CO Unit 81

Mike Ladd

New member
Joined
Jun 14, 2014
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5
Location
SW Ohio
Planning an archery, backpack, DIY in GMU 81 this fall. Not looking for specifics, but the area has grown in elk numbers over the last few years, which of course attracts more attention. I have flexibility when and where I hunt. Since I'm coming from OH, I'm planning a couple extra days for acclimation to altitude. I've never had issues with altitude, but I'm not risking ruining a trip due to haste. That said, I've been looking at the desert areas and also the wilderness areas, both of which have an ample amount of public land. I'm awaiting a call from a wildlife officer, but I thought I'd ask the forum for advice based on what I've shared. Thoughts, Ideas?
 

elkduds

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Jan 22, 2016
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2,154
Location
CO Springs.
One of the most popular units in the state for archers, 9800 hunters in that unit last year including archery and ML elk hunters, NOT counting archery and ML deer hunters who were there @ same time. Many of those pack in to escape the crowds, only to encounter each other, herds of domestic sheep, and outfitters. That is a crowded hunt, even by CO standards.
 

jrabq

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Jul 4, 2014
Messages
560
Location
NM
I hunt that unit a lot because it is close to home. It is crowded, and last year seemed worse than I had ever seen it. Also concur with Elkduds, packing in the wilderness will probably not guarantee you solitude, you will run into lots of outfitters. Doesn't mean this will always happen, but that's been my experience when I've tried it.

My only suggestion is to have several backup plans and be flexible to move if you are not finding reasonably fresh elk sign. I mostly hunt higher elevations (9-12K), I'm sure there are some elk at mid-levels (7-9K) but I never had luck finding them. I doubt there are any elk at "desert" levels that time of year, unless they are on private land.
 

Lost Arra

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Joined
Aug 10, 2015
Messages
42
The last two years I hunted there I felt like I was in a livestock show. If It wasn't cattle and cowboys one year, it was sheep, sheep dogs and sheep herders the next year. And this was all in the wilderness area.
Maybe the wildlife officer can help you with avoiding livestock.
 

Thomas11

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Joined
Apr 22, 2013
Messages
202
One of the most popular units in the state for archers, 9800 hunters in that unit last year including archery and ML elk hunters, NOT counting archery and ML deer hunters who were there @ same time. Many of those pack in to escape the crowds, only to encounter each other, herds of domestic sheep, and outfitters. That is a crowded hunt, even by CO standards.

9800 elk hunters is insane! That sounds crazy! Might outta sell popcorn and hotdogs at the trailhead!
 

PRM

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Joined
Oct 24, 2013
Messages
102
It's actually worse than the numbers indicate as the eastern part of the unit is not hunted. Hunted there before and saw the largest RV and 4-wheeler convention I've seen before.
 

windymtnman

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Joined
Sep 17, 2014
Messages
396
I live just North of Unit 81, and have hunted the vast South San Juan Wilderness that encompasses much of it. I also enjoy a lot of Summer pack trips in there with our horses & mule. I think the area is big enough to find some solitude, if you're able to get far enough from a trailhead. Problem is, if you're only on foot, you'd be so far from the trailhead, you'd need a bionic body to get your gear in, and your gear & an Elk out! That can be some pretty rough country. Some regard the South San Juan Wilderness as having some of the wildest country left in the lower 48 States. Entering into this area off of F.R. 250 on the East side, you're in for a tough climb out of the Conejo's River canyon. If you enter off of the trailhead that's just West of the Platoro reservoir, you'll have to walk a fair distance on an easy trail just to get away from others. That area is POUNDED all Summer by trout fisherman, campers and hikers, so the Elk usually aren't hanging around in the 3 forks area. If you enter from the West side of this Unit, that may be where a lot of the crowds also go in. Then, you have a huge tract of Tierra Amarilla land grant lands that are private, and deny trespass. (as far as I know?). Frankly, you'd be hard pressed to find a more beautiful area to hunt, and much of it's a designated wilderness area, however you'll earn it if you're going to hunt there. Best be in shape! If you'd like more info or photos of some of the areas there, private message me. I tried to attach a pic or two, but they're too big of image to upload with this site's parameters.
 

windymtnman

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Sep 17, 2014
Messages
396
Also to go with my last post, the BLM and Forest Service office that oversee's Unit 81, is in LaJara, Co.. There phone number is (719) 274-8971.
I haven't talked to anyone there for several years, but in my experience, it's hard to find anyone that will come to the phone that REALLY knows much. In this office, I'd ask for "Pete". He seemed to know more about the backcountry than others. (?)
 

Mike Ladd

New member
Joined
Jun 14, 2014
Messages
5
Location
SW Ohio
Thanks for all the help. I'll take it all into consideration as I prepare for the season. Thanks again for taking the time to help a guy out.
 
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