I feel like the guy who walks into the gun store and asks the salesman "what gun should I buy?" Anyway, we are stuck on where to go. As the new norm, I didn't get my draw tags this year and plan B archery season got shot (pun intended it's a cool story), and now it's plan C, well, which we never had. We've decided on a 2nd season OTC hunt, even though I swore after a 2nd season hunt two years ago I'd never let myself be another orange flotsam in a sea of orange flotsam. But the wife said it was a good time to go, so be it. We hunt 2nd season. I've done more math calculating success rates, hiking distances, hunter densities, topography pitches, Google Earth analysis, and DOW Hunting Atlas Elk concentration areas than work in the last week. All but to no avail. My threesome group has ATV's, trucks, a Jeep, three horses, tents, and a camper at our disposal. Sounds like a dream come true...almost. One of the guys has a bum ankle full of titanium plates and screws so walking is VERY difficult especially on steep terrain. He's a good guy so we're not leaving him behind, plus he cooks.
Here's the quick rundown on pro's and con's.
Unit 5 - never been there, isn't overly steep, HUGE elk concentration according to the DOW Atlas, and good success rates the last three years in a row. Access is ? Not a lot of hunters, but not a lot of land to hunt either. Lots of roads through the unit, so I imagine the hum of ATV’s at 5:00am would be a great alarm clock or noise cover for us walking through the woods if we drove our ATVs first.
Unit 26 - this is the odd ball, success rates suck and there are lots of hunters, but I've been to the unit numerous times (who hasn’t hunted the Flat Tops in Colorado?) and have (or had) a good feel for where I could find critters...but it's been over five years since I stepped foot there. It’s definitely a pack-in, Wilderness type hunt if we want to see anything other than camp-robber mountain-jays.
Unit 47 - Good success rates and a List B cow license is available. Access is difficult, mountains are steep, and it's mostly dark timber, which I think I've seen my share of. Oh look, another mish-mash of pick-up-stick logs twisted and gnarled so tight you can't even see through it. But hey, its elk season so let's crawl through it at 4:00am with only a headlamp – been there done that. I heard there's a small meadow at the top that holds 7x7's with bullseye tattoos on their chest, but I think it's a long shot to think we can just walk in, find the meadow and shoot our fill without any preseason scouting.
Unit 471 - A secret hot spot of elk with great success rates for bulls and an available List B cow license. Sounds awesome except you need to be Spiderman or wear a mountain climbing harness and bring two dozen anchor points and carabiners to get anywhere in the unit. Plus access is well, not existent. This unit is like seeing a fishing report that states the trophy fish are on a feeding frenzy in the center of Lake Michigan and all you have is a 16' aluminum Lund with a single outboard. Even with horses, it's a good day or two to get to the interior of this unit, and that’s assuming the horses were 5.11 climbers in a previous life.
So mighty hunters, what is your advice?
Greatly appreciated. Thanks.