I was wondering if the units around Gunnison, areas 55, 56, and 481 are good for elk hunting and have good public access? How likely would I be to draw a tag their? Next year will be my first year elk hunting.
The gunnison area is excellent, and well known for great elk hunting. Of the units you listed, I'd add units 54, and 551. Access is excellent and they are primarily public units. The draw is easy during 1st and 4th season and you would be almost assured of a tag in any of those except 481, which would be impossible to draw without one nonresident pref point.
Generally you can camp whereever the terrain allows it on BLM and Forest Service lands. The Forest Service permits camping anywhere outside of popular summer recreation areas, typically. The vast majority of these lands are made up of US Forest Service property, with some larger BLM and state holdings. You cannot hunt just any piece of state land, it specifically has to be listed in the state trust lands brochure as publicly accessible, or it has to be a state wildlife area.
The maps that I prefer are from National Geographic, but they usually don't cover enough of an area. You'll also want the Gunnison Basin Public Lands map from the Forest Service (not topographic), as that will show you campgrounds, trailheads, and where ATVs are permitted to go. You can order these maps from the USGS on their website.
As for which lands you can hunt on, basically any public lands that a publicly maintained road grants access to. If there is private land blocking access to a piece of public land, you cannot cross it to hunt. And you can't hunt National Parks or National Monuments.
Thanks for letting me pick your brain. Those NG maps are awsome. I'm definatley starting to do my homework. So as for hunting pressure in the first rifle season, is it not as bad as the rest since they are OTC tags? Not that pressure will be all that bad cause it should have the elk up and moving.
Yes, pressure will be lower during 1st season as there will be fewer elk hunters and no deer hunters.
Take unit 55 for example, it has 700 square miles of public land (which is a lot). On the hunter density stats on my website, I divide by the total number of hunters during 2nd, 3rd and 4th season by 1.25 to represent a handful of them having more than one tag. Doesn't really matter, as long it's constant, but the point is public hunter density (hunters divided by public area, assumes all hunters are on public land) goes from 0.936 to 1.5349 to 1.124 to 0.233 from 1st thru 4th seasons. So you have about half as many hunters during 1st than 2nd season and a similar number during 3rd, then vastly fewer during 4th.
The quandary of all hunters is how do I give myself the best chance to take home a trophy animal after shelling out hundreds of dollars for that coveted tag in another state. I face this issue this year with an Antelope tag in Colorado. Now I know that Antelope should be the easiest tag to fill in NorthWest Colorado. They are everywhere, but how do we give ourselves the best chance to take home that one animal that eludes everyone else. My advice, first and foremost, is don't shoot your...