First timer wants to Bow hunt in CO???????

Discussion in 'Bowhunting' started by hillajam, Jan 5, 2008.

  1. hillajam

    hillajam Well-Known Member

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    Ok guys I've got lots of questions for ya so be prepaired.

    First a little background. I'm from MI and I am planning to go to Colorado for an Archery Elk hunt with my buddies. None of us have ever been elk hunting but we all finally can go and are planning to go in 2009. (That will give us enough time to get in shape and do some over the internet scouting and lots of planning.)

    My first question, Are the bulls bugelling for the archery hunt, I noticed in the 07 guide the season is about a month long. Are they bugelling more towards the end of september or through thewhole season?

    What is the weather like in CO during that season? We are planning on taking a trailer and maybe staying at a campground. Sound good so far.

    What are the campgrounds like there? I would much rather rough it in a tent but my older buddies, my dad and uncles want to take the trailer.

    I heard that there are a lot less hunters during bow season than rifle season, so you wont run into a ton of guys, is this true? Also, is it easier to get an archery tag than a rifle tag? They are worried about applying and not getting a tag.

    My final question I swear. What are some good areas to look into for public land do it yourselfers?
     
  2. grit

    grit Well-Known Member

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    Hey James,
    Colorado is a great place to hunt elk. I'll offer some advice and see if I can answer some of your questions. My hunting partner and I have been hunting Colorado for several years. We have a 100 % OPPORTUNITY rate. This means we have opportunities to kill legal bulls at good archery ranges every year. We don't always find one big enough. And once, I missed. I don't know a lot of other places where I know I'll get a shot opportunity.

    That said, we work very hard to get away from crowds and areas where the animals are pressured. It is not unusual to lose 10 pounds on a weeks hunt. Ya gotta be prepared to earn 'em. That means getting deep, and getting huge animals back out. If you have stock, I'd bring some. If you don't have stock, but have experience, you can rent some fairly cheap. Otherwise be prepared to carry a lot of heavy loads a long ways.

    Areas: We hunt the Mt Zirkel wilderness area. This is 20 miles or so north of Steamboat. You do have to ride a horse or hike in. However, you can camp at or near the trailheads if you don't want to pack in. A lot of folks I talk to mention further south, around Gunnison. Elevation on Zirkel ranges from 7-11,000'. The country is steep and rough. But, is truly spectacular elk country.

    Weather: You simply must be prepared for anything. You can pretty much count on snow or/and rain usually coupled with some truly beautiful weather. We've had it be hot, we've had it rain for three days straight, and we've had it dump three feet of snow. The one thing you can count on is it will vary.

    The rut: We go the last week of the hunt. This is usually the peak. Activity can vary from severals bulls screamin' in every time you get into them, to wary spooky animals, to quiet (usually hot weather), seemingly uninterested bulls. Things to watch are:
    1. pressure- Pressure makes elk wary. It also makes them seek out of the way pockets. Bring good topos and look for these. They are there. They also take a hell of a lot of work to hunt.
    2. weather- Before and after storms the elk will be fired up. Cold snaps are great. Guaranteed to get 'em going. The early season can be very frustrating. If it's hot, the elk will not be very active. Wallows can pay off under these conditions. They are a patient mans proposition. With only a week to hunt, I prefer to get after 'em. Towards the end of the season, they will be screaming every chance they get.

    Campgrounds: The campgrounds are on the highways. Too far from where you need to be at first light. There is plenty of public land to camp on right in the mountains. We use google earth to look at roads to see if we can get our horse trailers up 'em and find spots to camp. Topo maps are great for this too.

    Pressure: There are plenty of bowhunters. The muzzleloader also overlaps the archery. It usually ends the day we arrive. Another reason to go the last week. It is best to be prepared to get off the beaten path. Backpaking or horse packing in deep will almost guarantee opportunities. Other than that, look for hard to reach pockets, and be prepared to work hard. Still, the pressure is infinitely less than rifle season.

    Tags: We buy over the counter archery tags on the drive out each year. No problem. There will be leftover rifle tags for many areas as well. If you hunt rifle, I recommend the first season. It is really not difficult to fill an elk tag in colorado. However, it will take work.

    Horses: Horses are a huge advantage! The amount of ground you can cover is tremendous. Elk are big and heavy! Nothing beats walking out with a light pack while your horses carry the meat and antlers. There are outfits that will deliver horses to your camp.

    Shooting: The country we hunt is steep and rough. Be prepared and know how to shoot at exteme angles.

    Calling: If you don't have much experience, the Prinmos Truth series has a lot of great technique for calling and making your set ups. Be prepared to shoot with pounding heart and shaky hands. Try shooting after a few wind sprints. Believe me, the first time you call an elk in the experience will pay off huge!

