Hunt Talk Radio - Look for it on your favorite Podcast platform

Starting Late in Life

Let me introduce myself. I'm a total newbie hunter, despite being about to turn 60. I've read 99 pages on this forum so far, literally - out of 536 - and feel like I've learned so much. Thank you all for your wisdom. I'm semi-retired, and a devoted fly fisher. I've been snooping around the edge of hunting for the past 20 years and am now taking the plunge.

My wife and I are both professors at a liberal arts college, and no one we know hunts, and most people are just totally hostile to the idea if we mention it. I didn't come from hunting people either, so there's no history here. Total newbie rubes.

Last year we did a Backcountry Hunters and Anglers course, which, among other really useful things, included breaking down an elk (this was a really great program). We're down to our last few packs in the freezer, so things seem a little desperate, now that we've gotten a taste for it. The next month we got a late antelope tag for the eastern plains of Colorado - our home state - and went out with our binoculars and a spotting scope, and our new .308, to do some scoping, maybe some hunting if the opportunity was there. We left the gun in the car, but learned a lot over the two days we were out there, including why they call them speed goats. Now here we are and we've got a 4th season antlered elk rifle tag for units 59 and 581 (as well as an antelope tag where we went last year). I've read enough to know that these are tough, crowded units, but they border our little property and we've decided to commit to knowing a local area, and it doesn't get much more local than this for us (I can see 59 from top of our property).

I'm ready to start scouting - I've got lots of time at the moment. I've spent a good bit of time e-scouting, read everything I can, but I know that only gets you so far, and boots on the ground is the way to go. So boots it is. About ten years ago when we took up fly fishing it was a really steep learning curve, but eventually, after many, many miles and many fishless days we started catching fish. We found that focusing on a couple stretches of river was the way to go, and now we feel like we really, really know these stretches, know the bugs and the hatches, know the seasons. It's been really gratifying. We intend to follow the same method, and fully expect to spend many days and many many miles walking and looking. If we harvest an animal at some point we'll consider that a bonus. I'd consider it a victory to just see a few elk.

I really just wanted to check in, say hello. I hope we're not crazy for settling on these units, but we can depend on the leftover draw and OTC to give us the chance to hunt these units every year, and in the process we'll accumulate enough points to try another unit.

We've been hiking these areas several times a week for almost a decade, but that's on trails. So here's my initial question: should we just pick an area that looks promising on the topos and Google Earth, and bushwack? Find game trails? This is steep, timbered forest. What's the best way to go about getting to know a piece of land? I imagine we'll have to find ways to get away from all the people who hike and hunt in here, but first I'd like to start to get to know the terrain. Any tips would be great. I went out earlier in the week and did five miles on a trail, poked off trail a little, but mainly just wanted a first look. It's all intimidating, but we're in it for the long term, so we'll work through what seems like just mystery to us.

I'm really starting this as a place to keep track of our progress. Thanks for reading.
Welcome aboard! You're in for some real adventure only elk hunting can provide. I agree wholeheartedly with what a lot of others have said. In units that you mentioned, as you have found out, are very forested. Glassing will not help you much. Concentrate your scouting efforts on draws on the west and north sides of Pikes Peak and Strawberry Mtn. Prior to the 4th season the bulls will most likely be by themselves and travel to the lower country for good grass toward Mueller and the private properties. The bulls will use the heavily forested draws. Try and get 1/2 to 1 mile from the road. As you've probably already found out in those trees and shrubs 1/2 mile is a long ways...but most hunters in that terrain won't go there. Try and work your way uphill and watch the wind. That way returning back to your vehicle with or w/o an elk is downhill. Lots of time if an elk sees you or hears you they may just look at you before bolting, but if an elk smells you the game is over. Locate fresh trails and places where you can set yourself up and wait as the bulls may travel to and from grass, water and bedding. Often they'll travel well over a mile to bed. Once they're are private, hunt the perimeter on NF and pray that they'll jump the fence onto public. Those units are hard hunting dealing with that thick vegetation. I'm used to hunt units 3, 301, 66, 67 and 80. Good luck and stay optimistic.
 
Thanks to everyone who replied and offered advice. Not surprisingly we didn't get our bull. We didn't see any elk, other than from the road in a field on private land. We expected this. Three days of hiking the steeps and we saw no fresh sign at all; lots of mule deer tracks and pellets, and plenty of old elk sign, but no new sign of them anywhere. We put about 29 miles in.

