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backcountry3006's picture
Location: Lakewood, CO
Joined: 03/22/2016
Posts: 1
GMU 371 Elk Advice Colorado


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.

Thank you!!!! 

vinny217's picture
Location: frederick CO
Joined: 05/08/2015
Posts: 77
Back Country I can help p.m.

Back Country I can help p.m. me you did make a right choice to go to muzzle or 1st rifle for that area. If you did want to try 2nd or 3rd season again I can help with that also.

backcountry3006's picture
Location: Lakewood, CO
Joined: 03/22/2016
Posts: 1

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Joined: 07/16/2009
Posts: 70
Welcome to CO.  It's a great

Welcome to CO.  It's a great place to enjoy the outdoors, problem is, like you are finding out, you're not the only one that thinks that.   

It's taken me about 14 years to find a good hunting place.  I'm not sharing that, but I will say, is if you are looking for a place to hunt that has an easy hike out if you shot something, you are probably in the wrong place.  Don't get me wrong, every year people shoot elk a few hundred yards from a road, but in general, the closer to town, the closer to a road, the easier the hike, the more hunters you will see.  The more hunters you see, the less (if any) game you see.  

I will share this too, after many years thinking I need to be on top of a mountain at 4am ready to glass distant meadows at day break, I have learned that other forms of elk hunting are far more productive.  Let the out-of-state guys climb the mountain.

My suggestion would be to spend the summer looking for elk droppings and old rubs in the WOODS (hint hint) at least one mile if not two miles from the nearest road.   Look for areas that are not too dense but provide thick cover nonetheless.   After you find old droppings and rubs (ideally they would be from the previous fall), note the elevation on that particular mountain, the side of the mountain you are on (N/S/E/W), and the vegetation in the area.  Mark it in your GPS.  Repeat the process for your hunting area keying in on repeating the "recipe" you discovered.  

When hunting seasons starts, get to your camp early.  Not Friday, but Thursday even Tuesday or Wednesday.  Scout the area while the other hunters pull in and set up their camps.  Find the elk prior to opening day.  :) 

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