Unit 61 Colorado (Updated With Hunt Recap at the End)

Chez

Junior Member
Joined
May 30, 2021
Messages
10
Cattle don't matter much in 61, if you are seeing them you are probably in the elk zone...
it's for sure tough to glass at this time of year, what I would say is don't waste too much time looking for small groups of elk, when the rut gets going you will probably be finding the bigger bulls with the big herds, it can seem like there are no elk and once you find the right basin there will be 200 in it, I'd cover ground fast until you find one of the big herds.
my opinion is that the south end tends to have more elk but the biggest bulls usually come out of the north end, I wouldn't worry much about the recreationist, pretty much none of them are dropping off into the canyons where the elk are hanging out, I don't think I have ever seen a non-hunter off of a road or trail in 61 and I've spent a ton of time in there.
Hey Grant, thanks for sharing. Would you say with the rut happening in September the bigger bulls are still in canyons? Or do they hang more on Mesa's, slopes, etc?
 

Chez

Junior Member
Joined
May 30, 2021
Messages
10
Greetings everyone. Season opener is getting close. I hold a unit 61 archery tag for this year and am very pumped about this season. I will be heading into the unit for my first time over the next couple of weeks. Looking to hear anything from anyone that has been in the unit this summer. How are conditions? Precipitation? Any scouting images? Just getting excited about September and wondering what is going on out there. Feel free to pm if you don’t feel like sharing publicly. I will do the same after I get my feet in the dirt out there.

I am planning on hunting the first week and then from muzzle to the end. Hit me up if you are hunting and need any help (packing, vehicle, etc). I will mostly be solo but very willing to help anyone else out during the month.

Shoot straight!
Morning, send me a PM. I'm in the same boat as you with a tag this September and hunting by myself. I'm glad to help each other.
 

Grant K

Member
Joined
Sep 19, 2017
Messages
56
Location
Ridgway, CO
Hey Grant, thanks for sharing. Would you say with the rut happening in September the bigger bulls are still in canyons? Or do they hang more on Mesa's, slopes, etc?
It depends a bit on the year so scouting is important, if I had an archery or muzzy tag I'd be starting in the big canyons looking for a monster with a smaller herd, it's a bit easier to cover ground with glass there and it's easier to get a shot at the big bull when there aren't 200 other elk running around to complicate things...

If I didn't find what I was looking for there I'd be moving south looking for the big herds, the south end is essentially a big slope, find the right elevation and just keep sidehilling until you find a big herd, odds are that there will be a shooter in it, once you figure out what elevation/ cover the elk are preferring at the time it tends to be pretty easy to find them, just move along the slope at a similar elevation, my metric for 61 is that if I'm not seeing 10+ bulls a day I'm in the wrong spot...
 

Chez

Junior Member
Joined
May 30, 2021
Messages
10
Hey Grant. Thanks so much for the advice. I am way behind the game as I just had a sigmoid colostomy and have a second surgery next week, so I am out until first part of September. Crazy timing. I really appreciate your help.

When you say big canyons, do you mean the Tongue? I was looking on a map and Google Earth and that area seems to have the biggest canyons. The south end makes sense from what you said, Thanks!!

BTW - I spent 26 years in Gunnison Basin if you need intel there. I was a guide 13 years there too.
 

jray5740

Senior Member
Joined
Apr 9, 2017
Messages
269
Location
Colorado
Greetings everyone. Season opener is getting close. I hold a unit 61 archery tag for this year and am very pumped about this season. I will be heading into the unit for my first time over the next couple of weeks. Looking to hear anything from anyone that has been in the unit this summer. How are conditions? Precipitation? Any scouting images? Just getting excited about September and wondering what is going on out there. Feel free to pm if you don’t feel like sharing publicly. I will do the same after I get my feet in the dirt out there.

I am planning on hunting the first week and then from the end of muzzle to the end. Hit me up if you are hunting and need any help (packing, vehicle, etc). I will mostly be solo but very willing to help anyone else out during the month.

