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View Full Version : How far is too far in the backcountry?



clacklin009
04-28-2013, 10:08 PM
As I have been checking out maps for new elk hunting areas I have been given an area and on paper it looks great. There are a lot of flat corridors, plent of water, and few hiking trails; however, it will be a minimum of 12 miles in. I don't have horses and I was wondering if it is too far back to get the elk out. I'm a little crazy so I'm up for a challange. The hunting area would be around 10,400 ft in early September for bow or early October with a rifle. The longest elk pack out I've had so far is 3 miles, no trail. So the question is, how far is too far to pack an elk out on your back? Any experiences, good or bad, are welcome.

Colorado Cowboy
04-29-2013, 07:36 AM
Depend on how many other hunter are with you. If you are by yourself....better bring a skillet, cause you'll be eating lots on your way out....

Just my little joke. Are there any ranches or any business reasonably close to the trailhead or area where you are leaving your wheels? Ask around now or as soon as possible about the possibility of renting pack stock or hiring someone to pack out your elk. I have a friend who once had a Boy Scout Troop help him for a very reasonable donation to them.

Montana
04-29-2013, 07:53 AM
Colorado cowboy nailed the million dollar question. It depends on what kind of help you have. If it's solo. Then really 3 miles is probably too far for 3-4 trips on your back. 12 miles and success is a tough combination on your back.

Umpqua Hunter
04-29-2013, 09:21 AM
One time I put in 20 miles total packing out a single elk, that was when I was much younger and that pushed the envelope for me. That pack had 1000 feet of elevation change from where the elk was to my truck.

A friend of mine owns an archery shop. He and his buddies are in fantastic shape. They hunt 7 miles in, as a group, and pack out an elk from that distance (one or two trips per elk). I believe they get most of their elk out in one trip (14 miles round trip). At two trips that is 28 miles total per pack out.

At 12 miles and 4 trips to pack out an elk, you are looking at 96 miles of hiking, half with elk meat on your back. That does not even include a trip in with your gear, and a trip out with your gear, putting you at 120 miles of hiking, plus the miles you put on to hunt. Hiking 120 miles, at 3 miles per hour, is 40 hours of hiking.

jay
04-29-2013, 09:34 AM
The other thing you need to consider are the temps on them early season hunts, your meat could spoil if you don't get it out on time...

Ikeepitcold
04-30-2013, 12:46 AM
One time I put in 20 miles total packing out a single elk, that was when I was much younger and that pushed the envelope for me. That pack had 1000 feet of elevation change from there the elk was to my truck.

A friend of mine owns an archery shop. He and his buddies are in fantastic shape. They hunt 7 miles in, as a group, and pack out an elk from that distance (one or two trips per elk). I believe they get most of their elk out in one trip (14 miles round trip). At two trips that is 28 miles total per pack out.

At 12 miles and 4 trips to pack out an elk, you are looking at 96 miles of hiking, half with elk meat on your back. That does not even include a trip in with your gear, and a trip out with your gear, putting you at 120 miles of hiking, plus the miles you put on to hunt. Hiking 120 miles, at 3 miles per hour, is 40 hours of hiking.


Wow that really puts it into perspective.

Eberle
04-30-2013, 07:54 AM
The other thing you need to consider are the temps on them early season hunts, your meat could spoil if you don't get it out on time...

Exactly what I was thinking. CC gave you some good advice. Line some one up to pack you out.

wapiti66
04-30-2013, 08:49 AM
That time of year can still be pretty hot, and warm even at night, just depends on what the weather is going to do. I'd agree with getting some help from somebody with horses.

2rocky
04-30-2013, 12:56 PM
That distance from a trailhead is horse territory for elk.
UH nailed it by the numbers...

HiMtnHnter
04-30-2013, 07:42 PM
I agree with all of the above posts. If you're by yourself in the early season 12 miles is a stretch, no matter how good of shape you are in. Line up a reliable packer (and ensure you'll have cell service) or have a bunch of crazy buddies on hand.

mntnguide
04-30-2013, 08:19 PM
You would be risking ruining a bunch of elk meat for sure without horses, which is not fair to the game we hunt. To give you a little more perspective from someone who uses horses exclusively... We kill bulls anywhere from 12 up to 25 miles from the trailhead. We are in the wilderness. No matter what, in early season, the bulls we kill go out the next day. Luckily we have 2 wranglers and a camp jack that can do these runs. There would be no possible way someone could get an elk out in time from that deep on foot without spoiling meat, unless it was late season and it was freezing at night and staying frozen, Which is not your case. Just a thought. Also, need to take in effect of the predators if you were to leave it long. I personally get to deal heavily with grizzlies which is why we get elk back to camp the day of kill unless it is right at last light, we go in immediately the next morning. Even then those bastards get on them sometimes. . Just depends on where you are hunting

