Colorado Muzzleloader Elk Boondoggle

ncstatehunter

Twelve Pointer
Figured I’d start a new thread. Covered like 8 miles today in various places, no elk seen and freshest sign was a day or two old but it is what it is. Talked to a guy who shot a small 7x5 or 6 Monday, his first day ever elk hunting. Came in quietly to a cow call. He said they’ve yet to hear a bugle and everyone they’ve talked to said the same. Told me to not even bother up high but I went to check it out myself and they were right. All the elk sign I’ve found is below 9400’. I’ve got a plan for tomorrow at least but these next 7 days are gonna be a figure it out as I go along and maybe get lucky. Walked up on 30-40” bull moose up high, never knew he was there until he stood up when I was at 20 yards. Saw one bigger than him across the lake from me while I was glassing this evening. Also saw a real nice 4x4 mulie by the road this evening too, wish I had a deer tag lol.
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ncstatehunter

Twelve Pointer
Cut a set of fresh elk tracks that weren’t there yesterday not far from the truck. Had one bugle (I have convinced myself it was a bull and not a hunter) around 7ish I would guess, when I got back to where I wanted to start hunting a mile and a quarter back. Below me so went down a couple hundred yards to get on his level before I called, by the time I got there he had moved so had to reposition myself again. Wind was iffy but I tried to get him to come up the hill with some cow calls, figure he was at 150 yards at his closest. Was gonna cut him off with a bugle if he would have lit up again closer after than but the last bugle he was going away from me. Waited forever for thermals to switch so I could go do in there, pretty country with rubs and a few days old sign but nothing fresh.

Regrouped after lunch and went up around 9700’ to try and set up on water but all three ponds I checked out were dry and maybe week old elk sign, if not older. Stayed up there glassing since it is so open just hoping to see some come out of the timber. No such luck and rain chased me off the mountain before dark. Did see 3 moose, two bucks (one was real nice) and 4 does. Also saw a marten this morning along with 3 does.
 

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ncstatehunter

Twelve Pointer
Covered 4+ miles this morning, ending up to the west of where I was yesterday evening. Wanted to check some timber, no elk sign to be seen. When you see 50+ antelope above 9800’ and no elk, you know it’s time to not even worry about covering any more ground in that general area. Ran into another bull moose this morning not too far from the truck, guess I need to start guiding moose hunters. Back at camp to rest my fatigued feet, might even nap. Not heading in this evening til closer to 3, going to work my way up in behind where that one first bugled yesterday morning as there is a ridge that runs down to the creek. Here was my morning snack break view:
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ncstatehunter

Twelve Pointer
Found out a local who shot a bull yesterday says they stay silent around here where I’m hunting for whatever reason, he cow called his in and it came in silent just like the other guys. Slipped in the woods about 3, worked my way about a mile and cold called watching a small meadow about 45 minutes while it rained. Went another .25 mile and did the same thing. Eased to the furthest meadow and sat silent to end out the day before I hunted my way back to the truck. About 6:45 I hear a chuckle down in the timber to my right, one note and just short and sweet. Hit him with an excited cow call and wait. Gave it til 7:05 and quietly worked my way back where I came thinking he might have come up one of the openings that lead from the timber to the meadow complex I was in. No such luck. Getting closer though. I was two ridges over from where I heard that bugle opening morning, I’ll be on the ridge between those two spots in the morning. Had an awesome view from the second cold calling spot:
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ncstatehunter

Twelve Pointer
Found 5 beds at the edge of a meadow just below the trail then some good rubs out that ridge. Besides that, uneventful morning. They’ve been back there but not recently and I bugled into both drainages on either side of the ridge to no avail. Time to cut bait on this area, I’m certain they are around sporadically as two bulls have been killed in the area that I know of but I personally can’t keep wasting time here when I’m not finding fresh sign, not getting eyes on any elk and not smelling elk. Walked out earlier than I had planned because my front sight was slight loose, so back to the truck I went tail tucked. Screwdriver and the two bits I need are in my pack now where they should have been to begin with. I did glass up a bear 4 miles away over near the ski resort, was big sucker too.
 

appmtnhntr

Twelve Pointer
Hope you’re packing meat today.
but, if not, It’s ok.
It’s Tuesday. You’ve got all the time in the world.

my buddy didn’t kill his last year til Friday morning.
 

ncstatehunter

Twelve Pointer
No meat packing yet, can’t shoot what you can’t even see. Yesterday evening and today were “think outside the box” days. Went to new country yesterday afternoon and found some of the best sign yet only a 1/4 mile from the road up through deadfall hell. Little clearcut up there with fresh rubs (guys at camp just below there said they hadn’t seen any rubs lol), beds in the timber around it and day old crap. Cow called at the back of the clearcut and then the last hour before dark at the front, all I had to show for it was jumping up a bedded big bodied deer at the back and coming out of the woods a good 1/10 of a mile or more from the truck because of trying to navigate said blow down back in the dark.

