Lessons Learned Bull Elk Rifle Week 2 2019

Discussion in 'Elk Hunting' started by Woodrow, Dec 30, 2019.

  1. Woodrow

    Woodrow Fawn

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    Dec 21, 2013
    I wanted to share some thoughts from my Bull Elk Rifle Week 2 2019 hunt with everyone and perhaps those future drawing winners to possibly help them decide how to pursue their own KY elk hunt! I was so excited and fortunate to draw one of the 150 premium rifle tags for KY elk in 2019! Being from Western KY, and no real time to try and do it on my own with a busy work schedule, I called a few outfitters, and settled on one guide service based on their stellar success record over the years of taking some really big bulls! 300 class over the fireplace...line up the taxidermist!! Initial consulting deposit paid, with 5 choices for the "new" (KDFWR) 2nd round of drawing to select for a hunt unit. I entered my hunt areas, and received none that I had requested. I learned that I was in the 20% category for not getting any choices of a desired hunting unit. 80% reportedly received one of their top 5. I ended up being selected for unit 2. Most of my chosen Outfitter's hunting areas, however, were in Unit 4. After a phone conversation, he felt like he could still get me a bull, and I sent the deposit to secure my spot. One thing not appreciated by this WKY flat-lander was the time it takes to get from Hazard to Pineville!! I remember it being every bit of 1.5 hrs, so 3+ hours of driving each day. No lunch and a Nooner back at camp! We kicked back at a public shelter I found after lunch in Pineville each day for a couple hours before the afternoon hunt. We mostly hunted Asher hunt access area and the surrounding public land. I was even able to secure the regulated Buffalo Branch tract in Unit 2 in a secondary draw availability period, and we spent a good 1/2 day looking for sign and exploring it. No sign there per the guide. In 4 full days of hunting Asher and surrounding area, we never saw an elk. We saw a lot of free range cattle and horses. We saw elk sign (tracks/droppings) and some rubs - one major one! We heard a bull and tried to call him out of a deep hollow on the 2nd day (in Asher). Every other hunter we ran into was saying the same thing; no elk sightings. Hunters hearing other hunters bugle, and being tricked by that..was going on too. There was a really nice bull reportedly killed in Asher during week 1 rifle. My guide worked hard, and we spent a lot of time on a 4x4 trying to find elk. Ultimately, it was not what I expected. I actually had this fantasy that I might be done and headed home with a nice 6x6 by Sunday afternoon! That was the first real wake-up call...probably about Monday AM! We did not get to hunt Wednesday (last day) until late PM, as the guide had to go back to his regular job, having never been in this predicament where everyone had not killed out in bull elk rifle within 2-3 days. He said normally whoever at camp hadn't taken a bull, the guides teamed up to get the hunter tagged out 3rd or 4th day. The unavailability last day part was worked out with the Outfitter to my satisfaction. Out of ~11 hunters at camp, only 4 bulls were taken. Two were really nice (one ~320), and two for the freezer just to fill that tag! There were 2 additional misses on Bulls, and I believe one of the misses or partial miss was taken by another hunter the next day (per camp gossip) nearby. I believe we had hunters going to unit 4 (most), unit 5, unit 7 and me in unit 2. Apparently, week 1 hunters at this camp fared a little better, but overall, it was the worst rifle season the Outfitter had ever experienced. My lessons learned... 1.) It is not elk hunting circa 2009 or whenever the good 'ol days of KY elk hunting were. Not a "canned hunt", as I have heard it once described. Lots of reasons offered up as to why the elk are not there like they were 10 years ago. I know more informed info is available elsewhere, so I will not comment on that topic. 2.) If you are going to spend $$ on an outfitter, make sure they know the unit you get selected for and hopefully have private land access holding elk, or a really solid plan for public hunting land. Ask for a client list, and call them before you commit. Even the guide service we ran into that was probably the choice outfitter for Unit 2, was stomping around on Asher with the rest of us in week 2 rifle. I do believe, they (outfitter from Pineville maybe?) did guide the lucky hunter to the week 1 trophy bull in Asher mentioned earlier. The problem now seems to be that everyone scrambles to get a guide service after first being drawn, then may possibly end up in a unit the guide is really not familiar with after the 2nd hunt area drawing, so suggest be ready to change Outfitters once you get selected for a unit, if the Outfitter does not have a good solution, or, like in my case, the distance is also not reasonable to travel back and forth to each day. We were leaving 430AM, and not returning to camp til ~9PM each night. With the new system of 2nd drawing for a hunt area, ask your prospective guide what units they are confident in hunting. Do they have access to private land? What does it hold? It didn't effect me, but I saw later after the hunt that my Outfitter indicated that they had lost some hunting ground access prior to the season. 4.) With this experience now under my belt, if I'm ever drawn again...I think (?) I will forgo the Outfitter, and dedicate a few days in the summer to learn the area I've been selected for, take a 4x4, and try to find a "local guide" in the community that perhaps knows the whereabouts of a bull. During my hunt, we actually ran into a guy in a truck in Arjay who said he knew where a bull came out every day to a wallow. It was only like the 2nd day, and the guide didn't seem impressed, but looking back, had I been on my own, I would have gambled a day if someone had a line on a bull elk I could legally take. I now believe that disappointment in not scoring on a DIY hunt and a guided $$ hunt are two different things. I think it's an easier pill to swallow if you don't tag out and haven't forked over a lot of $$, but then, on the flip side, on a DIY, you might wonder if you had spent the $$ for a guide, would you have scored??!! One of the hunters at camp I met had worked a considerable amount of overtime to pay for his trip and he also ate tag soup! I felt for him, and the real sense of disappointment he felt in not being able to fill a prized tag, when you think you have a lock on it if you pay a quality Outfitter. I probably am not the first person to wish I could just be satisfied to play an occasional round of golf...instead of all of this nonsense!.. But it's just how we are wired..right? 5.) On a positive note, it was still FUN! My son was able to join me, and we have good memories of the time spent with the guide and people at camp. I still need to get a Bull one of these days though to finish the story....think my mind is headed West!!!
     
