Made it super tough where I was last year. We have a small piece of private in Colorado we hunt next to state trust land and we we’re trying all we could to keep water in the water holes. This year, we dug about 4-5 foot of silt out of one and moved a ton of sand to promote positive runoff again. Shouldn’t go dry any time soon. When we have water, we see elk consistently.
IMO the two effects that can be a problem are the "walking on potato chips" effect, and fires. If anything the dry water holes and such will narrow down where they are getting water from so should be easier in that regard. But the fires are unpredictable.......both ahead of time (through the summer) and during the season. That's a wildcard.
My take on very dry years and elk
1- typically weak tops on elk antlers- Your should have been 330 may only be 310 this year
2- More broken bulls after the rut
3- elk concentrated around available feed/water.
As 5 miles mentions, fires are the biggest concern to the western hunters. The good news is many areas don't have much left to burn.
Small sample size, but noticed the elk were much lower than anyone expected. Have had the elk to myself pretty much as everyone was still looking for them at timberline and higher. Folks just blindly hunting the same high stuff each day saying “man they were here last year.”
E-scouting, if in the timber you spot small open green spots I’d check those out. Little swampy seeps and wallers with green grass.
Last year I was expecting the southwestern part of CO to burn, as it's been the driest around the state for a few years. But for whatever reason it was the northern part of the state last year. This year could get ugly down there.