This morning I tried low country sage and oak brush at the base of a stand alone mountain on a little piece of public that is the only access for 1000 acres of BLM. 4 guys called me in across a boulder field at 8 am lol. Cut bait at 9:45 after I realized it was them and chatted them up at the truck along with two Colorado guys bird hunting (the one named Chuck was lucky enough to burn his 26 elk points on a 201 tag last year and fill it with a big bull, the other owns a rifle target company that I’ll post a pic of his business card below).

Ended up at the far north end of my units this evening and again, thought outside the box. Saw a pond on the map between the road and unit boundary, slip in and it looks great since it actually has water. Multiple trails running parallel to the road on the way in, a big grown up clearing, pond is on a bench running the length of the mountain in that spot, etc. Ambush style hunting sitting in the middle of the weeds next to a log, everything I can see in my self imposed range and setup perfectly for the prevailing winds and thermals for what I suspected travel would be. 5.5 hours later a nice hard-horned 4x4 mulie with his smaller friend that was still in velvet were the only ones that read the script and that was at 7 pm. I’m having a blast and mixing it up with habitats and hunting styles but it’s getting a little frustrating not seeing or hearing elk, a feeling that everyone I’ve talked to shares. Back at it in the morning.
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Hunting Nut

Twelve Pointer
Man, the best of luck to you !
I think the scenery is awesome.
Great story so far !....
Looking forward to a pic of your elk !
 

hog&deerhunter

Eight Pointer
No meat packing yet, can’t shoot what you can’t even see. Yesterday evening and today were “think outside the box” days. Went to new country yesterday afternoon and found some of the best sign yet only a 1/4 mile from the road up through deadfall hell. Little clearcut up there with fresh rubs (guys at camp just below there said they hadn’t seen any rubs lol), beds in the timber around it and day old crap. Cow called at the back of the clearcut and then the last hour before dark at the front, all I had to show for it was jumping up a bedded big bodied deer at the back and coming out of the woods a good 1/10 of a mile or more from the truck because of trying to navigate said blow down back in the dark.

Why not just stay at that spot for a full day? I dunno, it sounds good so I would plop my butt down in a strategic and comfortable spot there and basically camp there for the day. Other hunters may help push for you too. You may be chasing rainbows otherwise. GOOD LUCK!
 

ncstatehunter

Twelve Pointer
Why not just stay at that spot for a full day? I dunno, it sounds good so I would plop my butt down in a strategic and comfortable spot there and basically camp there for the day. Other hunters may help push for you too. You may be chasing rainbows otherwise. GOOD LUCK!
I’m chasing rainbows there too, day or two old sign does me no good IMO. Yes it’s the freshest I had found but plopping down and waiting all day doesn’t appeal to me unless it’s steaming fresh and I can smell them. They aren’t being vocal so my plan is basically cover ground either via boots or jump around in the truck and find where the elk are concentrated enough I’m finding lots of fresh sign. Doesn’t mean I won’t end up back in there by end of the day Friday but for now I keep looking for what I’m trying to find. I’ve cruised a ton of timber and haven’t even found a true bedding area yet or bumbed any elk. Just haven’t found them, which is the name of the game more than anything else. I’m sure some of our other elk hunters on the forum wouldn’t be struggling like me but it is what it is, my second trip out west for elk and first when they are supposed to be rutting.
 

