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Hunting elk in Colorado: 4 tips for beginners

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December 31, 2019, 8:14 am

If you have decided to try out your first elk hunting in Colorado, remember that there’s no guarantee that you’re going to have a successful trip. However, with more than 250,000 elk wandering freely within the borders of Colorado, you do stand a good chance.

Hunting elk isn’t easy, and even seasoned pros can make mistakes that see them returning home with nothing to put in the freezer. If you are going to increase your chances of scoring an elk this season, here are some tips that beginners are going to need to know before they even start packing their bags.

Be healthy

Hunting elk isn’t like hunting a deer. You will need the right level of fitness. Many people joke that hunting elk is more like a climbing trip than a hike, so be prepared to get tired! If you’re coming from somewhere closer to sea level than Colorado, then you’re really going to struggle on those elevated terrains. Start working on your fitness long before you start setting dates for elk hunting.

Boots and clothes

You will want a solid pair of boots, and you’re going to want them to be worn-in and comfortable. Elk hunting is rarely about sitting still. If you want to avoid blisters and sore feet as you hike and climb for miles at a time, invest in a good pair of boots right now. You’re also going to want some lightweight but insulating clothing. Ideally, you want Merino wool as your base layer, with waterproofs and weather-appropriate gear on top.

Go scouting

Just as important as setting off on the hunt itself, you’re going to have more chances for success if you scout the area beforehand. The goal is to learn the habits of local elk and to find out where they spend their time and the routes that they take. When scouting, make notes on your map so that you know where to find:

  • Water holes/wallows
  • South-facing slopes (ideal feeding ground for elk)
  • North-facing slopes (where elk will often sleep in the daytime)
  • Mixed aspen and conifer areas that will attract elk

You need to study where the elk are most likely to be if you want to improve your chances of taking one home. Get your boots on the ground if you want a successful elk hunt.

Go far

The further away that you get from other people and roads, the better. Don’t expect that you will pull up in your car, step outside, and immediately spot elk. A general rule is: the closer you are to a road, the less likely that you will find an elk. That’s why those hiking boots are going to be necessary! You need to head as deep into the woods as is safe. You might feel more comfortable being close to the roads, but the elk certainly doesn’t. If you want to get some elk meat in your kitchen, then you’re going to need to get far from civilization.

Elk hunting is not like deer hunting or a duck hunt. The average elk is a huge beast, and you need to give some serious thought to what you plan to do if you do manage to take one down. If it’s your first time hunting elk, it’s always a good idea to join an expedition that has experienced hunters involved. They can show you how to skin, quarter, and then haul your meat back to your vehicle. Make no mistake: elk hunting in Colorado is hard work. Get it right, however, and you could find that it’s the hunting experience that you’ve always hoped for.

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