New to Colorado....Help?

Discussion in 'Elk Hunting' started by Caleb, Feb 3, 2013.

  1. Caleb

    Caleb Well-Known Member

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    I joined the forum about half a year ago. Since then I have moved to Colorado(Bailey) and I've been trying to educate myself about Elk hunting in the national forest once I get my bearing(and at least residency). The DOW process as far as drawing, units, etc. are a little more complex than what I'm used to in Texas. I'm pretty much geared up for a hunt, I've been running and hiking the mountains for the last few months of winter and I know it will be a while before I can legally draw, but any pointers from the experienced, especially locals would be wonderful. I'm trying to take in as much as possible about the process. Thanks in advance.
     
  2. aspenbugle

    aspenbugle Well-Known Member

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    Caleb,

    I can maybe post more when at a regular keyboard (vs. touchscreen). There are several things you can do this first year. First, I'd plan to make some hunting friends and tag along on as many hunts as you can this Fall. You can probably tag along a weekend or two during archery season, and then there are 4 elk seasons, see if you can tag along with some different groups. You'll get to see different country and see some different hunting techniques (not all good and some better than others). You can glean a lot more hanging around other hunters than you can just reading a book sometimes - again though, some are better than others to learn from, but you can learn from them all good and bad.

    Some elk hunting books wood be good to read too in the off season.

    You can buy an over-the-counter tag for many units in the Fall, but it wouldn't hurt to put in for a cow tag in the Spring draw. You usually have a better chance of shooting a cow than a bull, especially since most units require you to shoot a 4-point or bigger bull.

    This summer you can scout some. Many of the elk will move by Fall but you can learn the mountains in different places and start figuring out what good habitat looks like, as well as what the "other side of the ridge" looks like - away from the roads and road hunters.

    For over-the-counter units, getting further away from Denver and I75 is probably a good idea.
     

  3. Caleb

    Caleb Well-Known Member

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    Thank you for this advice. I had actually imagined that I might meet someone, and offer to tag along and help pack out. I would probably enjoy that as much as the hunt. As for now, I moved here in order to secure a job ahead of my wife and 3 kids and we they will be moving here shortly. At that point hopefully we will get settled and things can move forward. In the mean time, I will try to learn the system, and keep spending time in the forest. Thanks.
     
  4. 25elk

    25elk Member

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    Nothing can beat time spent in the field. An excellent resource is usually the area DOW game warden. If approached with a true desire to learn, they will more often than not impart some valuable information. They won't tell you where they last saw a 350 point 6x6, but they will, if approached properly (read that as with humility and respect), tell you where elk are usually found. Harvest data from the DOW is also beneficial. If you get a chance to actually befriend one of these professionals, jump at it. Also, with that family of yours I would apply for a cow tag every year and occasionally you will get lucky and draw one. If you have been used to eating Texas deer, you won't believe how much your family will enjoy elk.
     
  5. Caleb

    Caleb Well-Known Member

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    I will just have to get used to all the public land. I'm used to hunting on private property. It will feel a bit weird for me to squeeze off a shot in a place that isn't mine. The last thing I want to do is get into trouble, but I do want to take full advantage of what's out there. Thank you for the advice.
     
  6. lazylabs

    lazylabs Well-Known Member

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    The private land in CO is very hard to get access to. It's mostly leased or used by the owners for themselves and friends. I grew up in MT and found CO to be very frustrating to hunt. The scouting and planning and prep can often be a waste of time. The problem is often weather related. One place for say 2nd season(only a week) can one year be lightly covered in perfect tracking snow and you just follow along and kill them at will. The next year it's dry crunchy grass and no elk within miles, next year three feet of snow and some quality time in a tent with your friends. Then you add 10,000 hunters, 50,000 shots fired, 4 MILLION beers and 5000 ATV's and you have a real gauntlet of fun. So my only way out is drive as deep as you can, hike as far as possible from any road and find a good spot to watch while those mentioned above run the elk to exhaustion and hopefully in front of you. The flattops north and east of rifle has some of the hardest to access spots and a way to get away from people.
     
  7. aspenbugle

    aspenbugle Well-Known Member

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    I'm not sure where Lazylabs hunts, but most places I've hunted in Colorado aren't that busy. I've hunted MT quite a bit and have a brother there...to be honest, getting away from the crowds seemed harder there.

    People like to make it sound like you need to be miles back into a wilderness area to get away from people and find elk. I disagree. Usually if you just get a few hundred yards off the forest service roads you will find yourself alone, especially if can get over a steep ridge or across a deep valley. You can also skip the first three days of the season and most hunters will be heading home the 3rd or 4th day. You'll be surprised how many guys won't go more than 1/4-1/2 mile from their vehicle. Most guys with quads seem glued to the seat or have a 100 yard tether - which is why they drive where they shouldn't...just lazy many times.

