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Hunting around Steamboat
I am a Midwest whitetail guy but in about three weeks I'm heading back out to Colorado to try my luck with elk. I have been out there twice so far with not great success. I was thinking about hunting around the Steamboat Springs area and was looking for suggestions where to start. Where I have the best chance at seeing elk and possibly less hunting pressure? Any input would be appreciated. Thanks in advance
Good luck. Not a lot of places around steamboat that fit that bill from my experience. I quickly learned that Colorado and not a lot of hunting pressure don't go together.
massive hunting pressure in the units around steamboat. there are elk but tons of hunters.
Jake i know where your coming from. Took me four trips to get my first cow, three more for my first bull. Last year I missed a bull, can only blame myself. Lots of hunters go to Colorao but the overall success is like 17% statewide. That said, don't give up too quick. Pick a unit and keep putting boots on the ground but be mobile. If no fresh sign then move 5-10 miles and try another trailhead in the same unit. The guys on here that are successful more than others know their areas and how the elk react to pressure; in more than one spot.
Don't forget to check grouse season, made that mistake.
Archery success reported by the Div of Wildlife last year was 11% which is pretty close to average. Unit 14 NE of Steamboat has pretty big wilderness area. Unit 214, NW of steamboat has lots of private land but some public access. These were about average success. I have hiked these but not during hunting season. Check google earth and then boots on the ground, have to try and find pockets where there aren't to many hunters. Unit 15, SE of Steamboat has big wilderness area but reported 5% success. I hunted a couple of long weekends on Rabbit Ears pass but only saw one bull.
Lots of pressure in that area. If someone knows a spot like that, they aren't going to tell anyone. Don't commit to an area without knowing there are elk there.
You just have to keep moving till you find them and hope some chucklehead don't screw it up for you when you do.
Don't hunt them when the wind is bad. It's bad for most of the day. Constant swirl. You get a few hours in the a.m. and a couple in the evening if you're lucky. Get in early, and leave them alone when it starts swirling, or they leave the country and you have to start over. You don't have to go in 8 miles. People walk past a lot of elk.
It's not an easy place to hunt, but there are elk around, and it beats staying home.
Stay close enough to town so if it sucks you can just fish the yampa, tube, and soak in the hot springs. Seriously, at some point in your trip you will realize this advice is golden. It is your vacation, enjoy it. Rent a boat on steamboat lake and have a blast.
Good luck on the hunt, but if your hopes are to get away from the crowd, you may be disappointed.
patdel nailed it. The other thing is to understand that the hunter success is terribly skewed in that DAU by private land-outfitted hunters. The real public land success rate is less than 5%.
The wind is bad in those basins because it's along the Continental Divide. Too many chuckeleads "hunt hard, hunt all day" because they read somewhere that that's how you do it. As a result, the elk get bombed out of bedding areas every day, find their way down to the big ranches in the low country, and never come back onto the public.
This herd was on public land near Steamboat the week before season. Two days after the season started they were on a big ranch, thanks to chuckleheads hunting hard, hunting all day in bad wind.
Three weeks out and you don't have plans A, B, C and D nailed down? Don't intend to be rude, but you're going to waste a lot of time looking when you should be scouting.
Based on this post I don't think it comes at much surprise that you haven't "lucked" out and shot one. Where did you hunt previously? Not worth going back?
I have hunted on the Walden side and a little around steamboat too. Elk trail and cow pass sound familiar around steamboat but it's been a few years. I wouldn't say it's not worth going back just looking for fresh ideas. Not trying to get GPS coordinates to someones favorite spot or anything and I don't expect to get lucky. I am more then willing to put the time in and I know how low the success rate is. It's just daunting looking at all the acres of public on a map from accross the country and I was trying to pick a direction to go. I'm not married to Steamboat either I can go anywhere the otc tag allows.
Check out University of Elk Hunting. Could be the best money you'll spend. You can easily get through it a couple times in 3 weeks.
After the first week, which is when you'll be hunting, your best strategy for that whole area will be to pick a good looking area where no other vehicles or camps are hunting, park, and start walking until you find elk. By that time they will have been bumped multiple times and can be anywhere from the Safeway parking lot to the top of the mountain. Seriously.
If you want an adventure, ride the Gondola up and hunt from there.
Similar to all OTC elk units in Colo your best bet for success is to hike into the deepest, badest, roughest country you can find where there are no 4 wheeler 2-track roads or trails. Most successful OTC elk hunters are aware that elk spook to areas where there is the least amount of hunting pressure. There are several large ranches near Steamboat (and elsewhere in Colo) where elk often find solitude and virtually 0 hunting pressure. Elk often know exactly where these private land boundaries are located and seldom cross onto heavily hunted public land. You may be able to find a few isolated patches of public that are so rough and remote that elk may hang out in them. As mentioned previously most of these "honey holes" are learned from hours of scouting, hunting, and boot leather. You will likely find that it is like pulling teeth trying to get info from seasoned, successful OTC hunters that routinely harvest bulls on a regular basis. Not many of these seasoned guys are willing to divulge their secret spots and the methods they use to successfully harvest bulls. It's up to you to put in time and boot leather! I can guarantee that it may take years to figure this out. The more research, time, conditioning, and boot leather you are willing to devote....the better chance for your success! If you aren't willing to put in the effort you might as well do as mentioned above and hang out in the hot springs pool, fish the Yampa, or one of the many downtown restaraunts/pubs!
"Most successful OTC elk hunters are aware that elk spook to areas where there is the least amount of hunting pressure."
This can be 8 miles in deep into the roughest canyons around, or 1/3 of a mile from Interstate 70 where nobody hunts.
I hunted that general area last year and Lou is spot on. The 2 bulls we saw were less than half a mile from a paved road. Spent the first 5 days hunting "way back away from everyone" - we somehow managed to find about 15 other hunters "way back everywhere". Everyone went way deep and the elk went way shallow. Imagine that.