CO elk locations 1st rifle vs 3rd rifle


Well-Known Member
Aug 14, 2011
Tempe, AZ
Hey all,
I am in my second year hunting elk. My daughter and I had them located last year in 3rd rifle season. We just couldn't get bulls in our scopes, only cows/calves, and we had a herd of about 40 stroll through our crosshairs at 50 yds for an eternity which in actuality was only about 5 minutes. When they all had passed, we realized our ungloved fingers were in imminent danger of frostbite, and we were just about hypothermic! We were hopelessly hooked on elk hunting after that experience. The elk were moving between timber into the meadows to feed late in the afternoon, and the bulls were hanging in the timber until after dark. We just about froze, and decided to go back to same unit except in 1st rifle season this year. Weather is supposed to be very mild next weekend. Based on their location during third rifle when it was bitter cold, where should we look for them in 1st rifle season? The area we were in had dark timber, aspen groves, meadows, and streams. The elevation was about 8800' in a large moraine, with a 9700' mountain nearby. The mountain is timbered. This year, we have either sex tags, so we shouldn't have the problem of only seeing cows with bull tags in our pockets, or vice versa. The image is of the area we plan on hunting, and is about two square miles. The area we were concentrating on is the upper left, and the highest elevation is the lower right. Any advice is appreciated! I would really love to help my daughter get her first elk. If you recognize the area, please do not publicly identify it... I am happily married to a wonderful man who does not care for big game hunting, and am doing this with my 16 yr old daughter on our own. Thanks, fellas.


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This will be my 19th year to my little CO Mountain range (8K' to 11K') and what I have learned is that they normally don't change their pattern between 1st and 3rd rifle unless one of 3 things got to be more than they can take.
1. To many people.
2. To much snow.
3. To little food left.

4th would have been sex but most of that went over the hill by Oct 10th.

So, if one of the 3 did not cause them to be there in 3rd last year they should be right there smacking their lips on the grass.

Glad to see you and the daughter are doing well. We need more MOMS like you. I'll be heading out for 2nd this year.
Good luck hope this helps.
Thanks. Between my daughter and I, we have three lopes on our belts, numerous squirrels, rabbits, doves, quails, couple whitetails, but are now working on the big ol elk - the challenge of my life. Gotta hurry up and notch that one. Just guided my husband to his first ever big game kill, an antelope on Sept 25! He said the experience was pretty fun and that he might do it again....if I do all the cutting up, he will do the carrying! Sounds like I have reason to be optimistic after 32 years of marriage that I may have a convert!!!
If it is warm with no snow when you go look for them up high, bedding on the shadded heavy timbered slopes. They will be most active in early morning late evening, but I have always had better luck in the mornings. This somtimes requires long walks in the dark to get in position. If the area you hunt has had livestock grazing in the summer months you could be in for a tough haul, I'm sure they left little grass in this dry year for the elk. Key in on the best looking feed areas and cool bedding areas. (and low hunting pressure)

I have my best luck when the storms roll in during the season, every year that has happened our group has done better than 75% success. When we have had a full week of mild to warm weather and no good storms we are usually at 25% or less. When the storms come we do alot less searching as this usually tends to move them around and get them feeding longer during the day.
Glad to hear you are taking your daughter hunting, I'm hunting with mine this weekend as well. By the third season most mature bulls have left the cows, and gone back to being bachelors. The rut was a little late this year, at least in SW CO, so chances of finding mature bulls still with cows is pretty good. The moon phase is also in our favor this season. Scan meadow edges against timber at first light, and at last light. You might coax bulls back into the open at these times with soft cow calls (hoochie mama) long enough to make a shot. If there is hunting pressure from other hunters in your area, use it to your advantage as well as being mindfull of the wind. Just a few suggestions hope they help. Good luck to both of you.

