Colorado Elk!


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Aug 22, 2007
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Cape Cod
When the 2017 deer season came to an end, I started thinking about doing something different, and heading out west for a hunt. This was all new to me, but I figured what the hell, might as well give it a try. At first I thought I was going solo, which seemed a little daunting, but eventually I talked a good hunter, and one of my old co-workers (who's retired) to go with me. We settled on Colorado, and originally were going to go with an outfitter drop camp, during CO 3rd rifle season (11/2 - 11/9).

After talking with quit a few folks who had done DIY and drop camps, including our own mbVT, we decided to scrap the drop camp idea (eventually got our deposits back) and go full DIY, hunting all public forest service land in the Medicine-Bow Routt National Forest. Now the planning really began, and we had to weed out the "nice to have" items vs the "had to have". We also needed a place to stay, and at first I considered renting a wall tent set-up with a wood stove, but the logistics of dealing with that in a whole new unfamiliar area (firewood, fresh water, etc) was just too great, and we settled on renting a cabin in a small town west of Steamboat. The two of us were flying in and renting a truck, so we needed to keep our challenges manageable, and focus on hunting.

In November 2018, I hunted Maine with my brother and his best friend who lives in Denver, and it didn't take long for those two to be on board with a Colorado elk trip. So now we had four in the group, two in their earlier 30's, me at 46, and my buddy at 65. One hell of a mix, but we were determined to make it work. With a year of waiting ahead of us, we had plenty of time to train, spend $$ on gear, and generally try to have a clue of what we were getting into!

For months leading up to the hunt, I scoured every little piece of info on elk hunting the late season, from chat rooms, google earth, USFS and BLM maps, Randy Newberg podcast and episodes, hunting elk in dark timber, and especially the OnX hunt app. What a tool that is, and since their satellite images were a different dates than google earth, I was able to see actual hunting tents and outfitting access points (horse trailers, etc) in areas I had originally thought looked like good access points. This was a huge lesson to me, as it prepared me for the fact that I was not going to be the only hunter during CO 3rd rifle OTC bull tag hunt. However, the areas I e-scouted were huge, so plenty of room to roam, and the reason why so many folks hunted it, was because it held a lot of elk.

Travel day arrived, and we flew into Denver at 1000 on Thursday, 10/31, two days before the season started, grabbed the rental truck (4x4 dodge) and headed west! Denver had just gotten 6" of snow, and as we hit the mountains, there was plenty more. After a few stops, we didn't get into the cabin until around 4pm, which was a bummer, as I had hoped to do a bit of scouting the first day and maybe a hike to try an acclimate.

The next day we all headed out early to scout, and I drove to some lower elevation BLM land that I had heard held elk when to pass through to private land. This piece was only at 7200ft but I felt the change right off the bat while hiking in. There were some elk and muley tracks, and as we glassed onto private, we could see probably 30-40 head of elk on private land scattered about. After that we got out of there and headed north to the USFS land to do more scouting.

The snow depth was really building as we got higher up, and I really wished I had chains just in case. Luckily, plenty of other folks did, which kept the road plenty churned up and gave me good traction in 4wd. Right when we hit public land, we started seeing camps.

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