AMK Sportsman

New elk hunter help

ViperDriver

New member
Joined
Jan 6, 2021
Messages
5
Don't get stuck on not hearing elk. Look for fresh sign. Elk are there. If you don't see any, keep moving.
We kill plenty of elk that never make a sound. Use terrain features and wind influences to hunt places that increase your chance of elk being there.
"If you don't see any, keep moving." Nailed it. Many guys will hunt the exact same spot because one year in the past they saw one there or killed one there. Every year is different, keep moving to find where they currently are.
 

ViperDriver

New member
Joined
Jan 6, 2021
Messages
5
My critieria for selecting a GMU. 1. Lots of public land (i.e. national forest) 2. Elevation change within the GMU (10K' to 7K'). No matter the hunting season or weather (hot, cold, snow, dry) the elk will be somewhere in the GMU since there is a good amount of elevation change. 3. Forest closures for Elk in the winter. If you hunt late season this is very important. The forest closure areas are CPW telling you where the elk are migrating every winter. If the GMU has high elevation summer areas and low elevation winter forest closure areas then the elk will migrate within the unit. I dont worry much about success rates. Any unit with these 3 items will have elk.

I hunt GMU 14 for 2nd rifle and its a pretty good OTC unit. Heavily used for non-hunting recreation so avoid the "pretty hiking trails" (i.e. trails that go to lakes or nice views) in september. Great unit for bear.
 

WyoDoug

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 8, 2019
Messages
2,895
Location
Cheyenne, Wyoming
My critieria for selecting a GMU. 1. Lots of public land (i.e. national forest) 2. Elevation change within the GMU (10K' to 7K'). No matter the hunting season or weather (hot, cold, snow, dry) the elk will be somewhere in the GMU since there is a good amount of elevation change. 3. Forest closures for Elk in the winter. If you hunt late season this is very important. The forest closure areas are CPW telling you where the elk are migrating every winter. If the GMU has high elevation summer areas and low elevation winter forest closure areas then the elk will migrate within the unit. I dont worry much about success rates. Any unit with these 3 items will have elk.

I hunt GMU 14 for 2nd rifle and its a pretty good OTC unit. Heavily used for non-hunting recreation so avoid the "pretty hiking trails" (i.e. trails that go to lakes or nice views) in september. Great unit for bear.
I would add BLM land into that. You can do the same in BLM pretty much as you can in the NF areas.
 

RidgeRoamingRichard

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 19, 2019
Messages
548
Location
Helena, MT
My critieria for selecting a GMU. 1. Lots of public land (i.e. national forest) 2. Elevation change within the GMU (10K' to 7K'). No matter the hunting season or weather (hot, cold, snow, dry) the elk will be somewhere in the GMU since there is a good amount of elevation change. 3. Forest closures for Elk in the winter. If you hunt late season this is very important. The forest closure areas are CPW telling you where the elk are migrating every winter. If the GMU has high elevation summer areas and low elevation winter forest closure areas then the elk will migrate within the unit. I dont worry much about success rates. Any unit with these 3 items will have elk.

I hunt GMU 14 for 2nd rifle and its a pretty good OTC unit. Heavily used for non-hunting recreation so avoid the "pretty hiking trails" (i.e. trails that go to lakes or nice views) in september. Great unit for bear.
This is a great post. I am definitely rethinking where I want to focus
 

nrpate05

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 5, 2015
Messages
1,153
Try not to get discouraged. Elk hunting on public land in Colorado on an OTC tag is one of the hardest things you can do. Everyone here has offered really good advice. My experience has taught me a few things and the most important may be these two....

1) Be mobile - don't get sucked into one place. If you're not seeing animals go to another spot (and have spots picked out prior to your hunt). Don't waste time where animals are not. This may mean going over the next ridge or driving to a totally different spot.

2) Try to find a sweet spot b/w day hunters and outfitter camps - day hunters from the road probably won't go more than 2-3 miles off the road. Outfitters may be 6 miles or more into the wilderness. Pressure from both sides can congregate animals into kind of a no mans land. If you can spike out or get up earlier than the rest and find those areas, you may find the elk.

