DIY Elk Hunting in Colorado

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All in all you could call it an adventure...

When we arrived at the trailhead after driving over 17 hours, we could barely find a spot to park. Several trucks, SUVs, and campers were already there, including a few horse trailers. The topo map only showed one trail (no motorized vehicles) leading out. We hiked in 1.5 miles on the trail, then another 2 miles plus elevation off the trail to set up first night's camp. Had we gone another few hundred yards along the main trail, we would have seen where the horse trail forked, with a heavy unmarked trail going right up to the top of the drainage. On opening morning, I was at the top of a saddle 5 miles in. One guy walked past right before shooting light. He said "I'm just going to be going on the back side of you a ways... I have two guys set up on the front side of the saddle too. At that point, I didn't really have anywhere else to take off to, so I sat there. At 9 o'clock, shooting started close. I walked over to the front side of the saddle to see a 5x4 downed. Had the bull been able to somehow maneuver around the shooters, who were posted up on open outcroppings with bipods and long range scopes, I might have had a chance. Still hunting the bedding areas showed tons of sign, and I even spotted two cows sneaking through the trees.

On Sunday, a heavy snowstorm engulfed the mountain. I don't know where the bottom of the cloud was, but I couldn't see it... for 36 hours. It snowed off and on the entire time, leaving behind 8 inches. After that, elk sign was incredibly hard to come buy. I'd put on several miles each day looking for fresh tracks, occasionally finding a couple. I heard no shots Sunday or Monday. Tuesday, I couldn't get out of the tent because my boots were frozen solid. I tried for 15 minutes. About to get out my stove and melt them, I said forget it and slept in another couple hours. I heard a couple shots that morning. One guy in my group missed a couple cows. They were starting to see more sign closer to the lot, which was starting to make sense. With the numbers of horse camps set up, the further back I went the more hunters I saw. The trip ended with no animals taken.

For next year, I am looking into archery hunts. This one sort of reminded me why I really don't like hunting the general gun season that much. It reminded me a lot of whitetail. Know the best escape route that isn't already going to be hunted, be set up there opening morning, and you'll do well. Otherwise you're playing catchup the entire week. I heard a couple bugles opening morning but not after that. Would have been nice to hear some more.

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