NEWB Heading to CO GMU 12 1st Rifle

SPDSpappy

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O'Fallon IL
Ok, this is getting too close for comfort! After hours and hours of videos/podcasts by Randy, Corey, Gritty, etc., reading through the applicable parts of the ~1400 page elk book Randy recommended, going through UEH, and hours of time in OnX, I'm a little more than a week out from heading to CO for my first Western hunt. Thankfully, I found a buddy who has been elk hunting for over a decade to help (thank you Hunt Talk forum!!!). This being said, I still have some questions and I'm going to throw them in this thread as they come up. I'll also post pics as I can during/after the hunt.

Info about me: I started hunting late in life because my son took an interest when he was 6 (see attached)View attachment First Youth Turkey Season.pdfHeartland Outdoors Jacob's turkey.jpg, he's now 13. Now, I've got the bug to hunt just about anything I can eat. I'm an avid whitetail hunter, but I also regularly hunt upland birds, waterfowl, turkeys, and even harvested a red stag in Scotland last year for my 40th birthday (my avatar). I'm more of a meat hunter than a trophy hunter (don't get me wrong, I'm not going to pass up a 350+ bull!!).

Some info about this trip: knowing how I'd kick myself if I saw cows and didn't have a tag in my pocket, I've dropped the $1200 on cow and bull tags - OUCH... I had planned on going deep into the back country, but after the Elk Talk podcast where Randy and Corey said for a new area, you're better off base camping, we're camping next to the trucks. I'm also going to bring my shotgun for grouse in case we tag out.

How much do you all use the elk summer concentration area when planning your hunts vs. just summer range in areas you haven't been to?

What provides better energy for breakfast, oatmeal or Mountain House? What have you all used for meal planning? I'm heading to Fresh Thyme (kind of like a Whole Foods) this weekend to pick up snacks (trail mix, nuts, dried fruit, etc.). I'm grilling up some stuff and vacuum sealing it for dinners back at camp. For lunch, I'm planning to use MREs and Mountain House.
 

nrpate05

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First rifle in CO can be a great hunt and you should be pumped! I'll be out as well for that season in GMU 54. Tough to say whether concentration area will be better than full summer range, but my limited experience says that they'll probably be near a concentration area during 1st rifle. If nothing else, they will probably be at the higher elevations in the unit. Last year we found most elk near timberline, but ended up taking one at about 10,000 ft.

As far as meals, I don't like cooking for any meal other than dinner. I'd rather boogie up to a glassing spot and have a substantial bar with almond butter or something like that while glassing. I don't get too creative with food generally. Salami, cheese, tortillas for lunch, bars, almond butter packets and gummy bears as snacks. Dinner is usually a mountain house even if camping at the truck. It's also a nice touch to have something "homey" at some point during the day. For me, thats usually cookies, but it sounds like your vacuum sealed meals with be great for that.

If you're planning to camp at the truck, I'd also bring some backpacking equipment. It's nice to have the option if you see a herd a long way off.

Good luck on your hunt, will be interested to see how it goes!
 

Plagioclase

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Smoky Mtns
I've hunted GMU12 in first season. Very likely to be a zoo. A few trailheads exist in 12 and most will be packed with vehicles. I ran into people as far back in as 5 miles. My advice is to hunt at least half mile off trail, 1 mile better, and stay away from any meadow or opening in that buffer - it will have people in it. I tend to hunt areas 3 to 5 miles from the road, at least half mile from any trail. I also tend to go where others dont. Randy's videos do a good job of explaining that concept. I tend to choose steep over heavy cover - I hate dead fall. As others have said, I also found most of the elk in 12 to be high, over 10k feet. Good luck and post pics!
 

SPDSpappy

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O'Fallon IL
First rifle in CO can be a great hunt and you should be pumped! I'll be out as well for that season in GMU 54. Tough to say whether concentration area will be better than full summer range, but my limited experience says that they'll probably be near a concentration area during 1st rifle. If nothing else, they will probably be at the higher elevations in the unit. Last year we found most elk near timberline, but ended up taking one at about 10,000 ft.

As far as meals, I don't like cooking for any meal other than dinner. I'd rather boogie up to a glassing spot and have a substantial bar with almond butter or something like that while glassing. I don't get too creative with food generally. Salami, cheese, tortillas for lunch, bars, almond butter packets and gummy bears as snacks. Dinner is usually a mountain house even if camping at the truck. It's also a nice touch to have something "homey" at some point during the day. For me, thats usually cookies, but it sounds like your vacuum sealed meals with be great for that.

If you're planning to camp at the truck, I'd also bring some backpacking equipment. It's nice to have the option if you see a herd a long way off.

Good luck on your hunt, will be interested to see how it goes!
Thank you for the advice! I agree about making lunch simple. I don't want to spend too much time cooking/cleaning...
 

