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Advice for Colorado Unit 71 San Juan NF
Does any one have experience hunting Unit 71 in Colorado San Juan National Forest? What will typical weather/temperatures be like in early September? Would love to hear from anyone that has hunted this area as to terrain, elk #'s, etc. I'm a complete newbie as this is my first elk hunt and it is not guided. Four of us on our own. Any input is appreciated.
I hunted that a lot, but in my younger days, out of Cortez..... my experience was in the 90's and early 2000s,,,,,, so things may have changed..... I was able to use my 4 wheeler on some roads, which I did, to get at water holes, and there are a lot of them
my last time in that area was 2009, and there was considerable pressure, but we got elk,,,, there is a lot of elk, not so much trophy by many standards, but always a fun hunt
I hunted all around Ground Hog lake, and such......... I camped off the roads, I back packed in, I hunted out of my truck, and stayed mobile, etc,,,,,,,,,,,,,
Now I take it easy and shoot a cow for the meat,,,,,, either way you will have a great time, we always did
High country in Colorado can literally be 85 at noon and hailing sleeting or snowing at 4. Last summer scouting first weekend in August we scouted all day at 11-12000 feet in blistering heat and then woke up to a dusting of snow and ice on everything the next morning. I don’t know about your particular unit but the general weather in Colorado is somewhere between 30 and 90 for September in the elk woods.
I don't remember it snowing anywhere in Colorado last August, umm... As far as weather in September, it's tough to say. No one can predict it. Just come prepare is all you can do.
I guess since buglmin didn’t see it it didn’t happen ummmm....
I haven't seen snow in the San Juans in August or early September. But, afternoon thunderstorms with hail balls are fairly common.
It snows quite a bit in the San Juans in August and September
Never hunted 71, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn once or twice. Have hunted 80 and the best advice I can give is if you’re in the mountains anywhere, be prepared. Hunted Idaho one year and it started in the 90’s and 4 days later it was snowing. When I got to Wyoming last week, it was snowing. It’s been in the 70’s this week and calling for snow this weekend.
I have hunted 71 for over 45 yrs. Used to be lots of elk. Not so much the last 2 or 3 yrs. Be prepared to see more bear sign than elk sign. Lots of hunters.
Certainly can snow during archery season around mt Wilson. It doesn't rain nearly as often as it snows at 14000plus
Know safety tips for when caught by lightning storms. Is especially nerve-wracking if are where you are about the tallest thing around as the fun starts.
The elk population is certainly down. They made drastic reductions in cow tags in each of the last 2 years, and cut another 100 bull tags from the first rifle season this year. Great country and you will have fun, but don't expect too much. Herd will bounce back, but it will take a few years. And as stated, you might want to buy a bear tag.
There are lots of good drainages on either side of the highway between Dolores and Telluride that are worth checking out as well as the Mesas in that area. If you study maps, you can find several areas you can get dropped off at the top and picked up at the bottom of a drainage.
Spend some time scouting and formulating a game plan vs. just hunting. The elk I hunted moved up to the meadows and in the mornings headed down into the dark timber to bed. The trick was circling below them and intercepting without getting busted. Which was tricky with warming thermals moving up to them after sunrise.
You could almost set your watch for a afternoon rain/hail storm and on occasion flurries. Nothing better than a nap in a tent during a storm.
Brush up on your astronomy as you will be treated to the greatest star show in your life.
The San Juans are rugged but beautiful....one of my favorite ranges. There aren`t elk around every tree, so don`t put too much pressure on yourselves if you are not getting into them daily....but you will have a tremendous, fun hunt.
I hunted there is 2018 and several years before. Much more non-hunting human activity. Bicyclists and guys on motorcycles constantly driving through. Plenty of hunting pressure. Weather will be from too hot to too cold to too wet to too dry. Go where others won't.
I have hunted there quite a few times. Everything that has been said about the weather is true however, I am sure you are mainly wanting to know what clothing is needed. I have rarely worn more than two layers during any hunt and I typically try to hunt the last two weeks of the season. Of course you will need to carry raingear all the time just in case. The terrain is pretty rough. Several guys that I have taken up there have refused to go back. Over the years we have had fairly good luck however, the last two years have been very poor. I am actually trying a new unit this year because of that. There is quite a bit of pressure in some areas but I rarely see people once you get a mile or two off the road or trail.
Your question is too broad to to give an educated answer. You could be hunting from 6000 to 12,000 feet. Low country water holes to above timberline. It can be very hot or dangerously rainy and cold. Where do you plan to hunt? Low or high? The elk population is down but still doable. My advice is to get out there and figure it out. You might stumble onto a big bull in the heat of the rut or you might spend 10 days and only see a few elk. Even just seeing a few elk, that you might be able to get close to is amazing and will have you hooked. That's how I started.
I appreciate the info so far. At this point all I know is our cabin is at 10,000 ft. and the ridge line is at 12,000 ft. but we can hunt below the cabin so we will probably be in the 8-9,000 ft. range. Prefer to not experience altitude sickness (never have but would like to avoid that from what I've heard). Yes, to the clothing question. I'm hoping my whitetail gear will suffice but I may pick up a couple other pieces to be prepared. And I'm trying to get a better idea on our exact location so I can begin studying maps, etc. Any other thoughts or advice is much appreciated!
My advice is go a few days early and adjust (work your way up) to the elevation . 10k-12k is nothing to mess around with and many get significant altitude sickness. It isn't any fun at the least and deadly at the worst. Being smart solves the problem.
Little Bear- Not specific to San Juans, but elk hunting in general. "Hunt where the elk are, not where you want them to be." If they are at 8K, hunt them at 8K. If they are at timberline, you need to develop a game plan to hunt them at timberline.
Ed, Have not hunted 71 but have hunted several times in units east of there. Check CO DOW site and find map with summer elk concentrations (good place to start). Also get a prescription for Diamox and take a day or so before you get there thru 2 or 3 days while hunting. This has helped us with altitude sickness prevention hunting 11 to 13,000 ft. We usually find elk high in August and early Sept.