Re: CO elk - Which week should I bow hunt?
Two schools of thought with top elk hunters who are very succesful that I communicate with. They involve completely different tactics. I have taken exceptional bulls both ways.
First is when the season first opens and you get first chance at unpressured bulls that have been taking it easy all summer. They are not as wary and the giant bulls are easier to kill. The drawback is they are harder to find and not as exciting as the prime rut. The tactics are to get high, walk and glass. Find the one you want which may well be in a bull group early before they split up. Slip in downwind and finess the bull over with cow talk. He may or may not bugle and may come in quietly just to investigate. If you do not have him in sight during the stalk this can test anyones nerves not knowing if he is close and any move can blow him out, or he could be going the other way. When do I move closer, when do I call, is he near enough to see me, I don't know, You get the picture. NW Colorado I have hunted since 1969 and most of it where the elk summer is open country with excellent glassing to find a good bull. So this tactic can work well. The huge bulls are not in the middle of a bunch of eyes and noses (cows) and there are no satelite bulls to come blowing in fast when you cow call and blow the herd out.
Second is late during the rut when the elk are herded up and the bulls are very easy to find bugling there heads off. Satelite bulls are typically very easy to kill as they come flying in to steal a cow at the edge of the herd when you cow talk. The huge bulls are harder to get because it is very difficult to get through the satelite bulls and then through all the cows. It is extremely exciting with bugling all around you and the best time to get a bull but not necessarily the biggest bull. I usually watch to see when is best to make my move and catch the herd bull on my side of the cows and then try to call him with cow talk or make him think a satelite bull has stolen a cow combining bugling and cow talk. Many different calling techniques depending on the personality of the bull but that is a different article entirely. If there are satelite bulls, and in Colorado there are plenty of elk, then you must work into the best position and make it happen fast with the herd bull before being detected or having to move out because of the threat of blowing the herd out. I have made many moves on a big herd bull before finally getting it right. Move in, back off several times before it all went right. Tough judgement many times whether to risk blowing them out or if you feel you will get him before they get you.
I gambled one time on a 416 6x6 and won getting an arrow into him before a 380-390 satelite bull at 10 steps blew my cover. It could have easily gone either way and I doubt I would have found the big one again in that country where they are known to run for many miles when disturbed. So it was a big decision and gutwrenching continuing to call the big one with one circling me at 10-15 steps. In the high country of NW Colorado they are unlikely to go far if you bust them and the population is so dense there is a good chance others will just take there place in a day or two.
So do you want your best chance at an elk or the best chance at the biggest bull in the woods. A very exciting hunt with a lot of bugling just happy to arrow a bull or a very stressfull hunt trying to get the monster early season. The most fun hunt is the rut. With hunting pressure what it is now many top trophy hunters prefer the first week to try and get a monster before they are pressured but it typically takes a lot more elk expertise to do that kind of hunt.
Predictions are difficult, especially when they involve the future