CO 2nd/3rd season rifle OTC recommendations

Los4212

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Jan 21, 2021
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Hey guy's, new here. Ive followed the site for a few years and kind of just browsed others posts from afar for the info I was looking at and figured I'd finally join in. Long story short, I (sadly) live on the east coast. Avid outdoorsman and have grown up hunting everything the east coast has to offer, but have been dying to add elk to my list for a while now. I'm early 30s, good shape, am willing to hike a long way to get away from the crowds, and applied for my first points/tags out west and in PA last year with no luck (not that I expected it) after extensive research I have decided to do my first OTC hunt with 2 like minded friends in CO due to distance and cost. I would like to learn and put meat in the freezer. I by no means have any expectations of harvesting an animal with essentially only internet knowledge, and I'm not looking for a trophy hunt. I have no one who I know who hunts elk, so my options there are limited. My plan is to hike in, make camp, and most likely hunt 3rd season as I have no experience with calling and would view (correct me if I'm wrong) 3rd season as being a bit of an equalizer as it becomes more of a determination game and putting in work where others wont and playing the wind/pressure to fill an OTC public land tag. What units do you guys feel are worth checking out? I have done research into top units by harvest %, hunter numbers, ect, but that rarely tells the whole story from those with first hand experience. ATM units 13, 70, and 211 are my top choices based on harvest rates. For the record, the idea of a guide is unappealing due to cost, and the fact that I'm very much in favor of learning myself and becoming able to DIY every year. I've heard horror stories of guys paying guides that turn out to be jerks and dont ever teach you really anything other than dragging you around the mountain. Any advise is appreciated!
 

Clarence

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Apr 7, 2018
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477
Pick a unit and go. If you are planning on being on the mountain for all of third season, you need to have your kit dialed, and ready to deal with some tough weather. Consider truck camping. Get out early and acclimate. Work on stretching out your effective shooting range. Unless you have deep pockets, it is alot of kit to buy in a year, to be effective for 7+ days on the mountain in November. Your expectations are reasonable and realistic, except for asking for unit information on a public forum. I was in your shoes 5 years ago. Lotta dollars and miles later, I am getting close to being a half ass elk hunter, and getting comfortable being in the backcountry for 7-8 days at a shot. From PA as well. Alot of really good hunters here, that can go west and pick it up pretty quick. You can research it to death, and by all means that is part of the fun. In the end you need to get some boots on the ground, and get out and do it. My .02

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Los4212

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Jan 21, 2021
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Thank you. I didnt realize until after I posted and dug through some older posts that people frown upon the kind of question I asked. I by no means was attempting to offend someone or ask for anyone's honey hole info, so apologies on my end. I have a fair amount of gear from doing shorter trips for DIY hunts in other states where I've camped out or just general camping/survival gear I own. The only thing I really need to invest in is a good shelter/light weight stove, and a lightweight pair of hiking boots. I was thinking about buying a kifaru sawtooth and titanium stove. I know that's for another thread though. As for the boots, if you're from PA is there anywhere you're aware of east coast wise (I live 40 minutes from the border of PA) where a vendor has availability to try on the traditional western brand boots ie crispi, kennetrek, ect? Again thank you
 

Clarence

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There are some kenetrek dealers around. Black ovis has a great return policy and sells Crispi. Rei sells Lowa tibets. You could get sized up there and order a set of hunter Evo.

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Los4212

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Thanks again. I will check them out. I had planned on attending the PA western hunt expo, but covid nixed that
 

Gophs

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Dec 7, 2020
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As a fellow flatlander that’s been on one elk hunt, I’d say just get out there any way you can and just give it a shot! It’s an absolutely blast! Best way to figure things out is by just doing it.

Went with a buddy for OTC Colorado 2nd season, and I had a bull tag and he got a cow tag to give us the best chance at bringing home meat if we came across anything. We planned to camp but 10” of snow and frigid temps changed our plans, so I would have a backup if you are going that route that time of year. Or make sure you have some solid winter camping gear.