    Quartering: Get 'em skinned and quartered now! It is infinitely easier to skin and quarter a fresh kill than one even a few hours old. If it's hot, an elk will sour fast! Two guys can do this in an hour.

    Altitude: Altitude sickness is nasty. If you pack high, it's best to have time to take it easy for a couple days.

    Navigation: Good topos, compass and GPS are imperative. The country is big and rough. Finding your way back to your horse, trail, or truck after dark can be damn difficult.

    Going deep: As you can tell I believe a lot of our success is because we hunt further and harder than the majority. If you're going with a lot of folks, some of which would prefer to take things a little easier, I'd suggest a base camp for everyone and a spike camp for those who are a little more serious.

    I'll be glad to answer any questions I can. Our archery elk hunt in Colorado is the highlight of my season each year. Good luck!
     

  3. Buffalobob

    Buffalobob Writers Guild

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    Thanks Grit

    I am thinking that for the Fall of 2009 I will try bowhunting elk for the first time and that was a very informative post.
     
  4. Len Backus

    Len Backus Administrator Staff Member

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    Grit

    I emailed this link to my son who wants to try elk with a bow some time. Nice job.
     
  5. hillajam

    hillajam Well-Known Member

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    Wow, thanks for the info. It is very helpful. About altitude sickness, other than exercising what can I do if anything to help aclimate myself faster? I only have a week to hunt and don't want to waste any of it sitting around camp. I do plan to exercise a lot with cardio and leg strength what other exercises to do you recommend?

    How long does it usually take to get used to the altitude?

    About the horses. I would love to rent some but don't have any experiance other than a 2 hour ride near yellowstone. I was wondering what I need to learn and if someone around here can show me. I'm mostly concerned about learning to pack them. Maybe some good packing horse booksto get me started? Are there trails for the horses or is it riding through the wilderness?

    Thanks again, you have been verry helpful.
     
  6. Supermag

    Supermag Well-Known Member

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    The altitude sickness isn't a huge deal but can greatly effect your abilities in this altitude. The first day won't be bad but the next can make you feel like a little girl. Make sure you drink plenty of water, keep the alcohol drinking to a minimum, and as you said be in excellent shape long before you go. Wilderness Althlete does have a pill called Altitude Advantage that is supposed to help, but I've never tried it or heard of anyone that has yet.

    Another thing that might help with your trip is Cameron Hanes' book "Backcountry Bowhunting". There is alot of good information in there, although he does take it over the top sometimes.
     
  7. grit

    grit Well-Known Member

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    BB and Len,
    Thanks, and you're welcome. Archery elk hunting is truly heart pounding excitement! I didn't mention it before, but calling elk is best done with a partner. It's best to have the caller set up a ways downwind of the hunter. Also, processing elk is really a two man job. Only mention it because of BB's story where he was alone.

    James,
    Like Supermag said, the altitude sicknes usually isn't a big deal. I live at 6000'. I've had it once. My wife and I hike Kings Peak 14,000' in one day. We then camped around 12,000'. I woke with my head splitting in two. Severe throbbing headache. I'm not sure of the factors. Too much exertion that high, coupled with a radical elevation change, maybe I didn't stay hydrated.

    Anyway, good cardio fitness and making sure you stay hydrated are pretty much key. If you're coming from real low elevation you may consider spending the first night at a mid elevation. We typically go from 6,000' to 11,000' in a few hours and never feal it (the horses might).

    I like Cameron Hanes book as well. He reccomends emergen-c drink mix. I like this too, if for nothing more than flavor.

    Gettin' elk out: We bring the four quarters, backstraps, tenderloin, head, antlers, and the hide out. This is a load for two horses. Quarters weigh 60-100lbs. Head, antlers and hide all together another sixty pounds. For backppacking, bone the quarters out. This makes four sixtyish pound loads with the backstraps and tenderloins spread out to make the loads equal, and the head, hide, antler load. For a total of five loads.

    Cameron Hanes talks about having a packer on speed dial. There may be outfits that do this. I don't know of any. However, for the inexperienced horseman, finding a packer may be a more realistic option than learning horsemanship and packing in one year. Horses can get you killed! Especially for a guy who needs to get in shape, learn to shoot well, learn to call, make a living.....

    As a horse lover, I would not dissaude you from using them. But, it's not a simple proposition. If you want to do it, you need horsemanship skills. If you took lessons from a competent person you could have adequate skills in a year. Some horses you will love, some you will want to kill. It's best to shoot them when you get back to camp. Saddles are heavy.

    If you rent them: The outfits that rent them make you completely responsible for the horse and the gear. Without regard for wether you get a good horse and good gear. Make damn sure you get well broke horses who don't mind packing game! A lot of horses will stand quietly while you load dead critters. A lot will not. Some will stand quietly while you load and then come undone later.

    You also need to know how to pack, and recognise wether you are getting good gear. I have two books I like. "Horse Packing In Pictures", and "Horses, Hitches, and Rocky Trails".