Shoot straight!
So how did the season go? You gonna post pics of the monster???
 
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brimow

Senior Member
Joined
Dec 6, 2019
Messages
119
Location
Colorado
Finally found some time for a little recap of my unit 61 hunt.

Headed over from Ft. Collins on Tuesday 8/31 with plans to scout the day before the opener. Weather forecast showed a little rain but didn't look like much. I ended up with a flat tire on the truck as I found my campsite. Some quick unloading of the 4 wheeler and then leveling the jumping jack proceeded. I was able to get camp set as the rain began. I would have to deal with the tire in the morning. Wednesday morning started off nice. I got a couple hours glassing and listening to Bugles along Cottonwood creek. Clouds were building so I knew I needed to tend to the truck. Got the spare on just as the rain really began and headed to Montrose.
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Rain continued for the next 24 hours and things were a mess! Tent trailers are great but just can't really escape the wet.

Opening morning started out in a downpour but I pushed through to an area I had previously scouted. Didn't hear a bugle in this area but had 4 bull encounters coming into my cow calls. Had a very respectable 6x6 within 30 yards at 8:30 am. I would regret not sending an arrow for the remainder of this week but I couldn't end my unit 61 hunt in the 1st 2 hours! Weather broke mid morning.
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The next 3 days were very uneventful and somewhat frustrating. Only elk I was hearing/seeing were far off in the big drainages. I couldn't figure how to get into them. Several other guys I had spoken with were in the same position. Many parts of 61 are very daunting for a solo hunter. There were multiple bulls screaming up and down this canyon.

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Finally got into bulls again on Monday night and Tuesday morning. Thanks to a pick-me-up conversation with a fellow hunter's father earlier in the day I pushed into a new part of one of the drainages. I had 6-8 bulls come in to my calls and a couple cows between the 2 hunts. Nothing big but man it was a lot of fun and re-energizing. I got busted drawing on a little 6 point Tuesday morning but was feeling great as I headed back to break down camp. I had to be back at work on Wednesday

Big thanks to Mike and James for keeping me sane during this first week. Great to randomly meet some great people. Also want to thank Josh and his dad for checking in on me and keeping me motivated!

I had a very eventful trip home as my truck took a crap on the Vail pass. Nothing like a $700 tow and a long ride of shame back with a random tow truck driver.

Will follow up with the next half of the trip!
 
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brimow

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Dec 6, 2019
Messages
119
Location
Colorado
Had originally planned on being back out on the 19th but sometimes things don't work out how you plan them. My truck was the first part of the problem. Injectors going south and no one around could even look at it until the 22nd so I needed an alternate plan. A great friend stepped up and offered to take the week off and haul my ass over to help me out on the hunt. Second problem developed late that week when I was subpoenaed to appear in court on the 22nd for a work related accident. (I was the guy's supervisor.) So we ended up heading over late on the 22nd. This now limited the time we would have available as my buddy had to be back to work on Tuesday.

We got to the area around 10pm and were greeted with bags of meat hanging in James and Mike's camp! James had knocked down a good bull earlier that morning. A couple congrats and we were off to set up our camp. Finally settled into the sleeping bag around 1am.

I had always stated that if I had to go for a second week I was turning into a meat hunter and would not turn down an opportunity if presented. This was challenged very quickly.

We chose to hunt close to camp the next morning so that we could get as much sleep as possible. We called in a small raghorn with another bull bugling behind him within the first hour. The raghorn did what young bulls do and stood in front of me at 15 yards for a couple minutes and then in front of my buddy at 10 yards downwind of me for another couple. All while the other bull and I were going back and forth bugling. I was not a very good meat hunter! The little one finally moved off and the other one got quiet. My buddy was very pumped up but almost felt violated as he was holding the decoy and staring down the small bull. Later that morning we had a nice 6x6 come in silent and he was staring at me at 25 yards before I knew he was there. No shot and he didn't like what he saw. Overall a fun morning and encouraged by what I was seeing/hearing.