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  2. RLWEBB

    RLWEBB 12 pointer

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    Staffordsville, KY
    Welcome to the forum! I hate it that you didn’t get a bull but things have changed since the “good old days” you mentioned. I think you make some excellent points with your statements about pro/cons of getting a guide. I live here so it’s different for me, but I would not hire a guide. I find it disappointing that some would kill a small bull just to fill a tag, however that’s there choice and I understand it. When I entered the 2nd drawing this year for the unit, I was worried that I would get anything other than 6 or 7. My first choice was a LEA that I didn’t get but I did get unit 6 and I live in unit 6. If I had got anything other than 6 or 7 it would have been hard for me to hunt. I went online when the available LEA slots were open and got one of those which is where I ultimately killed my cow this past weekend. Elk hunting has changed and I’m very concerned for the herd. I can’t apply again for 3 years but I don’t think I’ll apply even after that. Honestly, I briefly considered not hunting this weekend but decided to go to spend time with friends. I’m glad I did but I think KDFWR needs to take drastic action like a moratorium on hunting for a few years but I know that won’t happen as to much $ is involved and I get that. I’m not naive I know the agency needs $ to operate and the elk program generates a lot of $. I just think the resource is depleted and actions needs to happen to halt and reverse the decline. Thank you for posting your thoughts and experience.
     
