Non Elk Noob looking for help

whaack

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Dec 17, 2015
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244
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Midwest - IL
So a little background. 5 years ago my BIL and I jumped in the deep end of elk hunting. We spent 1 year educating ourselves (forums, Elk 101, instructional videos, etc) on how to elk hunt.

2017 we did our first DIY, OTC, Archery wilderness hunt. We've learned a lot and realized how much we don't know. We have spent all our time in an OTC unit in CO.

Now we need some help/guidance. I would say we are both very successful DIY public land hunters when it comes to whitetails. Elk are a whole new challenge but are committed to figuring out this puzzle.

So here is the question.

We have spent all our time in a wilderness unit in the Gunnison area (trying not to put GMU's in writing for everyones sake). It has been VERY rough terrain and we have done multiple 4-6 nights in the back country. We like the WIlderness part as it seems more inline with our desire to hunt out west vs. hearing trucks/ATVs all day.

Now we are trying to decide our next plan of attack and how we actually get an arrow in a bull.

Thought 1 - keep at the unit we are in. Maybe try and draw a tag for an adjacent unit that ends with a "4" and open our option to OTC with draw unit too. This is HARD hunting for us flatlanders and I'd be lying if we weren't entertaining a slightly less intense option. We might try and coordinate a pack service too to make getting deeper a bit easier for someone who lives at 500 ft above sea level.

Thought 2 - bounce to another area with OTC. Possibly something in the NW CO near the oil pads? Totally different country I know. But harvest rates seem to be about the same as the units we are in now. Road access seems pretty good and we could possibly cover more ground faster trying to locate the elk?

Thought 3 - Stay in rough country but pick another OTC unit near Montrose and 550? Again trying to keep this off Google searches.

Let me know your thoughts and any guidance if you have been in CO for a while. As is said often, not looking for GPS coordinates, more of just some mentorship from those that have killed an elk. By BIL and I have put in a lot of effort and learning over the years and we need to hone our skills. Thanks in advance. Feel free to PM if you feel compelled to help a fella trying hard to kill an elk.
 
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whaack

whaack

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244
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Midwest - IL
Why are you stuck on Colorado? There are places to get away from pressure without killing yourselves.
Not stuck on CO at all. In fact I started to seriously consider MT, but the best I can tell a General Tag for Archery in MT puts me in limited units. Maybe I'm reading the regs wrong?
 

Wapiti1

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Sep 18, 2017
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Indiana
Depends on whether or not you have been into elk over the last few years. If yes, and you just aren't getting shots, changing units isn't probably going to help. If no, then moving may help. You have to find elk to hunt elk. Don't hunt elk like you hunt whitetails.

I don't do many back country hunts. Too much work for what I can get much closer to the road. It is very satisfying watching an ATV roll by while you are field dressing your bull.

Do more research on Montana. You can hunt all but the Breaks and like 4-5 other units on a general elk tag. That leaves something like 50+ units to hunt. Basically the whole mountainous half of the state.

Wyoming is worth getting a few points in to pull general season tags as well. Idaho is another good option.

From what you describe, it is probably best to find easier terrain or base camp and be more mobile. Elk hunting is a lot like hiking if you never find the elk.

Jeremy
 
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whaack

whaack

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244
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Midwest - IL
Depends on whether or not you have been into elk over the last few years. If yes, and you just aren't getting shots, changing units isn't probably going to help. If no, then moving may help. You have to find elk to hunt elk. Don't hunt elk like you hunt whitetails.

I don't do many back country hunts. Too much work for what I can get much closer to the road. It is very satisfying watching an ATV roll by while you are field dressing your bull.

Do more research on Montana. You can hunt all but the Breaks and like 4-5 other units on a general elk tag. That leaves something like 50+ units to hunt. Basically the whole mountainous half of the state.

Wyoming is worth getting a few points in to pull general season tags as well. Idaho is another good option.

From what you describe, it is probably best to find easier terrain or base camp and be more mobile. Elk hunting is a lot like hiking if you never find the elk.

