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DIY Colorado Elk Archery Hunt Unit 14/15
My son and I are planning on doing a Backcountry Backpacking Archery Hunt in Colorado we are driving from NJ. It was originally going to be for after he graduated college in 3 years but my wife said to go this year. So I have a lot to learn about what we need in gear, where to go, and also get in better shape for the hunt. I think we are going to be in GMU 14/15 originally we were looking at Unit 47 the Hunter Fryingpan wilderness but were talked out of it based upon the elevation and the amount of time it would take to acclimate. Based upon what I have read it has one of the largest herds of elk as well as a somewhat higher success rate than most units as well as being an OTC unit so we can buy the license at any sporting goods store and go vs. a lottery. Looking to hunt likely in the Steamboat Springs area most likely in the Sarvis Creek Wilderness.
So far I bought for both of us a Mystery Ranch Pack , a new sleeping bag rated for 15 degrees, a sleep pad and a Mountainsmith Shelter. I bought the Delorme InReach GPS and a backpacking stove. It was tough finding equipment that would fit him since he is 6'5 and 260 lbs. The pack really doesn't fit him as the load lifters are even with the top of his shoulders but a new Kifaru wasn't in the budget.
If anyone has done a trip like this I would appreciate any guidance you can provide since my time frame for research and getting everything together has been condensed? Is their anything I am forgetting? If you've hunted this area or can give me advise on a better area it would be much appreciated! We will be doing the first 6 Days of the archery elk season.
Thanks in advance!
I moved to colo a month ago and can’t give you any specific advice on where to go. However, there are a number of forest fires burning here. I would have to think that will make some places devoid of elk and some may have more than normal populations, as the animals escape fires and lack of food and cover. And hunters will be on the move as well. Good luck on your hunt.
I live in 15. It is very crowded hunting both in and out of the wilderness. Elk will be where the people are not. This year may have extra hunters that are looking for a new area after their areas have burned up. Good luck!
If I were you, and I know its a long drive, but I would settle for the SW part of the state around Cortez,,,,,,, with that said, I will send you a PM on some info that I think would help
Burn areas can be really good for elk if they're not still burning come September because of all the fresh growth that'll come from it.
I doubt you'll need a stove early season. I suppose there is always a chance of some snow, but it probably won't be that cold. If you haven't packed in a camp before at altitude I'd suggest you go in from trailheads every day. If there's no elk, move. It'd suck to make one push in with all your gear to find out there's no elk and be burnt out from the hike in.
From my first couple experiences doing backpack elk hunting. Get all of your gear, food, clothes together ready to go. Then take half of it and leave it at the truck. My dad and I way over packed the first couple years. You would be surprised how little you can get by on for 5 days. We can pack everything we need for 5 nights away from the truck and it will only wiegh 45lbs. That's pack, clothes, food, and gear.
Take Idyllwilds advise! Do an overnight or two with all your backpacking gear this summer. It will help you modify your final pack list. Wear your boots a lot before you go. The first week can be quiet but a decent week to have bulls investigate calling. Don't be discouraged if you don't hear much bugling. If its quiet and you aren't getting into any elk, have a plan B and C. One day hunting where the elk are beats a week hunting where the elk aren't.
Most elk are killed by guys that slept next to a road the night before. A backpack hunt can be great, satisfying and may get you into a honey hole but also a lot of work and if you picked a bad spot, it takes longer to relocate.
I wouldn't pass any legal elk.
If the bulls are not talking, look for "FRESH" elk sign. Don't settle in on a drainage until you find "FRESH" elk sign. You will likely see elk sign everywhere, but hunt where they are, not where they were two weeks or a month prior. Being mobile is key. IMO, too many elk hunters waste their entire hunt because they found a bunch of dry elk droppings in a particular location. Of course, the freshest elk sign still has elk standing in it....LOL!
Once you find elk, don't blow them out of the area or you have to start all over. You can get away with some movement and even some noise, but don't let them smell you. In the mountains, you must not only consider wind direction...but thermals as well.
Best of luck!
We hunted the Sarvice creek area for about 8 years. It's pretty tough country and alot of Dark timber, but we were always able to find elk even though it hold quite a few hunters. (Our first years we were as green as grass) We combo'd with a base camp next to the road and occasional overnight trips as the elk were in different locations most years. It's nice to get a good night sleep on a cot sometimes. PM if you have some specific questions. ENJOY
Have proper expectations on killing an elk on ur first trip. Enjoy yourselves no matter what and if u learn those two units u can go back year after year and increase ur odds of success.
Just remember it gets HOT at times during the first few weeks of season - if you shoot one way back in you need to be prepared to haul it out, in a hurry.
A lot of good advice above. Have fun and enjoy the experience.