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  3. ManofManyStangs

    ManofManyStangs 6 pointer

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    May 4, 2009
    It is so hard for a "outsider" that knows nothing about this land in units to know how and where to hunt. I think KDFWR need to have more public access for hunters or cut the number of tags and help hunters drawn secure access. I have withheld my thoughts until after season was over but I will post now:

    Landowner tags for LEA- Some companies are putting 20,000 acres into a LEA and receiving 1 tag for every 5000 acres. Problem is the lack of Elk on this 20,000 acres. Lots of property I know but when Elk are only on 500 acres of this property the other 19,500 acres really don't matter. I know 7-8 years ago I would see herds of 30+ elk on some of these LEA's but now have problems finding an Elk on the same property.

    Horses- Something have to be done about the issue. People will drop off a free range horse because of whatever reason, mostly because of the cost of care and feed. Horses are picking places clean and changing the habitat for Elk and deer. I just seen a fundraiser on FB for feral horses. I wish they would take this $20,000 reward they have now and round up 100+ horses on Tug Valley LEA, I really think this is the main problem on the Tug Fork LEA.

    Elk are being pushed into the woods, even with that said the numbers have really dropped you still will only see 1-2 at a time in the deep hollows. With the expansion of bear in our area I wonder how many calves fall victim in the timber each year.

    Trapping and relocation is a problem I know of some private property of elk being removed that was available for hunters, but KDFWR removed them. Not going to speculate on where these were taken to because I do not know for sure. I can go up the Martin County Airport and see over 50+ elk standing beside of the main road, but this is a No hunting area that is part of a LEA.


    To be successful in todays Elk hunt you better network. Get to know other hunters in your unit and find local people or a guide with great knowledge in your unit. I try my best to help anyone that asks me about this area, regardless of where they are from because I know most have put in for a elk tag for years. I know of a few private property owners in unit 6 with elk on their property that I have permission to hunt on, problem with obtaining others permission on these properties is it has taken me years of getting to know people that know people. I think 1 major flaw is most land owners think (and they may be right or wrong I don't know the correct answer to this) they would be responsible for injuries on their land if someone were to get hurt.

    I have only entered myself for Bull tags I have no interest in taking a cow myself (I killed one about 10 years ago) I think the Elk herd has dropped in numbers when I got drawn I scouted and found the place I wanted to hunt. Upon getting settled in to my spot for 5 minutes tops I had a phone call telling me where elk were at. It was easy but I don't see a stranger I always talk to people I see in the mountains. 99% of the people you run into on unit 6 are great people that want you to succeed in your hunt. Don't get me wrong you will have the 1%, but I have not ran into that person yet.
     
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  4. louisvillehunter

    louisvillehunter 6 pointer

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    Oct 27, 2017
    Louisville
    I am an outsider to the beautiful land that makes up the Elk zone. I couldn’t have had my success without my outfitter. The land is to vast and the Elk to few for me to have found one on my own.
    That being said I can imagine the disappointment of hiring a guide and not coming home with my Elk. I’m not a wealthy man and It took a lot for me to be able to spend the money I did.
    You guys have already touched on this but I see one of the biggest problems is Horses! I had no idea how many feral horses there are down there. Horses are grazers just like the Elk. They are destroying what food sources the Elk have. There was horse shit everywhere!
    The Elk can come back. Hopefully the end of our exchange program with other states will help. I believe that they are stopping the trapping program that relocated Elk to private property as well. Now if they would use the same trapping resources on the horses this would make a difference (my opinion). Also keep some areas cleared for native grasses. Habitat is the key.
     
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  5. Mt Pokt

    Mt Pokt 8 pointer

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    1,163
    Nov 8, 2018
    Campbell County
    So what we really want is a high-fence situation where the act of "hunting" is no longer necessary?

    You have 2 options if you're drawn.
    1) Gamble on an outfitter with no guarantee of success and no refund for failure.
    2) Do your own scouting, feet on the ground, talking to locals, etc... you know... "hunting"! Still no guarantee of success and no refund for failure. But there's no way to lose - I either come out with an elk, or I come out with a heck of a week in the Eastern KY wilderness.

