Colorado: 3rd and 4th rifle Question

Njtaxi

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May 6, 2021
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Hello,

I am just curious as to understand why some hunters prefer the later seasons for elk in Colorado. From what I've read on here, it seems as though the weather can be very bad, and these seasons are after the early permit and OTC seasons, so the elk have been heavily pressured. Thus, it would seem less desirable.

However, I'm guessing that the potential harder access due to weather may limit the amount of hunters, so it may be more desirable to some? Also, I believe the elk will be lower in elevation, which may be more of an attraction?

Thanks in advance for any info!
 

Poser

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Dec 27, 2013
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Durango CO
Reasons likely vary quite a bit, but I know some locals who like hunting 3rd rifle every year because it’s something to do during the shoulder seasons between Mtn biking and skiing.

I’d venture others hunt because it’s a chance to hunt elk in Nov after they’ve pursued more premium archery and Oct options in other states.

Some people just have been hunting 3rd rifle for a long time and understand the movements during that season. Depending on the weather, you can catch the migration which can make elk hunting more accessible since you can potentially catch them moving through lower elevations, terrain funnels etc.
 

cnelk

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To clarify-
The 3rd Season is still OTC for bull elk - 7 day season

The 4th season is all limited and is only a 5 day season. Some areas are ES for this tag.

Snow and cold can be real beneficial
 

justinspicher

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Colorado
I dont care for warm weather hunting, which is the exact reason I stopped archery hunting and started hunting mid October-mid November rifle hunts.
 
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Njtaxi

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Thanks guys! As a non-resident, it gives me more insight to some of the reasons for the late seasons (migration potential, snow can be better, timing other activities, etc). I guess non-residents that live far away from elk country tend to go earlier so we don't get snowed out. It would really suck to drive 30 hours and not be able to get near where you were planning to go due to impassable roads.
 

Sako76

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New Jersey
Last year, opening day temperature in third combined was -13 in Unit 13 (a buddy was there). In 2019, I hunted the second half of third combined in the same unit, weather was normal to warm (55 degrees in the afternoon), the first part of the third combined it snowed a bunch and was cold, so many animals were shot, the processors weren't taking anymore animals. In 1992, my first time elk hunting we were hunting near Carbondale over the Halloween weekend, it snowed 4 feet, we hunted an hour and a half before retreating out of the National Forest. We grabbed a hotel in town and sat in the hot tub and drank beer for a week, it never stopped snowing! Five hunters died statewide. You can never count on good weather! Good luck.
 

gelton

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Central Texas
There are certain areas in CO that are terrible places to hunt early season and primo places to hunt late-season during the migration. More than a few outfitters and private landowners make a mint during the migration and for good reason...the problem is, the timing has to be nearly perfect.
 

justinspicher

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I hunted in a snow storm in both second and third season last year. Makes things rough if you arent prepared for it.
 

CoStick

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4th season was 50 degrees consistently night/day last year, was not optimal
 

Blackstorm

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Our 4th Season last year was great and hoping for more of the same this year, migration was at least under way and they were herding. I am preparing for the worst weather as always with a chained up truck and good cold weather gear
 

justinspicher

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Another variable is where you hunting in the state during those seasons. Our temperature and conditions can vary significantly from area to area. I’ve been in a snow storm at my house and its bright and clear in town 6 miles away.
 

Sako76

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I hunted first season rifle elk last year near Hayden and it snowed 2 inches opening day night into Sunday, went from 60 degrees on Saturday to 20 degrees on Sunday.. I heard some of the guys hunting up high (I was at 6500') got a lot more snow. I killed my first bull elk in Hamilton, CO on October 19, 1996 with an outfitter. I have a pic of me and my father with the bull and the sun was shining, it was 60 degrees. 12 noon, clouds rolled in and dumped 16" of snow. I went out the next morning and all I saw was white snow and brown elk. One herd of elk was 350 with 50 branched antlered bulls in it!
 

Wags

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California
I own property in an area that is best 3rd or 4th season so that's why I choose it. That said I apply for 1st season in a different zone every year and go OTC if I dont draw.
 

Southforkguy

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Makes me really cringe that I pulled stakes after a 18 inch dump in colorado 2nd, woulda been a slaughter by day 3 or 4 post storm
 

Sako76

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Southfork--don't be so hard on yourself, safety first! If you read some of my previous post here, my first hunt in 1992 lasted an hour and a half before we bailed and got 4 feet of snow! Some first hunt!
 
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Njtaxi

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May 6, 2021
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Good information to know for an East Coast person, it's much more important to keep an eye on the weather out there. If we have a blizzard here while hunting, I can just boogie back to the truck or the nearest house!
 

ndforbes

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Feb 4, 2015
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Colorado
As a couple of guys have already eluded to, keep in mind that a lot of units see the elk migrate down to private land by the end of 3rd season. This makes it nearly impossible to get to them unless you have landowner permission. Seven or eight of the units I have hunted in the past are practically useless once the first big snow hits. There are of course exceptions to that rule, but do your research and make sure you pick a unit that has some public access at lower altitude if the weather turns cold/snowy.
 
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