High Mountain Elk Backpacking

madtinker

Member
Messages
10
I haven't hunted elk since I was a kid in Idaho 20 years ago. The closest I got there was seeing what was probably a bull elk running away from me. This year I drew a bull tag for New Mexico's Colin Neblett WMA. I've heard its a tough hunt, which makes it easy to draw. That's the whole reason I applied for it - I'll learn more going hunting than I will sitting at home waiting to draw a premium unit. Anyway, the plan worked. I drew the first rifle hunt and am very excited. I am working to get in shape by running a couple of miles several times a week, and I need to add in some strenuous hikes with a 40 lb pack.

Since I have never hunted NM and especially not in the mountains at 10k feet, I'd like to know what weather and temperatures to expect. I plan to backpack in, and pack light. For folks who backpack in, what sleeping bag/pad/tent do you like best? What spec sleeping bag do I need to stay warm, and what other tips do you have for high-mountain camping and hunting in late October?

Also, are there guidelines for what elevation elk like to hang out at what temperatures? Or does it just depend on the amount of snow?
 

shootem

Active Member
Messages
583
Check out the Luxe tents, reasonably priced and great quality. Add the wood burning stove to the bundle and it makes for a great camp setup in the mountains.

As for sleeping bags any down bag would suffice. Good luck on you’re hunt, post pics of you’re success.
 

littlebighorn

Long Time Member
Messages
4,458
The bigger bulls in late October are pulled off or pulling off the cows and becoming isolated in hidden pockets or private ground where they can recover from the rut. If you are into cows that time of year you will likely only find spikes and rag horns with them.
I've never hunted NM elk so I can't speak with any experience, but I'm sure it can be hot and dry or cold and snowy so you will need to plan accordingly.
Hopefully someone who has had that tag will chime in, but good on you for giving it a go...and make it an adventure!
 

madtinker

Member
Messages
10
Adventure is absolutely the name of the game! This is a hunt with a 7% success rate - I would be over the moon to take a even a 2 point bull on my first hunt. Its more about getting out, seeing new country and learning the terrain, but if I get a shot at a legal bull I am taking it.
 

JPickett

Very Active Member
Messages
1,734
If you haven’t hunted in 20 years I can just about guarantee you don’t have the right pack. You should probably start there if everything is going on your back both ways for this hunt
 

Bigfoot 1

Very Active Member
Messages
1,171
I haven't hunted elk since I was a kid in Idaho 20 years ago. The closest I got there was seeing what was probably a bull elk running away from me. This year I drew a bull tag for New Mexico's Colin Neblett WMA. I've heard its a tough hunt, which makes it easy to draw. That's the whole reason I applied for it - I'll learn more going hunting than I will sitting at home waiting to draw a premium unit. Anyway, the plan worked. I drew the first rifle hunt and am very excited. I am working to get in shape by running a couple of miles several times a week, and I need to add in some strenuous hikes with a 40 lb pack.

Since I have never hunted NM and especially not in the mountains at 10k feet, I'd like to know what weather and temperatures to expect. I plan to backpack in, and pack light. For folks who backpack in, what sleeping bag/pad/tent do you like best? What spec sleeping bag do I need to stay warm, and what other tips do you have for high-mountain camping and hunting in late October?

Also, are there guidelines for what elevation elk like to hang out at what temperatures? Or does it just depend on the amount of snow?
Did you draw the North or South? That terrain in there is steep. We’ve been hunting Unit 52 since the late 80’s and it’s at 10’300 feet where we find elk. I drew rifle, Oct. 22-26 this year. That time of year sees snow, then typically melts fast and creates a muddy mess. Four wheel drive and chains just in case are recommended. When you wake up in the morning the temperature seems to average between 7 and 11 degrees. I walk around with a CamelBak, 100 oz of water/ice cube and it usually doesn’t thaw out until around 9:30 a.m. We have a rule, if the fog starts moving in and gets as low as the tree tops we start heading back to the pickup/camp. That fog can get thick where you can’t see 5 yards in front of you, hard to tell if you’re walking up hill or down at times. You could easily fall off of a cliff and kill yourself under those circumstances. Fog like that doesn’t happen often but we’ve experienced it several times. Actually these are now warmer hunts than what they were a decade or so ago. Plan for the worse and hope for the best but above all else have fun!
 

idahomuleyhunter

Active Member
Messages
410
Late October, 10k feet, and packing light don't mix. Never hunted NM but that time of year anywhere can get hairy. Don't consider going without a stove, getting wet and not being able to get dry is the worst thing that can happen.