georgeeebuck

Eight Pointer
I’m chasing rainbows there too, day or two old sign does me no good IMO. Yes it’s the freshest I had found but plopping down and waiting all day doesn’t appeal to me unless it’s steaming fresh and I can smell them. They aren’t being vocal so my plan is basically cover ground either via boots or jump around in the truck and find where the elk are concentrated enough I’m finding lots of fresh sign. Doesn’t mean I won’t end up back in there by end of the day Friday but for now I keep looking for what I’m trying to find. I’ve cruised a ton of timber and haven’t even found a true bedding area yet or bumbed any elk. Just haven’t found them, which is the name of the game more than anything else. I’m sure some of our other elk hunters on the forum wouldn’t be struggling like me but it is what it is, my second trip out west for elk and first when they are supposed to be rutting.
Struggling is the name of the game in elk hunting. You are right in looking for fresh sign. Elk leave a lot of it, think of a herd of cows. It's easy to see but may be hard to find. Keep looking until you find it , hopefully without any man tracks and then slow down . Watch the wind ! Good luck!
 

ncstatehunter

Twelve Pointer
Gotcha. Sounds like you are going to make it happen!
Trying to. Was up at 10200’ this morning, found a few fresh tracks but more moose sign than anything. Pretty country though. On the unit boundary now, came in on a closed road and then cut through the timber. Up and over and around blowdown while going up and down hill will wear you out even if it’s just half a mile. The one big meadow on my aerial is now a 5 year old Carolina pine clear cut, fun times. Bugled my way in to now response but did find a wallow in the woods below a worn down trail. Just no bull had really used it and only a few have gotten water from it it looks like. Break time over, back to navigating the timber.
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appmtnhntr

Twelve Pointer
Trying to. Was up at 10200’ this morning, found a few fresh tracks but more moose sign than anything. Pretty country though. On the unit boundary now, came in on a closed road and then cut through the timber. Up and over and around blowdown while going up and down hill will wear you out even if it’s just half a mile. The one big meadow on my aerial is now a 5 year old Carolina pine clear cut, fun times. Bugled my way in to now response but did find a wallow in the woods below a worn down trail. Just no bull had really used it and only a few have gotten water from it it looks like. Break time over, back to navigating the timber.
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Your hunt looks like 2nd rifle. Just keep looking over country and you’re bound to walk across one.
 

ncstatehunter

Twelve Pointer
That mid-afternoon Hike kicked my butt. The view was worth it but other than that, that area was crap. Very little elk sign at all, even week old stuff wasn’t there. Actually ended up going back to the truck and hour and half before end of legal shooting it was so bad. Shared some info about deer I’d seen with a guy and then talked to his friend that was acting as his “guide” for a good 20 minutes. Ended up stopping at this one pull off on the way out because I couldn’t take not being in the woods the last house and I’m glad I did slip in there for 30 minutes. It’s more open than it shows on the aerial photo and I actually smelled elk, albeit faint. Think I’m gonna sell out there tomorrow, at least in the morning, because smelling elk had me thinking I was gonna kill one right then. Its lower and looks more like something they would use in October like you said @appmtnhntr. Try to slip in back to where I stopped this evening a little before legal, so it’s time to hit the hay since it’s an hour or so drive.
 

timekiller13

Twelve Pointer
Why not just stay at that spot for a full day? I dunno, it sounds good so I would plop my butt down in a strategic and comfortable spot there and basically camp there for the day. Other hunters may help push for you too. You may be chasing rainbows otherwise. GOOD LUCK!
Like @ncstatehunter said, if sign isn’t smoking fresh (less than 24 hours) then there is no reason to be in that area. Elk move 6-10 miles a day. They could be 2 mountain ranges away in less than 12 hours. You only sit on super fresh sign or where you have physically seen or heard elk.

I’ve hunted the area he’s in a few times. It’s tough. Deadfall is horrendous. Lots of hunting pressure. The elk are very skittish and transient. You can cover miles and miles and not see a thing. Then all of sudden be in a herd. The name of the game with elk hunting is burn boot leather and burn up the roads until you find em.
 

ncstatehunter

Twelve Pointer
Crept along checking every meadow I could this morning with a gusto basically from 6 to 8, just knowing I was gonna run into some feeding. No such thing, instead of finding more and fresher sign the further back I went, it all just dried up. Jumped a big heavy deer trying to navigate through deadfall on a ridge, 10 yards away and never saw it, actually thought it was an elk at first til I could hear how it was jumping like a mulie does and then cut its tracks. After that happened I was just kinda downtrodden because the sign just wasn’t there like I thought and hoped. Did see a doe and fawn work across a pinch point in a drainage which I was easing back to the truck at 9 am. Feet are worn out and the ankle I turned the evening of opening day trying to hurry back to truck and beat a storm has finally caught up to me. Guess the side hill inn yesterday afternoon and this morning did it in. I think I’m a little over 40 miles covered starting with Friday’s scouting, I’d say at least 2/3 of that is off-trail mileage. Plan is to try and maybe catch up to one of the sporadic elk that are around camp This afternoon and tomorrow. There’s bull sign in there, I can check the wallow I found opening morning and I know of two bulls killed in there. Probably my best shot at filling this tag unless someone offers to let me shoot a cow on private lol.

