Colorado Archery OTC DIY Hunt

bz_711

Senior Member
Joined
May 7, 2012
Messages
571
Hey everyone, I am a first time elk hunter, Been hunting whitetail for 20 years. My plan is to tackle Colorado first and build from there. I am a member of GoHunt and am looking to narrow down some units. Gohunt is a great tool but doing this for the first time can be overwhelming. I know the odds are stacked against me headed there with archery equipment but I'm always up for the challenge.

My question is for anyone that has experience in Colorado with archery public land, can you help me narrow down some units. I will be driving there from Buffalo NY and I will be by myself. I am looking to take a legal bull but wouldn't pass up a cow toward the later part of my stay. I plan on getting there August 30th to do some scouting and plan on staying until Sept 12th. Other than that all my scouting will be done on the computer.

Any help is appreciated. Thanks in advance!
Bunch of great tips so far...thought I'd add my .02cents since this site has been so helpful to me over the years.

2019 was my 10th straight year elk hunting in CO (All archery)...all the guys on here were right when they said that my first hunt in 2010 wouldn't be my last:)

9 years have been OTC, 1 year Draw tag. I've taken 3 bulls (2 OTC, 1 Draw)...didn't tag my first until year 4. I've hunted 3 different units, all different terrain and vegetation. The most time I've ever had to hunt was 5.5 days due to drive time and my family schedule. Not ideal, but I've made it work...and I'd honestly drive out even to hunt just 3 days as I'm so dang hooked.

Tips:
-Year 1 - covering ground is the name of the game (reason why you can't be in too good of shape). Miles = encounters. You need your first encounter (even if it's busting an elk) to even know that you're finally into elk. Old sign is deceiving, once you find fresh sign (smells of a barnyard) then you finally know what you should be looking for.
-you can be more aggressive with elk compared to whitetails...go right at them
-Wind is everything, I swear an elk's nose is 100x better than a whitetail. No amount of scent reduction in the world will help, YOU HAVE TO BE DOWNWIND!
-Good boots to keep your feet in shape and covering ground.
-No need to be many miles deep, find hard to reach spots under 2 miles...or even under 1 mile most times if it's hard to get to
-learn how to debone meat gutless method if you are by yourself
-Stay positive (enjoy all aspects of the hunt - there's nothing better than Sept in the mountains)
-I ran my first marathon in 2012 because of elk hunting and work out nearly everyday now (because I enjoy it and I'm not getting younger)...I've never been in too good of shape. But with all that physical prep, mental prep and the mental battle of elk hunting stops/ruins more hunts 10 fold than physical shape.

PM if you have any ?'s.
Have fun.
Report back and share story/pics...I enjoy those!

GOOD LUCK!
 

dirtytough

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 25, 2012
Messages
881
Unless money is an issue I would think about applying for a few draw tags. And if you don't draw oh well go hunt otc like you are planning. I would look into a Wyoming general tag, easier to draw hunts in New Mexico, and even a draw tag in Colorado.

If you would like help with draw units or otc units send a pm. I'm not an elk hunter but I do see elk while deer hunting.
 

timmyd

Junior Member
Joined
Jul 4, 2019
Messages
13
One thing that I learned that I was totally unprepared for was motivation/depression. You may not think it's a big deal but trying to stay motivated after days of hard hunting with nothing to show for it can get discouraging real fast.
 

J.G.

Member
Joined
May 23, 2018
Messages
56
This was my second year in Colorado. Grew up hunting white tails in Ohio, now I live on Long Island. Both years I had a bull at 20 yards. First year was raining, walked right into his bedroom. We had a stare down for a few min, then he walked off. I ditched my raincoat and bono harness. Turns out he was on a trail that lead him really close, but bc I dropped my range finder I didn’t know. Guessed him at 40, when I checked later he was only 20. Next year I called one into 25 yards. I was on a cliff 30’ above him. Missed 4 shots before he got nervous and left. Figured out on my 4th one I was pulling my tension release too hard, so it went off when I released my safety. We moved to 3-4 diff units each year to learn what type of hunting we liked. Few things I learned
Be in shape, I CrossFit, run 6 miles a few times a week, and hike with a loaded pack for a few months before we went and those hills still kicked my butt. Missed out on several opportunities bc I couldn’t make it up the next hill
Make sure you have confidence in your gear and use stuff that’s reliable, but easy to use. My heart has never beat so hard as when that elk was bugling at 25 yards and ripping up a tree
Go places no one else wants to go. Dark timber, thick stuff, higher up the hills and away from trails the better. The biggest bulls I saw were also when it was rainy and cold, so have good clothes so you can stay out when everyone else goes in. Actually the biggest bull I saw was 100 yards from a parking lot that had 53 trucks in it the day before. Everyone left bc it was pouring, we saw them on the way back to the truck bc I was soaked and cold.
Learn to call. I’m not great but got bulls bugling every spot we tried this past year and had a lot more opportunities
Hopefully next year will be my year and good luck to you!