And as stated above, be realistic about how far you can go. If your camp is 5 miles in and you kill an elk that's probably 6 trips to get out. You're looking at 60 miles of walking with a load. Not counting the energy you spent hunting.
 

madtinker

Member
Messages
10
Bigfoot 1: Wow, that is really great information, thanks for sharing!

idahomuleyhunter: do you mean a folding wood stove, or a propane burner? Do you have a folding stove you like for the back country?

I have my brother and another friend planning to come down and help me find elk and pack out. I did consider going solo, but I have a family to think about.

I am working on updating my gear; a pack is definitely on the list. My hunt code is ELK-1-391, which is for all of Colin Neblett; I haven't decided if I want to go to the north or south half. I have until May 15 to scout before the area closes for the elk calving season; it won't open again until the end of July.
 

idahomuleyhunter

Active Member
Messages
410
I prefer a folding wood stove to propane. I've used both and I think wood is better at sucking moisture out of a tent. I bought and used a small one from Seek Outside last year, I liked it and it worked well. The other one I've used is so old I couldn't tell you what it is but it's also heavy, used on horse trips. If you get one use it a few times in the yard before you go.
 

Bigfoot 1

Very Active Member
Messages
1,171
Bigfoot 1: Wow, that is really great information, thanks for sharing!

idahomuleyhunter: do you mean a folding wood stove, or a propane burner? Do you have a folding stove you like for the back country?

I have my brother and another friend planning to come down and help me find elk and pack out. I did consider going solo, but I have a family to think about.

I am working on updating my gear; a pack is definitely on the list. My hunt code is ELK-1-391, which is for all of Colin Neblett; I haven't decided if I want to go to the north or south half. I have until May 15 to scout before the area closes for the elk calving season; it won't open again until the end of July.
Sir if that was my hunt I would spend it north. Scout it and you will see what I mean. Good luck.
 

Focoelkman

Active Member
Messages
484
Sleeping bag : marmot helium
Pad : I don’t like inflatables z-lite thremarest
Tent : Kelty
- > staying dry is important and water source are key.
Not sure there is an elevation or temperature they hang out?! Post rut bulls are heading for solitude , high cover to go rest.
 

madtinker

Member
Messages
10
I'll be going up this weekend for a short scouting trip. My plan is to try covering a lot of ground Friday afternoon to try to find a couple of good glassing spots, then pick the best one to watch early Saturday morning.

I have read that you want to focus on south-facing slopes, but from satellite imagery it looks like the south-facing slopes are heavily timbered and its the north-facing slopes that are nice and grassy. Am I wrong in thinking that I should focus more on forage than which way its facing?

What are your strategies for scouting a new area?
 

Soj51hopeful

Very Active Member
Messages
1,030
Turn on the topo lines if you can and look for some relatively flat benches up the mountain. Elk love to bed on a steep mountain with a bench carved out covered with timber. Catch them going to and from these spots with your glass.
 

Bigfoot 1

Very Active Member
Messages
1,171
I'll be going up this weekend for a short scouting trip. My plan is to try covering a lot of ground Friday afternoon to try to find a couple of good glassing spots, then pick the best one to watch early Saturday morning.

I have read that you want to focus on south-facing slopes, but from satellite imagery it looks like the south-facing slopes are heavily timbered and its the north-facing slopes that are nice and grassy. Am I wrong in thinking that I should focus more on forage than which way its facing?