    Bottom line is get some horsemanship skills. Find an instructor with some packing experience who can help you. The local pack stores (here) teach classes. Horses are like giant easily frightened children. They need an authority figure who is firm, confident, and gentle too. They need an anchor. You can't be one without confidence and experience. I hope you choose to use them, and enjoy the experience.

    Trails: We use the trails a fair amount. The country is very steep and rugged. Lots of rock and deadfall. You can take horses off trail, and will generally have to to get your elk out. But, this can be an adventure in itself. We usually use the horses to get us and camp up high and in deep. Then, hunt on foot. Frequently we will ride several miles before dawn, tie the horses, hunt on foot all day, then ride back to camp after dark.
     
  8. Kaveman

    Kaveman Member

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    Also don't forget that Colorado requires license purchasers to have taken some sort of hunter education class endorsed at the state level. For bowhunting the I.B.E.P. (International Bowhunter Education Program) is a very informative class that takes about 8 hours to complete, and is accepted in Colorado. Be sure to take your class several months in advance to allow for processing time and issuance of a number which is required to purchase the license. Colorado is a great place for elk. Be prepared for the shot at all times as I have come in close quarters with elk many times without any notice.
     
  9. hillajam

    hillajam Well-Known Member

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    Thanks a ton grit, and supermag. I'll check out these books. I just love learning as much as I can about hunting. You can never learn enough.

    I was looking at some GMU's tell me what you think about them as far as terrain, elk numbers, hunter numbers etc...
    Just started looking so stop me if I picked a real bad one.
    4,5,441
    7,8,9,19,191
    57,58
    66
    67
    69,84
    76
    Oh yeah do you have any suggestions on rifle hunting areas with good elk hunting?

    Sorry I keep coming up with more questions.

    We haven't decided weather to fly or drive. We are coming from MI. I am leaning towards flying but don't know what the cost is and how much of a hassle it is to get meat and antlers back?

    How do you start a hunt. I would think that I would get the Horses delivered to where we parked (are there pull offs on the side of the roads or do we just find a clearing and drive right to it and camp there) Pack them up and head out,(how many trips does it usually take to get camp setup and how do you deal with food for the horses, or do they not eat that much. (I'm envisioning taking bail and bails of hay to our camp.) We might have 3 or 4 guys. Ok back on track. get camp set up, eat then do some ground covering to see if we can find some bulls for tomorrows hunt, mark the spot and get after them if they are close enough or head back and relax and plan for the mourning hunt. Get up early to make it to our spots before light. Wait and listen. Glass Glass Glass. Spot, stalk, shoot go home,...ha ha yeah right if it was that easy I wouldn't want any part in it. Well enough story time. Does that sound good soo far. Fill my holes if it doesn't sound right.
    Thanks again guys I'm getting more and more excited. and I still have a year and a half to go.
     
  10. grit

    grit Well-Known Member

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    James,
    Unfortunately I only have experience with one unit, and a relatively small part of it at that. I believe the unit is 14. We archery and rifle hunt the same area. My partner and I wanted a high altitude wilderness area with available tags. This is how we chose our area.

    I can't imagine how you could fly all your gear. My partner and I completely fill the bed of a pick up.

    Camping: Once we decide a general area to hunt, we buy some maps and fire up google earth. Between these two resources we refine our hunting area. We hunt a wilderness area. The area has several access points (trailheads). There is actually a trailhead right off a paved road. This is a high use area, and one we avoid.

    The trailhead we use requires a couple hours of travel on fairly rough dirt roads. A few miles from the trailhead we have to park the horse trailer because the road gets too rough. We unload the horses. We have a rope strung across the back of the truck and all four horses get tied to this rope. Do not do this with green horses!! We then drive the remaining couple miles to the trailhead. The trailhead is in the bottom of a canyon with a creek in it. There are several places to camp ranging from right at the trailhead to a mile from it. There are also places to camp all along the roads in.

    You need grass and water for the horses, as well as trees to tie highlines to. Highlines are ropes stretched between trees. You string the ropes high (hence the name) then attach each horses lead rope to a high line. This allows the horse to feed. You can also picket horses using pins or dead logs to tie to. We prefer highlines.

    We usually get to the trailhead in the aftenoon. The stock gets watered and picketed first. We then set up a quick camp and hunt the evening. In the morning we take the tent down and pack up the horses. When we first started packing this took a few hours. We can now pack the horses in about an hour and a half. The point is, start early. We'll then ride in to camp. This takes 6-8 hours.

    Next, unload the stock, tie them where they can graze and cool off. After an hour or so water them then feed them each a couple quarts of grain. You also want to bring a small salt block.

