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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello everyone, my buddies and I have decided to start saving for a trip out west mule deer or elk hunting( Montana, Colorado, Wyoming area). We have been researching outfitters trying to budget ourselves but as we don’t know anyone who has done this we are curious about the hidden cost we may not think of, like processing or shipping meat back home. For those of you who have done this can you give me some insight into some fees or things to think about for this trip? Also if you have a good outfitter you would recommend that would be appreciated as well. A lot of money to trust strangers with so we are researching hard. Thanks in advanced.
 

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Leave yourself some time prior to the hunt to get used to altitude which means another day or two in a motel with meals. Typically speaking I spend a night in a motel in Iowa somewhere. Prices have gone way up, $150/day at least. Tipping the cook and guide is a given, under $500. Meat processing and euro mount will be in the $500 neighborhood for and elk. Depending on state tags will be pushing $1,000. Fuel will be about $700 if you arent pulling a trailer, oil change when you get back too. Outfitter $4,000ish. New gear is up front, boots are important, weather can be anything from 70 to below zero. It can also cause another day in a motel. Practicing with you rifle will run up your ammo bill. You won’t be hunting from a bench. Get in shape months ahead of time. Good luck.
 

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If you are driving and have the room, you can bring your meat back without shipping. Have some large coolers available and use dry ice to keep your meat frozen on the trip home.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
If you are driving and have the room, you can bring your meat back without shipping. Have some large coolers available and use dry ice to keep your meat frozen on the trip home.
That’s a big thing we are trying to decide. Seems like what ever we would spend in fuel getting there would cover shipping the food home.
 

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Cost completely depends on how much you want to spend vs how much convenience you're willing to sacrifice. Bare, bare bones you need gas money, food on your way out and back, outfitter fee + tips, tags.

If you have 3-4 guys, you can probably drive straight through rotating driving duty. Staying in a hotel is more relaxing and comfortable, but you could crash in a rest area or bring a sleeping bag and tent if you don't want to pay for a room. Pack a cooler full of food, snacks, and drinks for your drive out so you don't have to eat in restaurants for the drive there and back. Take a generator with a deep freeze so you can process meat on your own once you get home.

Gear is another big money pit. It can get really out of hand if you let it. The specialized western hunting gear is seriously awesome, but not necessary. Factor in certain items you think you can't go without but try to keep it reasonable if you're on a budget. Boots and pack should be at the top of your list.
 

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Don’t need an outfitter to kill an elk out west, at least in colorado. DIY you will get em. Just cant hunt Michigan style you gotta constantly be on the move usually.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Don’t need an outfitter to kill an elk out west, at least in colorado. DIY you will get em. Just cant hunt Michigan style you gotta constantly be on the move usually.
Maybe not, but for the first time any of us have gone out west, we want the best odds of filling a tag. A DIY hunt would be fun one year though.
 

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Maybe not, but for the first time any of us have gone out west, we want the best odds of filling a tag. A DIY hunt would be fun one year though.
NW Colorado has lots of good outfitters. You can get your meat processed very quickly and get a euro mount done in the same time frame in Craig. Dry ice is sold in the local markets, 10# should keep your meat frozen solid for the trip home. Ask the outfitter for current references and follow up on every one. No short cuts.
 

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We went out to Wyoming and got a beautiful cow elk last October. We drove out and brought with us a very large cooler for the meat. Boned out, the meat was 177 lbs (and it is delicious!). I am very happy that we butchered it ourselves as it only took 30 min to skin, let it hang overnight and then 3 hours the next morning to bone out and put the primal cuts into 2 gal ziploc bags. we then packed ice on it and drove it home. We did finish butchering the next day after getting home. One of the gotcha things they do is that they will advertise a price to butcher an animal-about $600. BUT....they will tell you it will be ready in a week. If you want faster processing-say 24 hours-it will be $1500 MORE!-So $2100 to do it. They are not much more difficult to butcher than a white tail-only 5 times bigger. If you take the stuff out there to do it. you avaid a lot of hassel.
 

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NW Colorado has lots of good outfitters. You can get your meat processed very quickly and get a euro mount done in the same time frame in Craig. Dry ice is sold in the local markets, 10# should keep your meat frozen solid for the trip home. Ask the outfitter for current references and follow up on every one. No short cuts.
Craig is awesome. Largest elk herd in the world. If you cant fill a tag there you have issues. Killed a bill and a cow there as a youth.
 
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What ever processing fees and then expedited fee if you want it done over night and frozen for trip home. The outfitter should be able to tell you roughly what processing costs are. Also see if they only take cash. The processor I used did and I didn't have that much. Had to get cash from credit card.

Tips all around. Guide, cook, horse wrangler if used.

Also the new equipment you will need to bring. Day back new clothing etc. Generally you're going to cover miles each day.
 