    I'm taking the latter if at all possible. It's not that I don't have the money to spend on the best outfitter, I get more satisfaction out of actually hunting. Assuming of course I can make the time to do it right.



    OP - I think after the 1st of the 4 days of scouting; I might have questioned whether or not I spent the money on the right guy. I mean if I'm paying good money to be put on animals, I had better put me on them on day 1.
    I'd look for an outfitter who knows where the animals have been, are, and will be. I'm paying them to take me to the animals. I'm not paying them to help me find them! Reputation be damned; if I can't drive down there today and he/she show me live, free range elk; there's no way I'm booking them to take me hunting. I don't think that's unreasonable.

    Horses, bears, overhunting, global warming... all
    excuses
    why the elk aren't waiting for you 50 yards broadside in the parking lot. Not one is a legitimate reason for lack of success. The

    Department has said for the last couple of years that the herd is moving from graze lands to hardwood forests. ~15,000 elk in 4 million acres and a ~50% success rate? Sounds like pretty reasonable odds to me.
     
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  6. xbokilla

    xbokilla 12 pointer

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    7,886
    Jun 28, 2012
    15k ?! No way! I sat in the wheeler with as many as 3 guides at different times and they stopped and talked to multiple F&W officers as we were in a heavily watched regulated area. ALL said the numbers are way down. The wardens were just doing their job and checking hunters but heard more than one say, “If you see one, shoot it, cause you ain’t gonna see too many.” I agree they are utilizing the woods more but the numbers are down, plain and simple. I’ve had some great encounters compared to some people but still call BS on there being 10k plus elk.
     
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  7. RLWEBB

    RLWEBB 12 pointer

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    Nov 30, 2005
    Staffordsville, KY
    Excellent post and dead on true!
     
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  8. carnivore

    carnivore 12 pointer

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    Nov 17, 2007
    Ky
    No on the high fence, but its reasonable for the KDFWR to make land open to elk hunting habitable for elk and to manage the resource responsibly. The problem is they are afraid to make changes that might reduce revenue even if it is what is best for the herd in the long run.
     
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  9. mudhole crossing

    mudhole crossing 12 pointer

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    Aug 20, 2007
    East ky
    Guess u another banned pot stirring member
     
  10. ManofManyStangs

    ManofManyStangs 6 pointer

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    May 4, 2009
    I really don't think no one said that, or really wants that. If you are not from this area you just need guidance on where to hunt. Us local guys normally don't have a problem securing a place.

     
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  11. Grago

    Grago 12 pointer

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    Dec 13, 2016
    I dont know anything about elk hunting, But i had a friend kill one this weekend, he is a good hunter but im sure like me dont much about elk hunting and absolutely nothing about the area's there. He had a guide i dont know who But even tho he had a great time and said the people where very nice In his opinion he didnt even think there was enough elk there to really even hunt them. I guess that is the thoughts of a lot of people in that area
     
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  12. RLWEBB

    RLWEBB 12 pointer

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    Nov 30, 2005
    Staffordsville, KY
    Most of us locals who really care about the resource and it’s future feel the same.
     
  13. Mt Pokt

    Mt Pokt 8 pointer

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    1,163
    Nov 8, 2018
    Campbell County
    Surely this isn't one of those forums where an opinion different than yours is ban worthy; is it?

    Point out something erroneous, or offensive in what I said?

    Didnt think you could....
     
  14. Mt Pokt

    Mt Pokt 8 pointer

    655
    1,163
    Nov 8, 2018
    Campbell County
    I agree! And I would be looking for locals to put me on elk and paying handily for success! I'd rather my money go to a local who is more interested in my success.

    The high-fence remark was sarcasm. I dont believe anyone wants that. But I think there's more to hunting than getting out of the truck and pulling the trigger.
     
    ManofManyStangs likes this.
  15. mudhole crossing

    mudhole crossing 12 pointer

    7,337
    6,026
    Aug 20, 2007
    East ky
     

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