Roger on the packing. I don’t like to bone anything aside from backstraps, have packed elk and other critters out of some serious hellholes over the years places like you say that a mule couldn’t go. I quarter everything and gutless 90 percent of the time. I just had never seen anyone split one before quartering.
Unless you got there with a repelling rope...there is no place you can go that a mule can’t...provided you have the right mule.
I grew up hunting mule deer and elk off of horses with oack mules, and was always told this.
I've seen a few die in places I sure didn't feel comfortable getting my stock into though...and I don't even care much about their welfare.
Deadfall hell holes come to mind, as does some of the Selway. How in the hell elk can live in some of those areas is beyond me.
I grew up babysitting cattle on our summer permit between 9500 and 11500 ft in altitude and pushed cowponies into places I would not do to a horse or myself today. Indeed, part of our old permit is now designated wilderness. Until I was a teenager my dad and his hunting pards used packstrings to get to elk country--I thought that was the only way to hunt elk until my mid-teens. Growing up and while guiding I've packed plenty of elk and deer out with horses and pack mules, and have been in on a couple lama packouts too.
This year I killed both my bulls in fir-spruce-quakie super dense forest. But beginning 20 yeas ago the sub-alpine fir beetle has come through and killed 80%+ of the sub-alpine firs, and resulted in lots of deadfall. As the forest was opened up to sunlight it resulted in an explosion of new growth (which is why the elk are in there). The forest is as thick as ever, but now there's all that deadfall. Trying to get horses, or mules, or lamas through there would be a waste of time. A horse or mule would be too wide with panniers to fit through the trees, a lama isn't tall enough to step over all the deadfall. Guaranteed wrecks galore. With two chainsaws, an extra chain, 5 ga of gas and a ga of bar oil, I'm sure a couple guys could cut their way in over the course of a day or two........
Instead, I grabbed my backpack and carried the elk out. It's been 10+ years since I had to carry an elk out on my back, and at 64 I was wondering how I was going to do, but it wasn't nearly as bad as I feared.......