Andy's 2015 DIY Colorado Elk Hunt

Base camp is about comfort and being able to recharge our batteries, while bivy camp is all about being lightweight and minimalist. From base camp our plan was to hike about four miles up into the valley and set up our bivy camp and then hunt from there, returning to base camp as needed to resupply with food. Four miles may not sound too bad, but in this rugged valley it feels like double that so we would need to pack ultralight.


Bivy Camp

Here is a list of some of my favorite lightweight bivy camping gear:

Sitka Flash 32 Pack – The size of this pack is a nice compromise of being large enough to haul all my bivy gear and large enough to haul a third of a boned out elk yet small enough to use as a day hunting pack each day. I really like the material this pack is made of which is very durable yet fairly light weight and very quiet.

Two-man Northface Tadpole tent – I use this tent alone and it give me enough room to have my gear inside with me out of the weather. Matt and Scott shared a three-man tent.

ENO Rain Tarp - An ultralight tarp that I often carry with me even when day hunting.

Big Agnes down sleeping bag – I like Big Agnes's system bags which forego down insulation on the bottom of the bag, and instead have a sleeve that my insulated pad slides in. The bag is sized with more room than a mummy bag for the same weight because of the missing down. I roll around a lot when sleeping and so I really appreciate the extra shoulder and foot space. I also like how the sleeve keeps my pad in place while I move around. I used the Lost Ranger 15 degree bag and lent Scott my Storm King 0 degree bag because I didn't want to carry the extra weight of the warmer bag. My feet got cold most nights and I wished I had the warmer bag.

Big Agnes Q-Core insulated inflatable sleeping pad – Has a unique quilted design rather than long tubes, which is more stable and comfortable.

Steri-pen water purifier – The Steri-pen does it in one minute with virtually no effort compared to a pump type water filter. Pumping water does not sound like a big deal, but when hunting in the mountains it feels like quite a chore. Water is readily available in this valley and very clean. In sketchier water situations a pump filter may be better.

Thermarest Z Seat – An ultralight fold-up foam butt pad that weighs almost nothing and takes up almost no room in my pack. It makes a huge difference for me in staying warm and comfortable around camp and also while glassing.

Primus Eta Lite Stove System – One stove for the three of us to boil water for Mountain House meals. The stove and fuel canister store inside the pot. Very efficient burning. Fast boil times even at high elevation.


CLICK HERE - to read about the rifle, clothing, boots and hunting gear Andy used on this hunt.

A few days before our planned departure I began staging all of our gear in my garage and checking and rechecking the gear list I had been creating over the past months. With everything laid out I began to feel a little nervous about whether it would all fit in my vehicle and trailer. I ended up concluding that I would need to borrow my dad's Yakima RocketBox roof top box. I loaded everything up the day before we were to leave and was pleased that it all fit. We left town around 5:00 pm on Tuesday and took turns driving through the night so that we arrived at our base camp spot at mid-day on Wednesday.

There is nothing like the feeling of opening the car door and stepping out into that sweet mountain air. It is one of my favorite moments each year. The three of us immediately began setting up base camp. Great hunting partners are priceless and Matt and Scott are that to me. We work like a well-oiled machine with very little communication needed. Everybody just knows what to do to get the job done.

Camp was set up quickly and the next order of business was collecting firewood for the campfire and for the wood stove. We removed the plywood top from my elk hunting trailer and drove the Forest Service road looking for the right stand of dead timber. It did not take long before we had a full load of logs which we brought back to base camp, cut up, and split.


Opening day was Saturday so we had a couple of days to acclimate and scout. We dined on steak and potatoes cooked over the open fire that first night and made plans for the next days. We decided we would start the next day by checking our rifles' zeros near camp and then hike into the adjacent valley where the maintained trail would make access relatively easy.

After a hot breakfast and a bit of shooting we headed into the adjacent valley with our day packs, binoculars and fly rods. We had a nice hike into the valley and did a little trout fishing along the way. At one point we stumbled upon a group of moose including a very nice bull a few hundred yards away. As we watched, the big bull worked his way down to the stream, coming to within 75 yards of us. We glassed from an excellent vantage point the last couple hours of the day but did not see any elk.

On Friday morning we loaded up our bivy gear and hunting gear and headed into our valley well before first light. The air was crisp and there was a crust of ice on the puddles outside our tent when we departed. For about 90 minutes we hiked in the dark gaining elevation quickly.

Our loaded packs pulled on our shoulders as we labored up the faint trail following a fast moving stream. The trail leveled off and we broke out of the timber into a flat marshy area just as the first rays of morning light began to glow above the ridge to our East. We silently worked our way along the valley floor until the lighting was right and we found a good spot to stop and glass the mountainside. I threw out a few locator bugles but did not hear any response. We glassed for awhile until we got too cold and decided to keep moving.