7 replies [Last post]
Location: Eagle, CO
Joined: 07/20/2010
Posts: 6
First Season, Either Sex, White River Forest in Colorado

Hello all,

I just signed up!  I have been an on looker for a long time.  What a great site!

I need some help on where to go near the Flat Tops in the White River National Forest.  My wife received a First Season, Either Sex, elk tag for GMUs 11, 12, 13, 23, 24, 25, 26, 33, 34, 131, 211, and 231.  Now that is a lot of land to choose from!

I have a muzzleloader, Bull tag for GMUs 35, 36, and 361.

Anyways, I really want my wife to get an elk.  This will be her first elk hunt, though.  She would love a bull, but will be extremely happy with even a cow.  I have never hunted this area.  Therefore, I have no idea on where to start.  We have ATVs to use, if needed, will do scouting, will set up camp, will hunt in the wilderness areas... we will do whatever it takes for her to get an elk.  We also live in Eagle, CO.

I know there are a lot of good areas and access roads in GMUs 25 and 26, and 12, 23, and 24 are good, as well.  We will go as far away from home, as needed.  I do not like crowds.  I also have no idea about 131, 231, and or 211.

I have done some scouting off of and at the end of Coffee Pot Road and Derby Mesa Loop.  These areas seem rather accessible and may be heavily populated during the first season?

I know this is hard to say and tell, but does anyone have any ideas on where I could start scouting and looking?  What do you think will be the best for first season?  Any areas that you would recommend, roads, etc.?  I just want to get my wife an elk.

Thanks for all your help!

Location: Centennial, Colorado
Joined: 06/02/2010
Posts: 24
1st season

That is a good area but a very crowded area. I hunted the 1st season there around coffee pot for a few years back in the late 80's. Some crazy hunter was shooting past the bush I was behind, and at nothing, he wanted to see if his gun was still sighted in.  so I packed it up and never went back. I did however manage to get 3 bulls, a cow, and 2 bucks in the few years I did hunt it. PM me and I will give you my phone # to let you know where I found them at that time. I also had luck just north of Gypsum (unit 25 I think). Being close to your hunting area you have the advantage of scouting a lot. I even hunted out of the Best Western in Eagle and drove to the coffee pot area to hunt every morning.

Joined: 07/19/2010
Posts: 23
Unit 12 has some good

Unit 12 has some good numbers, just hope it stays cool

exbiologist's picture
Location: Colorado
Joined: 09/19/2008
Posts: 2397
The southern units have less pressure

If you want to avoid people, be on the southern side of the Flat Tops.  But there's still a ton of people out there.  Unit 12 is usually the worst when it comes to hunting pressure, usually over 10 hunters per square mile of public land.  131 is a poor choice.  211 is difficult to hunt because of the spotty landownership. 

Also, from a study done on the Flat Tops just a few years ago, when the shooting starts, the elk in 12 and 23 head to private land because there are high elevation refuges.  In fact, over 70% of the elk leave the public land.  The Southern Units have public land going to lower elevation and much deeper and steeper canyons, so the elk hole up in those areas instead. 

Location: Eagle, CO
Joined: 07/20/2010
Posts: 6
Exbiologist, Thanks for the


Thanks for the information!  Are you thinking of the access off of Coffee Pot Rod, near Heart Lake, Deep Lake, etc. and then heading north to the Wilderness area or staying in that area?  Or is that still too far south?  Also, does the access off of Derby Mesa Loop get packed with people, as well.  Is that still too far south? 

I will go wherever I need to go.  I can also get access to horses if needed.


Joined: 07/16/2009
Posts: 70
I've spent my share of time

I've spent my share of time during various hunting seasons in units 25 and 26.  I wouldn't call them crowded (that's a relative term being an old Wisconsin deer hunter).  You will see other hunters, especially near the roads.  All but of the few rustic camp sites along decent gravel or dirt roads will be taken by Friday morning (the day before the season opens).  If you get 1-2 miles from an access road, you will see few if any hunters.  As for elk, hmm, in the late 90's I saw more elk than I have in recent years - and I think I'm a better hunter now.  Based on my experiences, I have to agree with Exbiologist that the elk move out of the area during high pressure times...  I also think the DOW has severely overestimated the elk herd in the area.

