- Jul 25, 2020
Sounds like a great trip! Archery OTC in CO is one of the best deals in the west, 30 days to hunt and pretty much the whole state, plenty of time and space if you are in shape.This is a long one.
I just got back from my first ever Archery Elk Hunt and wanted to give a report. Although I didn’t shoot one, this trip was an astounding success! I saw 6 different elk, had three spikes at 15 yds, a cow at 15 yds, and played cat and mouse with two bulls bugling back and forth! This was a backpack hunt and my gear was dialed in for the most part, minus an unforseeen snow storm.
We drove straight through from the East Coast 30 hours to the trailhead to find TONS of rigs and trucks which worried me. I spent a long time picking an OTC unit with no motorized travel. We camped at the truck and took off in the morning and hiked about 3 miles to a campsite I picked on the map. On the hike in we saw mule deer near the trail, and not a single boot track, plenty of horse tracks though. We got to the campsite and set up a perfect camp. The first night I took a brief walk and found an active wallow. Water was an issue and there were only a few small puddles to get some water. I was glad I brought an extra smart water bottle, because it was impossible to fill a sawyer bag without it. We ate and admired the stars at camp and looked forward to the first day.
That morning we hiked to a very steep and narrow valley which I was excited to bugle in. I ripped a bugle and a cow stood up directly across the valley and looked at us. She went down into the valley but didn’t bark or run. 5 minutes later we heard a crash 15 yards away. She came all the way back up our side before either smelling or hearing us. It was a rocky steep slope with vegetation so we never noticed the game trail at our feet. That took us on a wild goose chase only to get stuck at the bottom of the steep valley Couldn’t believe I saw one on the first day!
Later we hiked up a slope to drop into a north slope with dark timber. We started calling and heard some movement down in the slope. We called and started to move in. My partner crested the hill and said “Bull, big bull! Two big bulls!”. They were about 60 and we think they were coming to our calls. They turned and trotted, but again we had good wind and don’t think they smelled us. I didn’t get a look at their hardware, but my partner could only describe them as big and bigger. We left that area for the next day to not push them out.
That night we ate and checked out the stars and commented on how if nothing else went right on the trip that we considered it a success already. To see three elk on our first day was a gift and incredibly lucky. Just then we heard a distant bugle and another one 15 minutes later. Went to bed and was awakened at about 1:00am by a very close bugle, and what sounded like a train walking around in the woods near camp. At 4:00 he buggled again about 100 yds on the other side of the hill we camped on. 4:30 he bugles again from the same spot. We both got up and I told my partner about the elk bedded 100 yards away but he didn’t believe me. He got annoyed that I was taking my time to get ready and wanted didn’t want to start hiking. At 6:00am the bull buggled again and my partner lit up. We stood at our tents until we had enough light to see our pins. The next hour and a half was the most fun I’ve ever had hunting. We started with a couple cow calls and he buggled immediately. I gave a light bugle and he responded. We moved in and continued talking back and forth. He started to chuckle and began to get closer. After that he started to move off and we followed, still getting responses. Eventually he made his way too far up a slope and eventually was a ways off. We continued after but couldn’t find him again. I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited as when that bull answered my bugles!
Eventually we made it up a slope and back down another with the wind in our face near where we saw the other bulls the day earlier. We started calling lightly and I heard something down in the valley. We decided to not make the same mistake and to not go into the valley. We stayed put and called for a while. I let out a small location bugle and a few cow calls as I attempted to get in place. My partner whispered to me that they are coming! I looked and saw a big tan body moving up towards us. I checked out the head and saw it was a spike. I saw another elk moving and it was also a spike and then a third spike. They came out to 15 yards and were completely confused. I couldn’t believe how big those young guys were. Eventually they got educated and moved off and we celebrated another victory.
Day 3 was significantly colder, overcast and windy with rain in the forecast. We again went back to where we had seen elk since we had low expectations for the day and figured we might as well try one more time and blow it out. We hiked there and had no responses. We sat down for snack time and to pull the map out for a new plan. At about 10:30 a bull bugled across the valley on the south slope. I figured it was another hunter and dismissed it. We gave a bugle back and the bull answered a minute later much farther from the original spot. No way a human ascended the slope that fast. We dropped into the north side where the other elk were the previous day. We ended up finding a bull bedroom, it stunk, was torn up with rubs and had tons of sign. We started talking back and forth with the bull and he immediately responded and cut the distance. Eventually he lost interest and moved off. We tried to out maneuver him and hauled up a slope. He eventually shut up and we lost him. We were ecstatic to get the chance to work the bull and have action three days in a row.
I checked the weather and it said light rain, turning to light snow in the evening with temps at 29. It had started to rain a bit earlier while we chased the bull. I decided that we should avoid getting any wetter since it was going to get so cold. As soon as we got in our tents around noon, it opened up and poured. Then it began to freezing rain and it quickly turned to snow. The temperature dropped quick and the snow started stacking. At around 7 it was briefly stopped enough to go outside and shovel out around the tents with my ass pad. Back in the tent to thaw the snow out of my bow site so it wouldn’t freeze. It continued snowing, raining and sleeting through the night. A lot of interpersonal reflection was had during my 18 hours of solitary in that tent. And podcasts... thank god for downloading podcasts.
In the morning we both agreed to pack out, something I regret giving into so easily. I was worried about my partner who did not have water proof boots and a severe large blister on his heel. I could tell he was ready to leave, and at the time I was content with how much fun we had. Although I was plenty warm through the night, I was not prepared for hiking and hunting in wet snow. We were soaked by the end of the pack out, but the beers at the truck were some of the best I’ve had in a long time.
Although the trip was shorter then expected, It was an overwhelming success for me. We wandered around the woods for 4 days and never cut a boot track. We saw 4 guys packing out of higher elevation but that was it. To see an elk, hear an elk, call to an elk and have elk in shooting distance on my first trip was an amazing gift. We shared a lot of great laughs and memories and both agreed the trip was a success. I immediately began planning next years trip on the ride home.
Things that went right:
- Physical conditioning. Backpack hunting at elevation was much more physical then I expected. Although I sucked wind a lot, I could recover quickly and move on. My legs never got tired or sore. I was happy with my preparations but next time I will be even stronger.
-Gear choices. 95% of my gear was chosen wisely. Most notably I am happy with every dollar I spent on my Crispi boots and MR metcalf. After seeing what happened to my partners feet, I was happy to not have a single blister.
-E scouting and logistics. The months I spent scouring maps and the internet paid off dividends. Non motorized areas are a must for me, and my camp site location was perfect. I don’t know where the 20 other trucks went, but they weren’t wear I was.
Things to improve:
- I was not prepared for prolonged wet and cold conditions. I took a cheap Columbia packable rain jacket which immediately wetted out and did not insulate anything. I think I will pony up and buy a better jacket and accept the weight penalty.
- Calling. Although I could call well, I didn’t know what I was saying with my calls. Maybe with more knowledge I could have gotten the bulls worked up and come in.
-Lighter gear. Every step I took on the way in I thought about what gear needed to lose weight or get out of my pack.
-Hiking with broadheads in my quiver. On the hike out my partner noticed an arrow was missing. I spent the next hour panicking that I would not find it in the snow and another hunter would get injured. Luckily I found it but pack in and pack outs will have Have naked arrows in the quiver.
Overall I am completely happy with my experience and feel incredibly lucky to have had so much fun and share it with a close friend. Thanks to all who have shared experience, tips and informations on this forum.