Check out these 7 Tips for Hunting Elk on Public Land in Colorado. Public land has its challenges; these tips will help you produce a successful hunt on these accessible lands.
There are a few ways you can improve your chance of a successful trip when hunting elk on public land in Colorado. Do your research and choose a spot that is far from civilization. Be prepared to walk a lot, and hunt later if you can. Don’t be afraid to take initiative, and do not put yourself in a position to chase an injured elk across the terrain.
These may seem like basic conditions for hunting elk, but they can drastically impact your success. When you are hunting on public land you need to think outside the box and take advantage of every moment, so working these tips into your method gives you a strong foundation for your hunting habits.
Scout and Research
Before you step foot on the land you need to be researching. Utilize Google Maps and your own memory to find an area suitable for hunting. If you can, check out the area in person before committing to an idea. Look for signs of elk movement, even if they are from last season.
- Browsing pressure on twigs
- Grass that looks like it has been mowed
- Browsing signs on brush, aspens, and pines
This is not a surefire way of predicting where elk will go this year, but you know they were there not too long ago.
Stay Away from Civilization
You can expect elk to avoid civilization as much as possible, and you need to do the same. Put in the work to find areas in public land that are farther away from public roads and popular trails. If a location seems to be popular with people the elk will avoid it as much as possible.
When you do your research to find rough terrain that is off the beaten path you are more likely to be rewarded.
Hunt Somewhere New
You should not be so stuck in your plans that you stay in an area that obviously has no elk. Understanding early on that you might have to move around will prepare you for branching out. It is easy to stick to a spot that is familiar to you, but your job is to go where the elk are.
Look for an area that is not only new to you but new to most hunters. Elk are smart enough to learn where hunters tend to congregate, so they will stay away from trails, roads, and other popular spots. If you want to think like an elk you will need to push into those less comfortable areas.
Prepare to Walk a Lot
When you are hunting on public land you should be prepared to move around a lot. Wear clothing that is comfortable so you can move without restriction, and do not be afraid to invest in a quality pair of hunting boots. My Kenetrek Mountain Extreme 400 boots have been great.
Keeping your body in shape in the off-season is important to get a good start. Plenty of hunters assume they can get back into it, and they would be wrong. Even if you are scouting from a higher vantage point you will need.
Hunt Late Season (If You Can)
The later seasons are not as comfortable to people, but they provide ample opportunity. The snow that plagues you is actually your friend, encouraging the migration of the elk and removing your competition.
This combination of increased elk movement and decreasing pressure means you are more likely to come across one without surging deep into the backcountry.
Keep Up Your Confidence
Elk hunting is not for those who double-guess themselves. You need to have the confidence to move in when the bull you have been bugling suddenly locks up.
You also need to be confident in the act of “double-tapping” the elk. If this is your first time hunting you should know that they are much tougher than they seem. Even if you think you fired a lethal shot you should follow it up with another.
According to Royle Scrogham, “you don’t want to be tracking an elk for miles and miles across rough country. If a bull is on his feet, put another one in him.”
Take the Time to Soak it all Up
Even if you are not taking a fancy hunting trip to a private ranch you can absorb the experience. Public land may be more crowded, but it is no less beautiful.
Taking a moment to soak up the beauty of nature not only makes for a great memory but also relieves any stress you might have picked up while trekking across the land.
Check out these additional elk hunting resources!
- November Elk Hunting in Colorado
- Merino Wool for Hunting
- How to Prepare for Emergencies in Elk Hunting
Primal Pioneer is a food blog and public land hunting resource by Mike and Jennifer Shreckengost. We’re a husband and wife team who combined their two passions – a love of the outdoors and food – into a joint effort with Primal Pioneer! You’ll find resources on planning and executing your own DIY over-the-counter public land big game hunt, along with wild game recipes featuring mostly venison and elk.