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Joined: 02/08/2010
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over the counter units

I am new to this forum, or any forum for that manner. However, the reason for me becoming a member of BGH is that i am from PA and have recently become obsessed with the idea of a DIY hunt for archery elk. I have never hunted elk before, but i have been scouring the internet and any other form of media to help me on my quest to harvest one of these magnificent animals. With that being said getting started has been overwhelming and i have recently been looking at the over the counter units in Colorado because like most people i want to do it now!!! My main question is, is there opportunity to get into good elk in these units and what units should i focus on to have the best success, how far back to i have to go to get away from the pressure, and is that even possible in these units. Thanks a lot, hope to hear from some of you!!!!

exbiologist's picture
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Re: over the counter units

Welcome to BGH. Success and pressure are kind of divergent variables. The higher success units have the most pressure and will require you to go the furthest from the roads to escape. The lower success units typically have the least pressure. Part of what makes some areas popular is the "huntability" of an area, not just game density or amount of public land. The more roads, the more hunters, the easier the terrain, the more hunter, more wilderness, fewer hunters, more black timber, fewer hunters. So, it's kind of a balance. Those are generalizations of course of the OTC units, as there are exceptions to the rule. For instance, the Flat Tops Wilderness is a large wilderness where you will never escape the pressure. On the other end of the spectrum, there are areas with decent roads that don't receive a ton of pressure. Now, while wilderness tends to lower success rates of the units, it does not mean there aren't elk in the wilderness areas. They are just difficult to access, and as hunters age, they tend to shy away from places like that. I almost exclusively hunt wilderness, because I really don't want to see other hunters when I'm hunting. Most of the units in the central part of the state have federally designated wilderness areas (this means no roads, no game carts, no bicycles, foot and horse traffic only) at the higher elevations, but there are some smaller BLM wilderness areas in the canyon country along the west slope also.
I'm not sure what you mean by "good" elk, is that trophy potential or high elk density? Colorado is generally considered a raghorn state by most hunters, but large animals can be had in OTC units, mostly in the backcountry. Regarding how far away to get, my general advice is 1 mile from the roads (which is a long way in big country), but it really depends on the terrain and surrounding pressure.
Since you were focused on success, the statewide archery average is about 15%, there are very few OTC units that average higher success than that, and have the kind of country you are looking for to get away from people. So you have to realize you will most likely go home empty handed on your first attempt while figuring out how to hunt the country you are in. For the best experience, you should consider applying for a limited draw unit first, then hunt an OTC unit as a back up. There are a handful of units that can be drawn with 0 nonresident points, most of which have better than average success rates, more accessible country and decent elk populations.

exbiologist's picture
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Location: Colorado
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Re: over the counter units

This is what I mean by West Slope canyon country tyipcal of parts of units like 21,22,30,31,32,10,11, 211, 40, 61,62 711, 71:



This is the central Rockies, it is all wilderness, not a road for miles typcial of parts of units like 43,44,45,46,47,471,54,55,551,36,37,371:



This is the Southern Rockies, still in Wilderness typical of units like 65,66,67,70,76, 75,751 ect:

North central, typical of units like 18, 181, 28, 20, 19, 7, 29, 38 where you have just one dominate spine of a mountain range running through the area:


That last one is actually from the west side of RMNP
And that's me screwing around after half a day of road hunting acting like I wasn't just 100 yards inside a wilderness boundary. That's Trappers Lake in the Flat Tops (units 12,23,24,25,26,33,34). Those tree are all burned, not deciduous.

It's pretty scenic country up there and I can't find anything else to go with it.
Less rugged mountains in the Gore Range around 15 and 27:

I guess the only regions we are missing here are better shots of the South Central, some South Park, San Luis Valley, North Park and some Steamboat country shots. Anyone else have anything to add?

HOGGETTER's picture
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Location: CenCal
Joined: 11/05/2009
Posts: 767
Re: over the counter units

EX is right about trying for a limited entry draw unit first. I apply for Premium elk in most the western states first then if i dont draw buy a over the counter tag. Yes get away from the road hunters, i pack in about 6 miles and the elk are everyware. Heres a pic. in Colorado OTC unit 71 packing one out. (Read the sign)

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Joined: 02/08/2010
Posts: 22
Re: over the counter units

Thanks for all the great info, and just to clarify a couple of my points, when i spoke of "good elk" i just meant numbers for increasing my odds not trophy potential by any means, I'm more or less looking for a wilderness hunt. i will be 32 next year and in great shape and i am by no means looking for an easy hunt, i want something that is going to challenge me physically and mentally. Its just a daunting process trying to narrow down all of the units. I know i have a lot more homework to do, and thats what i plan on doing. Thanks again and anymore advice you guys could give would be appreciated it. Its great to know that there are forums out there like this were people are willing to help you along to achieve a life long dream and share what they know. Keep up the good work.

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Location: western co.
Joined: 08/23/2009
Posts: 128
Re: over the counter units

hoggetter, i like the fishin pole,one of the best times of year to do some trout fishin! Applause

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Location: NC
Joined: 09/11/2009
Posts: 1639
Re: over the counter units

Hey Hoggetter, I thought you were a Hoyt man, looks like a Mathews bow in the pic. It's time for you to come out of the closet and fess up lol

Here are some pics from Units 75 & 751 last July during a scouting trip.

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exbiologist's picture
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Re: over the counter units

Well, while I'm not willing to give away the top elk density in the state, the second highest is in the Flat Tops, which is partly why it's so popular. The unit 23,24,33 archery tag can be drawn with no points. There's still a lot of hunters there though.

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Location: CenCal
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Re: over the counter units

To pac in for eight days you have to be able to live off the land and cutthroat trout are good to eat for dinner. As for the pic, i was the one taking the picture of my buddy with his elk Thumbs up That mathews bow hes packing wieghs to much to be packing, He has now bought the new Z7. I Missed my bull trying to thread the needle in some brush, his was a 320-330 class bull. Cry baby I called in several bulls of all sizes on this trip and my buddy shot the wrong bull ,two came in at the same time and he shot the smaller one in the heat of the action Duh I ended up being his pack b**ch.

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