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Where to hunt elk in southern Colorado
Looking for a place to hike in and diy elk hunt southwest Colorado otc tag I have about 5 days to hunt .what is out there ?
a few million acres, go get em.
Bottomland, no one is going to give you any specific hunt areas. They are as precious as gold. Take a look at the CPW website. They have lots of elk hunting tips and a very good interactive map that will show you game unit boundaries, elk summer and winter ranges etc. You will find elk in every OTC unit in SW Colorado. The key is adapting to hunter pressure and figuring out where the elk feel safe and have enough to drink and eat.
5 days is a very short elk hunt even for experienced elk hunters. It can take a few days just to find them even when you know an area well.
That’s really good information Brotsky!
where is a good place to start I’m a year and a half out from my hunt , trying to find a good unit with trailheads that I can walk in and do some scouting this year before I go next year just don’t have a lot of time to get up there and don’t want to pass elk up trying to get to a unit to hunt elk. Any help I would appreciate it thanks
When your eyes hurt from looking at maps so much PM a few on here. When you ask about specific areas via PM you will find many are more than willing to help. Tons of resources. Brotsky gave a great one. (Edit:I'm not one to ask but the ones that are become pretty apparent pretty quickly)
When you scout this year, try and go mid to late September to get a good idea of where the elk are at. Look where all the people are at (camps/trails) and then go somewhere else - namely, the nasty crap where no one wants to hike. That's a good start. 5 days is a very short elk hunt.
Thanks for the help, and yes 5 days is short but it’s all I have
I went on my first elk hunt in CO in 2009. I was just where you are now, I had no idea at all where to go. Ended up we picked a unit, went, and stumble bumbled into two elk kills (total blind luck). We've gone back to that same area and have killed 6 elk out of 8 tags.
I won't even tell my family members what the unit number is. Much less the nearest town. My wife doesn't know the unit number or nearest town (I'm not even kidding). My father knows, but only in case we don't check in, for emergency purposes, and he's been sworn to absolute silence. Another guy wanted to tag along one year, and we were going to blindfold him before we got off the interstate (and turn a few circles so he didn't even know if we headed north or south). OTC Elk locations are darn near sacred to active elk hunters. . . .
During the height of naval warfare in WWII, there was a popular slogan, "Loose lips sink ships". Loose lips also ruin productive OTC elk spots.
I say all this to be as friendly as possible. No one will tell you a unit number unless they don't hunt there anymore, and there's probably a reason they don't hunt there anymore.
From someone who has been in your same boat, take Idyll's advice, scout during the time frame you want to hunt, and note where the camps are, and where the hunters are hunting, then go some place different. Pick a couple units and a couple places and go take a look. Google earth is your friend.
Have fun. It's a hell of a fun hobby
Get good maps and study them. There is a ton of public land in the SW 1/4 of Colorado that is OTC for elk and some that is not.
If you can come a year ahead of time and during the season, it can be very beneficial. Make some hikes int the areas that you were looking at on the maps to understand what it takes to get into those places. Get an understanding of what it will be like to pack out an elk (4 loads at around 65-80# plus your camp) from those areas and evaluate if you have enough strength and experience.
Learn where people tend to pile up (hunters and hikers) and figure out how to get around them.
Elk prefer to be where the people aren’t.
Look for edges and slivers of public land and figure out access points. In Colorado, most state land is not public. BLM and USFS is, but can be cut off by private land and not accessible.
Consider evaluating using an outfitter if you are limited on time. 5 days will most likely be far too short and the waste of your expenses to get here as well as the cost of the tag.
Jeez Bake that's pretty hardcore! I tell people the nearest town and dare them to find my spot. Every unit has a few good spots, most of the ones I find involve descending at least 1000 vertical feet......