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
 

Beendare

Senior Member
Joined
May 6, 2014
Messages
4,267
Location
In Traffic
One thing that I learned that I was totally unprepared for was motivation/depression. You may not think it's a big deal but trying to stay motivated after days of hard hunting with nothing to show for it can get discouraging real fast.
Kudos for having the guts to bring this up. My bro in laws bro in law did his first CO hunt last year...they made it 3 days.

Its a constant on these hunts- the ups and downs. There is no room for a negative attitude.

It could be that many guys put so much focus on "The Killing" and not on enjoying some of the most beautiful terrain our country has to offer. A guy might want to try stopping and smelling the roses. A bit cliche...when you are bushwhacking down in some nasty hole with nothing to show for it...and you have to climb out 2,000' in the dark- grin.

I'm not afraid to admit that The killing part is secondary to me having a good trip. If it was all about killing I would have taken one of the 5-10 yd shots I had on elk early in the hunt last year.

Bottom line- enjoy the process and everything else takes care of itself!


....
 

ShakeDown

Senior Member
Joined
Dec 20, 2017
Messages
171
Location
The Rock
Kudos for having the guts to bring this up. My bro in laws bro in law did his first CO hunt last year...they made it 3 days.

Its a constant on these hunts- the ups and downs. There is no room for a negative attitude.

It could be that many guys put so much focus on "The Killing" and not on enjoying some of the most beautiful terrain our country has to offer. A guy might want to try stopping and smelling the roses. A bit cliche...when you are bushwhacking down in some nasty hole with nothing to show for it...and you have to climb out 2,000' in the dark- grin.

I'm not afraid to admit that The killing part is secondary to me having a good trip. If it was all about killing I would have taken one of the 5-10 yd shots I had on elk early in the hunt last year.

Bottom line- enjoy the process and everything else takes care of itself!


....
I took 2 FL boys out in 2018 for their first Western elk hunt. After 2 days/nights 4 miles into the wilderness I suggested we pack up and head to another area, even though we had one bull encounter and had seen a good bit of sign. We had packed for 5 days.

I brought us back and we truck hunted for the rest of time we had available. We ate fajitas, posole, NY Strip and some other grub I had prepped up for just this kind of situation. We hunted hard and found elk. As mentioned by a previous poster, one morning I was able to bring a bull into a sub - 50yd set up and after 10 minutes of chuckling, when the bull left I was told by my buddy he “Never had a shot...” :)

We had a blast and saw some beautiful country.

Moral of the story, I knew that mentally my buddies needed to get back to their comfort zones or we weren’t going to have a good trip. Keeping your spirits up in on an extended trip is one of the most important aspects of a hunt in my opinion. This is my favorite picture from that hunt... when I showed my wife this picture she said those boys look beat... and the one in the back looks like he just escaped from a prison camp. Ha!

055C1B8E-FB14-4D6E-BA4D-AE977761120A.jpeg
 

Bcorn

Junior Member
Joined
Jul 4, 2019
Messages
34
I'll tell you what I wish someone told me before I went out there. I'm from the East Coast also and I over-thought and over-complicated my first trip out there. Just pick a spot, and go. Don't look too far from the roads, instead look for a lot of spots that are within 2 miles of roads. Stay mobile and go in and check a spot out for sign and then move on if it's not happening and keep going and going and going until you find fresh sign and get into elk. Hit a couple of spots a day or at least plan to, and learn how to call and be in awesome shape. Being in awesome shape really raises your ceiling - and akthough I consider myself in elite shape - I feel like my physical fitness is the most limiting factor in chasing elk. If i was in superman shape, I'd be knocking down giants every time out. Chasing bugles straight uphill through deadfall is tough and elk just move faster than i do.

The dates that you mentioned aren't my favorites, but if that's what you have to work with - know that some of those elk may not be bugling their heads off during the first part of your trip. Don't worry so much about which unit to go to and what you read about a unit, if it's on the internet it is probably all crazy talk anyways. I don't mind finding pressure where there is a lot of sign, because then you can usually take a minute and figure out where the elk would go given that pressure in their preferred area. I have found in OTC Colorado moreover than any other areas, that guys love walking by a good spot to go to an okay spot because the great spot is too close to a trailhead or a road.

In general, look for areas along the western edge of the continental divide if you're stuck on the "which unit" thing. It seems like elk have good densities along the entire continental divide, especially on the western side of it.
Totally agree.
 

jgrg1215

Newbie
Joined
Sep 28, 2019
Messages
5
One thing that I learned that I was totally unprepared for was motivation/depression. You may not think it's a big deal but trying to stay motivated after days of hard hunting with nothing to show for it can get discouraging real fast.

This advice should not be ignored. I've been out West a couple of times and this is my number 1 battle. I swear the altitude and lack of oxygen do something to my brain to make me depressed, because after a few days it usually goes away and my attitude changes for the positive. For me, being prepared mentally is the hardest part about the hunt. I train nearly year round physically and obsess about every detail of the hunt and my expectations, but the mountains will kick your butt, and the mental part will start to bring you down if you let it.

