Colorado 1st Rifle at Flat Top Wilderness advice/experience?

Gene_The_Elk_Machine

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Jun 26, 2021
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A buddy and I are going to be hunting the first rifle season in the flat top wilderness, but we are both out of starters and will not be able to visit before season. I have never been to Colorado, and am unsure of what to expect as far as weather, difficulty hunting in the area, number of other hunters, how much hiking should we be expecting, and any other general advice for that area would be greatly appreciated!! I am also considering leasing some horses and hunting horseback, is that possible in that area, or is it too steep, or will the snow be too high at that point?


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erle1139

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Jul 31, 2015
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1. as always, weather can be anything. Mid Oct plan on snow at some point…either right before you get there, when you arrive, or sometime while you’re there. How much is a crapshoot
2. difficulty of hunting is subjective. Parking and hiking into the wilderness would be difficult for a flat lander like me. If you’ve never been on a mountain hunt, the country is a lot bigger than a map or aerial photo looks. Its quite humbling for some first timers.
3. While there are a bunch of units and acreage for that tag, you’ll be hunting with 5,000+ of your new best friends. Some areas will sound like WWIII opening morning. You can use for your advantage by staying out all day the first two days of the season and hunting ridges elk will use for travel as they get pushed around. The number of people you see will get exponentially less the further you get from trails, roads, trailheads, campsites, etc.
4. You can hike as far as you’d like, but make realistic limits. I visit the mountains once a year from flat sea level. The first year I was overly ambitious; I have since learned my limits in subsequent years.
5. I would focus on transition areas in the 8k’- 10k’ range in mid October. Have a plan to get elk out, whether you’re going to pack one (be realistic) or have already set it up with a local outfitter to pack for you. Have a plan to get yourself out if you’ve never done this before, weather can be brutal if you dont have the right gear. Have several spots pre picked at different elevations in case of weather or one area is not what you thought it would be when you get there (very likely). Get there as early as you can to acclimate, get a lay of the land, and figure out a starting point.
6. Horses are great if you know how to ride, handle, pack, and tie one up.
 

CoStick

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May 18, 2021
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331
1. as always, weather can be anything. Mid Oct plan on snow at some point…either right before you get there, when you arrive, or sometime while you’re there. How much is a crapshoot
2. difficulty of hunting is subjective. Parking and hiking into the wilderness would be difficult for a flat lander like me. If you’ve never been on a mountain hunt, the country is a lot bigger than a map or aerial photo looks. Its quite humbling for some first timers.
3. While there are a bunch of units and acreage for that tag, you’ll be hunting with 5,000+ of your new best friends. Some areas will sound like WWIII opening morning. You can use for your advantage by staying out all day the first two days of the season and hunting ridges elk will use for travel as they get pushed around. The number of people you see will get exponentially less the further you get from trails, roads, trailheads, campsites, etc.
4. You can hike as far as you’d like, but make realistic limits. I visit the mountains once a year from flat sea level. The first year I was overly ambitious; I have since learned my limits in subsequent years.
5. I would focus on transition areas in the 8k’- 10k’ range in mid October.
1 st rifle is draw, so shouldn’t be too crowded I would think.
 

erle1139

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Jul 31, 2015
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36
1 st rifle is draw, so shouldn’t be too crowded I would think.
Flat tops (I’m assuming the area 11 code) has 5,000 bull tags and 2,500 cow tags for first rifle. Lots of area for those tags to spread out, but still a ton of tags. I’m sure there you can find solitude somewhere there, but we haven’t found that place yet lol.
 

Mighty Mouse

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Oklahoma
There are plenty of places a horse can take you in the Flat Tops, and plenty of places it can't. Renting horses to pack in a few miles and set up camp (and hopefully pack meat out) could be a good option if you're handy with horses but it could turn into a rodeo if you're not (and maybe even if you are). Hiring a local outfitter for a furnished or DIY drop camp might be worth investigating if you want to avoid the hassle of keeping horses in your camp and tending to them all week.
 

rayporter

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arkansas or ohio
there are some million dollar gold nuggets buried in the above posts, for sure.

i would not discourage taking horses but you should get some help before you go. no matter your experience level. my first diy trip was with horses and i had quite a bit of trouble in spite of being a very experienced horseman. i put on packs every day for a month and went to the strip mine pits to climb hills a dozen times before i left. i still had wrecks.
 

CJohnson

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Mar 28, 2019
Messages
163
Location
SC
It sounded like a public land whitetail hunt on opening day there last year. We had some guys from Wisconsin walk right up to us at first light asking if they could set up on the same spot. Not everyone's cup of tea, but I guess there's a reason they give out that many tags.
 

