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I am hoping to bring a new western big game hunter on his first archery mule deer hunt in CO this fall. I'm am considering picking up an elk tag for myself as a target of opportunity while we chase deer in the high country.
This would be in an elk draw unit, so I have to pick either a bull or cow tag. I initially was thinking about the cow tag, as there are simply more animals in addition to an easier packout and cheaper tag. But, during the 2nd week of September, with potential early rut action starting to occupy the bulls, would it really be easier to fill a cow tag than a bull tag?
In my experience, that would depend entirely on whether you have a bull tag or a cow tag in your pocket.
But if you are really thinking about just adding it in case of a target of opportunity, I would go with the Cow tag because I’m a cheapskate and it costs a lot less to get into the game. And your chances of drawing the tag are probably better if you’re after a cow. Probably not a lot of guys would “sacrifice” a preference point for a cow tag.
Best way to have a real bomber bull elk in spitting distance is having only a cow tag in your pocket.
In mid September I’ve had more bulls in range than cows.
Hell, Greg - you shoulda seen the size of the one I almost stepped on when I had a PUNCHED cow tag!
And satellite bulls are more likely Solo (and often distracted) where cows are almost always bunched up and paranoid, so there are more eyeballs to contend with and you have almost no chance of sneaking up on ‘em.
Unless you have a bull tag.
Individually, bulls are easier but there are more cows than bulls so that offsets things. I would grab the cow tag or no tag if my hunt was focused on muleys.
What Glunt said. Elk are elk. But comparing cows to bulls it's a numbers game. More numbers thus more opportunities.Even if you're just stumbling around odds of stumbling into a cow are higher. Stalking.... if a bull is with cows it's much harder to hunt the bull. Cows on the fringe of the herd bedded and nodding off can be pretty easy. Elk are noisy and not too high strung. Get the wind right (not easy in the mountains, might be the toughest part) and you're half way there. Calling..... young bulls can be pretty stupid. But you have to find one first.
Lots of hunts are any sex and a couple times a cow saved the day at the end and fed the family. And for the MOST part they are easier to deal with on the ground. Just remember, if passing cows, it's like passing bulls. Means a higher chance of tag soup. I can live with that. WRT cow tags.... all my hunts are out of state. I'm not buying a cow tag unless it's an option after filling one with a bull. But in many cases archery season it's not an either/or deal. And if you want to take an elk, then you can take the first good opportunity you get if it has four legs. Three even......
Are ya more interested in getting your buddy a Muley buck or you an elk?
Hunting both would be a lot of fun for ya both though.
There certainly are more cows on the mountain than Bulls--------->(Ya know, Bull to Cow ratio's by unit)
Have fun and enjoy what ever you do,
All of the above. Plus add in that the years and seasons go by quick, if your out there you may as well hunt.
Chasing points in Colorado at this stage is not a good idea.
Hunt when you can. If you can afford it, buy the bull tag and shoot a cow if given the opportunity
The last 2 years, we had only bull tags in our pockets, and 3 out of 4 of us had shot opportunities for a cow. 0 for 4 on bulls.
Thanks for all the feedback. Based on the comments, I'm leaning toward the bull tag. As was mentioned, it would be much more discouraging to run into a big bull and only have a cow tag rather than the other way around.
I've had deer and elk tags in my pocket at the same time. To pursue one over the other means the other suffers.
If it is someone's first ever hunt, that should be your focus and not a casual what if encounter.
Generally yes, and many harvested are younger animals.
No, and I've been busted by many a cow that blew my target bull out of range. Bulls come in to calls more than cows do too IME. Slow elk cows are very easy though.
tkjwonta, cows eat better than bulls, IMO. You can find antlers on the ground...:)
Cow tag. Plus at least in Colorado you can shoot a calf on an antlerless tag.
I do not hunt the same areas for Mule deer that I hunt for elk. Sure, there is some overlap of animals, but the best Mule deer country is not that great for elk. If you are calling for bulls, you are more likely to hear and see bulls. If you are just wandering around or hunting deer, and per chance see an elk, it is more likely to be a cow.