What you read about this area having the largest elk herd in Colorado is only partly true. The correct information concerning this Unit is that it is part of all of the NW Region's units which contains the largest number of elk in Colorado. Colorado's elk population is 265,000.
How are you arriving in Colorado? Fly out and rent a car or drive out which will take the better part of three days.
You are from the east coast and are not acclimated to a higher elevation. You will be hunting at an elevation of 9,000 ft and usually it take a couple of days to acclimate to that elevation. A 6 day hunt is a minimum, and then throw in drive time, finding a camp area, finding elk, acclimating to the elevation. etc. etc. I like the idea of "truck camping" and then do an over night bivy camp, if you find elk.
I agree, the elk will not be sounding off in general the first part of the season, so hunting areas with bed to feed routes might be the major consideration. Finding these will take time and effort.
Good advise above. Have fun with your son and cherish the moments and memories. my best, Paul
Thanks for the info guys! "You are from the east coast and are not acclimated to a higher elevation. You will be hunting at an elevation of 9,000 ft and usually it take a couple of days to acclimate to that elevation. A 6 day hunt is a minimum, and then throw in drive time, finding a camp area, finding elk, acclimating to the elevation. etc. etc. I like the idea of "truck camping" and then do an over night bivy camp, if you find elk." Paul we will be driving . According to google maps the area I am looking at is 29 Hrs. one way. I blocked out 10 days for the trip planning on leaving 8/22. My son thinks we are going to drive straight through which is hilarious but you've got to admire the enthusiasm. I am thinking getting there late the 23rd or early the 24th and hunting for 6 days to come home over the labor day weekend. Being self employed I have flexibility to extend by a day or two if necessary. We chose this area after being advised that the area we originally were looking at in unit 47 was between 10-14k elevation and we would be miserable if not taking time to acclimate to the elevation. Right now I have 4 places marked on my onx that we want to check out and plan on setting a base camp but carrying enough with us to spike out if we get into elk or its just too far to get back that evening. One question I have about getting into the area is one trailhead on the west side to Silver Creek trail looks like the first couple hundred yards goes through private property but the aerial photo of the road through the property shows several vehicles parked there so I don't know if the public are allowed through there? If not I will likely come in through Sarvis creek trail and follow one of the ridge fingers down to what I think would be a good spot.
Straight though is doable. Just sleep while the other drives and switch on each fill up.
Oh one other question since I live in the Republic of New Jersey I can't buy bear spray here its a felony. Should I pick it up on my way or do I not need it?
Bear spray is optional. In 26 years of elk hunting in Colorado, I have NEVER felt the need to carry a sidearm or spray.
Now remember, this is Colorado and the last time I checked, there were 47,000 bow hunters who purchased an elk archery license, SO, any trail head you find will surely have other hunters camped there at the trail head or up the trail farther back. Like you some of them might not know the area and have to do a lot of searching.
In 1988, like you I traveled out from Ohio to bow hunt elk in the Flat Top Wilderness Area of Central Colorado. I had talked with the local game biologist and Forest ranger, and timber cruser on the location of the elk. After staying with friends in the area for two days, I drove to the area, and truck camped with the goal of at least, to see an elk. Did not see or hear an elk for 4 days, but On day 5, I actually called in a bull, missed him trying to shoot through some branches, met my goal, came back the following year and killed my very first bull elk.
After your trip out and your hunt, will you know and figure out, the next strategy for your next follow up elk hunt.
All the time we hunted that area no bears, but multiple (way to close for comfort) Moose encounters.
You'll have a great time. If you see or hear or find "green shit" elk your trip is a success! Everything else is a bonus, all the other wildlife and times with your son. That being said, Get in shape. Get in shape. Get in shape. 9k will kick you in the nuts! 12k is a breeze!!! All the help above is great. The people that kill elk with a bow work harder. The easiest thing about elk hunting is shooting one, second finding one, the hardest is getting an elk out to your truck and then to a processor (2 days?) oh and don't try and take the whole elk out! But then your not from Wisconsin! 4 quarters back straps and tenderloins, if you can get more without spoiling the above, great! You'll learn a lot!
I am not familiar with that area, but have DIY hunted Colorado for 9 trips. I too am from the east coast (Mass) with a 34+ hour drive, its a 2 1/2 day trip one way. Try a 12 day trip minimum. With only seven weeks until opening, I hope you are in shape already. Try doing some weekend local backpacking trips to test your gear and techniques. The altitude will kick your a$$ big time, see your doc for a prescription for Diamox to get a head start acclimating. Your best bet is staying mobile and hiking, utilizing roadside camps to find FRESH SIGN, then do a overnighter to stay with the elk if needed. Take your first legal animal. Practice shooting out to 60+ yards. When you hear your first bugle and see elk, you'll be hooked for life. Have fun and good luck.