First Elk Hunt Trip Report

GunsAreFun

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Apr 18, 2019
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After 19+ months of planning, a few friends and I headed out to Colorado for our first OTC archery elk hunt the night of the 17th. Here are the quick highlights:
- We got into elk 5 of 7 hunting days
- We hunted from 8000-10,500' but only found elk and/or fresh sign around 8,500'
- We found several areas (generally around 10-10.5k') absolutely loaded with elk poop that was a few days to a week old that I think were full of elk before muzzleloader season and/or the snowstorm pushed them out.
- Got into bugling matches with at least three bulls (one visually confirmed, one was moving way too fast to be a human, and one we didn't see but found their bed and extremely fresh urine and droppings)
- Called in two other groups
- In general, very few bugles were heard by us or other hunters (if they were being honest). We only heard one bugle at night, and that might have been another hunter. Some guides we overheard talking had basically resigned to sitting clients in stands/blinds over wallows in the morning.
- I let one fly on a cow but missed just low on an uphill shot (realized that night my rangefinder was not on angle adjustment...oh well)
- We came prepared to bivy but ended up camping at the trucks each night. It seemed that any area that had walks long enough to maybe justify a bivy camp was already full of other groups doing the same thing or spiking.
- The first area that we got bugle responses actually had two bulls firing off at us/each other. We went back there the next day but didn't get any response. That area SUCKED to get out of. Our two options to get out were to either walk 5 miles around the mountain on a mapped trail that didn't actually exist through rock/mud slides and fresh blowdowns or to literally send the 17 year old nephew up sketchy, steep climbs with climbing rope so the rest of us could get up with our bows and packs. The only way down was sliding down steep dirt patches that were too steep and loose to get back up. The only water available was a wallow and cow ditch and the vegetation was super thick with almost no flat area so spiking wasn't really practical. We ended up leaving that area after the second day.
- I have a love hate relationship with cattle. They are everywhere out there...like freaking everywhere. I'm sure they compete with elk for food, but at the same time, if it was not for their trails, navigating would have been very difficult at times.
- Buy a mule deer tag if you can get one. They are everywhere, and are not shy at all.
- I think some of the OTC pressure complaints are a bit overblown. Yes, I'm sure that affects how much the elk talk, but we only ran into hunters in the woods twice, which I think is pretty good considering the mileage we put on. It didn't take us long to figure out what areas other hunters overlook.

Lessons Learned
- Get a comfy bino harness. By day three or four, we all started ditching our harnesses because they were digging into our shoulders.
- Need to be more patient on setups and learn more about what to do when the elk aren't just running at calls. We bumped some elk because we weren't patient enough.
- You don't need fancy coolers. I used a second hand 150qt Coleman Extreme cooler filled with milk jugs, frozen water bottles, and stuffed with a moving blanket to fill in extra space. That held ice from about 3:00pm on the 17th until today. That included me purging 2-3 water bottles per day to keep a separate food cooler cold.
- Spend time researching elk habitat, behaviors, and e-scouting, not so much on gear. While I did a lot of both, I think the time I spent on the former was the reason we saw more elk than most first timers.
- Practice range estimation as well as ranging and then remember landmarks constantly. You will NOT have time to range an elk when it finally appears. The situation is way too dynamic.
 

Gerbdog

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Sounds like an awesome first trip and congrats on getting drawn and letting an arrow fly at an elk, looks like you cut the learning curb way down on your first trip.

"That area SUCKED to get out of. Our two options to get out were to either walk 5 miles around the mountain on a mapped trail that didn't actually exist through rock/mud slides and fresh blowdowns or to literally send the 17 year old nephew up sketchy, steep climbs with climbing rope so the rest of us could get up with our bows and packs."

The elk in these pressured units here in CO love these areas, its no joke when the advice is "find the steepest, nastiest area you can on the mountain"

I always figured cattle weren't a bad thing to see, if the ranchers are grazing them in the area, the feed must be of good quality, or good quality for what can be had in the area, so the elk will likely be happy to eat there also.
 
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GunsAreFun

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No expert here and not that it matters, but if your range finder didnt have angle compensation wouldn’t you miss high?

I was shooting uphill at an elk above me. So if the nearby tree I pre-ranged was 50 yards straight line/tape measure distance, it was more likely a ~55y shot due to shooting at an upward angle.

The arrow was dead on horizontally. It just barely missed underneath the cow. Close enough that when we could not originally find the arrow (thick brush that matched the coloring of my fletching), we started looking for blood.
 

Doc Holliday

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Thanks for the report. Was the unit you hunted one with motorized vehicle access, and if so, what effect do you think it had?
 

KOK

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Aug 30, 2019
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I was shooting uphill at an elk above me. So if the nearby tree I pre-ranged was 50 yards straight line/tape measure distance, it was more likely a ~55y shot due to shooting at an upward angle.

The arrow was dead on horizontally. It just barely missed underneath the cow. Close enough that when we could not originally find the arrow (thick brush that matched the coloring of my fletching), we started looking for blood.


think again...
 

KNASH

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Feb 7, 2020
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Not to belabor this (but we will), arrows and bullets are influenced by gravity across only the horizontal distance, not the vertical. So, yes, either uphill or downhill shots are "shorter" than actual distance measured. while it might seem shooting "up" means fighting gravity, it doesn't work that way.
 

backcountry_hunter

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^^^^ the best is when you're at a gun counter and a sales associate makes the claim the op did about uphill shots requiring additional holdover. Then you explain it to them and their mind is blown.
 

gelton

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I was shooting uphill at an elk above me. So if the nearby tree I pre-ranged was 50 yards straight line/tape measure distance, it was more likely a ~55y shot due to shooting at an upward angle.

The arrow was dead on horizontally. It just barely missed underneath the cow. Close enough that when we could not originally find the arrow (thick brush that matched the coloring of my fletching), we started looking for blood.
Just the opposite actually...it happens though, including to me but shot high and missed.
 
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GunsAreFun

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After a few nights of the wind banging on the tent and keeping us up, I moved to the back seat of my Tundra and the other three guys went to the long bed camper shell. Needless to say, that thing smelled real bad by the end.

Pro tip I discovered a few deer seasons ago. Use a king bed sheet to create a “tent” in the backseat, and it will be significantly warmer in the truck even with a window cracked. ACCE12FE-0339-4518-AC96-A2450D365134.jpeg A9AC8469-2709-4719-A2E2-6BD67D04C18C.jpeg 10A3663D-5531-44F4-916A-824C5A862945.jpeg
 
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GunsAreFun

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Here is one of the tough climbs out of the first location. Picture doesn’t do it justice. A029DF5B-5410-4687-B76B-876C95CAC289.jpeg
 

njdoxie

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- I have a love hate relationship with cattle. They are everywhere out there...like freaking everywhere.
- Buy a mule deer tag if you can get one. They are everywhere, and are not shy at all.
- I think some of the OTC pressure complaints are a bit overblown.

Nice writeup, sounds like u had a good trip, durn scary steep if you gotta use rope. But you can't generalize after one trip.

Cattle aren't everywhere in CO, some places yes, other places there are none, like where I hunt now. I used to hunt some units that had a few scattered cattle, not enough to bother anything.

I rarely see mule deer where I hunt, maybe one or two every other year....but I'm glad because I'm elk hunting and no way do I want to stop elk hunting to care for a deer, and with fewer deer around, there are fewer deer hunters around.

Some places in CO are super crowded, others not as much.
 
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