Going deep is usually great advice but it shouldn't be the end all be all. If everyone goes deep, the elk may well be standing next to the road. Anyway thats what I can add. Also, try to stay out all day. When people start moving around to go back to their truck at 10am, they may well bump some animals and there is a chance to capitalize. There are a lot of hunters in CO, see if you can use them to your advantage. Good luck!
 

ViperDriver

New member
Joined
Jan 6, 2021
Messages
5
I would add BLM land into that. You can do the same in BLM pretty much as you can in the
Try not to get discouraged. Elk hunting on public land in Colorado on an OTC tag is one of the hardest things you can do. Everyone here has offered really good advice. My experience has taught me a few things and the most important may be these two....

1) Be mobile - don't get sucked into one place. If you're not seeing animals go to another spot (and have spots picked out prior to your hunt). Don't waste time where animals are not. This may mean going over the next ridge or driving to a totally different spot.

2) Try to find a sweet spot b/w day hunters and outfitter camps - day hunters from the road probably won't go more than 2-3 miles off the road. Outfitters may be 6 miles or more into the wilderness. Pressure from both sides can congregate animals into kind of a no mans land. If you can spike out or get up earlier than the rest and find those areas, you may find the elk.

Going deep is usually great advice but it shouldn't be the end all be all. If everyone goes deep, the elk may well be standing next to the road. Anyway thats what I can add. Also, try to stay out all day. When people start moving around to go back to their truck at 10am, they may well bump some animals and there is a chance to capitalize. There are a lot of hunters in CO, see if you can use them to your advantage. Good luck!
To add on to point 1 I would have multiple places to “check out” from e-scouting. More spots then you think you will actually go to. Prioritize them and then start checking them off.
 

Danger_Denver

New member
Joined
Mar 28, 2020
Messages
24
My critieria for selecting a GMU. 1. Lots of public land (i.e. national forest) 2. Elevation change within the GMU (10K' to 7K'). No matter the hunting season or weather (hot, cold, snow, dry) the elk will be somewhere in the GMU since there is a good amount of elevation change. 3. Forest closures for Elk in the winter. If you hunt late season this is very important. The forest closure areas are CPW telling you where the elk are migrating every winter. If the GMU has high elevation summer areas and low elevation winter forest closure areas then the elk will migrate within the unit. I dont worry much about success rates. Any unit with these 3 items will have elk.

I hunt GMU 14 for 2nd rifle and its a pretty good OTC unit. Heavily used for non-hunting recreation so avoid the "pretty hiking trails" (i.e. trails that go to lakes or nice views) in september. Great unit for bear.
Never thought of your #2 and #3 for CGU selection, this is great stuff, appreciate it!
 

Danger_Denver

New member
Joined
Mar 28, 2020
Messages
24
Don't waste time where animals are not. This may mean going over the next ridge or driving to a totally different spot.
I think all my E-scouting from the previous year was too close together. I think your right, I want to me more flexible and mobile next year. I probably got too committed to the same area this year. Next ridge or new area completely will be on the list.
Thanks for the input!
 

KB_WalkingInTheWoods

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 12, 2018
Messages
287
Location
Bozemen, Montana
I had an issue where an tried out to many new areas last year. When I eventually went back to my area that I know well, I got into elk. Did not get one this year cause it was just a tough year and the opportunity I did have the shot was not ideal so I did not take it. Learn from me, Once you find elk, stick to where the elk are. Chances to get one down go way up if you are seeing the elk.
 

Alex_B

New member
Joined
Jan 7, 2021
Messages
1
Lots of good info in here! I'm looking to get out into Colorado for Elk this year for the first time. I was wondering if any of you have tips on what you look for once you've got a good unit in mind. What terrain features, food sources etc. I'll be going in September and try to stay out there for around two weeks.
 

OverlordBear

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 6, 2018
Messages
315
Location
Idaho
My critieria for selecting a GMU. 1. Lots of public land (i.e. national forest) 2. Elevation change within the GMU (10K' to 7K'). No matter the hunting season or weather (hot, cold, snow, dry) the elk will be somewhere in the GMU since there is a good amount of elevation change. 3. Forest closures for Elk in the winter. If you hunt late season this is very important. The forest closure areas are CPW telling you where the elk are migrating every winter. If the GMU has high elevation summer areas and low elevation winter forest closure areas then the elk will migrate within the unit. I dont worry much about success rates. Any unit with these 3 items will have elk.

