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Location: Parker CO
Joined: 09/13/2006
Posts: 13
Elk and Early Snow

I am trying to get some opinions on Elk and snow...

I am hunting 2nd rifle in Colorado and where we hunt around Steamboat has already gotten 2'+ of snow. Our camp is around 9000' and we hunt up from there.

In your opinions, will this early blast of winter make the elk move lower now or will they stay up high until constant snow pushes them down? I always pray for snow during the season for tracking, but I am not sure if this early snow will be good or bad? It's supposed to warm up this week here in Denver and the mountains, but what effect do you think we will see?

Thanks, this is my first post and I have really enjoyed reading the others...

Location: Utah
Joined: 02/24/2003
Posts: 596
Elk and Early Snow

Welcome to the board!!

I don't know the area where you are hunting but I can tell you two things.

1. Elk generally will not be pushed by 2 inches of snow unless the temps stay really low which does not appear to be the case. A few elk will probably start moving but the majority will most likely stay put at the elevation they were at before the snow.

2. Elk are unpredictable and you never know where they may go.

Good luck.

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Joined: 06/18/2004
Posts: 66
Snow and elk

rather_be_huntin: He said 2 FEET of snow, not 2 inches of snow. Does this change your response?

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Location: Parker CO
Joined: 09/13/2006
Posts: 13
Elk and Early Snow

Only 2 inches would be great, but it would melt by 10/21. 2 feet on the other hand may stick around for a while.

We are hunting unit 15 near Rabitt Ears Pass...

Location: Utah
Joined: 02/24/2003
Posts: 596
Re: Snow and elk
alsatian wrote:
rather_be_huntin: He said 2 FEET of snow, not 2 inches of snow. Does this change your response?

Ooooops I didn't catch that, thanks for pointing that out.

Yes that would certainly change my response. 2 feet would move nearly all elk out of the area. If it gets really warm and nearly all of the snow melts the elk will most likely not return until spring, at least in large numbers. Once they get in that migration mode it's hard to get them out of it.

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Location: Mountains of Colorado
Joined: 08/30/2006
Posts: 5
2 feet of snow

The snow in and of itself will probabably not cause the elk to move. I have seen many bulls at or above 11,000 feet in waist deep snow (Hans Peak). During the storm they will hole up in north timber for shelter. The thing that will cause them to move is food or predators. They will be looking for high nutrient food. Following the rut, partictularly bulls, the elk's energy reserves are depleted and they need to rest and eat to build up their energy reserves for winter. (Do you remember what it was like the morning after you caroused and chased the opposite sex all night and finally score?) These guys are rutting for the better part of a month all night long. I grew up in the Steamboat area but I now live in Evergreen. I have a herd of elk buggling in my back yard just about every night right now. It is even difficult for me to sleep at night with all the noise they make.

The wet snow like one last week actually insulates and then waters the grasses making them high nutritional food as the weather warms back up. As the cold temperatures and frosts persist at higher altitudes they destroy the nutritional value of the food and the elk will move down. That may happen by October 21. They are always in search of new green grasses that have not frozen. The big bulls will be the last to move down. When you arrive, stop into the Forest Service at the edge of Craig and ask one of the biologists at what altitude the frost line is. You will find that many of the animals will move below that frost line altitude.

Today is Monday the 25th of September. The time is 6:45 pm and the temperature in Steamboat is still 53 degrees with a rising barometer. The snow is melting fast. There will be plenty of warm "Indian Summer" days before second rifle season.

Check the vegetation where you are going to hunt when you get there. They are going to hole up in the safety of dark, nasty, north facing timber where there is good water and food, unless of course, there are too many predators (sic: hunters) in the area. Elk are smart and will try to find areas where hunters are not willing to hunt. North of Steamboat and Craig is premium hunting territory for elk. I have taken may bulls and cows near Hans Peak and North of Craig.
Good Luck Thumbs up

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Moderator
Location: Kentucky/ Colorado
Joined: 06/23/2005
Posts: 1740
Elk and Early Snow

FishnHunt31 & kherfurt, Welcome to BGH! Big smile

In each state elk may act a little different but from my experience 2 feet of snow doesn't bother them much. I've seen them stay in 3+ feet of snow for 2+ weeks and not migrate out. From what I've seen in Colorado I'd agree with kherfurt. I've also seen elk migrate without a trace of snow, just hunting pressure will get them migrating in some areas.

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Location: Parker CO
Joined: 09/13/2006
Posts: 13
Elk and Early Snow

kherfurt, rather_be_huntin and Hiker,
Thanks for the insight. With the warmer weather this week and the following, I think that most of the snow will melt down.

Hopefully there will be more weather between now and then and not be 60 degrees during 2nd rifle. Thanks again. Good Luck on your hunt this year!

Location: Utah
Joined: 02/24/2003
Posts: 596
Elk and Early Snow

I've seen bulls hold up in the deep snow as well but there is one problem with that. The cows won't keep their calves in that kind of snow and will move to lower elevations. Most of the calves are still pretty small and not ready for that kind of snow yet. It's still September and the bulls are still breeding with the cows meaning where the cows go the bulls will go. Usually that kind of snow hits later in the year when the bigger bulls have seperated from the cows but right now that's probably not the case.

A lot of people don't know this but the lead cow still determines where the herd goes for the most part. Sure a bull will herd his cows in certain instances but in migration type deals the lead cow will determine that. And with it still being September those bulls will be right behind them.

With 18 inches or less I would have a different opinion but 2 feet is quite a bit of snow.

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Moderator
Location: Kentucky/ Colorado
Joined: 06/23/2005
Posts: 1740
Elk and Early Snow

rather be huntin, That's a good point you bring up about the young calves, the rut and early snows.
I hunted north Vail for many years and was shocked to see how deep of snow those elk would stay in. One year my brother and I had a herd of 50 or so spotted on a hill side 1 mile away but we could not get close enough to them. We were waist + deep for 1/2 mile and finally gave up. After that experience I always pack snow shoes with me. We usually hunted 3rd season and always had elk in there, no matter how deep the snow got. The deer would be long gone but the snow didn't seem to effect the elk much. Another year we had to leave all of our stuff up there due to blizzards and come back later on snow machines to get it.
Speaking of those old cows that control the herd, we killed one that went close to 800 pounds, by far the largest cow, I've ever seen.

Ssp
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Location: North Idaho, Steve
Joined: 07/14/2006
Posts: 48
Elk and Early Snow

When we go looking for Elk during the winter archery hunt or even a late muzzle loader hunt in Idaho, we start looking where the snow is between 2 and three feet. The cows (for the most part) seem to follow this snow level down the hill. By this time the bulls are in bachelor groups again and usually a foot or more of snow above the rest. This has always worked well as a place to start looking for the Elk in Idaho for those late seasons. We usually even see the calves in that snow as well. This habit is a big reason that the wolves do so well on wiping out a heard. Easy, easy pickens in that level of snow.I would agree that early season snow however, you will still see those bull following the cows. some thing esle to remember is that if you see elk up on a mountain side and you may have to hike through five feet of snow to get to them doesn't always mean that the snow is that deep where they are sitting. I have seen this quite a few times on hills that always have elk on them in the winter, the wind blows the snow around and creates low levels of snow in high altitude areas and can effect the habbits of the local elk.

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