SPDSpappy

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O'Fallon IL
I've hunted GMU12 in first season. Very likely to be a zoo. A few trailheads exist in 12 and most will be packed with vehicles. I ran into people as far back in as 5 miles. My advice is to hunt at least half mile off trail, 1 mile better, and stay away from any meadow or opening in that buffer - it will have people in it. I tend to hunt areas 3 to 5 miles from the road, at least half mile from any trail. I also tend to go where others dont. Randy's videos do a good job of explaining that concept. I tend to choose steep over heavy cover - I hate dead fall. As others have said, I also found most of the elk in 12 to be high, over 10k feet. Good luck and post pics!
Thank you for the intel! I had heard there's a lot of people off 2901 and Sleepy Cat Peak. Any info on Baldy Mountain, Horse Ridge, or Wilson Mesa? Sleepy Cat and Horse Ridge approach 10k', but as I said, I hear Sleepy Cat is crazy with people. I've watched all the e-Scouting videos by Randy and am trying to get into places where the hunters will be running the elk to.
 

WIbiggame

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Wisconsin
Food, take things you like. Truck camping you have the benefit that you can bring whatever you want as weight isnt an issue so take meals you like to eat at home.

From somebody who was in your shoes 5 years ago the advice I would give to myself back than is:

Slow down and enjoy the process. Dont over analyze everything go out there and have a blast.
 

SPDSpappy

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Food, take things you like. Truck camping you have the benefit that you can bring whatever you want as weight isnt an issue so take meals you like to eat at home.

From somebody who was in your shoes 5 years ago the advice I would give to myself back than is:

Slow down and enjoy the process. Dont over analyze everything go out there and have a blast.

Thanks! I do feel like I'm in analysis paralysis right now... Being an engineer, my brain is all about the details. I just need to come up with my plan and options for when things don't go as planned.
 

plumber1969

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Drink PLENTY of water!!!!!! You will not realize how quickly you will dehydrate out there at that altitude.
 

SPDSpappy

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O'Fallon IL
Drink PLENTY of water!!!!!! You will not realize how quickly you will dehydrate out there at that altitude.
Good to know! I'll run the same process I had when I lived in Phoenix with drinking water before I became thirsty. From what I've researched on altitude sickness, you're much better off by staying hydrated.
 
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Lol funny that you stated “I’m in analysis Paralysis right now”. I’m the same way. I’m taking some out-of-State friends to GMU 4 for first rifle season. We hunted other GMUs since 3 years ago with no luck for a bull, no issues with cows. However, based on my few years of experience, I can tell you that each hunt will be different, even if you are hunted the same GMU for the last 8 years.

We have done tons of research and we have a plan. We are better off than most hunters who do not have any type of plan. Adjust based on the situation and like Randy mentioned several times, “You cannot kill an elk if there is no elk there”, if you don’t see fresh signs or any animals from a distance, don’t fall in love with an area. Scout another spot, that’s why you created a plan.

For meals, you are right when it comes to not cooking much. Our largest meals are dinner, and this is when we have some quality time cooking, telling stories and getting a drink or two before going to sleep. We do take MREs for lunch and pack a breakfast to eat while glassing in the morning.

Prepare mentally because that’s going to be your biggest battle; especially if you are not getting an encounters within the first day or two. Stay within your plan, adjust as needed but HAVE SOME FUN!!! Remember that it will not be easy unless you want to pay big $$$ to just go and shoot a large animal without experiencing the chase… Good luck and provide updates for the group. – ColoradoHunter719
 

SPDSpappy

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O'Fallon IL
Lol funny that you stated “I’m in analysis Paralysis right now”. I’m the same way. I’m taking some out-of-State friends to GMU 4 for first rifle season. We hunted other GMUs since 3 years ago with no luck for a bull, no issues with cows. However, based on my few years of experience, I can tell you that each hunt will be different, even if you are hunted the same GMU for the last 8 years.

We have done tons of research and we have a plan. We are better off than most hunters who do not have any type of plan. Adjust based on the situation and like Randy mentioned several times, “You cannot kill an elk if there is no elk there”, if you don’t see fresh signs or any animals from a distance, don’t fall in love with an area. Scout another spot, that’s why you created a plan.

For meals, you are right when it comes to not cooking much. Our largest meals are dinner, and this is when we have some quality time cooking, telling stories and getting a drink or two before going to sleep. We do take MREs for lunch and pack a breakfast to eat while glassing in the morning.

Prepare mentally because that’s going to be your biggest battle; especially if you are not getting an encounters within the first day or two. Stay within your plan, adjust as needed but HAVE SOME FUN!!! Remember that it will not be easy unless you want to pay big $$$ to just go and shoot a large animal without experiencing the chase… Good luck and provide updates for the group. – ColoradoHunter719
Thank you for the valuable insight! I have a cow and a bull tag, so I'm praying I get at least one of those filled.