This is the view this morning, I know it’s upside down because for whatever reason this forums picture software must require iPhone photos be taken a certain way. Only picture I took and wanted to share what the country I was in looked like.
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ncstatehunter

Twelve Pointer
Went to head out from camp at 12:30 to go in the woods, pick ip my gun case to move it and realize there is no gun in there. A real “oh crap” moment when I realized I had gotten off my routine because my feet were killing me and put it beside the tire and not in the case. I make the hour-plus drive back to where I was praying it was laying there or I’d run into someone that had picked it up. It was my grandfathers and my brother’s now, so I felt sick the moment I realized what I had done 3 hours after the fact. Of course it wasn’t lying there but I ran into someone who actually saw the guy who picked it up. He gave me a description of the truck and said he thought he was in one of the campgrounds. 20 minutes later I found his campsite! Turns out I had actually parked next to him at the state land I hunted a few days ago. Front sight was warped and loose from when I’m assuming I ran over the end of the barrel. Wasn’t sure I would get it useable again but I had the gun and honestly that’s all that matters to me anyway. I’ve got it Catawba County engineered enough to keep it as tight as I can. Walked in a spot a half mile and shot a target at 50 yards off my pack, high and slightly to the left but it’s minute of elk. I didn’t really have the desire to hunt but I walked back another half mile and sat under a pine tree on the edge of a willow lined meadow not really caring if I saw anything or if I would even pull the trigger if I did. Took in the scenery of being in a big creek drainage between two mountains and got up at 6:30 and eased my way back another half mile to a meadow on the national forest boundary. Lots of fresh tracks on a good trail but no elk were scene. Hunted my way back to the truck starting about the last 30 minutes of legal light and scared 2 does and a fawn that were on the other side of the willows from me when I about fell crossing the creek. No clue if I’ll hunt at all tomorrow or not, this afternoon really took the wind out of my sails. Still buying a lottery ticket considering I randomly talked to the one guy who saw the actual person that picked it up and then I was able to find him within 30 minutes.
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appmtnhntr

Twelve Pointer
Went to head out from camp at 12:30 to go in the woods, pick ip my gun case to move it and realize there is no gun in there. A real “oh crap” moment when I realized I had gotten off my routine because my feet were killing me and put it beside the tire and not in the case. I make the hour-plus drive back to where I was praying it was laying there or I’d run into someone that had picked it up. It was my grandfathers and my brother’s now, so I felt sick the moment I realized what I had done 3 hours after the fact. Of course it wasn’t lying there but I ran into someone who actually saw the guy who picked it up. He gave me a description of the truck and said he thought he was in one of the campgrounds. 20 minutes later I found his campsite! Turns out I had actually parked next to him at the state land I hunted a few days ago. Front sight was warped and loose from when I’m assuming I ran over the end of the barrel. Wasn’t sure I would get it useable again but I had the gun and honestly that’s all that matters to me anyway. I’ve got it Catawba County engineered enough to keep it as tight as I can. Walked in a spot a half mile and shot a target at 50 yards off my pack, high and slightly to the left but it’s minute of elk. I didn’t really have the desire to hunt but I walked back another half mile and sat under a pine tree on the edge of a willow lined meadow not really caring if I saw anything or if I would even pull the trigger if I did. Took in the scenery of being in a big creek drainage between two mountains and got up at 6:30 and eased my way back another half mile to a meadow on the national forest boundary. Lots of fresh tracks on a good trail but no elk were scene. Hunted my way back to the truck starting about the last 30 minutes of legal light and scared 2 does and a fawn that were on the other side of the willows from me when I about fell crossing the creek. No clue if I’ll hunt at all tomorrow or not, this afternoon really took the wind out of my sails. Still buying a lottery ticket considering I randomly talked to the one guy who saw the actual person that picked it up and then I was able to find him within 30 minutes.
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Glad you found your rifle. Pretty country.
 
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