    Lazylabs is right about the weather, but its not quite as hopeless as he makes it sound in my opinion. If you only have one fairly small hunting area at one elevation he is exactly right, it can be feast or famine depending on Mother Nature. The lesson is to either have multiple hunting spots that vary in elevation or hunt an area that has a a lot of elevation variation (most mountainous areas meet this). If they don't seem to be high, look low, if not low, look high. If not on this mountain or drainage, look at another. You often spend 2-3 days "zoning in" on some general areas they seem to be. They tend to be a bit nomadic - unlike deer. If you hunt a high pressure area you will need to walk a bit further in, but that is often more a matter of difficulty rather than distance -- hike into that bowl that is just past the those small nearby peaks. Elk escape there because hunters don't follow - be the one who does...just be prepared for a gnarly pack out.

    Mulie hunting- even less need to get remote, although it never hurts. They are masters of disguise and masters of hiding in plain site. They are often more concentrated a bit lower than elk in mid-Fall, and tend to not be as nomadic. You wouldn't believe how many BIG bucks we've seen and shot within 100 yards of the County road (yes, county road, not way back on a forest service road). Guys are miles back in looking for them and don't realize they drove right past them 1/2 hour ago. They'll just sit there under a cedar tree nearly invisible 100 yards above a busy road and no one will see them. Big bucks are smart, but often aren't as remote as you think.
     
  8. Caleb

    Caleb Well-Known Member

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    This all sounds like good and somewhat encouraging advice, and it is appreciated. I look forward to my upcoming escapades, and have no problem packing in or out of remote areas. I've been conditioning myself all winter and will continue this summer, and I've seen the varying snow and weather here.....and coming from TX, I actually think it's a dream! Thanks for the responses.
     
  9. virtualjohn

    virtualjohn Member

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    Good comments, Aspenbugle. I've hunted elk in Colorado since 1975. It was much more crowded and crazy on public ground then than now.
    Our group seems to dial in along about Wednesday of Second Rifle. Many of our party can just make that one season, so we try to find areas to hunt elk and deer. That makes it even tougher.
    Last year we had cow tags in 24 and doe tags in 25. We had to drive a few miles in different directions.
    Wednesday morning I dropped a cow at 8 AM. It took till noon to get her out.
    We went after deer in the evening and I got I nice doe right before end of shooting light in falling snow.
    I think the key to success is to hunt the animals. Most fellows I see out hunting are doing everything but hunting. As in fishing it is hard to catch fish unless your fishing in water that has fish in it. It's dang near impossible to catch any unless your line is in the water
     
  10. Caleb

    Caleb Well-Known Member

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    Well pretty soon I'm gonna be talking to the forest service about some collecting permits, and I will also be talking to the Department of Wildlife to see what else I can learn. A guy was telling me the other day that you can buy a bull tag and pretty much pick your spot to hunt. I was under the impression that you had to hunt specific parts corresponding to a tag.
     
  11. Timber338

    Timber338 Well-Known Member

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    An over the counter tag (bull tag) is valid for a specific list of units, so you are 'limited' in where you can hunt, but there are so many units that are valid under an over the counter license you will not feel limited.... The specific units are all listed in the Colorado Big Game Regulations Brochure. What I think the DOW does a great job of, is providing all of the rules/regulations, hunting statistics, Maps, etc on the internet. What is VERY difficult is figuring it all out. I have been hunting here for almost twenty years and I still can't believe how difficult all of the rules/regs, draw procedures, etc are to get completely figured out.

    And like a few have mentioned, all of the agents I have bumped in to in the field have all been exceptionally helpful to suggest units to hunt along with other helpful info . And the nicer you are to them the nicer they will be in return.

    In terms of actually figuring out and patterning elk, you are on the right track by just spending time outside. If you can find a herd of elk to watch, even if the elk won't be there during hunting season, you will learn a ton by just watching them. And i'm talking all day. Ideally, it will be a spot where you plan to hunt in the fall... Try and get somewhere where the elk are bedded down mid-day, get a good set of binoc's and just watch them. You will be amazed at how much you learn, and watching elk is just plain fun anyways. The goal is to learn how elk behave, but it doesn't hurt to do it where you want to hunt, and come up with a game plan for opening day.

    When you cannot be outside (like right now .. snowing like a dog!), spend time on the DOW website. They have a section called "elk hunting university" which actually has some great bits of info.

    Then I would go to the "harvest statistics" page <http://wildlife.state.co.us/Hunting/BigGame/Statistics/Pages/Statistics.aspx> and from there you can get an amazing amount of info. Every area is listed for tag quotes, tag success rates, hunting success rates, etc etc all broken down by species.

    And I also have found that the Colorado Hunting Atlas is the best map source for internet scouting since you can use the tools to measure distances, areas, elevations, etc <http://ndis.nrel.colostate.edu/huntingatlas/> (the link is also on the main page to the DOW)

    Good luck!
     
  12. Caleb

    Caleb Well-Known Member

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    Great bunch of info! Thank you!