We spent the next couple hunts poking around some suggested areas. We had a number of encounters but everything was pretty quiet and random. Could not get much for responses to calls. Did not see anything of size and only had 1 draw opportunity on a small 5 that I couldn't make work.

Friday afternoon we ran into a cowboy that changed things up for us while exploring a new area at the bottom of the canyons. He gave us a creek and even a road where they had been hearing bulls screaming all morning. Back up to the top we went. Found the creek but not the road (at first). Great to have someone honestly give you a great direction. We had bulls screaming at cow calls and then at each other. They were not responsive to our bugles but if I got one to fire off with a cow call they would just start going back and forth. It was like being in Estes Park during the rut! We chased the closest that we could keep the wind in our favor. Got busted by a group of cows as we made our way down the slope but that just turned that bull up even higher. They moved down the drainage a little and then moved up to about our level. We kept moving and calling (lost cow was perfect here) and he kept letting us know where they were. We still have 3-4 other bulls screaming as well. Well, if you misjudge which bench the 25 cows are using they end up dragging that bull down the drainage and straight out of your life. It was like elk whack-a-mole when I came over a little rise then thundering hooves! Darkness was almost on us but we had located a bunch of bulls!

Saturday morning we found them again but they were much lower in the drainage and on the opposite side of us. We made a plan for the afternoon. We had found the road on our way back to the truck the previous evening and took it to the top of the backside that afternoon. Our plan was to work across this ridge until we got something talking. That did not take long but they were still down in the bottom. We simply followed the bugles as we descended through some gorgeous aspen spruce mixed forest. There were 3 bulls sounding off on a regular basis and we were getting closer when I saw a couple spikes in the aspens in front of us. Within a couple minutes we had several elk moving in the aspens just below us and the screaming bulls were getting closer. My buddy set up behind with the decoy and I started slipping up along the spruce trees on the edge of the aspens. The 2 big screamers were still a couple hundred yards off but moving closer. I got a nice 6x6 to respond to my cow calls and we now had several real decoys in front of us. He came in to 38 yards but I could not draw at first because of the elk at 8 yards then when I could draw he seemed to use every aspen to his advantage. I drew a couple times but could not find the right gap. This is where I was standing in front of a spruce.

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The 2 screamers were still going at it to the right in this picture but light was starting to fade. After the 6 moved off I started calling again and got a nice bugle response from the meadow to the right of the image above. This new bull came up from below and when he appeared his rack was something weird but I told myself that I had to take the shot if presented. He walked up about 38 yards in front of me crossing to where the other elk had just moved. I drew as he was behind one of the trees and he stopped perfectly in one of the gaps above. I had my dial at 40 and held for his opposite shoulder as he was 1/4'd away (slightly in my mind but in reality a little more). Arrow release and flight looked perfect but the sound of the arrow didn't sound as great. The arrow ripped straight through him and he only took a couple steps away and stopped. I readied another arrow and stepped to the side to get a better angle. I could see the second arrow drop low (he had moved 5 yards away) and heard a loud crack then the bull ran straight away and I heard a crash a few seconds later. I thought my second arrow missed and hit the log behind him and then he had bolted and died from the 1st arrow.

We gathered back where my buddy was set up and talked (quietly) through what we had seen and heard. I was very confident that he was laying were I heard the crash so I started sneaking up that direction. Well he was laying there but not for long he got up and was walking (stumbling) away. His right front leg was dangling at the bottom. The crack of the second arrow was the pulverizing of the bones. He looked very hurt and was moving slowly so I tried to sneak above him to send another. It was nearly dark and I just couldn't get close so I backed off when he went into some dark trees. This is still all within 100 yards of the shot.

I went back to look for the arrow(s). We found my first shot and now I knew why it didn't sound right. I had gut coating the entire arrow and very little blood. Shit! We heard him break some sticks in the distance but not run off so we decided to pull out completely. With no blood anywhere around the shot I did not want to push him down the hill. What a crazy emotional roller coaster the last hour had been! I knew I had killed this bull now it was just a recovery game. Long night for sure.

