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Joined: 07/29/2009
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Bowhunting Elk in the Flat Topps Wilderness

I am new to Elk hunting and am planning on hunting in Colorado for the opening week of bow season. I have never hunted Elk before, but am going with a guy that has a little expierence in Idaho. My question is..Where would I have the best chance of success? I have friends who have hunted the Flat Topps area and have given us some tipps on where to go. Is there somewhere else in the state that would be better? I have grew up hunting whitetails in wv and I know that elk hunting will be nothing like that. All tips and suggestion will be greatly appreciated. Thanks for the help

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Joined: 07/01/2009
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Bowhunting Elk in the Flat Topps Wilderness

Have you drawn the tag?

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Bowhunting Elk in the Flat Topps Wilderness

What comulies said Thumbs up . You can't hunt anywhere you want with the "statewide" archery tag. You can hunt units 231, 25 and 26, 34 but not 12, 23, 24, 33. The latter are what most people refer to when hunting the Flat Tops, although each of those units has some portion in the Flat Tops Wilderness Area.

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Bowhunting Elk in the Flat Topps Wilderness

Yes we both have the tags, and have researched the units. In the units 34,25, and 26, how much hunting pressure is there during archery season? Is there any areas of those units that are better than the others? Thanks

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Bowhunting Elk in the Flat Topps Wilderness

You both have which tags? The EE012o1A or EE033o1A? Or the OTC "statewide"? And yes some are better than others, what are looking for. Better how? Tropy potential? Success? Hunter pressure? Access?
You say you've researched the units, what did the research tell you? Were asking DOW opinions or looking at harvest stats?
There is lots of pressure during archery season in those, not as bad as most rifle seasons, but you'd be surprised. So, if you have the limited draw tag, don't consider hunting an area outside of it (esecially if you haven't turned the tag in yet!).
We can't help without knowing which tag you have. I'm happy to help, but need specifics.

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Joined: 07/16/2009
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Bowhunting Elk in the Flat Topps Wilderness

I will be bowhunting units 25 and 26 this year for the first time too. I've spent my share of time/years hunting these same units during gun seasons and thought I'd try bowhunting this year, mostly because of other calendar conflicts during rifle seasons.

I know other nearby units have better success %'s than 25 and 26, but I like to think I can find the elk in the units I know. Doesn't always work that way...so exbiologist feel free to chime in...

I can say during rifle season, even during the popular 2nd season if you get more than a mile from the road, you will almost have the place to yourself. There are LOTS of hunters driving up and down the road on their fancy fourwheelers, few actually hunting more than a few hundred yards from the road. I'd imagine bow season would be similar but with fewer hunters to begin with.

My biggest questions is where do I start to look for them so early in the year. We will also be going the start of bow season. I know of one area with significant elk rubs (clearly spanning many years of activity), watering hole, and meadows but it's not at the top of the mountain. Should I be starting at the top of the mountain or going to where I have seen them in years past at the end of September and at slightly lower elevations? During cow only hunts the third and fourth week of September we heard only a few bugles. Either the elk were not there (my typical situation) or the rut was coming to an end.

So when is the peak of the rut in units 25/26 and where would you start hunting at the beginning of bow season, top of the mountain (tree line), mid-mountain, or edge of hay fields at the bottom of the valley.

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Bowhunting Elk in the Flat Topps Wilderness

We both have the OTC tags. To be honest I think that I would be happy just getting to see an elk. Success would be the main goal. Doenst have to be trophy potential. Mostly questioning hunting pressure and access. I dont want to be shoulder to shoulder with ohter hunters. I have no problem with getting far away from the beaten path.

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Bowhunting Elk in the Flat Topps Wilderness

Between 231, 25, 26 and 34, the fringe Flat Tops units that are OTC, the lowest hunter densities(#hunters/sq miles public land) would be 25 or 34, they are nearly identical. 26 and 231 have about twice as many hunters per sq. mile of public land.
There is plenty of wilderness available, it shouldn't be too hard to find some elbow room.
As for where to go, if you know of a place that consistently holds elk, head there. The DOW has very vague recommendations for hunting high early and low later, but elk are distributed throughout most of the good habitat from 8,000 or so feet up to timberline (around 11,700 in some places). During middle and late September they won't have much reason to be above timberline, because after the first frost the grass will dessicate (turn brown/go dormant til spring, it less palatable), so they need to head to slightly lower elevations to get higher quality forage. That will put them in the thick timbered spruce/fir forests in the 10-11,000 foot range. But there will be elk below that, who never moved up to the high country in the first place. Also, as the bulls start to gather their harems, it takes a lot of food to feed 20-50 elk, so they'll need to be in a better, wetter place than on top of the mountains. Look for flats in the major drainages with reliable water and feed nearby. Elk are also capable of digesting all sorts of shrubs, so if an area is brushy, don't overlook it because there isn't a lot of grass, or the grass is brown.
So if it were me, I'd be hunting as high as the tree line in the first week of September near areas with good water sources. I wouldn't be calling much unless the elk are, and they probably won't be at that point. At the end of muzzleloader season, I'd expect the rut to be in high gear and I'd get a little more aggressive, still keeping in mind where the elk have all three main habitat factors available-food, water, cover. Hunt closer to what is in shortest supply, usually food or water. But if you aren't finding fresh sign, move. Don't think you are stuck hunting in one spot.

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