I hunt GMU 14 for 2nd rifle and its a pretty good OTC unit. Heavily used for non-hunting recreation so avoid the "pretty hiking trails" (i.e. trails that go to lakes or nice views) in september. Great unit for bear.

Those are way too good of suggestions to put out on a public forum.... People are going to kill more elk if you keep talking like that. 🏹🦌
 

GrantK

Member
Joined
Aug 30, 2018
Messages
75
I honestly don't think GMU matters much at all, with a very few exceptions where elk need to migrate in and the hunting is better in the late rifle seasons (mind you, if you want a big bull some of these are really good early, not many elk often means big elk) I'm personally confident that I can roll into almost anywhere and get a good encounter in a couple of days.

What strikes me is saying you aren't seeing much sign, if that is the case move until you do, I will not give a spot more than a single morning or evening hunt if it's not full of fresh sign, even two or three-day old sign isn't useful, elk might not be back for weeks... I think you are on the right track with the amount of mileage you are covering, but that's a long walk without seeing elk, let alone fresh sign, I'd be looking at a different elevation, aspect, or terrain type if I walked that far without fresh sign...
Also, spiking out can be super useful, but it also handcuffs you to an area, I'd usually rather do more walking and have the easy option to move if the action doesn't stay hot, that said, get up as early as you need to to be where you want to be by daylight, walking in the light just burns valuable hunting time.

as far as calling, in CO these days less is usually more, I'm pretty hesitant to call if I don't hear elk first, sure, sometimes you still get in a bugle fest on OTC public, when that happens for sure be ready to scream your head off, but endless cold calling doesn't often work well.

I think going deep is completely overrated, go where people aren't, most of the time in CO these days deep is the place most of the competition is, it's really easy to put the roadless filter on onX and call it E scouting, think about areas that are hard to access and hunt, plenty of them are right off a road.

one thing I didn't see mentioned was glassing, I'm always willing to burn time in a new area getting to where I can see, preferably around prime time, a well thought out glassing session can allow you to cover a huge amount of area and locate multiple herds to chase, I very rarely go into an area blind, I'll figure out how to glass it if at all possible first, same as fresh sign if I don't see elk I don't go with few exceptions...
 

gordoferg

Member
Joined
Aug 7, 2019
Messages
76
Location
WNC
So I’ve been out for one OTC 2nd rifle season 2019, and one OTC archery elk season 2020, and no encounters with elk yet. I want to go into 2021 CO draw with a better strategy. My main question is, how do you select a GMU?
Here is my scenario for this past September. I did some weekend hunts in GMU 14, it has a low success rate but also closer to my home in Denver, so I could do more 2-3 day hunts there since it’s only about 3 hour drive. I also did a 6 day hunt in GMU 65, has decent success rates and lots of public land, but also A LOT of pressure. In both locations I couldn’t get a single return vocalization from actual elk, but called in 3 different hunters at GMU 65. I spent 15 days in the field and didn’t get any encounters other than seeing herds of elk on private land in GMU 65.
How much stock do you put in recent harvest reports for your hunt planning? I’m tempted to rove to higher success rate GMUs, but not sure if private land is inflating those stats. I talk to a lot of hunters in 65 and 14 and they frequently said thing like “I’ve hunted this are for 20, 30, 40 years ect”. They don’t seem to care about elk numbers or harvest rates and they hunt “their” GMU every year. Should I pick a spot and learn the area really well and not factor harvest reports?
Summer scouting isn’t realistic for me either. I only have so much PTO and have a baby on the way, so if I have time off I want to save it for time in the field during the season.
I’m a little bummed because I spent all year working on my calling and in GMU 14 it seems like I didn’t get and answers from low elk population and none in GMU 65 because there was so much pressure. Both spots I was going deep, average of 12-14 mile days according to my OnX, so felt like I was putting in the work to get away from pressure and roads.
I know I’m probably not the only one out there trying to find a balance to the issue, I just want to be smarter in planning a hunt with a relatively higher success rate.
Thanks for any advice on what’s worked for you.
We hunt 2 different units and know them well I feel in my opinion knowing is better then reading stats that are about as true as our politicians lol We are from NC and cyber scout all year long and have 5 different areas in the unit we hunting to focus on we then can mark areas off our list and add at end of each season . Its worked for us .
 