Doesn't matter how much you workout, the mountains will kick your ass anyways if you don’t live out there. It’s steeper than you think and more people than you think. But it is really similar to any crowded public land whitetail woods in terms of you can find pockets where people don’t want to go, which is where we found some elk.

Just go with no expectations. We had some action, which was more than expected, and now I’m hooked for life. You won’t regret getting out there.
 
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Los4212

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Jan 21, 2021
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I have heard its rugged and honestly expect to be a bit humbled as far as that's concerned. I started doing Stone glaciers mountain pack workout program last June to try and build the best endurance I can headed into it, and plan to continue the program into the fall of this year. My area routinely gets over 100" of snow fall a year, so the snow doesnt bother me. The thing that concerns me most I think is dealing with the wind as the most we get is OCCASIONALLY 40-50 mph winds, but that is rare and A LOT for us. Obviously regardless of where you are or how familiar you are with snow, if you get 12"+ in a short amount of time, it's a pain to deal with. As for the multiple tags thing, my buddies and I had discussed getting a bull, cow (if possible), and a mule deer tag. I've heard some of the areas I'm looking at also have good mulie numbers. Overall we could (and likely will) get skunked. But I realize everyone has to start somewhere. I suppose worst comes to worst I'll end up half frozen, licking my wounds in a hotel if weather is more than we're prepared for, and eating tag soup for dinner
 

Nickofthewoods

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Oct 5, 2018
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Colorado
All of the OTC units have Elk in them, don't get too caught up in success rates. I've had great hunts in an OTC unit with a 10% success rate during 3rd rifle, and a lousy hunt in a unit with a 17% success rate during 3rd rifle. And vice versa. Throw a dart at an OTC unit map and go.
 

Elkhntr08

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Nov 3, 2016
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Southeastern Illinois
As others have said, do your best research and pick a unit.
Don’t know that I’d pick up multiple tags the first year, maybe a bear tag. You’re out there to elk hunt. Concentrate on that alone.
That time of year can be brutal in the mountains. One of your party should invest in a PLB of some sort. Don’t end up being a statistic.
 

mtnlomo

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Jan 21, 2021
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Salem, OR
My grandpa and dad used to hunt in the 90's 2nd/3rd season Colorado depending on the moon cycle, their camp would fill multiple bull tags a year just sitting at watering holes that are far removed from roads. It's also worth the time and effort to head in a day or so early to scout before most of the other hunters get there.

Just spend time learning how to stay warm and safe in the backcountry, my dad and grandpa told me of a horror story from one year that they went 3rd season of some guys from back east that went in deep and got snowed in and both of them never made it out, some locals also almost died. This is not to talk down about guys from out east in any way, it could happen to absolutely anyone, just as a warning that winter storms are a serious thing to consider and plan for. I'd give advice on how to stay safe, but there are more qualified people such as Aaron Snyder who have much more wisdom and experience than I with backcountry survival during late season hunts.
 
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Los4212

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Ok, sounds reasonable. As for the PLB, I've gotten a few Garmin products over the years that are compatible with their "in reach" system, I just need to get the actual in reach beacon system (and intend to) on a bit of a random offshoot because I hadn't seen it addressed, only very briefly even mentioned in other threads, how are people about respecting camp sites/property on public grounds in CO? I've been hunting in states that the code amongst hunters is really good, and people will literally leave their stands, blinds, cameras, ect in place on public ground and no one messes with/takes them. Other places I've been, people will take your boots off your feet if you aren't paying attention. I guess what I'm really driving at is should I be making camp and breaking it down, packing it, and resetting every day? As many of you have stated it could be pretty brutal out there and that's a potential death sentence in the wrong conditions to loose your shelter and camping supplies 5 miles deep if you come back to "camp" at the end of the day in the dark to find there is no "camp" obviously I have some knowledge and survival skills, but I also would rather not test them in that scenario if I can help it. I also subscribe to the 1 is none, 2 is one theory with preparations, but I also am not looking to haul 100+lbs of gear (exadurating) to have 5 camp set ups available.
 
