Summit Treestands
Colorado DIY
Elk
Contributors to this thread:
wolfehunter 20-Sep-20
TreeWalker 20-Sep-20
Charlie Rehor 20-Sep-20
GF 20-Sep-20
sticksender 20-Sep-20
PoudreCanyon 20-Sep-20
wolfehunter 21-Sep-20
wolfehunter 22-Sep-20
From: wolfehunter
20-Sep-20
Returned last week from 8 days in Colorado with my 17 year old son on a DIY hunt. I had been to Colorado with friends two times prior back in 2008 and 2012. I came close to punching a tag both times but couldn't close the deal. Regardless I loved it and would talk about it frequently. This inspired the curiosity of my son who has been pesting for a few years to do this. Since his tag would only cost $102 and I had some points built up that I would soon be losing we decided to check into it this year. I called the land manager in the area and he said the elk herd was doing well in the area. I put in for a muzzleloader and drew a tag so we were set. We worked hard getting in shape as I explained to him that we were "flatlanders" here in PA and we would be hunting at 10,600 feet. He went out for football this year so that combined with biking and hiking the ridges around home we were ready. He texted me one day and said he just hiked 4 miles to the top of the mountain behind our home with a 35 dumbbell in his pack so I knew he was serious about getting ready. He lost 26 pounds before we left!! I didn't realize all the planning involved and we planned to hike almost 4 miles from the trailhead and set up camp. So after making the 28 hour trip by truck and getting to the trailhead for the second week of archery there were 15 trucks at the trailhead. We hiked in and did meet some local guys that spent the whole first week in the area we planned to hunt. They had not heard a bugle and said that the parks were so dry that the elk weren't really using them for feed. They were packing out the next day. So the first 6 days my son would hunt with the bow and the last two days I planned to take the muzzleloader along but this hunt was really about his experience hunting elk in Colorado. We did see a cow and a calf the first two days and he was able to draw on a cow in dark timber at 28 yards. She was quartering away ever so slightly and he was at full draw but needed her to take one more step. And as luck would have it instead of just taking a step she bolted out of there! But at least we were able to see a few elk. Then the weather turned and that winter storm hit! So we had a 3 season tent with open mesh and a fly over it. We got 4 to 5 inches of snow with wind and temps in the teens. Spent some time in the tent knocking the snow off every 20 minutes to keep it from collapsing. In PA hunting whitetails we get excited about snow so we were looking forward to seeing what these elk do and where they go by tracking them the next day. We were able to cut a few fresh tracks but it didn't seem like there were many elk in our area. Visited the old haunts from 2008 and 2012 but came up empty. We covered some ground the next two days trying to locate elk going south from camp 2 miles one day and 1.6 miles the next day. The following day we got about 3 more inches of snow and we were pretty far from camp. Until we got back the tent had partially collapsed! Thank goodness the fiberglass rods didn't break and it popped back up after I scraped the snow off. Again with fresh snow we were only able to cut a few mule deer and coyote tracks the next day. It was also made it tough with the fire ban to keep our boots dry. The goretex kept them dry but with all the hiking our feet would sweat and get the boots damp. We used our camp stoves to dry them out best we could after warming our MRE's at the end of the day. We slept in our base layers with our hunting clothes on to stay warm! When Saturday came I took the muzzleloader along and we hunted to the north of camp on a ridge almost 2 miles without cutting a track in snow that was laying for 4 days. So we headed home with a great Colorado experience. He is already talking about next year!! Since we are always learning I had a couple elk questions. We had watched videos and downloaded Elknut's App and had practiced calling and bugling in preparation for the trip. Drove the wife and daughter crazy!! We had hoped for some elk talk like we do with our spring gobblers here in PA but neither us or the guys there before us had heard a peep. Since there were a few elk around should we have tried to stimulate a bugle by bugling more on our own? We probably only bugled a handful of times as we were hoping to hear one bugle on his own. Also, with it being so dry and the park grass being all brown, what do these elk eat? One local guy at the trailhead told me they will only eat aspen when nothing else is available and that the elk in the area were most likely eating grass in dark timber since the park grass was all dried up. My other question is what do the elk do during a winter storm advisory? Our whitetails hunker down and bed until it is over and then get up to feed. Curious if the elk do the same. I think maybe we just didn't find them as there were a few in the area by our cow/calf sightings and a couple of tracks. I think we just didn't find the "mother load". And they obviously weren't talking if there were bulls in the area. Just wanted to share our experience and see if anyone had any suggestions or advice for us for next year's trip. I know I will ask the land manager about rainfall next time as I think that impacted the elk in this area. With the price of plane tickets I am so tempted to take a long weekend and take him back to Colorado for another crack at it!! We got through a week of challenging weather in a dried up area with a few elk and came away with almost getting a shot at a cow. I think he is hooked!! Fingers crossed. That way I get to tag along.

From: TreeWalker
20-Sep-20
Bulls may have been at higher altitude still. Sounds like rut progression was muted if no bugles even in evening as got cooler on warm days and early morning. Your son will recall these memories long after you have put away the muzzleloader for the last time.

20-Sep-20
Elk prolly hanging out at the Richie rich ranches with plenty of water and feed. Drought made for a really tuff year. So glad you and your son had a positive experience.

From: GF
20-Sep-20
JMO, getting to full draw on an Elk - ANY ELK - at under 30 yards counts as a Win. Especially on your first trip. I really regret not taking my 17-year-old this year, as it was probably my only chance ‘til he has graduated from college, by which time I will be damn near 60....

Sounds like you did a lot right. And not just on the trip.

As a rule, when there is snow, find the Elk down low, but when you weigh #400-#500 and you’re wearing your winter coat, cold temps are not much a bother. They probably burn more energy keeping cool at 70° than they do keeping warm at 20°.

My last trip out, we got snow down to at least 8500’, and all the Elk we saw were just up on the first bench above the sage where there was some cover. Later in the trip after the snow melted off, we saw them a bit higher, but headed for the next ranch to feed in his hay field at night. Very little in the way of tracks up above 10,000, which suited my out-of-shape, flat-lander legs just fine.

From: sticksender
20-Sep-20
Quote: "Just wanted to share our experience and see if anyone had any suggestions or advice for us for next year's trip"

Are you & your son saving points for an archery hunt in a limited unit? Unless you have already found a great unmolested honey hole in an OTC unit, this could be your best bet for a less-crowded hunt, and one with potentially more rut action. Also you went a little too early for what's usually the best bugling activity. You can certainly kill one in the opening couple of weeks. But if given a choice, I'd always pick the second half of Sept, if the goal is to see and hear the most frenetic rut action.

From: PoudreCanyon
20-Sep-20
In my experience, finding a wet drainage, with green forage and lots of creeks and seeps, can make all the difference. North facing slopes above 10,000 with lots of dark timber can provide a lot of moisture from residual snowpack - something to look for next year. Good luck!

From: wolfehunter
21-Sep-20
Thanks for the kind words and sound advice. We will hopefully try again next year and see if we can capitalize.

From: wolfehunter
22-Sep-20
Thanks for the kind words and sound advice. We will hopefully try again next year and see if we can capitalize.

  • Sitka Gear