Danger_Denver

New member
Joined
Mar 28, 2020
Messages
24
I honestly don't think GMU matters much at all, with a very few exceptions where elk need to migrate in and the hunting is better in the late rifle seasons (mind you, if you want a big bull some of these are really good early, not many elk often means big elk) I'm personally confident that I can roll into almost anywhere and get a good encounter in a couple of days.

What strikes me is saying you aren't seeing much sign, if that is the case move until you do, I will not give a spot more than a single morning or evening hunt if it's not full of fresh sign, even two or three-day old sign isn't useful, elk might not be back for weeks... I think you are on the right track with the amount of mileage you are covering, but that's a long walk without seeing elk, let alone fresh sign, I'd be looking at a different elevation, aspect, or terrain type if I walked that far without fresh sign...
Also, spiking out can be super useful, but it also handcuffs you to an area, I'd usually rather do more walking and have the easy option to move if the action doesn't stay hot, that said, get up as early as you need to to be where you want to be by daylight, walking in the light just burns valuable hunting time.

as far as calling, in CO these days less is usually more, I'm pretty hesitant to call if I don't hear elk first, sure, sometimes you still get in a bugle fest on OTC public, when that happens for sure be ready to scream your head off, but endless cold calling doesn't often work well.

I think going deep is completely overrated, go where people aren't, most of the time in CO these days deep is the place most of the competition is, it's really easy to put the roadless filter on onX and call it E scouting, think about areas that are hard to access and hunt, plenty of them are right off a road.

one thing I didn't see mentioned was glassing, I'm always willing to burn time in a new area getting to where I can see, preferably around prime time, a well thought out glassing session can allow you to cover a huge amount of area and locate multiple herds to chase, I very rarely go into an area blind, I'll figure out how to glass it if at all possible first, same as fresh sign if I don't see elk I don't go with few exceptions...
Yeah, GMU 14 I was bumping into moose a few times a day. A ton there. The first weekend I hunted there it snowed and there were tracks on the ground, so there were elk there, just never saw or heard them after following tracks around forever.
In GMU 65, there was a large heard hanging out on private land by the highway. Once up in the NF sign was very infrequent. I meantioned before that there were a lot of water sources in the area, so I think they weren’t really concentrated. I came across some occasional fresher looking scat. But no fresh rub, the wallows weren’t being used, ect.
I like the advice on avoiding cold calling. Didn’t have any success with that other than hunters responding to me.
Thanks again for all the input!
 

ViperDriver

New member
Joined
Jan 6, 2021
Messages
5
Yeah, GMU 14 I was bumping into moose a few times a day. A ton there. The first weekend I hunted there it snowed and there were tracks on the ground, so there were elk there, just never saw or heard them after following tracks around forever.
In GMU 65, there was a large heard hanging out on private land by the highway. Once up in the NF sign was very infrequent. I meantioned before that there were a lot of water sources in the area, so I think they weren’t really concentrated. I came across some occasional fresher looking scat. But no fresh rub, the wallows weren’t being used, ect.
I like the advice on avoiding cold calling. Didn’t have any success with that other than hunters responding to me.
Thanks again for all the input!
Crossing any creeks with high willows in GMU 14 is always a little nerve wracking with the amount of moose there. I was more afraid of running into a moose than even the mama bear and cub I saw when I was bear hunting in that GMU last september.
 

