Rookie looking for a good unit to DIY hunt

Timnterra

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I am starting to plan another elk hunt in Colorado or Montana. I am planning on buying an over the counter second season bull tag if I go to Colorado or a elk mule deer combo if I go to Montana. My last elk hunting experience was not the best. I went with an experienced friend who had a "secret spot" where he had always killed an elk. Well it came out that the last time he had been there was 15 years ago. Needless to say the secret spot was well known and covered in hunters. I need a place to go. I've got a few maps and have been analyzing the flattops wilderness. I was in the area in 2012 but never went into the wilderness boundry. I have no experience hunting Montana so in open to anything... Any good ideas of places to look? Thanks
 

cohunter14

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If you are looking over the counter for Colorado, there are a ton of options. I would do some research on the CPW website in the statistics section. Look at success rates for each unit and each season. Although the statistics aren't 100% accurate, they are generally close. The other thing you can do is utilize the hunt planners available through the CPW. Finally, you can use the hunting atlas available through the CPW website. It is loaded with information on summer and winter ranges, migratory routes, and can also show you which roads are actually open to vehicles.

The one thing I will tell you is that if you hunt an OTC unit in Colorado, you will need to get off the road a bit, or you will definitely see a lot of orange. A mile off of a road or trail will definitely give you separation, and typically a 1/2 mile will even do the trick as most hunters are lazy. If you are in an area that is 'covered in hunters' you need to get farther off the road.
 

Timnterra

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Thanks for the info. I've been trying to get the hang of the CPW website but really didn't know where to start. The success rate statistics helps. I'll check that out.
 

Timnterra

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Ok, I've read through the CPW site for the last couple weeks and have been digesting my Delorme Colorado topo atlas. I have narrowed my unit choices to the north west portion of colorado surrounding Streamboat Springs. Im looking at units 4,5,441,214,13,14. The harvest statistics seem to be pretty good overall for this area. It is also a much shorter drive for me than Durango, Gunnison or Pagosa Springs. Do any of you guys have experience hunting this area? I'm thinking about taking a family camping trip this summer to scout the terrain in and around the area, but it's still a big chunk of land to look at. I've read a few mountain climber/ backpacker blogs about the area (Mt. Zirkel wilderness etc...) they talked about abundant moisture, forage and wildlife but didn't mention elk. Anything I should be aware of in these units? Are these units open to over the counter licenses? Is this area better in early archery season or second, third or fourth rifle season? I'm still trying to figure out how to use the CPW atlas to figure out the summer and winter range I guess that will help once I get the hang of it...
Thanks for the help
Tim
 

Timber338

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I think using the CPW Atlas is a great resource for internet scouting.

The places I have hunted are actually pretty accurately represented by the summer concentration areas. When I go to a new place I'll use that pink colored concentration area as a general area to focus scouting trips.

It looks like you've got some promising areas to target in the majority of the bottom half of unit 13 and the entire eastern half of unit 12. I don't know anything about those units, but if you can find land within those summer concentration areas that are far from any roads and not accessible to ATV's or any other motorized vehicle, you've got a winner.

It looks like hwy 80 runs right through the middle of the concentration area of unit 441 ... I would only try that unit if there is some kind of wilderness or primitive area... same for the conctration areas in unit 214... any wilderness or non-motorized areas?

that is probably the best internet research you can do to find a good place to hunt: Non-motorized in the middle of a concentration area, and try and target 3-5 miles off the road. Lots of people will say you can do with much less distance away from a road, but I like more. After that there is no replacement for taking the time to scout the areas over the summer to figure out where you want to be on opening morning.
 

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cohunter14

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Good info from Timber. I am one of those that doesn't feel you 'have' to get 3-5 miles off the road, but it definitley doesn't hurt.

As far as the units being OTC goes, they all have OTC bull tags for second and third rifle season. 13, 14, and 214 are OTC for cow or either sex tags for archery season. This info can be found in the Big Game Brochure. They have a map that shows which units are OTC and which aren't.
 

Timnterra

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Thanks for the help guys! I found the unit maps that tell which units are open for which season and printed it so I can have a quick reference. It looks like a lot of unit 4 and 13 is all private land! But 12 looks pretty good. As I looked at the stats it looks like unit 12 and 14 have the most public ground but also the most hunters. In your experience do most of these guys stay close to roads or in places you can go with an ATV? I'm planning to set up backpack spike camp a little ways outside of my expected hunting area, but I want to be far enough the road to avoid pressure from others. What types of places would be good to set up a spike camp without chancing disturbing the elk?
 

cohunter14

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Most hunters will not venture more than 1/2 mile to a mile off roads in my experience. A spike camp can work, but be sure you know what the weather is going to be doing. Rifle seasons can bring weather and the last thing you want to do is be stuck miles away from anyone in two feet of snow.
 

Timber338

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Find a place that has a combination of timber and aspen forests (or gamble oaks). The elk love the heavy timber for shelter, but the canopy is too dense to grow any food on the ground... so they have to move through the aspens and oaks for food. Once you find areas like that try and find heavily traveled game trails and look for fresh sign. And I'm talking green-brown slimy fresh. Then you know elk have been there within a few hours at most.

So you've already got the concentration areas, go however far off a road you want to go, and then look for areas where timber meets aspens/oaks. If you look carefully you can usually figure all that out right from your computer. Although the game trials and fresh sign are a little harder to see from a satellite pic. :rolleyes:
 

Timnterra

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Thanks; you guys have really been a good help. I'm familiar with cold and unpredictable weather coming from SD. I harvested a whitetail last year on November 18th and it was a crisp -4F with a brisk 25mph wind. Needless to say I make sure I'm as prepared as possible for inclimate weather. I'm also spending several hours each week humping it with a 70lb pack up and down the black hills to replicate to the best of my ability the conditions of the hunt. I'm hoping to take a full week this August to scope out the hunting units and look for good trails and sign.
 

cohunter14

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Sounds like you are preparing well. The word of caution with the weather was more for snow. Snow in the mountains can accumulate fast! Every year hunters end up getting stranded because of it, so just be aware. Some years it will be 60 degrees throughout the rifle season, but there are times when it's also 60 degrees and four hours later there is a foot of snow on the ground.
 

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