Summit Treestands
Colorado unit 61
Elk
Contributors to this thread:
gobbler 27-Mar-18
Quinn @work 27-Mar-18
Treeline 27-Mar-18
Orion 27-Mar-18
gobbler 27-Mar-18
Orion 27-Mar-18
gobbler 27-Mar-18
Zim1 01-Apr-18
Boris 01-Apr-18
jims 01-Apr-18
wildwilderness 01-Apr-18
sticksender 01-Apr-18
wildwilderness 01-Apr-18
PushCoArcher 01-Apr-18
IdyllwildArcher 01-Apr-18
cnelk 01-Apr-18
md5252 01-Apr-18
Glunt@work 01-Apr-18
wildwilderness 01-Apr-18
cnelk 01-Apr-18
Glunt@work 01-Apr-18
wildwilderness 02-Apr-18
cnelk 02-Apr-18
Smtn10PT 02-Apr-18
Treeline 02-Apr-18
md5252 02-Apr-18
gobbler 02-Apr-18
Treeline 02-Apr-18
cnelk 02-Apr-18
Treeline 02-Apr-18
Glunt@work 02-Apr-18
Firsty 02-Apr-18
ColoBull 03-Apr-18
Dotman 03-Apr-18
MathewsMan 03-Apr-18
ColoBull 04-Apr-18
GrantK 09-Apr-18
From: gobbler
27-Mar-18
Does anyone know what happened with unit 61 last fall. My wife doesn’t bowhunt and we had 20 points and we wanted to hunt together and booked a 4th season Rifle hunt with Dustin Garvey. We both came home elkless. First morning I saw 5 bulls. A 330 and 350 were the biggest but they were 800 and 1200 yds away and were moving away from us. That evening I passed on a nice 300 6x6 at 130 yds for 10 minutes because I had seen the bigger ones that morning. On the 4th day I almost got a shot at a 320 6x6 but he made us at 300 yds. I had scope on him as he turned but I won’t shoot unless I have a good shot. My wife ended up passing up 2 5x5s

We just didn’t see many bulls or cows either. It snowed one night and the next day we drove to top of plateau and in 20 miles of driving we had 1cow cross in front of us and saw where another elk had crossed the road. We were trying to find sign to follow after but there wasn’t any. During the hunt we hunted from the hayfields to the top of the plateau and the canyons in between. 2 other hunters in camp both killed 290ish 6x6s. The outfitter said they had never had a year like that. Usually, you see multiple bulls every day. Even his uncle who had drawn a tag as a resident couldn’t find bulls and ended up shooting a small 5x5 last day .

I got my copy of Eastman’s journal in and they said it was a terrible year with the exception of early Rifle and archery. The 2nd, 3rd, and 4th seasons took a nosedive in success rate from usual 60-75% success on later hunts to about 10% for 3rd hunt to 5% for 4th hunt.

I know hunting is hunting, I’ve been on many unsuccessful hunts but it does sting burning 20 pts each then find out that there was only 5% success rate for that hunt this past fall .

I know they had a drought this fall. But they also had record snowpack last winter and spring and it was one of the major reasons we went for the tag.

Any CO guys know what happened in 61 last fall and why?

Thanks!

From: Quinn @work
27-Mar-18
Sorry to hear you didn't punch your tags.

Based on your recap of the hunt I'd say there was really nothing wrong with your hunt and sounds like a success. You saw 300, 320, 330 and 350 inch bulls but just didn't get a shot. That's pretty good for Colorado. You also hunted the very last season after the elk had been pressured since August. I'd say you did just fine considering the circumstances and if you would of shot that 350 inch bull you'd be saying it was the best hunt of your life in CO? JMHO

From: Treeline
27-Mar-18
Sorry to hear about your hunt.

Tough breaks for sure. Really stings to wait out over 20 years and spend the money for a guide and then not connect.

A friend of mine's wife drew 61 archery last year for elk and deer. He was not happy with the hunt at all and she blanked for both. Not sure what happened in there last year.

From: Orion
27-Mar-18
The June freeze we had that killed a lot of the feed probably didn't help

From: gobbler
27-Mar-18
I’m not posting this to complain about the hunt. Some of my best hunts ever I returned without pulling a trigger or release. I feel worse that my wife didn’t have a chance at a good bull . According to my outfitter, Dusty Garvin, whose family has outfitted for decades it was the worst season he’s ever seen. They have always been 100% on late hunt because they own and have access to most of the private land at the base of the plateau. He said his average bulls run 320-330 but this year average size was under 310. I’m not faulting him at all, I think they did everything possible to locate bulls but nobody could find them. Even his dad that has lived, ranched, and outfitted there his whole life could only find a small5x5 for his brother in law. Dustin said in past they usually see 10+ bulls a day and that’s what my friend said that hunted with him before. I didn’t see 10 bulls the whole hunt and my wife didn’t see that many. We both had a separate guide.