Timberstalker
04-30-2013, 09:18 PM
I go by hours now days, not miles. I've had a 1 1/2 day pack and it was only 2 air miles from the truck. If you haven't been there, you don't really know.

dhershberger
05-01-2013, 10:33 AM
Yeah like everybody has said, 12 miles is too far without horses. My bull that I killed in the Gila two years ago with my dad took 12 hours to gut, hang, skin, quarter and pack out and we were only 2 air miles from our truck and we had two horses! A bull elk is a big animal and a lot of meat to deal with.

tdub24
05-01-2013, 10:54 AM
Do any of you guys use the gutless method? That is all we used this past year, on one bull, two cows, one deer buck and one antelope buck. It seemed to speed up the process considerably. The antelope was my first time, so needless to say it took the longest, maybe a hour and a half. But, by the time I got to the last cow elk, I was able to do it in exactly one hour and 10 minutes with minimal help from my buddy who had never seen it done. Luckily for us, that last cow we were able to drive the truck to it so we were all done within 1 1/2 hours of shooting in. Pretty sure that is the only method we will use. We never needed to bone anything out, so obviously that would add time.

I figure with 2 folks, the farthest from the truck/camp we would want to shoot an elk is roughly 3-4 miles and that's on the high end. I would definitely be planning on 2 trips. Anything farther than that and I would go with what most here are saying, a string of animals or pay a rancher, outfitter, etc.... to help get it out.

dhershberger
05-01-2013, 03:36 PM
Do any of you guys use the gutless method? That is all we used this past year, on one bull, two cows, one deer buck and one antelope buck. It seemed to speed up the process considerably. The antelope was my first time, so needless to say it took the longest, maybe a hour and a half. But, by the time I got to the last cow elk, I was able to do it in exactly one hour and 10 minutes with minimal help from my buddy who had never seen it done. Luckily for us, that last cow we were able to drive the truck to it so we were all done within 1 1/2 hours of shooting in. Pretty sure that is the only method we will use. We never needed to bone anything out, so obviously that would add time.

I figure with 2 folks, the farthest from the truck/camp we would want to shoot an elk is roughly 3-4 miles and that's on the high end. I would definitely be planning on 2 trips. Anything farther than that and I would go with what most here are saying, a string of animals or pay a rancher, outfitter, etc.... to help get it out.

Dang thats fast! What pieces did you take off the elk? I watched a video of jay scott doing the gutless method on youtube and it doesnt seem hard at all. We usually take the ribs and you cant do that with the gutless method. Also the tenderloins are harder to get too. I would like to try that method sometime soon and see how it cuts down on the time.

Kevin Root
05-01-2013, 04:15 PM
Packing Elk out on human foot, sounds like a bit of a chore to me. For all you folks that do it on human foot my hat is off to you. I like backpacking miles into the backcountry but for me an Elk is over the top very far in the backcountry alone. Unless I have a party of folks willing to help me hoof it out or a horse packer lined up or a friend with horses I'll forgo that one for smaller animals like deer or a pronghorn. :)

The gutless method mentioned though is awesome. It's not an Elk but Tim Burnett with Solo Hunters did a quick video clip on it pretty well on a pronghorn.


http://vimeo.com/33735683

buckbull
05-01-2013, 04:17 PM
I did the gutless method on a buck antlope I shot last year. I liked the experience enough that I will probably do that from now on if the animal requires breakdown in the field. If I can get it back to camp, that has running water, meat pole, etc I probably will just gut them there.

Timberstalker
05-01-2013, 05:18 PM
Gutless is the only way to go when solo, I did my ram that way, it worked good.

tdub24
05-01-2013, 05:54 PM
Dang thats fast! What pieces did you take off the elk? I watched a video of jay scott doing the gutless method on youtube and it doesnt seem hard at all. We usually take the ribs and you cant do that with the gutless method. Also the tenderloins are harder to get too. I would like to try that method sometime soon and see how it cuts down on the time.