Speaking for myself and I think most every dedicated hunter on here. If I've put in the time and learned an area and had some success there, then no way in hell I'm going to tell anyone, much less someone on the internet the unit or even the general area. For sure in an otc unit in Colorado. Now if I had all the time and knew alot of different areas I would gladly point someone in a general direction or area. That being said I'm not calling you out because I did the same thing when I started so just throwing out a friendly take.. As far as where to start you have some good info above to work with. Look for areas away from roads or overlooked pockets. Steep thick north facing slopes away from roads or trails with some feed close by is where you should find them! Stay mobile and hunt the sign. If your in an area that holds elk you will know it! Look for fresh rubs, tracks and crap. If your only finding old sign and not seeing or hearing any elk keep moving. Learn to call and don't be afraid to blind call. Always stay alert when calling as bulls will often slip in quite. A buddy and I called in 10 bulls this past year on an otc unit and all of them except one came in without ever bulging. I'm not an expert by a long shot and many of the guys on here have been doing this forever but that's just a few of the fundamentals we've learned over the last 3 years of chasing these awesome animals. Good luck:)
Oh and tell the boss to take a hike and stay at least 10 days. September in the Rocky mountains is worth it!
Hell, I vetted Midwest for 2 years before he came elk hunting with us last year :)
Lol a few million acres :)
You can study maps with access roads and trailheads....after that throw a dart and GO. The first trip is the best learning experience you will ever get. It takes years to really figure out a area and if you decide to move, it`s starts all over again.
If you covertly move around the Site and others you can get some great info without coming right out and asking. A lot of people will flat tell you the drainages....but not on here....lol. Don`t overthink it then NOT go....underthink and GO.
Thanks to all that has given me some info thanks
I wouldn't bother to hunt elk for only 5 days. It would be easier to hunt mule deer in 5 days so maybe give that some thought.
Here is something else to think about. You hunt for 5 days and kill an elk on the afternoon/evening of the last day. The elk is 3 miles from the truck. How you gonna get him/her out in a timely fashion and get home on time. Does that cut your hunting time to actually 4 days? I would agree that unless you know an area, 5 days is really pretty short to hunt for elk. Sometimes it takes that long just to find them. Don't mean to discourage, just something to think about so you don't get too disappointed when you come.
txhunter58 explained my point a little bit better. In many/most cases your 5 day elk hunt will be 3-1/2 because of the pack out time. Killing an elk in 3-1/2 days is highly unlikely for a first timer. Being picky about what kind of elk you kill will push that odds into the laughable range. On the other hand, a 5 day deer hunt will allow you to hunt deer for all 5 days, with a much better chance of success.
Archery elk success in CO is about 10-12%, while archery deer success is 20-35%.
Hunting elk for 5 days is better than not hunting elk. Just don’t set your sights too high and plan on a learning experience. You have to start somewhere.
Seriously though, there are so many tools on the internet anymore that you don't have to ask "what's a good unit." I mean, every state game and fish department has mapping software now and with that alone, you are light years ahead of where most us were when we started hunting elk a couple decades ago.
Do you know what we used to do? Look at a physical map, study it, and then go put our boots on the ground. Crazy right?
So, I'll be generous and give you (and everyone that reads this post in the future by googling "SW Colorado elk") : https://ndismaps.nrel.colostate.edu/index.html?app=HuntingAtlas
You need to just pick a unit and go hunt it. Biggest problem whitetail hunters have is that they tend to find a little sign and stick to that area. You have to have the mindset of "I want to see/hunt all I can in this unit". Fact is, during your scouting/hunting you just might find that little goldmine these guys are talking about. There are units that guys will hunt and say the elk unit sucks, and the next guy goes there and finds "the spot" and kills an elk there for the next 10 years. Stay mobile and use your glass. After you find "your goldmine" you will then understand why people are so guarded about that information.
Wow, Bake is feeling generous, he even told you he hunts Colorado - I wouldn't be as generous!
