We have been receiving this statement a lot lately, “I want to go elk hunting really bad, but I don’t know where to start.” The first question that we will ask is if you want to go guided, drop camp or DIY. In order to answer that question you must know how much money you are willing to spend. There are opportunities for guided, drop camps and complete DIY hunts in OTC units. Colorado is the go to state for OTC units, due to the sheer number of elk, public land availability and unlimited OTC tags.
We will break down how we have selected OTC units in Colorado, since they have the most OTC hunting opportunities. We have done guided, drop camp and DIY hunts in this great state, successfully filling elk tags in each of those categories. No matter if we are going guided or DIY we look at the history of success rates, animal population, amount of public land and access, and terrain. Colorado DOW has a very user friendly website, https://cpw.state.co.us/thingstodo/Pages/hunt.aspx.
Selecting GMU's by Land Availability and Terrain
Most times we will begin with looking at the game management units with the most public land available, selecting a half dozen units or so. From there we will break those units down into different types of terrain. We usually look for the areas with the most difficult terrain, steep and sometimes rocky. It typically keeps the hunter numbers down. We don’t want to be in an area where we are bumping elbows with other hunters. We want to be able to chase after bugling bulls without worrying about walking into another hunter’s set up, or vice versa.
From there, we look at a minimum of the previous 5 years success rates and how many hunters were in those units over those years. While looking at these numbers we will also look at the number of bulls vs. cows taken. How do those numbers compare to the population goals of the unit? A hunter can learn a lot just by looking at the statistics that are free to any sportsmen.
Questions After Selecting GMU's
Once we compile all of this information for about 5 or 6 specific GMU’s, we choose the unit that we perceive to have the best data. After we choose a unit we will need to answer a few more questions. Is there an outfitter in this unit that has rates that are within our budget? How do those outfitters fair in the review column? Do any of the outfitters offer drop camps? Do we have the equipment for a DIY camp? Do I have any hunting partners? How much information can we drum up from the internet, DWM or biologist?
You can scour the internet and find websites for every outfitter in existence. All of their websites are going to indicate a few things; price of their hunts, types of hunts available, pictures from successful hunts, comments from successful hunters, etc. After you find some outfitters that look appealing to you, you can go to a website like www.outfitteradvisors.com and search that outfitters on the forum. Our website is neutral ground where people leave reviews that are positive, negative and indifferent. The reviews are based off of personal experience by average everyday hunters.
Maybe a fully guided hunt is not within your budget, but a drop camp is. What is a drop camp? Basically it is a DIY hunt where an outfitter takes care of your camp essentials, tent and maybe a cook; and puts you in an area that is known to have elk. This can be a great way to check out new areas as it gets you hunting much faster, most of the scouting has already been taken care of. Division Wildlife Manager’s and the area biologist can provide a lot of insight about different outfitter businesses as well. They will typically tell you if they have heard negative information about them.
Do I have any hunting partners? If not, most people would not even consider a DIY camp and some sort of outfitted hunt is the way to go. Maybe you have one or two other guys that you hunt with regularly and you have common goals. You guys will need to get your gear together to see what you have and what else you still need. These camps can be as extravagant or as simple as you want it to be. You can sleep in a wall tent or a camper, sleep on the ground in a small one man tent, or maybe you can sleep in the back of the truck.
Do not over think this process. It is very simple if you break it down into steps. All of the necessary information is readily available, if you are willing to put in the effort to search for it. This concept can also be used with nearly any kind of animal you choose to hunt, even if it is a draw unit. Just change the type of units that you are looking at hunting based on the amount of preference or bonus points that you have. If you want to hunt elk you will find a way! Just don’t expect someone to do your homework for you, at least not for free!
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