We pretty much took everything edible. Fronts, backs, rib meat, neck meat, tenderloins, back strap, anything we could eat or ground. Especially on the last cow since we were able to get the vehicle right next to the animal. She died only 40 yards from the road. Getting the tenderloins can be interesting if too much bloating has settled in, but so far I have been able to get them out without butchering it to pieces. Sometimes one end will look sloppy but overall it looks like a perfect in one piece tenderloin. I learned by watching Fred Eichler's video on YouTube. I would attach the link, but my work computer doesn't allow YouTube. Something about we would watch videos instead of work, who does that??? :p

AnthonyVR
05-01-2013, 09:02 PM
In addition to using the gutless method you can debone the meat and save yourself precious pounds of extra weight. You can detach the meat from the quarters systematically by muscle group, or you can run your knife down the inside seam of the bone and then basically fillet the meat away. It doesn't take much extra time and when you get back to the truck you will be glad you did!

meathunter
05-01-2013, 11:55 PM
Gutless is the way to go. I've done 3 moose and and an elk so far gutless. If you need to quarter, there's no reason to gut. The moose hindquarters are heavy, so I always take one of those plastic snow sleds. If there is snow on the ground or fairly flat ground, strap in 2 elk quarters or one moose and away you go. Downhill is the best route if you can, even it it means twice the distance. Keep the skin on if it's dirty, otherwise use good game bags.

Also, sometimes deboning helps with the weight if backpacking, but I like keeping the meat as whole as possible. When I hang up the meat, the hard film that develops and covers the meat keeps dirt, bugs and protects the meat. There's usually less trimming when with larger pieces than trying trim a bunch of smaller pieces. But what the heck, everyone figures out what works best for them.

12 miles is a long way, arrange for horses beforehand.

Grizz
05-02-2013, 03:22 PM
12 miles is long way... "can't cheat the mountain pilgrim." I agree with all that has been said here from twelve miles being too far to effectively pack out an elk without spoilage that early in the autumn to the "gutless" method. It is not about being a hero and muscling your way into trouble it is about the responsibility of the hunter to glean as much meat from an animal as possible and get it to the table so it is fit to consume and therefore not wasted. Get horses! Period! Or a host of buddies to help you. I am a school teacher and I've heard tell of a Biology teacher/football coach who arranged for his entire team to help him pack out an elk over Labor Day weekend if he was successful. He was hunting ten or twelve miles deep and knocked down a bull. He quartered it, hung it, loaded the "straps" in his pack and hoofed it down to town as fast as he could. He called up his team and all thirty of them hiked up the mountain and got that elk down the same day finishing just after dark! Now that is resourceful! Gonna keep that one in mind.

buckbull
05-02-2013, 10:27 PM
I have a buddy that claims his co-worked went to canada on a moose hunt. Claims the outfitter used a chain saw to break down the moose. Used vegetable oil as bar lube. I don't know if I buy the story completely. I'd think the saw would get gunked up, especially if you were trying to cut thru fur. Plus, I think you'd make a mess of the animal. Anyone hear of this?

mntnguide
05-02-2013, 11:05 PM
Ive heard of it for chopping up beef cows and other large stuff. Moose are big critters, and I wouldnt put it past an outfitter that has been doing it for years to finding a way to make it go quicker, and Im sure with practice it could be a very effective method, user dependent. Id give it a shot without a doubt if i wasnt always in wilderness areas.

Colorado Cowboy
05-03-2013, 08:44 AM
I have a friend who uses a portable, battery saws-all with a ss blade for cutting up elk. Works pretty good, but heavy and you can't use anything like it in a wilderness area.

tttoadman
05-04-2013, 02:10 AM
I have seen a crazy old man with the veg oil in a saw. I wouldn't have believed it either. This old guy was the coolest guy I have ever hunted with. He was 80 years old, and shot an auto-loader 338. He told stories about hunting out of model A cars.

I thought the saw was a little weird myself. It still scattered all kinds of little white specs all over, so you were constantly wondering what they were. Boning is the only way to go for any real distance. My brother and I split a boned 5x6 bull last year. We were both a touch over 80lb. We covered about 4 miles of rough up and down country. We had already packed the head and our gear out the night before. We didn't even unload it. We packed up camp, and headed home. We couldn't hardly walk for 3 days after, and we are pretty conditioned.

tttoadman
05-04-2013, 02:14 AM
totally on board for the gutless method. I don't take hearts and livers. I would assume if a guy wants the loins off an elk bad enough, he could turn him head down and let gravity help get the gut pile out of the way.

mntnguide
05-04-2013, 11:18 AM
To not take the loins is absolutely illegal. . not to mention terrible on part of being a sportsman to the game. You can very easily pop out the back six ribs with the cavity "spine-up", and use your knife and hand to carefully take out the loins on each side without ever opening up the cavity while doing the gutless method. Just because you do not gut them does not mean every spec of meat shouldnt come out.

