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Guest Kyle

Colorado Elk Hunting

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Guest Kyle

Hi everyone. In 2014 myself and 3 friends are traveling to Colorado to elk hunt for the 1st time. We'll be archery hunting. Right now we are scouring the states wildlife and parks site for any and all information. We will not be able to do any scouting this year so using maps, data, and advice are our main means of planning. We are starting to plan this trip now so that by next year we can feel comfortable knowing we've done absolutely everything possible without actually going out there. If anyone has hunted in Colorado for elk on public land and are willing to lend advice we would be very grateful! We are pumped up already!

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Scoot

Good for you, Kyle! A few questions for you: are planning on doing it completely DIY or are you looking for fully guided, semi-guided, or drop camp options? If the plan is for DIY are you planning on doing it while camping by your truck, packing in and setting up a spike camp, or doing a bivy hunt? Do you have a general or specific area picked out? Do any of you have any experience archery hunting for elk? How much do you and your group members know about calling elk?

Answer these questions and we'll try give you a little guidance.

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NoWiser

You are right where I was last year at this time. Let me tell you, Scoot has been beyond helpful in my planning. While not directly telling me where to go, he has helped steer me in the right direction as I've been doing my own research. I owe him bigtime!! (Unless I don't see any elk, then I'm never talking to him again). I now have an area picked out in Wyoming where I am confident we will have a good hunt and contact elk. You are definitely doing it right, starting to research this early.

You will probably be hunting OTC units, I would assume, so my first step would probably be to make a spreadsheet listing those, and then have another column with success rates, % public land, etc. This could at least help you narrow your search. Then get on the phone and call biologists, wardens, Forest Service Workers, etc... From what I understand about Colorado, you can expect lots of elk, lots of people, and thin air! As Scoot mentioned, the type of hunting (spike, bivy, truck camping) you plan on doing can make a big difference on where you want to go.

Another recommendation, since it's your first elk hunt, would be to go to the Elk101 website and order their University of Elk Hunting DVD. I just got mine a few weeks ago and there is some great info in it. It's pretty basic, but is perfect for a first timer like you or I.

Good luck!! And, be sure to post your story next fall after your hunt! I'll get one written up for you to read when I return from my hunt in mid September!

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Scoot

I owe him bigtime!! (Unless I don't see any elk, then I'm never talking to him again).

Jim, I'm very confident you'll talk to me after your trip- you will see elk. Can you play all your cards right and get yourself in position to shoot an elk? Well... that's up to you! Are your calling, knowledge of the wind/thermals, physical conditioning, and shooting skills up to the task? I think you'll be in good shape for all of these!

Kyle, another question- how old are you and what is your physical condition? I had a guy contact me recently about elk hunting this coming year- he was in his mid-40's, didn't exercise, was overweight, wasn't interested in exercising, and didn't shoot his bow more than a few practice shots before the season opened. If this describes you, I can't help you (and neither can anyone else!) However, if you're in shape or motivated to get in shape and will practice to get ready for the trip, we'll get you ready to rock and roll in CO!

It's great you're starting your prep now!

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Guest Kyle

Thanks for the responses guys.

Scoot,

This will be a DIY hunt. We are all die hard bow hunters, so shooting practice takes place year round for us. I'm 26, and so are 2 of the other guys, 1 guy is almost 40. We are all in good physical condition, as we all were athletes and continue to exercise daily. WE WILL be starting a condition regimen at the beginning of next summer though to be more prepared for the higher altitudes.

Right now the plan is to, at the very least, camp by the truck. No one has been on an elk hunt before, but I did attend Royal Tine Guide and Packer School in 2008. I had an opportunity with an outfitter, but chose to finish college. I basically spent 2 months learning how to stalk Elk, Mule Deer, and Sheep. As well as wilderness survival, and as much as a person can learn in that amount of time about knots, calling elk, horses and mules, maps and topography, and overall guiding.

Having said that, I have not actually hunted elk for a kill and a fair amount of my technical knowledge has faded.