Unless someone gives you GPS coordinates to a honey hole (which no one will do) you pretty much have to figure it out once you get there. Looks at some maps, have options A-F and that way at least when you try option A and there's nothing there you're not sitting in your truck looking at a map wasting precious elk hunting time to get to the next one to give it a shot.
Sure 5 days isn't a lot of time but it's something. And maybe day 4 and 5 you make a concerted effort to hunt close to the truck and who knows, maybe if you get lucky you don't even get to sleep after day 5 but that's the way she goes sometimes :)
https://www.elk101.com/onlinecourse/ Could be money well spent especially since you plan to make an extra scouting trip.
For what it's worth this is how my first elk hunt went. I had been on two elk hunts helping friends with no tag in my pocket. I learned some about elk . Mostly how to know if elk are close by or had been close by a while ago. Big difference! The unit I got a tag for was an unsung low profile unit that was , from what info I could find, a tough unit that had good to great trophy potential , not great numbers of elk and where the bulls were they didn't talk much. Google Earth had my constant attention for a couple hours a night two or three nights a week . I cut the unit in three parts and studied the sat imaging in detail until I completely understood and recognized the major features and all of the road system. Fortunately for me I am self employed and was able to work my tail off before the hunt to get everyone taken care of before I left. Three days of driving , four days to scout turf I had never walked on , and no help or Intel from anyone. My scout plan was built from Google Earth. Cut the unit in thirds and cover as many miles in each third as I could in a day. Well, Google Earth is a bit deceiving. The tree cover was much taller and more dense than it looked on Sat images. Glassing was not gonna be a viable method for scouting , although I was able to find 3 bulls from one of the few high spots I had found on Google Earth on the first evening in the unit. So hike it was , and hike and hike and hike. Old sign was everywhere. New sign was not found during the first full day. My son and I went to the middle third on day two and around noon during our second hike of the day we found new elk dung! Twenty minutes or so later I smelled em, we were close. We moved as far downwind as the terrain would let us without dropping into a deep canyon and moved on. We found more new sign about three miles in at the end of a giant cedar flat and at that point made a big loop back to the truck. Day three was used in the last third of the unit where we found the only wet wallows I saw during the whole hunt. Those wallows were just starting to be used and I knew this was a place to keep tabs on. Day four was used to drive the main roads to the access points I was going to use for hunting so as to know how long it would take to get from place to place.bad news being late getting in! We were in elk every day we hunted until I was able to put an arrow through a nice 6 x 5 on the evening of the fourth day of hunting. This being a unit that ,according to what I found on different forums and other media, " you better shoot the first branch antler bull you get the chance at" . Boots on the ground is the only way to really know what's happening . Go light and cover ground . Scout smart. Don't go where you think the animals are bedding . Cross between there and where you think they are feeding and watering. Elk leave a lot of sign and from what I have observed they use trails that are pretty hard to miss. If you only have 5 days to hunt, form your plan at home and when you get to your hunting area get after it! Hunt like you're scouting and don't settle into an area until you are on fresh sign. Don't let internet info , or lack of it, determine your direction. If you can kill whitetails consistently you can kill elk . Dive in and enjoy the experience!!
Just out of Pagosa Springs.........Man they are thick in that Missionary ridge area.....or in off the Turkey Creek TH
but don't spread that around.......
Something I have found to work well is Google Earth. Pick an area, map the roads in the area. Then use the measuring device on goggle earth. Go from several points a mile from the roads. The right area you may have to measure forty to fifty points. You will see a pocket develop. Then in that pocket look for trails leading to water or along ridge over saddles. When you find an pocket like this go hunt it.
your not hunting for 5 days maybe 1 or 2 at most. you dont know where your going, what your doing so you can hunt the first day. if you kill an elk the 3rd day it will take you 3 to get it out, your camp out and processed???? one day, probably 2 at minimum to have it processed. 2 days to get it out if you killed it???
So basically our going to go walk out in the woods with a gun!