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Hello all- Firstly, I have long been an observer of this forum and thank you all for the tips you have so generously shared. My 13 y/o son and I returned yesterday from an OTC hunt in Colorado (units 17,18). I thought I was prepared; I took the Elk 101course, listened to all of Elk Nut's CDs and watched/listened to all of Randy Newberg's virtual scouting techniques. We hunted hard. We averaged 10 miles/day and several thousand feet of vertical. We made our way though jack-strewn beetle kill. Unfortunately, we encountered, LOTS of other hunters, outfitters and horses. "Combat hunting". We did get into elk one day and had several bulls responding to our Bugles, but never got closer than 100 yards. My son became less enthusiastic as the week went on (ever try to roust a teenager at 0430?) and we called it after 5 days in the woods, with no elk. It was a great week and I was blessed to have the quality time with my son, but as you can imagine I am disappointed. My goal was to have my son punch his tag on any legal elk, taking an animal myself was a secondary goal. I am seeking the collective wisdom of this group as to help shape my future plans. My son and I want to continue elk hunting, but need a different ( read: more Elky) experience in the future. This was my 3rd elk hunt in Colorado-largely because I used to live there and because it only a day's drive from MN. If we want to hunt every year, would you suggest looking for other OTC areas in Colorado? Explore other states? Consider paying a trespass fee for access to private land? I thank you all in advance for your advice and wish you well this season.
My very first move would be buy a Wyoming preference point. Second do some research an start applying for limited entry hunts.
Keep your chin up - elk hunting is tough...
Sent you a PM as well.
It doesn’t sound like you did too bad considering the circumstances. There a lot to be learned even from trips like yours. Your son will appreciate an animal that takes time and effort to earn. Imagine if he shot one the first morning, he wouldn’t understand what it takes to really hunt! I say buy points try to find/scout new places and keep after it. And involve him in the process!
Stay at it!!!
The journey is where it's at!!!
Shoot ANY legal elk you can to stomp the gorilla!!!
You had some pretty high expectations. Imagine dropping $10,000 on an outfitted hunt with the exact same results. Elk hunting takes years to really start to figure it out. Keeping a 13 year old "in the game" under those conditions is difficult. This is just the first step in your elk hunting career. We all have and still do experience what you did.
Elk hunting, on your own, is usually this challenging. Exceptions for blind luck, of course.
How will this experience affect your son's willingness to elk hunt again?
I would want my daughter to want to hunt again, so I would base future hunts on that. If it meant a guided hunt or not hunting again for several years until points are built up, so be it.
Many hunters have had less success than you after 3 hunts. I think your experiences have been normal.
I hope this helps gain perspective.
Calling it after 5 days isn’t enough time to make a proper assessment. Granted, he’s at the age he probably has school, so that’s about all you’re going to get for time.
I went 4 days without seeing elk on quality private ground. I didn’t get my bull until day 18. Elk move and they are hard to find at times. The longer you hunt, the better you’ll know the area and eventually it will work.
You saw elk and heard bugles, that’s better than a lot of other people’s experience this season.
Might just be the age of your son, too. I was more interested in girls and sports and girls and friends and girls at 13. I liked spending every weekend fishing with him but not sure how much I would have liked hiking at 10000' if there were no elk. I was able to 'return' to hunting after my kids were grown a bit. At age 30, I started hunting each year with my pop and have continued that for the last 24 years. Not sure if you can force your son to like it - even if there are deer/elk in the picture each day of a hunt. But, the time spent together is going to bring lasting benefits for both of you.
Allow more time to hunt. Our group of 4 just returned from a limited draw elk hunt in Colorado where we covered several miles per day and saw o elk in the first 5 days of our hunt. The last 4 days we only saw a few long distance elk with zero chances to harvest. Time to look into new areas.
Took my 17 yo son this year to OTC unit and heard one bugle on day 5. I was pretty happy he wants to do it again.
+1 for Greg Simon When my son was youth, I would apply for Wyoming youth general tag. Then price was $100. Had two great hunts, into elk everyday in general unit. Didn't run into too many hunters where we packed into, but again, that was 15 years ago.
+2 for Greg’s advice!
Wyoming has spectacular opportunities for general unit archery. With significantly less crowding!
Arizona’s low end units are better than Colorado’s best draw units that take upwards of 20 points to draw. With Arizona’s draw system, you can draw the first time you apply.
New Mexico is also a great opportunity with many good elk hunts and no points.
I don’t know much about Montana, but there are definitely options there and you can get tags pretty easily for a lot of the state. Some areas are draw and you have to get a general tag fist to apply for those areas.
Colorado OTC public land has to be the absolute worst experience for elk hunting in the west. With unlimited tags for elk combined with archery deer, rifle bear, early rifle deer, early rifle elk, and muzzle loader you have more people in the woods in September in many areas than you do on many of the rifle hunts later on! It is next to impossible to find any place to hunt that is not crowded, even in wilderness areas.
Pretty sure CPW would continue to market that we have the largest elk herd anywhere and sell unlimited elk tags for the last elk hiding in the state - especially if they could sell those tags to non-residents for more money!
It sounds like you had a great hunt for Colorado OTC! You actually got close to real live elk in 5 days!
I am actually very impressed at how well your son stuck it out. He lasted longer than I would have and I have been hunting elk for over 30 years!
If you really want an incredible experience, look into a pack in guided wilderness hunt in Wyoming. That is truly a lifetime experience.
I am also impressed with your son. My son started coming out with me at 13 and spent more time hunting grouse and trying to trap squirrels then he spent hunting elk. But I wouldnt change it for anything. Hes 21 now and much more focused. We start hunting tomorrow