As far as style of hunting goes, like I said I think we are planning to camp by the truck, but I will go in deeper and set a spike camp if the situation calls for it.

We have found the mapping systems on the colorado state website, as well as kill ratio data for the OTC units. I'm not convinced the kill ratio data has high validity/accuracy. Our biggest concern right now is finding an area that allows for deep wilderness penetration(few roads) and LOTS OF ELK. I think by getting away from roads, we will also be able to get away from other hunters. Colorado doesn't have population maps, but they do have vague movement pattern maps, as well as wintering and summering areas mapped. I guess after looking at the maps long enough to go cross eyed, how do you go about selecting an area without actually knowing if there are elk there or not?

Thanks!

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Scoot

Right now the plan is to, at the very least, camp by the truck.

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Guest Kyle

Thanks for the thorough response. I should have been more clear. Our plan is to at the very least camp by the truck. We would rather go in and set a spike camp or do a bivy style hunt, and if we can pinpoint an area on the map where we can get away from roads then we will plan to do that. My only hesitation at this point from going in DEEP is how we would keep an elk cold enough in possibly warm weather?

This will be a 10 day hunt, the last 2 weeks in september. I'm no pro caller. I understand, and can perform the basics. I'm pretty good with turkey mouth call which is similar to an elk mouth call from my previous experience(obviously different sound).

Also, for whatever it's worth, we will be purchasing OTC either/or licenses. For the 1st time out, we want to make it a successful trip regardless of sex. Don't get me wrong, I would love to kill a bull, and will give it my all do harvest one, but if its the last day and I have an opportunity at a cow I'll definitely be glad to fill my freezer.

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Scoot

Kyle, it sounds like you're on the right track. Here's what I suggest regarding locating a place: 1) buy Elknut's Scouting Elk Country DVD and watch it a couple times. 2) get the Elk101 DVD NoWiser suggested. 3) Buy Elknut's audio (MP3s or CDs), put them in your truck, and practice every chance you get. I'm not typically a big advocate of one school of thought for lots of things- I'm more of a hybrid approach guy to many things. However, I totally drank the Kool-aid with regard to Elknut's approach. I've listened to Elknut's stuff somewhere around two dozen times and I continue to learn something when I listen to them.

As far as how you take care of the elk, here's how we do it on our trips. Bring coolers filled with block ice (we ususally use frozen milk jugs). At the last town you stop at, drain the water and top it off with cube ice. You need big coolers that are totally full of ice and nothing else. When you shoot an elk take care of it with the gutless method (google it and watch the videos if you're not familiar with it). Debone it in the field ASAP- don't wait at all. Put the meat in four evenly distributed Alaskan Game bags. Haul the meat out on your back. We plan on taking around 80 lbs per guy per trip, but sometimes the loads are heavier. We haul the first trip out with our packs that we hunt from and we keep frame packs in our truck (because of this we sometimes haul 60 lbs on the first trip and 90 lbs on the second trip). Very, very important for this is having a pack that can handle that kind of load. Not only does the pack need to handle it, but it needs to not kill you in the process. Packs are a whole topic all to themselves, but if you are planning the kind of trip you mentioned in your last post it sounds like it's time to get very familiar/educated on them. Tons of options that range from kind of expensive to really expensive. I mocked a buddy of mine for getting an expensive one last year. In the off season, I bought one. My much less expensive pack last year almost killed me and I was happy to buy the expensive pack I said I'd never purchase.

Regarding where to go, locate a very general area based on populations of elk that offers OTC. Map out all the roads and find the pockets that don't have any motorized traffic near them. Make sure there's water nearby. Hunt.

Keep firing away with more questions as you have them.

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SmellEsox

Listen to Scoot. He speaks the truth about hunting pressure. When I went and hunted around Walden, you had to definitely make tracks to get away from other hunters. If you camp by the truck, you won't get far enough in.

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MN Mike

When I went and hunted around Walden, you had to definitely make tracks to get away from other hunters.

Where did you hunt from Walden? I've been going there since 1988, hunting public land during the rifle seasons northwest of Walden, would love to get out there in September on year to hunt but I just don't see that happening for a while.