On day four, we tried a different area, and found some fresh tracks in the snow and elk pellets, and honestly that felt like some kind of epic victory. They were up a drainage that I'd scouted on OnX, and I felt like, well, maybe, maybe. It was 10 degrees and cloudy, and we spent a good bit of time glassing the timber fringe, wondering how on earth we'd ever break an elk down and pack it out from such gnarly stuff. Good thing we didn't see anything to shoot. Definitely it feels different when you're standing there looking up a dark slope, imagining going in after a shot. How would we ever track a wounded animal up there, let alone get it down? And what about the creek? I feel like we have a much better sense of what we need to learn, what kind of epic effort it's going to take, how much better shape we need to be in. Seven miles a day felt like a lot more, and that's with a pretty empty pack. The whole time we were out there we saw two hunters, the same ones twice - obviously they had the same ideas we did. And they didn't see anything either. Certainly we learned a lot about what gear we need, how to navigate the draw (lots more to learn there), what the units look like in a pretty general way. Elk remain an utter mystery, which I suppose is how it should be.
 
Thanks to everyone who replied and offered advice. Not surprisingly we didn't get our bull. We didn't see any elk, other than from the road in a field on private land. We expected this. Three days of hiking the steeps and we saw no fresh sign at all; lots of mule deer tracks and pellets, and plenty of old elk sign, but no new sign of them anywhere. We put about 29 miles in.

On day four, we tried a different area, and found some fresh tracks in the snow and elk pellets, and honestly that felt like some kind of epic victory. They were up a drainage that I'd scouted on OnX, and I felt like, well, maybe, maybe. It was 10 degrees and cloudy, and we spent a good bit of time glassing the timber fringe, wondering how on earth we'd ever break an elk down and pack it out from such gnarly stuff. Good thing we didn't see anything to shoot. Definitely it feels different when you're standing there looking up a dark slope, imagining going in after a shot. How would we ever track a wounded animal up there, let alone get it down? And what about the creek? I feel like we have a much better sense of what we need to learn, what kind of epic effort it's going to take, how much better shape we need to be in. Seven miles a day felt like a lot more, and that's with a pretty empty pack. The whole time we were out there we saw two hunters, the same ones twice - obviously they had the same ideas we did. And they didn't see anything either. Certainly we learned a lot about what gear we need, how to navigate the draw (lots more to learn there), what the units look like in a pretty general way. Elk remain an utter mystery, which I suppose is how it should be.
Pickleball
 
Thanks to everyone who replied and offered advice. Not surprisingly we didn't get our bull. We didn't see any elk, other than from the road in a field on private land. We expected this. Three days of hiking the steeps and we saw no fresh sign at all; lots of mule deer tracks and pellets, and plenty of old elk sign, but no new sign of them anywhere. We put about 29 miles in.

On day four, we tried a different area, and found some fresh tracks in the snow and elk pellets, and honestly that felt like some kind of epic victory. They were up a drainage that I'd scouted on OnX, and I felt like, well, maybe, maybe. It was 10 degrees and cloudy, and we spent a good bit of time glassing the timber fringe, wondering how on earth we'd ever break an elk down and pack it out from such gnarly stuff. Good thing we didn't see anything to shoot. Definitely it feels different when you're standing there looking up a dark slope, imagining going in after a shot. How would we ever track a wounded animal up there, let alone get it down? And what about the creek? I feel like we have a much better sense of what we need to learn, what kind of epic effort it's going to take, how much better shape we need to be in. Seven miles a day felt like a lot more, and that's with a pretty empty pack. The whole time we were out there we saw two hunters, the same ones twice - obviously they had the same ideas we did. And they didn't see anything either. Certainly we learned a lot about what gear we need, how to navigate the draw (lots more to learn there), what the units look like in a pretty general way. Elk remain an utter mystery, which I suppose is how it should be.
I started with a similar background as you - zero experience and nobody to tell me what’s what. (I also didn’t read this forum for the first couple years of “hunting”). But I am very thankful I didn’t get wildly lucky and kill an elk out of the gate as the extreme challenge has been the thing that’s got me hooked for life more than anything else. Doing something hard has a lot of broader benefits I think.
 
Caribou Gear

Latest posts

Forum statistics

Threads
110,388
Messages
1,918,044
Members
34,727
Latest member
Clifford Radcliffe
Back
Top