The Western Hunter's blog

Colorado OTC Elk Hunting Options

Colorado has many options for the elk hunter, but the Division of Wildlife’s bread and butter is the OTC bull elk tag.  What I’m going to talk about here are some of the tradeoffs you can be facing in the OTC units. A few weeks ago, in Colorado Elk Hunting: Reading the Harvest Stats, I showed which units are among the most productive and which units to avoid. I’m going to take this a little further this week by breaking down some pluses and minuses of some of the major OTC elk areas, and lumping them into different categories for different types of hunters.

Wyoming Antelope Hunting Overview

Antelope are probably the best big game animal for an eastern hunter to experience on their first trip out west, but they are among the least desirable. Everyone wants an elk, but for someone who isn’t used to reading maps, hunting public lands, still hunting dark timber, spotting and stalking, backpacking in rugged terrain, judging tremendous distances and is new to big game applications and preference point systems, antelope are a better first time experience.

Colorado Mule Deer Hunting

While Colorado is well known for its elk hunting, its mule deer hunting is totally underrated.  Utah and Arizona seem to come to mind for most folks when they are thinking about trophy deer hunts, but there are only a few select units in those states that have the kind of quality deer hunting that attracts national attention. Wyoming attracts some attention because of the Eastmans, and Montana produces some great deer on occasion. But on a statewide basis, Colorado is tough to beat. 

Colorado Draw Strategies

Hopefully you now understand Colorado's big game drawing process.  What I’m going to attempt to do this week is to show you how to apply that knowledge into some application strategies for Colorado.

For starters, if you’re planning on hunting with Over The Counter Tags, why not apply for a preference point?  Yeah, you have to front the money, but if you’ve already budgeted the money for the license, you may as well start accumulating points for a future hunt in a limited season, even if it’s the same unit you normally hunt.

Colorado Elk Hunting: The Drawing Stats

Now that we’ve covered some of the basics of how to identify areas you might want to hunt using the harvest stats, it’s time to talk about how to read the drawing stats and how to apply that knowledge. 

The 2011 Colorado regs book is out, and there are two hints that the DOW provides that can help you before you even start delving into the preference point requirements, draw summaries and hunt recaps.  For starters, there is an asterisk in the sex column of any hunt code that went to leftovers last year.  There may have only been one leftover license, or there may have been over 1,000, either way it’s good to know which licenses you may be able to count on not having to apply for. 

Colorado Elk Hunting: Reading the Harvest Stats

When someone decides they want to go elk hunting, the steps involved in deciding where to go seem to be to the most baffling for many hunters.   In Colorado, deciding between 6 different seasons, the mix of OTC, draw only tags, leftover tags and 100 different units is daunting enough to discourage many prospective hunters.

Colorado Elk Hunting Overview

When it comes to elk hunting, the first state that comes to mind is almost always Colorado.  It’s the state with the most elk, the most elk hunters, unlimited over the counter nonresident tags, and no shortage of public land.  Colorado has something for everyone.  It’s not the first state that comes to mind for trophy hunting, but there are a handful of trophy managed areas and crowd controlled areas.

Balancing Acts

While driving out for our last big game hunt of the year, my hunting partners and I have been kicking around ideas about how to incorporate all of our out of state in-laws, kinfolk, long lost and legitimate friends into the coming year’s hunts.  The challenge of showing them a good hunt is very satisfying.  We’ve kept them abreast of our hunting exploits, and it’s difficult to give out a blanket “no” to those who want in on our hunting adventures.  Anyway, what I’m going to walk you through in this article are some of the variables we try to consider when planning hunts.  It’s always a delicate balancing act.

The Early Application States

As I mentioned last week, there are a couple of states that force you to think about next year’s hunting plans while it’s still winter.  Alaska, Wyoming, Arizona, Utah and Montana have application deadlines that occur before many Eastern hunters even begin to come out of hibernation.  Here in the west, we tend to know about our own state’s deadlines, but if our state has a May or June application, we run the risk of missing all the earlier opportunities, or feeling like we’re “stuck” with OTC or leftover tags.

It's Application Season

There is no offseason.  Some of you may not be ready to think about hunting already, but if you’re sitting on your laurels, daydreaming instead of researching, you’ll have already missed the Alaskan big game drawings and are about to miss the Wyoming elk, Arizona elk and antelope draws.  Before you know it, spring will have passed you by and you’ve already missed all your chances at a limited tag throughout the west.

Others are simply intimidated by the whole process.  In your state you just go buy a license when you’re ready to hunt.  There is no application, no limitation to the number of tags for an area, so the whole concept of lotteries, preference points, applications, deadlines and drawing odds is very foreign.  But applications are just that: foreign.  This may be a foreign language, but it’s not rocket science or paleo-archae-crypto entomology (whatever that is).  There’s some lingo or jargon that you may not be familiar with, but you can always look up an answer or ask for help.

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