Titan_Bow

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Dec 10, 2015
Messages
661
Location
Broomfield, CO
Definitely be prepared for crowds. Have a plan A-Z and realize by day 2 you’ll probably be on plan x or y . There’s a lot of people for sure but also a lot of elk. I had a cow tag in those units 2 years ago and had shot opportunities on bulls. I had a bull tag last year in there and was literally one step away from a nice mature bull.
Don’t let the internet naysayers get you down, just have some realistic expectations. You’ll be in beautiful country, soak it in, do your homework, be prepared for some hard work, and you have a decent chance for sure


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ManyBullets

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Aug 26, 2019
Messages
155
You should do llamas or goats. Everyone on Youtube is doing them and they won't buck you off.

Lots of outfitters in that area including at least one that sets up the mother of all wall tents that could literally house an army battalion.
 
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Gene_The_Elk_Machine

Junior Member
Joined
Jun 26, 2021
Messages
27
1. as always, weather can be anything. Mid Oct plan on snow at some point…either right before you get there, when you arrive, or sometime while you’re there. How much is a crapshoot
2. difficulty of hunting is subjective. Parking and hiking into the wilderness would be difficult for a flat lander like me. If you’ve never been on a mountain hunt, the country is a lot bigger than a map or aerial photo looks. Its quite humbling for some first timers.
3. While there are a bunch of units and acreage for that tag, you’ll be hunting with 5,000+ of your new best friends. Some areas will sound like WWIII opening morning. You can use for your advantage by staying out all day the first two days of the season and hunting ridges elk will use for travel as they get pushed around. The number of people you see will get exponentially less the further you get from trails, roads, trailheads, campsites, etc.
4. You can hike as far as you’d like, but make realistic limits. I visit the mountains once a year from flat sea level. The first year I was overly ambitious; I have since learned my limits in subsequent years.
5. I would focus on transition areas in the 8k’- 10k’ range in mid October. Have a plan to get elk out, whether you’re going to pack one (be realistic) or have already set it up with a local outfitter to pack for you. Have a plan to get yourself out if you’ve never done this before, weather can be brutal if you dont have the right gear. Have several spots pre picked at different elevations in case of weather or one area is not what you thought it would be when you get there (very likely). Get there as early as you can to acclimate, get a lay of the land, and figure out a starting point.
6. Horses are great if you know how to ride, handle, pack, and tie one up.

That makes sense, I was hoping we would be right before snow or have a couple light snow days, but you never know in the Rockies!

It sounds like we plan on getting there a couple days in advance and setting up spike camps and scout before opening day. It sounds like we definitely won’t be the only ones in that area. I’m used to hunting in south east Idaho, so not too many crowds, I might be in for a shock in Colorado.


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Gene_The_Elk_Machine

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Jun 26, 2021
Messages
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There are plenty of places a horse can take you in the Flat Tops, and plenty of places it can't. Renting horses to pack in a few miles and set up camp (and hopefully pack meat out) could be a good option if you're handy with horses but it could turn into a rodeo if you're not (and maybe even if you are). Hiring a local outfitter for a furnished or DIY drop camp might be worth investigating if you want to avoid the hassle of keeping horses in your camp and tending to them all week.

I do like the drop camp option, I think that’s something we would really benefit from on this trip. Don’t think we are going to go the horse route.


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Gene_The_Elk_Machine

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Jun 26, 2021
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Definitely be prepared for crowds. Have a plan A-Z and realize by day 2 you’ll probably be on plan x or y . There’s a lot of people for sure but also a lot of elk. I had a cow tag in those units 2 years ago and had shot opportunities on bulls. I had a bull tag last year in there and was literally one step away from a nice mature bull.
Don’t let the internet naysayers get you down, just have some realistic expectations. You’ll be in beautiful country, soak it in, do your homework, be prepared for some hard work, and you have a decent chance for sure


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It sounds like I’m going to have to get used to the crowds, but that just means I will really need to have a lot of backup plans haha. I am very excited just to be in that country, so that will be worth the experience in itself.

How was the bull activity when you were in there, any bugling and late rut activity, or were they all peeling from the cows and getting into nasty areas?


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Gene_The_Elk_Machine

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Jun 26, 2021
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Gene I spend all of Sept up there every year for the past 10 years. If ya want shoot me a pm and Ill try and help with your plan.

Sorry Slugz, it won’t let me PM you yet my account isn’t old enough and I need to post more for it to be unlocked. I am interested in discussing with you, but let me speak with my buddy and see what questions we might have. I appreciate your help!


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