I recently moved to Colorado because of my love for the outdoors and hunting and am trying to learn everything I can about elk hunting here. I am new to hunting elk but have done lots of scouting and research, it has basically consumed my life and it is all I think about. Last year was my first elk hunt here in CO and I missed the draw so had to settle with OTC tags.
In 2015, I got a second and third season OTC tag and was hoping to hunt 371 starting at Rock Creek Trailhead. Second rifle, the snow was so bad that week I could not even make it to the parking lot. I ended up driving back down to the CPW office in Silverthorne and asked for advice. Ended up hunting an area in 37 up by Green Mountain reservoir that I knew nothing about, ATV's everywhere and no vantage points or anywhere to glass. I had a shitty GPS that I only had maps saved of GMU 371 so I couldn't even use that successfully. Camped in DEEP snow and ended up leaving the next day because I couldn't even find a water source.Saw/followed one elk track for a bit but it went straight up a mountain and I couldnt get up with my backpack.
Third rifle I tried parking on Vail Pass and hiking in from there and saw tons of deer sign but no elk sign whatsoever. Later that week I hiked all the way up Officers Gulch to the treeline and did not see anything either. I think they had already migrated to lower elevations by this time.
This year for elk AND deer I applied for 1st choice muzzleloader, second choice first season rifle in hopes that I will not be camping in snow. I did most of my scouting (and will do tons more this year) starting at Rock Creek Trailhead and either going towards/past Boulder lake, or staying on the trail following North Rock Creek towards Keller Mountain. When going to the meadows past Boulder Lake, I saw TONS of elk sign (tracks, bedding, droppings) but I know packing an elk out of there would be a nightmare to say the least. Going past Boulder Lake to that second meadow was near impossible with the route I took due to all the downed pines. Following North Rock Creek was much more promising and I saw much more sign than I did going towards the lake. I am planning on camping out there for a few days, and am willing to suffer for some success.
I've seen the signs and I know they're there, I just feel like I am making it much harder on myself than I should be. I know theres plenty of other areas to try as well, and once the snow begins to melt I have a massive list of places to scout all over 371. I am open to trying a new unit next year, but this year my tags are already in for 371 and although the success rates are lower than other units, I wanted to try for some type of redemption after last season. Any advice or other starting points would be greatly appreciated.