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Los4212

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My grandpa and dad used to hunt in the 90's 2nd/3rd season Colorado depending on the moon cycle, their camp would fill multiple bull tags a year just sitting at watering holes that are far removed from roads. It's also worth the time and effort to head in a day or so early to scout before most of the other hunters get there.

Just spend time learning how to stay warm and safe in the backcountry, my dad and grandpa told me of a horror story from one year that they went 3rd season of some guys from back east that went in deep and got snowed in and both of them never made it out, some locals also almost died. This is not to talk down about guys from out east in any way, it could happen to absolutely anyone, just as a warning that winter storms are a serious thing to consider and plan for. I'd give advice on how to stay safe, but there are more qualified people such as Aaron Snyder who have much more wisdom and experience than I with backcountry survival during late season hunts.

My grandpa and dad used to hunt in the 90's 2nd/3rd season Colorado depending on the moon cycle, their camp would fill multiple bull tags a year just sitting at watering holes that are far removed from roads. It's also worth the time and effort to head in a day or so early to scout before most of the other hunters get there.

Just spend time learning how to stay warm and safe in the backcountry, my dad and grandpa told me of a horror story from one year that they went 3rd season of some guys from back east that went in deep and got snowed in and both of them never made it out, some locals also almost died. This is not to talk down about guys from out east in any way, it could happen to absolutely anyone, just as a warning that winter storms are a serious thing to consider and plan for. I'd give advice on how to stay safe, but there are more qualified people such as Aaron Snyder who have much more wisdom and experience than I with backcountry survival during late season hunts.
Absolutely. I've done a few very short (2-3 day) hunts in the Saint Lawrence River region of NY (Canadian border area) and it is incredibly sparse and remote there, and that was where I got my first taste of "this could go really bad" when bad weather moves in and you're deep out there. I genuinely appreciate the feedback. I'm going to see if I can financially swing getting some of the last of my kit together in the next month so I can try it out at home and do a few test run nights on my property I hunt. Current temps have been blustery in the 20s days and single digit nights.
 
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Los4212

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Sorry for the double post, still attempting to learn the intricacies of the site anyway not. Also worth noting, I'm not offended by the east coast thing. The west is a different deal than what I'm used to, that's why Im here asking advice. The first step to learning is admitting you dont know and listening. It feels wierd for me conceptually to feel like I have virtually no idea about something hunting related that on the surface should be similar to what I know moderately well, but I have no doubts I'm more clueless than I even realize
 

WTFJohn

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May 1, 2018
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205
Location
CO
As others have said, pick a unit and go. The later into the fall it goes (or the worse the weather gets), the fewer people tend to be in the woods, especially in deep. For tags, I'd try to get at least one cow tag and one bull tag for 3 guys so you can take advantage of whatever opportunity presents itself. I've packed out 3 elk in 2 days from 2-4 miles in during 4th season; it's a character building exercise and not to be taken lightly. Be mentally prepared for 70* and sunny, or 15* and blowing snow sideways with a 40mph wind. Or both in a 12 period.

You're going to want more than "lightweight hiking boots" for later season hunts, but those are good brands to be looking at. You don't need insulation necessarily, but you're going to want a fully waterproof boot with a stiff sole and very good ankle support. Don't forget some gaiters. Consider Microspikes or K-10 Crampons (or similar) as a traction aid if it is snowy.

I carry a Garmin Inreach Mini (going on 3.5 yrs now, fullsize before that), and it integrates well with my Instinct watch and the app on my phone. Getting 3+ miles in when there is snow on the ground and more on the way means you're playing by nature's rules, and isn't the time to guess if stuff works or will hold up. You're on the right track testing gear now, and a hot tent will help a lot too with the mental aspect.