Elk Hunter
05-05-2013, 01:33 PM
Don't know if this helps but my elk hunting area is 5 miles in, which I do solo without horses, and I have packed several elk out of this area by myself using game trails. Sometimes it is short sleeve weather during the day and spoilage is always a concern, but with around freezing temperatures at night and hanging the meat in the shade I have yet to lose any. It has always arrived at the truck still very cool. After I get an elk it is boned out using the gutless method and hung in game bags the same day. Don't like to waste any and I have been told that coyotes leave more meat than I do. As soon as there is enough light the next morning I start packing out the meat, the best stuff like loins first. I do two trips a day and each trip I carry any unneeded camp stuff to get my pack weight up to max doable. The first day is long. After getting the first load out I then run to town for ice, pack in salt for the hide, finish caping and salting the hide, remove the antlers, and then pack out the second load. I usually get back to the tent around 2:00 AM, get some sleep, and then go again as soon as it is light enough to see. By the end of the second day the fourth and last load of meat is out and on ice. The next day is the hide and antlers, and either that day or the next I take out the remainder of my camp which by now isn't much.

I don't limit myself to 5 miles, but at that, two trips a day is 20 miles for me. I go through about 4L of water a day not counting what I have with meals, eat constantly on the trail, and still lose a lot of weight. I'm not sure it is possible to eat enough calories to take care of what you are burning but I keep trying. Going out is heavy but mostly downhill. Going back in is uphill but the pack is empty and you can fly after leaving all that weight at the truck. I find myself doing a lot of hiking in the dark. A better trail would make it a lot easier. High stepping over a lot of downed trees is a lot of work, but it does discourage company.

I wouldn't say no to going 12 miles in solo, but the farther I go in the bigger that bull needs to be. If the temperature is cooperating you could do it but I would make arrangements with an outfitter to pack it out just in case. The meat that is required to be removed in Colorado I could do in two loads for what that is worth. At 12 miles you could do that in two days without much trouble, but you would be wasting a lot if thats all you took.

Colorado Cowboy
05-05-2013, 03:03 PM
sure wish i was young again!:(

clacklin009
05-05-2013, 09:50 PM
Thanks to all I appreciate all the input. I believe I will line up some help for the pack out and like Elk Hunter said I too follow the rule that the farther in you go the bigger the animal needs to be.

tdub24
05-11-2013, 11:50 AM
Here is a pretty good link to the gutless method for those still interested.

http://elk101.com/videos/gutless-video/

MacDonald
06-04-2013, 09:15 AM
I have a buddy that claims his co-worked went to canada on a moose hunt. Claims the outfitter used a chain saw to break down the moose. Used vegetable oil as bar lube. I don't know if I buy the story completely. I'd think the saw would get gunked up, especially if you were trying to cut thru fur. Plus, I think you'd make a mess of the animal. Anyone hear of this?

Yes, two years ago in elk camp, while I was out screwing around in town looking for some nice stuff to cook for dinner (that year, I took a nice bull in Idaho, so I didn't need another elk), my two buddies conned the warden out of a cow-it was "spike only" in the unit. I came back to find a four-inch wide stripe of blood and "parts" down the side of my tent, across the path, and out to the dirt road we were camped next to. I asked what was up after the usual high-fives when I saw the bagged quarters hanging, and Jan, my Czech buddy said in his best broken English, "Vell... you had da axe, und ve can't lift da meat, so I cut it up with da Husk-a-varna."! Made a mess of the saw, I can tell you!

25contender
06-04-2013, 01:32 PM
On my solo hunts I am normally in about 5 miles. I like the gutless method as well. I also carry the same number of heavy duty garbage bags as I do game bags. If it is warm after cleaning I will pack the meat in the game bags down to the nearest stream which isn't to far, place it in the garbage bags and place the meat in the steam. I have never had any problems loosing any meat at all by doing this, even if it takes three trips to pack all the meat out. Mark

One note I do de-bone the quarters as well.

In God We Trust
06-14-2013, 12:43 AM
I like to think I am in pretty good shape and 4 miles in rough country packing an elk out by myself is tough as hell. I think you are smart paying someone with horses to pack you out. One thing to consider is talking to the outfitter that would be packing your elk out and make sure he can and will take horses into were you are hunting.