Dustin seems to think predators are having an impact. He’s only been seein about 1 calf for every 4 cows and that’s about what I saw with my limited exposure.

I’m not really bringing this up to complain about not getting a bull but to ask if there is starting to be a problem with unit 61, because that’s where the majority of hunters are waiting to get a tag. Eastman’s downgraded it from a blue unit to a green unit this year .

From: Orion
27-Mar-18
There are a ton of bears in there. Go to allout huntings instagram page. He guides in there and he has a video of 5 or 6 big mature boars feeding on a dead cow carcass. It's crazy footage

From: gobbler
27-Mar-18
Yeah, he mentioned bears. Bears can put a hurting on young fawns and calves

From: Zim1
01-Apr-18
This is really disturbing to hear. I'm right on the edge, at 21 points and been targeting 61 for quite a while. Stuck between waiting for archery (~20% chance) or bailing on a late rifle tag. All prior years reviews seemed pretty consistent. Guess I'll be sit out this year to reevaluate options.

From: Boris
01-Apr-18
I am from Pa. When I have hunted Colorado, I did not see elk running across the roads like we see deer and turkey back east. Like the guys said, you saw that many bulls and cows. Then be happy. I have been in Colorado hunting for 10+ days and saw nothing.

From: jims
01-Apr-18
There are very few units across Colo where there are 350 bulls present. In fact, my guess is that 330+ is considered a monster for most limited units. A lot of guys go into Colo elk hunts with pretty high expectations. The quality of bulls in Colo are pretty darn horrible compared to almost all the surrounding states! A 350 bull in 2 or 201...and especially 61 is an incredible bull! It would be great if some day Colo goes to all limited units. Look how it improved the quality of Colo muledeer!

It's impossible to please everyone! Some guys complain about the quality of bulls in limited units while others enjoy hunting raghornish bulls every year! Those that hunt hard even in OTC tend to come home with decent bulls every year.

01-Apr-18
I have been to 61 a lot in archery and a 350 bull is a monster! My buddy killed a 320 bull and that was the biggest we saw. Still decent numbers of typical 250-290" elk.

I think a big change was adding that Early rifle hunt!

All the big bulls are going to get whacked in the rut by rifle hunters now like UT. I knew this would happen. Ridiculous for CPW to add hunts to one of the best limited units. Would be way better to ADD more Limited Units with less hunts!

For the late hunt now you see why there is a huge increase in long range rifles shooting 1000yds?

From: sticksender
01-Apr-18
FWIW, looking over the harvest survey information that was just published....there was some drop in success on bulls from the prior year. But nowhere close to what Eastman's stated. CPW shows Early Rifle success dropped from 90% the prior year to 73% last year. First Rifle dropped from 77% to 51%. Second Rifle was about the same at 48% vs 47%. Third Rifle about the same at 49% vs 51%. Fourth Rifle increased from 51% to 57%. Muzz success dropped from 64% to 59%. Archery success dropped from 42% to 36%.

A total of 220 bulls were killed in all seasons last year, versus 261 the previous year, and 234 the year before that. Could be either a downward trend, or just a slightly off year. One bet you can make with reasonable confidence, is that there'll be no drop in demand for that hunt in 2018.

01-Apr-18
I bet Early rifle kills more bigger end bulls than before, but there is no way to track that since CPW does not collect that data; not even age like other states do for trophy purposes

From: PushCoArcher
01-Apr-18
You mean Eastman's got something wrong I'm shocked;)

01-Apr-18
This reflects nothing towards the OP, just a comment on the way the thread is going, but... Due to the way the human mind works, people get wrapped up in the cost of these units and feel that since the "cost" is so high, that it should equate to value. Another unit costs 5 points, so the unit that costs 20 points should be 4 times better than the unit that costs 5, or at least, significantly better. Or at least have some level of value attached since it took 20 years and a lot of money/patience to draw it.

The problem is, it doesn't work that way. 61 initially had so much point creep because it was, indeed, better than many other units. The problem is, CO has 4 rifle seasons. You cannot have 4 rifle seasons and expect to have a lot of mature bulls since they need so many years to get old and most people will go into a hunt hoping for a monster, but will kill a 260-280 inch bull if they can't find an older bull. There are still reports of big bulls coming out of 61, but if they're going to get to the age of 9, they've survived a half-dozen archery and ML seasons and a few dozen rifle seasons.

A 61 bull is either really smart or it will not make it past its 6th birthday. In top end units in many other states, dumb bulls get old through blind luck because there just aren't enough hunters to kill them all and so many guys will kill the first 320 they see even on a top end tag, that more bulls make it to 9 years old.