The picture below is me wishing I had clear safety glasses on a late season hunt. Sleet/snow directly in the eyes at 40 mph sucks, and makes glassing a bit of a chore.

F567E027-8208-4236-860F-3DEF2D032D3C_1_105_c.jpeg
 

Clarence

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477
I would buy insulated boots for that time of year. Last 3 years we have seen below zero Temps. Twice in 3rd season and once in 2nd. It is hard to keep your feet from freezing when it's single digits and your hiking in the snow for several days.

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Los4212

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I would buy insulated boots for that time of year. Last 3 years we have seen below zero Temps. Twice in 3rd season and once in 2nd. It is hard to keep your feet from freezing when it's single digits and your hiking in the snow for several days.

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I have a pair of kuiu pro gaiters and currently run either my old under armour brow tine boots with 800g insulation for my "mobile" hunts, or I have a pair of alphaburry 1600g for more stationary/tree stand hunts, but those DEF are not the boot you wanna do more than a few miles in. I just had been advised large and above you want a "western style" boot like I had discussed before. I just assumed the UA boots would be too clunky and heavy. I've done a few 7-8 mile days here with them and they're ok, but that's with less than 1k feet in elevation changes
 

Clarence

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Most of your mountain hunting style boot makers have a insulated option. Usually around 400 grams.

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Marble

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May 29, 2019
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Anything into mid October and I use insulated boots, as does everyone else I've ever hunted with.

Your feet will not be too hot, or heavy or bulky. But if they got cold and your feet hurt, and you had to deal with this for several days, you might quit and walk off the mountain.

For that time of year I also bring a 1000 gram boot and a set of pack boots. 10" of snow and single digit temps make it difficult to keep feet warm.

Not too mention glassing...hours of standing still can make your feet cold. Having the warm boots whole standing and glassing keep my feet warm.

It's always good to have more than one pair of boots and some that are warmer than others.

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Phaseolus

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Feb 25, 2018
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Palisade, Colorado
I have a pair of kuiu pro gaiters and currently run either my old under armour brow tine boots with 800g insulation for my "mobile" hunts, or I have a pair of alphaburry 1600g for more stationary/tree stand hunts, but those DEF are not the boot you wanna do more than a few miles in. I just had been advised large and above you want a "western style" boot like I had discussed before. I just assumed the UA boots would be too clunky and heavy. I've done a few 7-8 mile days here with them and they're ok, but that's with less than 1k feet in elevation changes
Since you already have insulated boots I would go with non-insulated hiking boots. I hardly ever use insulated boots in 40 years of hunting Western Colorado where I live. It’s a good idea in late seasons to have more than set of boots anyway so the spare pair can be be dry. size up so you can use a heavy pair of socks and sock liners. Since will be your first western hunt you might want to car camp rather than backcountry camp. Backcountry is fine in good weather but you will need really good gear and experience to enjoy a nasty weather third season trip.
 
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Los4212

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Jan 21, 2021
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Since you already have insulated boots I would go with non-insulated hiking boots. I hardly ever use insulated boots in 40 years of hunting Western Colorado where I live. It’s a good idea in late seasons to have more than set of boots anyway so the spare pair can be be dry. size up so you can use a heavy pair of socks and sock liners. Since will be your first western hunt you might want to car camp rather than backcountry camp. Backcountry is fine in good weather but you will need really good gear and experience to enjoy a nasty weather third season trip.
Well taken. I think what its really going to come down to is if I can finish my kit and give it a full field test in February/March in my area. That's when we get our worst weather and it's currently single digits and snowing. If I can get a few field tests with below zero in I'd feel a lot better. If I cant, then I'll likely go the truck method. My biggest thing was just trying to get into deep country to try to put some space between myself and as many others as possible, but I'd also rather not die haha I didnt think of 2 pairs of boots, but it absolutely makes sense on the glassing sessions. Thank you for the advice
 
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