Aim small Hit small
Thanks, I have a hoochie mamma cow call. Last year we only had one other guy looking around in the area we were hunting, so hopefully, it will be the same this year. So hoping my daughter bags one - doesn't matter if its a cow or bull! She would love to put a set of antlers on the wall, but filling the freezer is more important. Have either sex tags, and this is the last year she can convert her youth license to a cow tag for a late hunt. I also purchased a leftover cow tag for the same area, so if we strike out this weekend, we have another chance. I am so excited! Gotta get the propane tanks refilled, and do a little camper and car maintenance and will be ready to go. Been on the road several times up to Wy for antelope, and so looking forward to scoring an elk this year. I am feeling like this will be the year, and it doesn't matter who gets one. Would prefer my daughter gets one over me, but that is because I am a mom. Appreciate all the advice.
Like several have said ,get in early & watch the edges of the meadows. CONGRATS to You for getting your Daughter out & GOOD LUCK to Y'all this season!!!
Thanks. Only this season and next before she is off to college, and am so hoping this year we "get er done!" She is trying for an appointment to the US Naval Academy, so missing school for the short elk season is not an option. We only have the weekend. We will definitely be watching those edges. We also are on the edge of public/private, and the elk last year seemed to move back and forth between the two. We caught them going from public to private last year, so maybe we can do it this year since we have either sex tags!
Thanks for all the advice. Weather is cooling off there, and rain/snow mix is in the forecast. I appreciate all the tips. I will let you all know how it goes - and hopefully will be posting pictures! Gotta think positive!
Hey all, I am two for two on catching winter storms hunting this year! First, in Wyoming while taking my daughters antelope hunting, braving wind, 14 degree weather and 6" snow on my youngest daughter's first antelope hunt. Second, this past weekend in Unit 6 on my elk hunt with my older daughter! We had a major wet snow dump! When we were getting our packs on and guns out, up comes a law enforcement officer to check our licenses at 5am as the snow is falling! She said she had not seen a mother/daughter elk hunting duo and was totally impressed! Told us we were heading to a good spot.

We hiked in about 2 miles up several benches and were on the edge of heavy dark timber looking out over a aspen grove. We had heard a bull in the area the day before the season. The primary spot we wanted to hunt was completely over run with hunters, and we chose this as a back up. We decided it was a good sanctuary. Well, opening morning, and we hear probably 10 gunshots within thirty minutes where it was crowded. We stayed put until we were soaked from a very heavy, wet snow. Got back to the car at 11:30am. Disheartened.

That afternoon, we tried to get back into the place where we knew there were elk, but there were about 10 trucks parked in an area where there were room for five...we saw so much hunter orange out there, we once again left. Went to another back up place. Nothing.

Snowfall had inhibited us from going to several areas. Roads were greasy, wet, nasty. Second morning, we went to a ridge line where it changes from dark timber to aspen and there are willows and water. We had seen elk crossing there on numerous occasions. No dice again.

Went scouting after going to town and nursing our wounds by eating a large breakfast. Ended up on another mountain, no elk tracks. Pulled out our .177 Crosman pellet pistol with reflex sight and proceeded to bag a mess of pine squirrels. (They are marinating in the fridge as we speak for squirrel hasenpfeffer) Stumbled upon a fresh set of bear tracks in the snow, and realized here my little daughter and I were walking around with a single shot pump pellet pistol and a fixed blade hunting knife to defend ourselves against big, mean critters...Pretty silly, we were thinking, as we plinked another squirrel.

Our last stand was at a pinch point off a ridgeline coming out of a pine forest, crossing a willow lined creek into an open aspen bottom and going into sagebrush. We were settled down into a large blowdown in the shadows. We heard a few twig snaps, but never saw anything. The twig snap came from an area where we were going through the woods up a hill through the snow and I looked up and was staring a big bull eye to eye at 40 paces! Only thing, it was a bovine bull, not an elk bull! The bovine was all alone and looked to have a bit of a limp. Wondering if he lost his herd when they were moved off the public land. We never heard any gunshots either, except from some frustrated idiot shooting his AR15 over the next hill. Maybe that is why we didn't see anything?

We were officially skunked.

The good news is that we both have cow tags for fourth rifle back in this unit. Last year during fourth rifle, we had bull tags, and all we saw were cows. But the compelling reason to return during fourth rifle, is that we only saw one other hunter in the area where we found the elk... So were are hoping for bitter cold, a little snow but not too much to keep us from getting back into the area, and no hunters!

I told my daughter that what doesn't kill us makes us stronger, stand a little taller, makes a fighter...oh wait, isn't there a song with those words!:rolleyes:

Thanks for all the encouragement and advice guys. It would be nice to have a mentor here in person, but thanks for being my online mentors! I appreciate it!


First Picture: Day before season began where we decided to set up
Second picture: Hiking out after first morning
Third Picture: Daughter and I
Fourth Picture: Hmmm, something was sharpening their claws here! Also ran across fresh bear tracks in the snow!


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CONGRATS for the effort you Both put down. Alot of guys I know would have stayed home. LOL!! There is never a Bad time when you get to spend time in the mtns with Family!! I hope you have better luck in the next season! Again a BIG thumbs up !!!
that is just to cool to see. Not enough of that going on these days wish my older daughter was more into hunting she enjoys shooting but finds hunting boring. Oh my other 2 the twins got them hooked just hope to keep them that way. Good luck to you both.
Thank you. I am so fortunate. They just grow up so quick. Only my second year elk hunting with my oldest daughter, and next year she will be a senior, so it will be our last until college is over.... then life will probably interfere! We will be going back to same place for 4th rifle season with cow tags, so hopefully no one will be there and we will have another shot at it.
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