    Set up camp and cut firewood. Then, hunt the evening hunt. After this we'll come back to camp for supper. Frequently we scout at night. We'll ride to a ridge above a canyon we want to hunt and toss out a bugle. This is a magic time, and a very productive way to scout. Once you've found some elk you break out the topos and figure out which way they'll be headed in the morning. Look for a saddle onto a north facing slope. Figure out how you can get on 'em without the morning downdraft giving you away.

    The next morning you'll be skinnin' elk or talkin' about a better way to do it in the afternoon. We typically head out very early, and stay out late, so midday is often spent napping in the pine needles, or glassing areas you've identified on your maps. Elk are a bit like fish in a stream. Once you learn to identify the pockets that hold them you can hunt much more effectively. The great part about Colorado is there are a lot of elk. When they're fired up you can call in several bulls at each stand.

    We typically call 'em in. However, it's hard to call the bigger herd bulls in. We've had good luck getting ahead of them when they're headed to bed in the morning. If you don't push 'em too hard you can hunt them again the next morning. Each elk and set up play differently. You have to adjust to thier moods, the terrain and the WIND. You will typically make several set ups and even call in several bulls before things come together.

    Archery hunting is tough. You have to get an animal to come into pet-me range and present you with a shot. The wind has to be in your favor, you have to have the opportunity to draw. The elk has to give you a good shot angle, and you have to get it done when it counts. The great part is, even the failed stands are heart pounding excitement. They'll come in close enough to smell. Their bugles are so loud you can feal 'em in your guts.

    There's a thread in the archery section called only post by good grouper. I told one of my elk hunting stores there. Give it a read.

    Gotta go to bed now
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2008
  11. hillajam

    hillajam Well-Known Member

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    Thanks again Grit, you have been most helpful. Just out of curiosity, where are you from and what kind of tent do you use at your camps?

    Well imagine that, I only had two questions for ya. Ha

    Thanks again,
     
  12. Supermag

    Supermag Well-Known Member

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    I'm not sure if you really need to take in bales of hay for the horses. I know that some people use a pelleted alfalfa product (more expensive than baled hay) that is easier to pack in.
     
  13. grit

    grit Well-Known Member

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    James,
    I'm from Santaquin, Utah.

    We use the Cabelas Bighorn. We use this tent because it is lightweight, compared to a canvas tent (61lbs with poles), and will fit nicely into a panier. A panier is a big bag that hangs from each side of your pack saddle. The Bighorn will comfortably sleep three with cots and a stove. Cabelas makes a bigger model. I believe it's the Alaknak, if the Bighorn isn't big enough. Occasionally we don't have room for the big tent or don't want to set it up. Then we use our backpacking tents and gear.

    We use a wood stove for heat. I don't remember the model, but it also came from Cabelas. The stove we use collapses to about the size of a cookie sheet. It requires an inch or so of dirt in the bottom after you set it up. This is a great stove. We tried another with a sliding bottom tray for cleaning out the ash. But, it burned way too hot. We were always too hot, and waking up every hour to stoke the stove again. If you're interested I'll look up the model.

    We use Roll A Cots. These roll into a smallish tube shape for packing onto your horse. Cots are the only way to go. You get your gear all under your bed, have a place to sit, and get up into the warmer air.

    Horse feed:

    We only bring a bag of grain, to supplement the graze when they're working hard, and a block of salt. One year we got snowed out. We had to come down and set up a camp and hunt low. We bought hay then. Too much snow. If you buy hay or pellets you have to buy certified weed free feed. We prefer to choose camping spots that have enough grass and water. Grain realy helps a horse keep going when you're using them hard. Grain is a "hot feed". It's like a sugar high for kids. Or speed. I like oats because they don't seem to have as bad an effect. Horses will shed weight at an amazing rate if they're being used hard and not getting enough feed.
     
  14. hillajam

    hillajam Well-Known Member

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    Grit, Once again your knowlege blows me away.

    I'm not sure what I'm going to decide but since we have never been out there I was thinking either find a good outfitter that does drop camps and has horses, or my dad was thinking of taking his popup trailer, but the bad thing about a trailer (correct me if I'm wrong) is we have to find a flat spot that is easy to get to with the truck but we wont be able to get that far away from other hunters because I have a feeling the farther you get down the trails the worse the trails get. I really want to try to talk them into getting a tent like the one you were talking about and setting camp up way back away from others. Since we are beginners do you think we would be getting in over our heads. I really don't want to do a drop camp just because I'm a do it yourselfer but I plan to come out every 3-5 years, the rest of my buddies on the otherhand, this will be probablly be their first and last time out. They don't have the desire for out west like I do. I guess I need to do some serious talking with them first.

    One more question I should have asked first. Do you think we should come out and do a rifle hunt first before we go for a bow hunt? My biggest concern with a rifle hunt is the weather. I would want the first season if any to try and miss the bad weather. I also thought that the rut is starting to wind down that time of year.