And CO does not manage for the average bull coming out of any of its units to be 7-9 years old. They manage for elk numbers and bull:cow ratios. That, only in a round-about way, has anything to do with trophy quality.

If you actually talk with the folks that are hunting these units and the game wardens that see the animals coming out of them, you'll see that CO's top end and mid-range units just do not hold a candle to the top end and mid range units in NV, AZ, NM, and UT. In any of those states, 61 would be down the list a ways. If 61 were in WY, there'd be at least a dozen or more units that people would be putting in for over it, yet, in CO, it's the 4th most coveted tag.

Add to that, the fact that CO is synonymous with elk (since they have the most animals) and the fact that their PP system has been around the longest, and what you have is over-inflated "costs" relative to value.

Wyoming is going to be in the same boat in another 10 years (later implementation of point system).

If CO really wanted to do something about trophy quality, they'd make 1st rifle the ML season and scratch one of the remaining 3 rifle seasons, preferably 4th rifle.

But that's not what CO is all about. CO P&W specifically says that they manage their elk herd for opportunity, not trophy quality.

From: cnelk
01-Apr-18
When you have 'quantity', the quality suffers.

When you have 'quality', the quantity suffers.

Its either one or the other

From: md5252
01-Apr-18
^^^^ this x2

From: Glunt@work
01-Apr-18
Sorry you had an off hunt. 61 is a good unit but not a great unit. No idea why it was a slow year but seeing several 300"+ bulls and some smaller is light years ahead of what the average OTC hunter encounters. I hunted it a few years back in archery and had a lot of fun. Not sure I'm a fan of the new rifle season they added.

01-Apr-18
Idyll-

You forgot to add the new Early season to your total rifle hunts for 61 elk.

That's Early PLUS the 4 rifle seasons for 5 Total rifle hunts in 61!!! Then add archery and Muzzy hunts...

From: cnelk
01-Apr-18
If I remember correctly, the new Early Season season tag allotment in 61 was partially [if not fully] 'funded' from other the seasons

From: Glunt@work
01-Apr-18
They had 30 tags in the new elk season during the "quiet period". 19 elk were killed by 26 hunters at a 73% success rate (I guess 4 guys/gals didn't hunt). If they would have made that an archery season and bowhunters had their normal unit 61 success rate of 40%, they could have issued 48 tags instead of 30. 18 more tags in a high demand unit is a big deal. If it went on for 5 years, that would be 90 more fairly high point holders removed from the pool. Bowhunting is a great way to get the most from a limited resource.

02-Apr-18
Even if they took tags from other seasons to fund the Early, it is at a higher success rate. Even if they do keep the total harvest in objective, by lowering total tag numbers, I still would argue that the bigger bulls will be killed, and overall the age class and trophy quality will go down.

As mentioned CPW doesn't care at all about age class and trophy quality in any of its units. Just herd numbers and ratio

From: cnelk
02-Apr-18
Just because the its a 'Rifle' tag, doesnt mean a person cant use archery gear for that tag.

From: Smtn10PT
02-Apr-18
I would question the accuracy of the success rates posted by the Colorado DOW, especially on these LE units. The one hunt and unit I followed closely was quite a ways off from actual (percentage wise). It doesn't take many animals to swing percentages on a limited entry unit, and without out mandatory reporting its all a guess.

From: Treeline
02-Apr-18
Ike pretty much hits the nail on the head with respect to Colorado's limited draw elk units.

The very best that Colorado has to offer for elk would likely not make the radar screen in Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Montana or even Wyoming.

Colorado manages hunting seasons to maximize the numbers of hunters that they can get in the field across most of the state. This is evident in that Colorado makes more than any other state in license sales. More than any two western states combined.

With multiple bull/buck seasons even in some of the best potential areas with rifle hunts starting as early as the 1st of September and running all the way into December. Hard to believe that Colorado has any big game left at all.

It is possible to manage for both quantity and quality. It would, however, require significant reductions in bull/buck licenses for various species and CPW is not about to kill that goose - they are addicted to the income generated from the sales of all the licenses and that will not change. Also, the uproar would be thunderous from a large number of hunters, both resident and non-resident, that believe it is their God Given right to get a bull elk tag every year so they can go out and shoot the first rag-horn legal 4-point they can find.

If you want a quality elk hunt with a decent potential to kill a 320"+ bull, you are way better off focusing on many other states other than Colorado. You can draw out multiple times in multiple other states with much better potential in the time it takes to get one of those few top units.

From: md5252
02-Apr-18
^^^^ this x2

From: gobbler
02-Apr-18

gobbler's embedded Photo
gobbler's embedded Photo
I agree, killed this bull 9am the first day of AZ archery season and it was the 2nd bull I had been on. I know I could have killed a 300 first day in CO and saw other bigger bulls. I’m not really complaining but I guess I was expecting more after waiting 20 years.