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brimow

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Dec 6, 2019
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119
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Colorado
Finally, Sunday morning had arrived. I had a 30-45 minute 4 wheeler ride with my buddy in his truck behind me to think about things even more. We were able to take the 4 wheeler about 1/2 mile closer than the truck and to the start of a mountain bike trail that would lead us down to where we last saw him. I headed slowly over to the thick aspen grove that I had last seen him as my buddy stayed back to listen and watch if I jumped him. As I entered the trees something exploded out the side into the meadow. I was heartbroken and thought I had just ruined my chances at recovery. But I quickly realized that the bull I had shot would not have been able to move like whatever that was. I took a few more steps and was greeted with a beautiful site!

Bull3.jpg

The last noise that we heard the night before was him expiring as this is right where I last saw him. We had bumped what I believe was a lion that had just started opening up his belly/nuts. I had seen a glimpse of brown move through the trees.

My 1st arrow punched through the gut and exited low in the chest cavity by the offside leg. I caught liver and lung and his chest was full of blood. He was 1/4'd more than my mind's eye remembered and was slightly downhill. The arrow betrayed what had actually happened and that cost me some precious meat. His downside rear ham was starting to sour and I had to give up quite a bit of meat.

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Meat 1.jpg

For anyone that has actually read through this entire novel... Thanks!

I owe many thanks to several roksliders that chimed in with locations and tactics. 61 was an incredible experience and I got what I wanted which was opportunity. I obviously didn't take a monster bull but had a "monster" of a time! He ended up being a wonky dark horned 3 x 4 with 3 broken points. The way he bugled makes me think he had no clue what was on top of his head and he had mixed it up with some of the studs that we were hearing and seeing.
 

realunlucky

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Finally, Sunday morning had arrived. I had a 30-45 minute 4 wheeler ride with my buddy in his truck behind me to think about things even more. We were able to take the 4 wheeler about 1/2 mile closer than the truck and to the start of a mountain bike trail that would lead us down to where we last saw him. I headed slowly over to the thick aspen grove that I had last seen him as my buddy stayed back to listen and watch if I jumped him. As I entered the trees something exploded out the side into the meadow. I was heartbroken and thought I had just ruined my chances at recovery. But I quickly realized that the bull I had shot would not have been able to move like whatever that was. I took a few more steps and was greeted with a beautiful site!

View attachment 333068

The last noise that we heard the night before was him expiring as this is right where I last saw him. We had bumped what I believe was a lion that had just started opening up his belly/nuts. I had seen a glimpse of brown move through the trees.

My 1st arrow punched through the gut and exited low in the chest cavity by the offside leg. I caught liver and lung and his chest was full of blood. He was 1/4'd more than my mind's eye remembered and was slightly downhill. The arrow betrayed what had actually happened and that cost me some precious meat. His downside rear ham was starting to sour and I had to give up quite a bit of meat.

View attachment 333079
View attachment 333081
View attachment 333080

For anyone that has actually read through this entire novel... Thanks!

I owe many thanks to several roksliders that chimed in with locations and tactics. 61 was an incredible experience and I got what I wanted which was opportunity. I obviously didn't take a monster bull but had a "monster" of a time! He ended up being a wonky dark horned 3 x 4 with 3 broken points. The way he bugled makes me think he had no clue what was on top of his head and he had mixed it up with some of the studs that we were hearing and seeing.
Enjoyed reading about your adventure, thanks for sharing.

Sent from my moto z3 using Tapatalk
 
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brimow

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Dec 6, 2019
Messages
119
Location
Colorado
Thought I would add a couple post scripts. Need to thank Nick Lewis for everything he did for me.


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And my wonderful wife and kids that put off camping all month! We went last weekend

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And finally losing the beard! This was a get some meat beard.


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Ddan33

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Joined
Sep 28, 2021
Messages
11
Awesome story and a great read! Holding out for a unit with an experience like that.


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