    Elk having amazing eyesight and sense of smell, so hunting into the wind is good, if possible, staying as invisible as possible. They can either be super spooky or have the patience of jobe. Hunt slow and keep your eyes peeled ahead.
    Don't over dress, getting soaked with sweat is one sure way to have a miserable hunt, not to mention sending your scent into the next county. Best to dress in layers, and carry a dry pair of socks.
    Keep an ear on the weather forecast, that early in October is usually fairly nice, but can turn miserable in a matter of moments.
    Your rifle will do fine.
    Have fun.
     
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  25. Kingcreek

    Kingcreek Member

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    Now that you have the boots, get good socks. If you can, vacume seal a couple pairs to carry in your day pack. Get a good pack and make sure you can carry and focus on water. Dehydration is killer when humping at that altitude.
    First aid basics including a couple bandanas (multiple uses). and carry an unopened tube of superglue! (saved my hunt more than once) and also a strip of gorilla tape.
    If you can, add swimming to your exercise routine. it will help when you try to breath the air that isn't there.
     
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