During week long, special, cow-only hunts in units 25 and 26 in very recent years, I saw 0 elk one year and 1 the previous year.  This hunt is the last two weeks of the September and only had two weeks of bow season leading up to it.  We were several miles into the woods past some 2 foot deep creek crossings, camping at the edge of the Wilderness area with three other camps on a 4 mile stretch of road.  No one admitted to seeing any elk one season, and very, very few elk the other season.  I don't believe two weeks of bow hunters created enough pressure to scare all the elk away.

If you can get all the way to Crescent Lake on forest road 610 (I think it's FR610), you will see few if any hunters and be surrounded by wilderness.  The last few miles are very rough, muddy, and tight.  You will need a tough 4x4 with chains or a 4x4 ATV.  Hope it doesn't snow while you are there.  Stump Park road has at least one large outfitter hunting the area and they have a good reputation, but two years ago (cow only season), they didn't see any elk either.  There are several outfitters who are near the end of Coffee Pot Road and again have good reputations.  I hunted with one of them in 2000 and blew a shot at a legal 4x4.  I saw a few elk that year, but we were camped two miles into the wilderness. 


Location: Eagle, CO
Joined: 07/20/2010
Posts: 6
Thanks mountain10mm, We have

Thanks mountain10mm,

We have two 4x4 ATVs and I have considered the Crescent Lake area, especially since the wilderness area is so close.  I know what you mean about the snow or rain, especially there.  You don't really think there would be many people back there?  That was my worry, initially.

We have not done the Stump Park road, yet.  I believe that one is 610 and the Crescent Lake one is 613.

So, you think these would be good bets, depending on the weather, etc.  Would you choose Stump Park or the Crescent Lake area, if you were given the choice?  What about the Coffee Pot area?

It is so overwhelming and there are so many tough choices for such a short season.

Thanks again!

Joined: 07/16/2009
Posts: 70
I have never made it all the

I have never made it all the way to Cresent lake during the second season as someone is always camped there in a big white canvas tent.  If I remember correctly, it's about 12 miles to Cresent Lake from Derby Mesa loop.  There is a huge parking area at the start of Forest Road 613 (you are correct).  In a truck, it takes about 1.5 hours to go to the crossing of the South Fork of Derby Creek which I think is about six miles.  After that point, it's a rough road and the volcanic, clay type soil is like wet snot if it gets even slightly wet.  On an ATV you can definitely go faster, but the creek may be too deep.  When I was there, most of the hunters on this road were in the first five miles.  The guys with the deer tags stayed towards the bottom and the elk hunters went up as far as they could up to about 5 miles from Derby Mesa Loop.

If you can hunt the wilderness areas on the far side of the creek, you'll be past 80% of the hunters in the area.  Do not hunt the area around FR616, I have seen hunt camps in there with 20+vehicles. 

The area definitely has elk in it as we'd always see tracks in fresh snow.  Finding them during daylight hours is another issue.

I haven't hunted the Heart lake area during the general rifle seasons, but during archery and the special cow hunts, there were quite a few hunters on the way up to Deep Lake Campground.  Past Deep Lake, where the road turns to un-improved mud, you'll more likely be one of just a few hunters.  At the very end of FR641 there were some small streams and dense timber on a north slope that I bet had elk in them, but it was so steep and deep that I didn't even want to consider the thought I might shoot something there and have to get it out.

Stump road is a really, really rough too.  I've never been back there during a hunting season, but I know there is at least one outfitter that has (used to have) camps back there.  So there must be elk there, but then agian, there's also some guides back there who know the terrain better than any us too.