Also remember, if you are hunting with a partner, be prepared to have some tension during a hunt like this. When things go wrong after so much hard work, it can be easy to loose your cool with each other.
 

rtkbowhunter

Newbie
Joined
Apr 2, 2019
Messages
8
I took 2 FL boys out in 2018 for their first Western elk hunt. After 2 days/nights 4 miles into the wilderness I suggested we pack up and head to another area, even though we had one bull encounter and had seen a good bit of sign. We had packed for 5 days.

I brought us back and we truck hunted for the rest of time we had available. We ate fajitas, posole, NY Strip and some other grub I had prepped up for just this kind of situation. We hunted hard and found elk. As mentioned by a previous poster, one morning I was able to bring a bull into a sub - 50yd set up and after 10 minutes of chuckling, when the bull left I was told by my buddy he “Never had a shot...” :)

We had a blast and saw some beautiful country.

Moral of the story, I knew that mentally my buddies needed to get back to their comfort zones or we weren’t going to have a good trip. Keeping your spirits up in on an extended trip is one of the most important aspects of a hunt in my opinion. This is my favorite picture from that hunt... when I showed my wife this picture she said those boys look beat... and the one in the back looks like he just escaped from a prison camp. Ha!

View attachment 149482

Printed this pic out. Hangs next to the treadmill and elliptical.
 

r_james66

Newbie
Joined
Jan 10, 2017
Messages
9
Location
Pennsylvania
This is a awesome feed! I'm heading out first season rifle this year for my first elk hunt. A lot of information here that's wroth its weight in gold!
 

East2West

Junior Member
Joined
Mar 26, 2019
Messages
16
Bunch of great tips so far...thought I'd add my .02cents since this site has been so helpful to me over the years.

2019 was my 10th straight year elk hunting in CO (All archery)...all the guys on here were right when they said that my first hunt in 2010 wouldn't be my last:)

9 years have been OTC, 1 year Draw tag. I've taken 3 bulls (2 OTC, 1 Draw)...didn't tag my first until year 4. I've hunted 3 different units, all different terrain and vegetation. The most time I've ever had to hunt was 5.5 days due to drive time and my family schedule. Not ideal, but I've made it work...and I'd honestly drive out even to hunt just 3 days as I'm so dang hooked.

Tips:
-Year 1 - covering ground is the name of the game (reason why you can't be in too good of shape). Miles = encounters. You need your first encounter (even if it's busting an elk) to even know that you're finally into elk. Old sign is deceiving, once you find fresh sign (smells of a barnyard) then you finally know what you should be looking for.
-you can be more aggressive with elk compared to whitetails...go right at them
-Wind is everything, I swear an elk's nose is 100x better than a whitetail. No amount of scent reduction in the world will help, YOU HAVE TO BE DOWNWIND!
-Good boots to keep your feet in shape and covering ground.
-No need to be many miles deep, find hard to reach spots under 2 miles...or even under 1 mile most times if it's hard to get to
-learn how to debone meat gutless method if you are by yourself
-Stay positive (enjoy all aspects of the hunt - there's nothing better than Sept in the mountains)
-I ran my first marathon in 2012 because of elk hunting and work out nearly everyday now (because I enjoy it and I'm not getting younger)...I've never been in too good of shape. But with all that physical prep, mental prep and the mental battle of elk hunting stops/ruins more hunts 10 fold than physical shape.

PM if you have any ?'s.
Have fun.
Report back and share story/pics...I enjoy those!

GOOD LUCK!
Great advice right there
 

jlozzi921

Newbie
Joined
Feb 22, 2016
Messages
3
Me and 2 of my friends drove from New Jersey and hunted GMU 371 in 2016 and 2017. Those were our first 2 years of DIY OTC Colorado Archery elk hunting. GMU 371 is known for extremely aggressive terrain, a lot of hunters, blowdowns, and hard hunting. We were in a great area and at about 11k feet, didn't run into hunters up there at about 9 or 10 miles in. We thought we were on fresh sign, i.e. elk rubs, runs. Little did we know, elk move often when pressured, and when they move, they are gone! haha. One piece of advice I could give you, beside being in perfect shape, is to constantly keep your mind on a "mobile" platform. Don't set up base camp and hunt from base camp everyday. Stay mobile, pack your stuff everyday, or as much as you can, and keep it moving, that is until you actually see elk. We made the mistake of going off of fresh sign and not of actually observing elk. We jumped a heard in the thickest, nastiest stuff you could find, which shows you that, like pressured whitetails, you need to hunt the thick stuff, period. Get away from the road, get some altitude, and hunt the thick stuff. Elk are there. Be prepared, get a SPOT tracker just in case. The photograph below is the 2nd week in Colorado, it got a little nasty. Don't expect to see elk, itll mess with your mind. Stay mobile, stay safe, hunt from spike camps, not base camps.
 

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