Since you will be in the high country which I’m assuming this means you will be up high in open habitat glassing for deer.
If that is correct the cow tag may be a slightly better option. If you spot a herd of elk while deer hunting, you can hustle over to ambush them where you think they are going. Keep in mind mid September the herd will probably have a herd bull, maybe a rag horn, and could have a couple spikes.
Areas I hunt in Oregon herds are generally pretty small(6-10 animals total), so not a huge advantage getting the cow tag. A group of animals that small walking by pretty good chance you could get a shot at a bull.
If the area you hunt normally has bigger herds of elk (15-20 animals or more) than the cow tag may start being a little easier to fill in my mind.
If your plan is to drop down in the timber to call near suspected bedding areas mid day, get the bull tag.
Don’t want to sound negative but last time I checked bow hunting and easy, especially elk don’t belong in the same sentence. Then figure in that it’s Colorado and now you have made it even tougher as the hunting pressure these days is off the charts. Draw unit would help that to some degree. But no, I live in CO and bow hunt elk every year as my passion and never seem to find it easy.
In my experience, whichever one you DON’T have the tag for will be plentiful and frequently in bow range. The other will not.
I'm with HDE and BULELK1 given your circumstances. If you can afford the time, filling two tags might work out. I would do my homework given that both are draws making sure that your target deer area is also worth your elk points. Good luck with whatever you do...... Badbull
Since the bull to cow ratio is 1 to 4 or even greater in some units then that alone would statistically make them easier.
As others have pointed out, I wouldn’t say killing an elk with a bow is easy, bull or cow. That said, just based on sheer numbers, the odds for a cow are considerably higher.
If the focus of the hunt is introducing your friend to mule deer hunting then I wouldn't get an elk tag unless your buddy is gung ho on losing a day or so of hunting to possibly help pack out your elk. This is one of those things that sounds good but may not work out as intended. Kind of like two rifle hunters setting up on a group of elk: "we will shoot on 3. One - Two - Bang!"
To answer your question: No
Regardless of what's easiest much is depending on how many days you two have to hunt? Mule Deer should be your #-1 concern for your friend, elk 2nd in your situation!
What gives you the best odds of success if you were hunting for a Buck or Doe, obvious isn't it, Elk are no different.
With that said, if you two have 7 days or less to hunt I'd strongly suggest not getting an Elk tag, you're there to assist your friend, nothing worse in trying to rush things for him so you can fill a tag too.
I would have to agree with Paul. I don’t carry a deer tag on my own elk hunts and considering the time it takes to deal with an elk on the ground I’d never carry an elk license on a deer hunt. Take care of your friend. Show him a good time and hopefully some success so his first experience is a positive one.
My son and I had archery tags for cow elk in Arizona a couple years ago. We were surprised to find the biggest difficulty in dealing with cows, was the bulls! We hunted during the rut, and spent much of our time posted up at waterholes. Saw plenty of elk, but our problem was although the bulls and their harems would come to water, the bulls would keep the cows away and wouldn't let them drink. Which kept them beyond archery range. Each of us could have easily shot fine bulls if we'd had bull tags, but neither of us ever had a chance at a cow. Looking back on it now, maybe a better strategy would have been to set up away from the water and let the elk pass by. But that takes a lot of guesswork as to where they would come in. So in our case, cows were absolutely not easier than bulls during the rut; maybe in other parts of the year they would be. Regardless you still have to get the right animal in the right place for shot.
It's been awhile for me chasing elk, but out of 7 trips, I only had 1 opportunity at a cow. But, that could be I was after bulls.
No game animal is easier over another if you lack knowledge on how to hunt them. Knowledge & Understanding is power. Relying on luck most of ones hunting career will net you little.
When hunting Cows you must Tailor your Tactics towards a cows weakness & desires, the same applies to hunting bulls.
My first elk was a huge lead cow I called up away from the herd. I shot her at 9 yards. I was as proud of getting her as any bull I’ve taken. Lead cows are demon possessed.