During the rifle seasons we see a few hunters around but by early / mid week it's pretty quiet in our area.

Good information on this thread, if a person figures out where you are going and you want to know about the hunting pressure, I would call some of the gas stations / hardware stores or other licensing agents, they usually have a good idea where people are heading to. Motels are another good place to call for info too.

We never brought horses out west but what we would do is try to find someone local that we could call in case we needed an animal hauled out if we got way back in the timber, this came in handy one year when we shot 2 bulls back in the heavier timber, at that time he only charged us $200 to come up and pull them out, something to consider, other hunters from this area do that as well when they hunt near Redstone Colorado. We also carry a small chest freezer out west too with a small generator and butcher our animals at camp, works great if you can afford the space.

Good luck Kyle! Camping 10 days in the Mtns is awesome, a successful hunt is icing on the cake!

Mike

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Guest Kyle

Hey guys,

I'm starting my camo clothing search for my elk hunt in septemeber. Anyone have any recommendations for late september archery elk hunt in NW CO?

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rkhinrichs

sitka gear!

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Scoot

Kyle,

My answer depends upon what you plan to do. If you plan on truck camping, anything you have for bowhunting in the Midwest. Make sure you always, and I mean always, carry a set of lightweight rain gear with you. I carry Cabela's space rain gear, but there are better, lighter (more expensive) options. I learned that one the hard way, when my buddy and I got caught in a super nasty lighting/rain storm where the temps dropped 40 degrees and the rain came as sideways as the lightning and we got lost.

Also, I recommend poly underwear. I'll spare you the details, but cotton skivvies can lead to chaffing that render you useless. Don't ask me why I know this- just trust me... blush

If you're going to be away from the truck for extended periods of time, it might be worth investing in some gear. Sitka, Kuiu, First Lite, 46 Rail, Arcteryx, Core4Element and a few more are great options. If you shop really smart you can get most of them for less than 1/2 price. It takes patience though.

Here's exactly what I have for backpack hunting elk. Again, this isn't necessary if you're going to be at the truck and able to clean up every night and change out clothes every few days.

Pants: Sitka Mountain Pants

Shirt: Kuiu long sleeve merino wool crew tshirt

Sitka Vest: I can't remember the name of the vest, but I think it's the Celsius vest

Jacket: Sitka 90% jacket

Insulation: Cabela's Primaloft puffy jacket (an inexpensive fleece is a reasonable alternative and makes a better pillow when you stuff it in a game bag).

Socks: believe it or not, this is the most important piece of clothing you will have. I wear a thin poly sock with a light-medium weight merino wool sock over that. DO NOT WEAR ANY COTTON ON YOUR FEET!

Boots: I wear Meindl Ultralights or Meindl Perfekt Hikers. You absolutely, positively need a good sock/boot combo that'll let you hike your buns off on the mountain or that'll be a show stopper for your hunt. Tons of trips have ended when people's feet were hamburger after using socks, boots, or sock/boot combos that didn't fit them right or were of poor material (cotton). Don't let this happen to you!

If you add up all the cost of these products at full price, it'd cost a boatload! It took me about six years to get all of them, but I paid well under half price for them.

Now is a good time to find good prices on last years Sitka products. Look online and locally in Scheels and other stores and snoop out the good deals.

If you have other questions, fire away and I'll do my best to help.

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Guest Kyle

Scoot,

I'll be backpacking for 10 days so good clothing is going to be important. I'll start looking for some of these products. Thanks!

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HooknHorns

Going to watch this close, doing the same next year. Applying in wyoming and if unsuccessful try to head southern Colorado dyi OTC. Keeping my fingers crossed and hoped it all works out so I can make an attempt at a backcountry hunt. Praying my buddy stays healthy to make it with me. If stars are aligned we can sit and take it all in on top of a mountain.

I've got a little pack list going, curious what you'll come up with? Keep us posted. My wife thouht I was crazy to want a Msr pocket rocket for Xmas. Added that to my new pack and gps. Trying to get decent equipment on a budget. Pretty tough not to spend over a grand or two.