What are your strategies for scouting a new area?
One thing I’ve learned about elk is, they are going to be where you find them. I’ve killed over a dozen elk in Unit 52 all within a quarter mile of each other. Took us a few years a long time ago to figure out how these elk pattern themselves. We finally figured out where they funnel through this canyon. These elk come from the east early in the morning, and head up canyon to us traveling southwest. They traverse between aspen and open meadows. We wait and hope they crest on this bench before proceeding further south, every now and then we have to shoot them down canyon a ways. I always hate that. The sun coming up can be an issue also. Good luck, sounds, like you’re pumped. I’m sure you’ll have a blast.
 

sagebrush

Very Active Member
Messages
1,496
Do yourself a favor and get these Wilderness Athlete products:
Hydrate and Recover
Altitude Advantage
Midnight Build
You will be amazed at how this stuff will help deal with altitude and hard hunting. I never hunt without them. You will need to rehydrate every day even if its single digits in the morning.
 

SS!

Long Time Member
Messages
5,182
Do yourself a favor and get these Wilderness Athlete products:
Hydrate and Recover
Altitude Advantage
Midnight Build
You will be amazed at how this stuff will help deal with altitude and hard hunting. I never hunt without them. You will need to rehydrate every day even if its single digits in the morning.
Too easy!
 

madtinker

Member
Messages
10
Do yourself a favor and get these Wilderness Athlete products:
Hydrate and Recover
Altitude Advantage
Midnight Build
You will be amazed at how this stuff will help deal with altitude and hard hunting. I never hunt without them. You will need to rehydrate every day even if its single digits in the morning.
I'll look into those, thanks!
 

madtinker

Member
Messages
10
Also, I did a short scouting trip Friday and Saturday. Boy, was that an education!

Things I learned:
Everything I've heard about how steep and rugged it is have been accurate. It is as steep as a cow's face with heavy brush, fallen timber, rockslides, cliffs, and just downright treacherous.

It is SUPER dry. I found several likely meadows, except the grass was all long since dead and brown. It is possible that the summer monsoons will green it up, but as of now there is nothing there for elk to eat.

Elk have been all over the places I hiked. Some places more than others, but they have been there. I found lots of sign (mostly poop, a few beds, possibly an old wallow), but the poop was all months or years old. There were a few skeletons, presumably from previous hunter kills, so people have been successful here. I even found a 4-point shed!

Of the two areas I had time to hike, one had several skeletons and an antler shed, but was drier with worse water access. It was also right next to private land (the shed I found was within 20 yards of the fence). It was also a good 2-hour+ hike from the road over several mountains.

The second area I found had more poop, a few beds, more obvious game trails, and actual running water! It had a meadow that was starting to green up on a high ridge, with a draw leading down to a stream. The stream would disappear and reappear down the length of the draw, but in some places it looked pretty healthy. It also had easier road access.

I also got to experience how easy it is to get turned around. Whenever I checked my bearings I found I was heading in the wrong direction, so I had to check often to stay on course.

So my questions are: given that I found areas that have potential but the sign is all old, should I still plan on hunting those areas, or should I be looking for areas with fresher sign? I know elk move around, but is there any way to tell when elk were in that area?
 

Bigfoot 1

Very Active Member
Messages
1,171
Sounds like you’re in elk country, especially if it takes you two hours to get back in there. The one definite thing I’ve learned about elk is, they are going to be where you find them.
 

HIcountryman

Very Active Member
Messages
1,029
get a very light tent. i like big agnes copper spur 1 person but they have a new Tiger Wall tent that is way lighter. not cheap but worth it.

havent been in the market for sleeping bags in awile, no advice there. beware of the neo air sleeping pad by thermarest. it is freakin loud if you roll around in your sleep alot like i do !!!

ramen and tuna to stay light. clif bars, gorp, a couple treats to keep your spirits up. 2 or 3 headlamps, alarm clock that all run on AAA batteries.

great boots are a must! do your homework and use good socks and liners

find a good water source. beware of it freezing, too.

elk sign means elk were there at some time but hard to bet on if they will be there during your season. late october at 10 K feet can be scary if not life - threatening. be careful out there and good luck!
 

slicktrick

Member
Messages
20
Don't be to ready to carry a stove. They put the burn ban on and that stove is just a waste. Has happened to me 2yrs in a row in AZ and NM is just as dry right now.
 

Click-a-Pic ... Details & Bigger Photos
Top Bottom