Thankfully, I have multiple areas within a 45 minute drive from where we're setting up camp. After listening to the most recent Elk Talk podcast, I'm planning on not spending more than a day in an area if I'm not seeing sign like you mentioned.

I bought a whole bunch of trail mix, jerky, and dried fruit for lunches/snacks in addition to the MREs I have.

As for the mental aspects, I'm glad I found a buddy to go with me. I'm sure it would be much more difficult for me, given my personality, if I went by myself and wasn't having any success in finding critters the first couple days. The $6500 for guided in addition to all the other expenses isn't even close to within my budget (I'm a Dave Ramsey follower), so this is what I have. I'm hoping to make the best of it, have fun, learn a lot, and hopefully fill the freezer.

Thanks again!
 

SPDSpappy

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I have no idea how you back-country hunters fit all your gear into your backpack. Granted, one of these coolers is completely empty and there's other stuff I wouldn't be taking (e.g., cot, extra clothes, etc), but still!!
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GrantK

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Aug 30, 2018
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Thankfully, I have multiple areas within a 45 minute drive from where we're setting up camp. After listening to the most recent Elk Talk podcast, I'm planning on not spending more than a day in an area if I'm not seeing sign like you mentioned.

I bought a whole bunch of trail mix, jerky, and dried fruit for lunches/snacks in addition to the MREs I have.
I think you are setting yourself up really well with this approach, I personally have an even shorter tolerance for elkless spots, unless there is a compelling reason I'm moving on after a morning or evening that I don't see killable elk, tracks and beds are great but during first season elk may transition from rut patterns to post rut patterns pretty much overnight, even 24 hour old sign may not be a reliable indicator of where the elk that made it is now... I do try to be in the woods as much of the day as possible during first rifle, that transition means elk may be up and moving pretty much all day, or get pushed by people going in for lunch, the noon shift can be really productive...
keep in mind that you are also ahead of the game by having a plan, I think a majority of casual hunters dont have a plan beyond " I saw an elk here 5 years ago, therefore this spot is a good one" just having it thought out beforehand is huge, you know what you are doing if plan A doesnt work, you know that you have more areas, that's huge for the mental side of things...

As far as the food the vac sealed meals are a great way to go, you're probably not going to feel like cooking in the evenings, I prefer almost anything to freeze dried meals, there just aren't that many calories in a MH... unless youre really fat adapted snacking every time you get a chance is the best way to keep energy up, stop to drink often, and when you do eat something as well..

Good luck!
 

SPDSpappy

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209
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O'Fallon IL
I think you are setting yourself up really well with this approach, I personally have an even shorter tolerance for elkless spots, unless there is a compelling reason I'm moving on after a morning or evening that I don't see killable elk, tracks and beds are great but during first season elk may transition from rut patterns to post rut patterns pretty much overnight, even 24 hour old sign may not be a reliable indicator of where the elk that made it is now... I do try to be in the woods as much of the day as possible during first rifle, that transition means elk may be up and moving pretty much all day, or get pushed by people going in for lunch, the noon shift can be really productive...
Good to know! I was planning on being in/watching over elk escape routes. I’ll have my binos and spotting scope working during the day. I also plan to get into an elevated position early where I can see what’s going on. Based on all my research from the experts (Randy, Corey, Gritty, etc.), this seems to be the way to go.

keep in mind that you are also ahead of the game by having a plan, I think a majority of casual hunters don't have a plan beyond " I saw an elk here 5 years ago, therefore this spot is a good one" just having it thought out beforehand is huge, you know what you are doing if plan A doesnt work, you know that you have more areas, that's huge for the mental side of things...
Thank you! I think the mental game will probably be the hardest piece for me if I’m not seeing anything after a couple days. I know things go down to the wire sometimes though, so I won’t be giving up before all the tags are filled or the season is over!!


As far as the food the vac sealed meals are a great way to go, you're probably not going to feel like cooking in the evenings, I prefer almost anything to freeze dried meals, there just aren't that many calories in a MH... unless youre really fat adapted snacking every time you get a chance is the best way to keep energy up, stop to drink often, and when you do eat something as well..

Good luck!
We’re going to have stuff to heat from frozen/cold for all our dinners. I’ve brought a ton of jerky/trail mix/dehydrated fruit/etc. to eat during the day to keep my energy up. I’m going to try to keep my water intake up as you said, I don’t want to take any chances with altitude sickness. Thank you for your advice!!!

-Dave
 

SPDSpappy

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I’ve made it from near St. Louis to Salina KS after work. I’m on to Denver tomorrow to spend the night w/ my hunting partner @ 5k’ and then on to unit 12 on Thursday morning!!
 
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