From: Treeline
02-Apr-18
It's too bad so many hunters are so willing to pay up in application and license fees year after year in Colorado for the lack of quality elk.

Any changes in CPW's elk management will have to come with a significant push to change to include quality as a component - for the animals as well as for the hunters. Since Colorado's Parks and Wildlife has set up elk as their primary income generator, it will also require significant increases in tag costs to make up for them not being able to sell so many licenses.

After hunting elk in good units in New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, and Arizona in the same time frame that it took me to pull a "premium" tag in Colorado - there really is no comparison.

I actually find it surprising that Colorado continues to tout the "biggest elk herd in the USA". I have seen a lot more elk in some other states that claim far lower populations.

From: cnelk
02-Apr-18
".... both resident and non-resident, that believe it is their God Given right to get a bull elk tag every year so they can go out and shoot the first rag-horn legal 4-point they can find"

And that first rag-horn legal 4 point may be their hunt of a lifetime.

Who are we to judge what anyone wants to shoot?

From: Treeline
02-Apr-18
Cnelk, if they (especially NR's) ever went on a good elk hunt in NM, WY, AZ, UT, NV, or MT they might not ever waste their money on Colorado elk hunts again. For 90% or more of the NR's, an elk hunt in Colorado is simply an expensive camping trip with a less than 10% chance to get an elk.

I hunt elk in Colorado most years because I live here and they are in the backyard. For the majority of my elk hunting, it is simply getting meat for the freezer. Hard to imagine coming here for an elk "hunt of a lifetime".

Guess that is why I apply in so many other states in hopes of getting at least a couple of good quality hunts in my lifetime. Would sure be nice if CPW did take quality into account and managed for more quality hunting experiences with lower hunter numbers for older age class, quality animals.

From: Glunt@work
02-Apr-18
I think Colorado has (had) the right idea. You could hunt bulls every year OTC and save up points to hunt a less crowded unit with more older class bulls. Demand just ran over the system and economics kept more of the State from going to quality units. The time to change things was quite awhile ago as we all saw it coming. Giving up the OTC revenue and NR revenue isn't an option for the CPW or local economies now. Going totally limited is an option but only helps crowding and pressure if they reduce overall tags. Otherwise drawing a "normal" unit could easily be just as crowded as before. If it wasn't, that means some other unit would be more crowded than before. No one is volunteering to be the guy that goes without a tag.

I'm guilty. As a resident bowhunter I feel I should be able to hunt elk every year. More often than not the only thing I take from the system is some wild raspberries, a couple grouse and some great memories. And of course they are "my" elk :^)

From: Firsty
02-Apr-18
Wow TL you are "the man"!

From: ColoBull
03-Apr-18
It didn't bother me when Deer went all draw, but I was hooked on Elk when that happened. If/when they do it with elk it may take some getting used to. We'd probably just grouse hunt, fish, & scout for the next elk tag if a 3 man rotation didn't work out.

From: Dotman
03-Apr-18
Some may say a quality hunt purely is having the opportunity to hunt, not just the opportunity at large antlers.

Seems to me CO caters to those that want to hunt and be outdoors even if chances at success are very low.

From: MathewsMan
03-Apr-18
I went down to assist my father-in-law with a 3rd season Cow tag. We never ended up getting them in front of us, which is not the norm. Usually it is choosing one that is not difficult to drive to. He was several good big bulls- which is normal when you are hunting for a cow. I can't remember a year when he had a 3rd season cow tag that he did not punch his tag.

From: ColoBull
04-Apr-18
Let's hope this year is better year, & last year was just a "down" year. Unit 61 is on our radar. I'm way over on points, & my son is close.

From: GrantK
09-Apr-18
I guided in 61 for years and still go there pretty regularly to photograph elk, first thing, a 350 bull is really, really, good for 61, I've seen maybe a handful that were that big in 15 years of poking around in there, FWIW I saw two of the biggest bulls I have ever seen in 61 this year, feed was really good and they had an easy winter... that said, everything that has been said above about not being up to par for the number of points is absolutely true, 20 points is a lot for a 320 bull, the early Rifle hunt is rough on the biggest bulls for sure, there is usually only a couple people who take it really seriously every year but they usually take a couple of the biggest bulls in the unit, it doesn't take much of that to really frustrate hunters in later seasons ..

I think the reason that you weren't seeing elk like usual down low was that there was no snow to push elk down, elk were scattered all over from summer range on down, you could find bulls off of the divide road in December this year, I suspect most of the big boys were down in the pinyons like usual but the 290-310's sure were not.

As far as calves and predators, they have been dumping bear tags like never before the last couple years, if anything calf numbers are up, I think that the warm weather the last couple falls has been particularly hard on the outfitters who count on the lowland, there just haven't been as many elk consolidated in their areas as there are when it snows in November.

  • Sitka Gear