Jeremy

Thx. I’ll dive back into MT. Seemed like with 0 pts I was limited to where I could hunt.

MT adds about 5-6 hrs of drive time for us, but if the trade off is better hunting then it’s worth it.

Year 1 was zero elk. Year 2 we heard elk snd found elk sign but not really “in” elk.


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Felix40

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Jul 27, 2015
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New Mexico
Are you having trouble finding them or killing them?

Edited now that you said you aren’t finding them:
Don’t be so dead set on your plans of where you are going. Spending multiple days in one basin or canyon and not seeing anything is not the way to do it. If you go in and don’t see fresh (as in that day) sign, you need to get out of there and try a new spot.

If you see something that looks good to you just go glass it and see. Doesn’t matter if it’s some random unit 2 hours before you get where you wanted to go. Don’t be afraid to leave you pack in the truck and just hike through some stuff really fast to vet it out. If you see fresh sign go back and get your stuff. E-scouting is fine and dandy but it’s not as good as being there in person. Don’t get so hung up on sticking to the plan.

Don’t focus on distance so much as just finding little spots where nobody is parked or likely to walk into. Be creative, spontaneous, and versatile.
 
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Trumpkin The Dwarf

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Texas
Felix has given you some golden elk advice. It's hard to wrap your head around how big an elk's home range can be. Covering ground until you find FRESH sign, or better yet, seeing elk, is the way to go when you're starting out in an area. As for MT, it is not worth waiting for the draw units. The general combo license opens up at least half the state to you. And it's a damn big state.
 

fatlander

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Feb 11, 2016
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2 years and only 2 bugles? Yes, you need to find somewhere else to hunt. But completely picking up and moving somewhere across the state isn’t necessarily the right answer. There’s elk in the unit you’re in. You’ve just got to find them. I’d suggest truck camping and being mobile until you find elk. Have a spike camp bag in the truck if you need to stay for a night or two.

Dedicating yourself to a far off drainage that doesn’t have elk in it seems to be y’all’s problem.


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Wapiti1

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Felix and Trumpkin state this as well.

If you aren't finding elk, then you have to move. I give an area 1 to 2 days at most. 1 if I see no reason to stay, 2 if I see something worthwhile, or I can't get to the whole thing in 1. I might dump an area with just a morning hike.

I like to split a new to me unit up into sections that I think I can hit in a day. Morning hike, afternoon hike. I have at least 5 sections I am really liking to check out and at least 5 backups. Then run and gun until I find elk. At that point, focus on those elk until they leave the country because I hosed up. Off to the races once more.

This is a big reason why I don't backpack a lot for elk. Dedicating yourself to one drainage is a crap shoot. 3-4 days in and you don't find elk, then you have limited options and time. I think you'll find the more successful folks that backpack scouted it well in advance and know the elk are there already.

Jeremy
 

Gila

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Apr 25, 2020
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Socorro New Mexico
You need different places to hunt. Montana, Idaho. Build up some points for a limited draw unit. New Mexico doesn't do preference so every draw you have just as good of a chance as anyone else. The guys here on this forum can help you with draws and also can give you some pointers on how to scout (new to you) areas. I would keep Colorado OTC on the back burner just in case you don't draw a good tag.
 
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whaack

whaack

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Midwest - IL
Thanks guys. Confirming our gut feeling. We have been thinking of being more mobile, ie, use the truck to bounce to plan a,b,c,d.... until we find good sign or get response bugles.


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ElDudarino

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Nov 12, 2020
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Another thing for people used to whitetail hunting is that there is absolutely no need to sneak anywhere unless you know there is an elk there. Haul ass and cover ground wether that is with glass or calls.

My first archery elk hunt I saw quite a few elk just putting on miles. When I saw a bull on the evening of the last day I walked right at him just using trees to obscure his view and cow calling and got to full draw at 15yds before I got busted.

The more aggressive I’ve gotten the more elk opportunities I’ve had.


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