WyoDoug

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 8, 2019
Messages
2,895
Location
Cheyenne, Wyoming
Crossing any creeks with high willows in GMU 14 is always a little nerve wracking with the amount of moose there. I was more afraid of running into a moose than even the mama bear and cub I saw when I was bear hunting in that GMU last september.
A game warden once cautioned me where I was hunting that I was more likely to be charged by a moose especially a wounded one or a mama with a calf than a bear.
 

medic76

New member
Joined
Jan 4, 2021
Messages
9
I am also putting in the work for my 1st elk OTC archery hunt this year. Finding a units is hard and trying to filter through the data is even worse but have some units in mind. I plan on trying to take the family on a vaca to CO 😁 this year to “hike around”
 

GrantK

Member
Joined
Aug 30, 2018
Messages
75
Yeah, GMU 14 I was bumping into moose a few times a day. A ton there. The first weekend I hunted there it snowed and there were tracks on the ground, so there were elk there, just never saw or heard them after following tracks around forever.
In GMU 65, there was a large heard hanging out on private land by the highway. Once up in the NF sign was very infrequent. I mentioned before that there were a lot of water sources in the area, so I think they weren’t really concentrated. I came across some occasional fresher looking scat. But no fresh rub, the wallows weren’t being used, etc.
I like the advice on avoiding cold calling. Didn’t have any success with that other than hunters responding to me.
Thanks again for all the input!

I really try not to bump into moose too much, I'd almost rather deal with a Grizz than a momma moose!
I live right on the border of 65, I won't say anything about it in particular but for a lot of the units over here there is a vast amount of the unit the elk do not use, or only use at certain parts of the year, it isn't always easy to tell, there are some incredible looking areas that do not hold more than the occasional elk, and some areas that look terrible but tend to be full of elk, it's not always obvious what the reason is either, there is a spot that I killed elk in every year for 5-6 years and then an outfitter changed on adjacent private land, it was a tiny difference but totally changed the elk's pattern, I haven't seen an elk there since...

All that to say, keep moving, at least a drainage over every time, and much farther if still not finding sign... I'll usually try to do a somewhat systematic approach, day one is driving in, get camp set up, and drive around for the evening glassing, if I see elk that is the plan, if I see multiple herds the best chance or biggest bull gets the next morning, if I don't see elk then my first choice drainage from the look around gets the morning hunt, if I put on 8-10 miles and don't see elk or fresh sign I'm either glassing different areas in the evening or driving to my next choice and trying to cover as many miles in a new drainage as possible, if you stick with this, especially if you have two or three people split up doing this, you can check off a ton of territory pretty quickly, I don't think I've ever had this approach fail to locate killable elk in a couple days...
 
Last edited:

gordoferg

Member
Joined
Aug 7, 2019
Messages
76
Location
WNC
I am also putting in the work for my 1st elk OTC archery hunt this year. Finding a units is hard and trying to filter through the data is even worse but have some units in mind. I plan on trying to take the family on a vaca to CO 😁 this year to “hike around”
Best way wish I could do it all my scouting is e-scout thru the year then 2-3 days before season starts. Good luck
 

TommyCorrgs

Member
Joined
Jan 15, 2021
Messages
30
Congrats on the new baby!

CO does not have mandatory harvest reporting. Take all harvest stats with a grain of salt.

Are you seeing sign before you vocalize? Hearing bugles at night? What time do you get out to your target area?

Usually when hunting new areas (especially with limited scouting time) I spend a ton of time on Google Earth e-scouting in the winter/ summer. The way we elk hunt we burn boot leather until we find fresh sign, then set up camp and create a targeted calling strategy.

We often go out at night and listen for bugles.

We wake up as many hours before sunrise as needed to allow us to hike into our area 1-2 HOURS before daylight. We set up with wind in mind on the backside of a ridge so we can listen.

One morning in CO we had 6 (!!!) hunters hike the ridge we were waiting and listening on. We had been there for an hour freezing our asses off before we saw the first headlamp. They came crashing up the ridge huffing and puffing with headlamps beaming 45-15 min before shooting. The 5 bulls bugling around us would stop making noise before we heard the hunters coming each time. After the hunters left the elk went right back to it.

To reiterate what Nick touched on, another time solo hunting I was hiking a major trail system. I had a waypoint marked a few miles off trail. As soon as I bailed about 75-100 yards off the trail to my marker I busted a small 5x bull that had been bedded watching me the whole time. The elk are there you just have to find em.
I'm new to hunting as well, I spend a ton of time walking the Mountains near my university, I seem to run into elk this same way all the time and usually within yards of trails, I'm not sure how to get the jump on elk in thick stuff tho
 
Wild Alaskan Salmon Seafood

Forum statistics

Threads
94,506
Messages
1,408,334
Members
29,645
Latest member
Markleathers
Top