Colorado elk hunt,

Discussion in 'Hunting, Fishing & Camping' started by Hummer, Oct 31, 2005.

  1. Hummer

    Hummer Big Member

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    This year I hunted the second Colorado rifle big game season and had licenses for both cow and bull elk as well as buck deer and black bear. Weather was warm and dry with temps from 28-60 degrees. I hunt a fifteen square mile area near the Flat Tops Wilderness at 8700' to 10,200' elevation. The chances of seeing a good buck or bear are pretty slim at these higher elevations but I like to go prepared. It's good elk country with grassy meadows among aspen groves and mature spruce-fir jammed with fallen timber where the elk like to hide out during the day. Stalking up on elk in this dark timber is a real challenge. Bulls are tougher to get not only because they are fewer and more wary, but because a legal bull must have at least four antler points to a side, and seeing the points well enough to count them in the timber can be tricky.

    Usually, I hike out from camp before first light, find a good spot to sit and watch for animals for an hour or two, then still-hunt throughout the day traveling four to ten miles of rugged country. Covering a lot of country is key to finding elk during the day, and you have to hunt the dark timber where the elk are. For the last hour of shooting light I'll again find a good place to sit, then hike back to camp in the dark.

    On the third morning I sat on the edge of some dark spruce forest overlooking an aspen grove when I spotted a lone cow elk at about 300 yds making her way up the mountain toward me. With my rifle aimed, I waited patiently, hoping to see a bull following her, but no such luck. She kept coming right to me, never saw me, and I started to worry she was going to stomp right over me! At 18 yards she turned sideways and stopped. Somehow I heard this voice (I think it was the Good Lord) say to me, "Hummer, I want you to take this elk". So I did.


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    By late afternoon I had her all cut up, packed out via backpack, and hanging in a cooler a few miles from camp. Today and tomorrow I'm busily butchering elk at home. This was a big dry cow, probably weighing about 470 lbs., and should produce about 150 lbs. of de-boned, de-fatted meat, about 3/4 of which I package as steaks. So far this turned out to be a pretty easy hunt and I'm always thankful for a little bit of good luck and a freezer full of quality game meat.

    This was my 19th elk killed in 21 years of hunting the area and this one lowered my average elk-kill range to just under 70 yards. Btw, the rifle is a 1937 Winchester model 54 in .30-06 with a Leupold Alaskan 4x scope, using a 200gr. Nosler Partition handload.

    Hummer
     
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2015
  2. Hummer

    Hummer Big Member

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    Well I still had three licenses and a few more days to hunt so I decided to backpack up and over the mountain to set up a bivouac camp about five miles from my camp trailer. This got me well away from other hunters, especially the road hunters and ATV crowd which never seem to get off the machines long enough to do any real hunting.

    On the first day I made my way through some hellish downed timber when a group of seven cows, calves and spike bulls walked by at 25 yards. There was another, probably larger bull behind but I was unable to count the antler points so had to let him go. The next morning a group of fourteen cows and calves walked by at 30 yards, never detecting me. I waited for a bull to follow and sure enough, seven minutes later a 2x3 bull came through. He'll be big enough next year.

    In all, I got into four groups of about forty elk but saw no big bulls while hunting this year. There was bear scat everywhere but none very fresh, and the few groups of mulies I saw had no bucks. It was a great hunt anyway because I was out every day, worked hard at it and saw lots of wildlife. Amazing to see were an all white snowshoe hare and a white long-tailed weasel, both awaiting more snow to provide cover. I also found two Northern Pygmy-Owls, one of which I called to me just to get a better look, and about 35 Blue Grouse, mostly in groups of one or two. I got a photo of one male grouse as I was working my way along an elk trail.

    With the fresh snow that fell in the mountains last night, third season hunters should do pretty well. I'll look forward to next year with plenty of good memories from this year's hunt.

    Good hunting,

    Hummer
     

  3. mpol777

    mpol777 Feral Member

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    Sounds like a great hunt!

    I've heard that voice before. Sometimes mother nature just puts one in front of you. A powerful thing.
     
  4. ithaca_deerslayer

    ithaca_deerslayer

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    Holly crap, that's a big animal. Makes my deer look like midgets!
     
  5. Glasser

    Glasser

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    Nice. I was hunting Elk in the Vail area last week. Saw lots of prints, scat and wallows but no Elk. Hunting buddy saw some
    cows. The weather was perfect for camping/hiking and apparently this is bad for Elk.