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Scoot

Yes, if you're starting from scratch it's tough to get everything without dumping a pile of cash. Once the inital investment is made you can sell some of your items and upgrade as you see fit. Your sleeping bag and tent are extremely important- your life depends on them, particularly your bag. Something to think about when you decide where to try save your money.

Another clothing company I forgot to mention above is Kryptek. I don't own any of their clothes, but I hear great things about them in addition to the other companies I mentioned.

I'll be happy to share my packing list if you'd like. However, there are a ton of these lists available from guys with way more experience than me. Guys like Cameron Hanes, South Cox, Dwight Shuh, Aron Snyder, and a ton of other guys have published their lists online. Do a search and check them out. Study them carefully and decide what to bring and not bring. Then, when you try to convince yourself you just need this or that, in addition to what's on the list, don't do it! Work from those lists and don't add to them. By far the biggest mistake of greenhorn backpack hunters is bring too much stuff. Besides the clothes I mentioned above, the only extra clothes I bring are one extra pair of socks and one extra pair of underwear. Nothing else. It's tough, but fight the urge to bring, and for the next few months, buy, extra gear. You can't carry it all, so don't bother with buying it.

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Scoot

What good timing for you guys...

Kuiu has a 20% Sale going on...I believe Jan 1-15. The Sales Code is: SAVE15

Also, Schnees has a 25% off Sitka gear sale while it lasts............Code SITKA25

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NoWiser

I did a 10 day backpack elk hunt in Wyoming this past year and was in the position that I needed to buy quite a bit of gear. It was not only my first backpack hunt, but it was also my first time every being in the mountains. I am going to do a write up on the hunt soon and will try to go into detail on the gear that I used. It was a lot more expensive than I was expecting, but I have some great gear now that should last me a long time. I also learned some important lessons that will make my next trip much easier and more comfortable. I'm headed out of town early next week but will try to get my story started when I return. Knowing there are a couple of you planning a similar trip, I'll try to get pretty specific and can hopefully help you out a bit!

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HooknHorns

Wow really looking forward to that. Thank you ahead of time, I love those types of threads.

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Guest Kyle

how do you feel about the under armour line up? I have always had quality products from them, and their camo seems to be well made with nice innovations. It seems like it might be easier to find on sale as well. Let me know.

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Scoot

I've got some UA and I like it for whitetail hunting. However, if you wear it on your elk hunt it will get stinky and hold the stink like crazy (at least for the base layers). I wore UA on my '07 elk hunt and had to throw it away afterwards- no amount of washing would get rid of the stink, and that was a hunt where I showered every other day in a sun shower at the truck. Tons of other people report the same thing about UA products on backpack hunting. As far as warmth, cool, and not holding stink you just can't beat merino wool as the layer that touches your skin. UA would likely be a fine option for vests, jacket, and pants though.

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Guest Kyle

What brand do you like for base layer? And, if I'm understanding you correctly, you are saying that UA would be a competitive option to sitka for everything except the base layer?

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HooknHorns

Kyle I sent you a pm let me know if you got it

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Scoot

Kyle, see my previous post-- that's literally everything I bring on a backpack hunt as far as clothes go. Pants are Sitka Mountain pants and shirt is the long sleeve Kuiu merino wool shirt. Yes, I think UA would be fine for options other than the layers that touch your skin. I don't have any experience with UA jackets, vests, etc. though.

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Powerstroke

What Scoot is saying about UA clothing pertains mostly to their original baselayers.

A few of their newer hunting designs are made with zeolite in the fabric and that helps with the scent control aspect, but I still think there are better products for mountain style backpack hunting. I also like the UA baselayers I have, but they are not ideal for backpacking. I think they are somewhat dense and heavy too.

Merino wool is truly one of the best base layers you can wear for moisture control, temperature regulation and scent management. No fabric is scent proof by any means, but certain fabrics excel. Not to mention Merino is very comfortable.

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