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Be Aware of Michigan's Reg's and bring out of state meat etc back to Michigan, I have been to a few places Out West Montana is the place I prefer but the Costs of a Elk License has jumped a lot since my last trip there. Also Does your Outfitter have a Taxidermist as when I took a Mule Deer they did a good job and sent it back but today's shipping costs have jumped. A friend and I drove straight thru to Central Montana we took turns driving but the return was tough the weather was poor and the winds held us back from much more that maybe 45 almost blowing off the road many times we finally stop in a small town got lucky and got the last room available so plan ahead Also Plan for the Weather out West the Weather can change quickly from 40 & 50 to 20 & 30's and a lot of Snow and Ice! Some Outfitters get a set amount of Tags for Out Of State Hunters also some you have to set up 2 years in advance to get a hunt with Them
Have extra Ammo and have your Rifle Sighted in and practice and be ready! Also be fit to do some walking as out there Hunting is different than hunting here You Walk Up on Mule Year Spot & Stalk at times or see deer down in a ravine walking along and you have to make a quick decision if that Buck fits your Dream Buck...
Bring what You like to drink and some favorite snacks / food in case
Don't forget a good Flashlight and extra Batteries walking in the dark in an unfamiliar place can be an issue...
Once you narrow down a few Outfitters ask for References, you do not want to get burned so do your Homework on Guides & Outfitters! If you go that Route.
Good Hunting!
Newaygo1
 

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If you fly, you may have to rent a vehicle to get to camp if outfitter isn't close to airport. That is obviously an added cost.

Meat care: Big thing with me. My initial email and follow up conversation always touch on meat care both in the field and afterword. Experience matters. I have brought elk (among other big game) from the three states mentioned and moose and caribou from Newfoundland and done so multiple times. Even after spending two nights on the road (three from Newfoundland), I have never had issue with frozen meat thawing before unpacking it the day after reaching home. No dry ice involved. It seems to be all in how the coolers are packed and what insulation is both under them, 1" Styrofoam, and over them to keep them out of direct sun. JMO, but after a hard hunt and a long drive home the last thing I want to do is PROPERLY process 150-200+ pounds of meat. Getting it done professionally is well worth the cost. FYI Two processed elk, two sets of 6x6 antlers, and more gear than was necessary to bring along will fit in the back of a 2008 Colorado with a small cap.

Tips: Everybody expects them these days, so I was shocked when the outfitter from this fall's Montana hunt volunteered during our initial conversation (after a couple emails) that "tipping is not necessary, we pay our guides very well". That is the exception, the norm seems to be 10%+/-. Cooks get tipped too.

Motels: General rule seems to be they are less expensive than they are here in Michigan.
Meals: I always pack sandwiches for at least the first day in order to get some miles under my belt. That saves a bit.
Gas: Gas is usually cheaper out west but can vary wildly from town to town along the way.

Travel Insurance: Check the refund or carryover policy of the outfitter. Some will carry your deposit and/or payment to future hunts and some won't. License fees are lost forever if a trip has to be cancelled. Travel insurance costs a few hundred bucks but it might save a person a few thousand. One has to weigh the risks before pulling the trigger on insurance.

Outfitters are a wealth of information. Write down whatever questions you can think of and ask away. Be sure to ask if they have a gear list if one is not posted on their website. Another JMO but in about 40 years of hunting out of state from mid September to mid November I have found that my UP deer hunting gear, boots included, have been more than sufficient for elk and mule deer hunting. Good luck and keep us posted on your progress. FM
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
If you fly, you may have to rent a vehicle to get to camp if outfitter isn't close to airport. That is obviously an added cost.

Meat care: Big thing with me. My initial email and follow up conversation always touch on meat care both in the field and afterword. Experience matters. I have brought elk (among other big game) from the three states mentioned and moose and caribou from Newfoundland and done so multiple times. Even after spending two nights on the road (three from Newfoundland), I have never had issue with frozen meat thawing before unpacking it the day after reaching home. No dry ice involved. It seems to be all in how the coolers are packed and what insulation is both under them, 1" Styrofoam, and over them to keep them out of direct sun. JMO, but after a hard hunt and a long drive home the last thing I want to do is PROPERLY process 150-200+ pounds of meat. Getting it done professionally is well worth the cost. FYI Two processed elk, two sets of 6x6 antlers, and more gear than was necessary to bring along will fit in the back of a 2008 Colorado with a small cap.

Tips: Everybody expects them these days, so I was shocked when the outfitter from this fall's Montana hunt volunteered during our initial conversation (after a couple emails) that "tipping is not necessary, we pay our guides very well". That is the exception, the norm seems to be 10%+/-. Cooks get tipped too.

Motels: General rule seems to be they are less expensive than they are here in Michigan.
Meals: I always pack sandwiches for at least the first day in order to get some miles under my belt. That saves a bit.
Gas: Gas is usually cheaper out west but can vary wildly from town to town along the way.

Travel Insurance: Check the refund or carryover policy of the outfitter. Some will carry your deposit and/or payment to future hunts and some won't. License fees are lost forever if a trip has to be cancelled. Travel insurance costs a few hundred bucks but it might save a person a few thousand. One has to weigh the risks before pulling the trigger on insurance.

Outfitters are a wealth of information. Write down whatever questions you can think of and ask away. Be sure to ask if they have a gear list if one is not posted on their website. Another JMO but in about 40 years of hunting out of state from mid September to mid November I have found that my UP deer hunting gear, boots included, have been more than sufficient for elk and mule deer hunting. Good luck and keep us posted on your progress. FM
Thank you very much for your post! I have been making a list of questions to ask I just was worried about bugging outfitters with a bunch of questions and then going with someone else so we are trying hard to narrow down where and what we wanna chase.
 

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Thank you very much for your post! I have been making a list of questions to ask I just was worried about bugging outfitters with a bunch of questions and then going with someone else so we are trying hard to narrow down where and what we wanna chase.
If they dont want to answer questions then i would go a different way annway. Now is the time to chat them up, not during the season.
 
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