    I did get chased out of a bowl by a moose!

    Where there lots of hunters in the area you mentioned? Vail area was pretty busy.
     
  6. Hummer

    Hummer Big Member

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    Elk are big critters, three to five times the size of a deer or antelope. You'll know when you go to field dress one! I have used a folding pocket Buck knife to skin and cut one up but there's no way to avoid reaching up to you shoulder into the chest cavity to cut away the lung tissue and windpipe.

    Gotta remember though, it's a winter's worth of meat for the freezer.

    Hummer
     
  7. Hummer

    Hummer Big Member

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    There's good elk country around Vail, I've done field work in the mountains north of there. Glasser, I'm guessing you're an out of state hunter so I'll mention things a local would already know.

    The second season is usually the toughest season to hunt because the first season hunters move the deer and elk into the dark timber where they mostly stay day and night. The lack of snow (typical during 2nd season) is kind to hunters but poor for killing game. That's why the 2nd CO season has always been longer than the other seasons. I like hunting the 2nd season because it allows me to travel a lot of country and still find elk; more fun that way. But it's a lot of work, and elk hunting is 30% effort, 30% knowledge, and 30% luck. The other ten percent is magic. :>)

    My camp trailer is based off a road which is used by hundreds of hunters. Most of the hunters seldom move beyond a half mile beyond the road. The right kind of hunter pressure can be very useful to move animals around and increase hunter harvest. Road hunters and ATV users are usually detrimental because they keep animals farther from roads where hunters are. But hunters on foot or horseback within a mile of the roads keep animals moving around, which gives everyone a chance. There is increasing data showing areas saturated with ATV use during season have very low hunter harvest ratios. Hunting deeper into the spruce-fir timber where the elk hide out will increase your chance of seeing elk.

    The best elk hunting happens when the snow falls. If you can follow a set of elk tracks, you will eventually come onto your prey. Prolonged and heavier snows motivate large numbers of elk to migrate to lower elevations. The 3rd season is often a tough hunt without a horse because of knee deep snow, but it is what we often call "the killing season".

    In my opinion, elk hunting in the Rocky Mountains is the most challenging and rewarding big game hunting in all the world.

    Hummer
     
  8. f1b32oPTic

    f1b32oPTic R4d104c71v3

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    that is a great pic of the grouse...

    congrats on a good hunt;Y
     
  9. Hummer

    Hummer Big Member

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    Thanks! Blue Grouse are one of those neat birds you can approach closely. Another is the Pygmy-Owl I mentioned seeing in my first post. The tiny Pygmy Owl is the ultimate predator, weighing 5-7 ounces and about the size of your clenched fist, he is fearless and often attacks prey several times larger than himself. He has been documented attacking and killing Blue Grouse which weigh 2.5 pounds. Like many predators, you can mimic their call or the call of their prey and they will come to you. Here's a photo of a Pygmy I took a while back. The blood spot on his chest is from a Harris's Sparrow which was larger than he is.

    Hummer
     
  10. Glasser

    Glasser

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    Thanks for the advice, Hummer. I've actually lived in the state for 7 years but this is my first year out Elk hunting. Hunting black bear and mulies next week near my place in the mountains west of Boulder. Apparently I got wrong bear season as well as all the choke cherries have fallen and the previously copious piles of scat are absent.
     
  11. Hummer

    Hummer Big Member

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    Glasser, good luck on your hunt. There are lots of deer in Boulder County but it's hardly an easy hunt because of the steep terrain and the checkerboard of public and private properties. I hunted areas 19 & 20 for many ears and took my first deer and elk there. I still have a mountain home in Peaceful Valley, north of Ward. I'll buy you a beer at the Millsite next time I'm up there.... Hummer
     
  12. Hoingshiba

    Hoingshiba willhunt4food

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    I have a day and a half to get my elk. I have to hunt during thanksgiving break from school, and thats all I get. I am not going to hold my breath, but dang it would be exciting. I will be in central WA, and It would be sweet if I got one. It is my first year big game hunting and I am doing it with a bow. I got my deer this year, and I would be in 7th heaven to get both!
     
  13. Hummer

    Hummer Big Member

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    Well, if you are bow hunting elk during the rifle season, you've got your work cut out. By Thanksgiving, the animals should be well into migration or on their winter grounds which will concentrate their numbers. I wish you good luck.

    If you do get an elk on your first hunt, I suppose you'll be pretty hard to live with. And where will you cut it up, in your dorm room? :>)