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Recent CO Elk hunt account, with pics

Discussion in 'Hunting' started by Cob, Nov 5, 2011.

  1. Cob

    Cob Well-Known Member

    Here's an account of my first CO Elk hunt, in the South San Juan Wilderness of San Juan N.F., NE of Pagosa Springs:

    I made arrangements with Richard Cox, of East Fork Outfitters, to join a father and son group from PA; packing miles into the wilderness to a pre-setup drop camp, hunting 2nd rifle season with an OTC tag. The weather was perfect, and we packed in with horses & mules on Oct. 21 to the camp set up at 10,800 feet in elevation.(day before season started). Camp was comfortable, and mule deer were plentiful, along with elk sign.

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    i met Mark Sr. & Mark Jr. for the first time, & We rode into the camp after about a 3 hr ride through some beautiful. although steep country. We got settled in, and made arrangements for the first days hunt the next morning. Mark Jr. shot a nice 4x4 bull the very first day, and Mark Sr. shot a 5x5 bull the second morning. Both shots were fired less than 150 yards from the camp. I was happy to see that elk were in the area, and felt confident that i would get a bull before the season ended.




    Once Mark Sr. & Jr. had their tags filled, they were ready to pack out of the camp, and left to head back to PA on the first available set of horses and mules that they could get their gear, elk and souls on to get out of the wilderness area.

    I had been 46 yards from a cow elk that very morning, and seen approximately a dozen total elk to date, yet had not yet had a chance at a legal bull... I felt my chance was coming, and that my bull elk would be along soon.


    Jeff & Wayne, the packers warned me that some snow was predicted, and on it's way. They said it probably would not be bad, and said they could pack me out if i wanted to go, or I could stay in the camp, and they would check on me in 2 days. As elk were in the area, I decided to stay in camp to hunt longer...As they departed, I realized that i would be solo once they were gone, and would be camping and hunting the wilderness area ALONE for the remainder of the 9 day season. (this was day 2.5) I felt a bit of solitude hit me that i have not felt in a long time after the pack train was gone, in a land that was mostly unfamiliar, with steep terrain, and very remote... Little did i realize that the worst/ yet also the best was yet to come.

    I hunted for the next day and a half, with intermittent snow coming down sporadically. The temperature dropped drastically, as "highs" had been in th3 in the upper 60's and 70's, and suddenly the highs were in the low 40's. The lows were in the teens, maybe even colder... The snow started falling hard, and over a foot of snow fell in one afternoon. As night approached, it fell all night. Wind, thunder, and lightning shook the walls of the tent all night. I could hear snowfalling on the roof of the tent like heavy raindrops, and thought that it had stopped after a while. I noticed the roof of the tent sagging, and realized that the accumulation of snow on the tent roof was buffering the sound of the fallin snow, once it was several inches thick. i shook the snow off the roof several times that night, and kept the wood burning stove in the tent full of wood. after living in FL for 10+ years, i was not prepared for what i found the next morning.


    (a friend i found in the wilderness):


    Here's just 1 set of bear tracks that i found... this bear had been trailing me for some reason, as his tracks were almost right on top of mine.


    Rich arrived after 2.5 days, and informed me more snow was on it's way, and that it would be a good idea to pack down off the mountain. He informed me that another camp was available at lower elevation, and that the snow would push the elk down a bit. i was all too happy to leave the winter wonderland behind, and try a different camp without the snow... after 5 days, i had seen about 20 elk, 12 mule deer, bear and lion tracks, but still had not had the first shot at a legal bull


    I soon arrived at the Main camp, and it looked good... big meadows interspersed with lots of aspen, aka "quakys", fir, and pine... A hunter named Buddy from VA was a part of a group of 6 that had inhabited the camp for the previous 5 days, and as he still had an unfilled bear tag, unfilled mule deer tag, and unfilled bull elk tag, he wanted to remain behind after the remainder of his party left for opimum opportunity. i joined him at the Main Camp, & was happy for the companionship, as well as happy to be out of the deeper snow (about 24" deep now at the 10,800' elevation) .Buddy had claimed the big meadow, so i let him hunt it the first day i was in camp, and i hunted thick timber unsuccessfully the first day...

    An elk bugled all night long the first night i stayed at the Main camp, and cows calling could be heard not far outside of the tent. i could not wait til morning, to try to get after a big bull. i was able to follow him up an adjacent ridge the next morning, but never could get a clear shot, i did see a spike, and 4 cows, but the bull never would offer a shot. as the day passed, i decided to go bug Buddy, and to try to get a strategy in place so that two hunters could both set up on the big meadow...

    22 elk walked out into the big meadow that evening, and Buddy was in the rigth spot at the right time... I watched a 5x5 bull though my scope for over 5 minutes at about 450 yards.. I thought about pulling the trigger multiple times, abut Buddy was 350 yards closer. I felt the bull must be right on top of Buddy, and wondered why he was not shooting... I started trying to close the distance a bit, and wondered if he might have moved to a different location... There were 3 legal bulls in the group which were feeding in the meadow, the 5x5 being the largest.
    Finally, i heard Buddy make the shot, and he killed the 5x5. I took a shot at the next largest bull, a 3x2 with a 6" inch brow tine, which was walking fast/ running slow towards the timber, with the rest of the herd...I missed.

    Buddy and I looked for blood for a a half hour, then got to the job of field dressing/ quartering the bull elk. Buddy gave me a 1/4, a backstrap, and both inner tenderloins. (which i just finished off for supper)


    The last day i hunted, I saw a nice 6x6 bull eating in the same meadow, at 350 yards. I placed the scope on the bull, clicked the safety off, and almost pulled the trigger. The miss from the previous day had me a little trigger shy, so i decided to try to close the distance a bit. As i sneaked about 50 yards closer, I spooked 2 cows in the timber that i was unaware of. the cows eased towards the bull, and then both of them & the bull disappeared into timber. I listened to his bugles get farther away for the next 2 hours, and never got a shot again. I made my way back to camp to get ready for the pack out of the South San Juan Wilderness.

    I had Elk hunted with 3 strangers this season, and each of the 3 hunters had harvested a bull elk... It was an awesome experience, but i was unsuccessful in the harvest aspect of the hunt. Always another year.
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2011
  2. ZeroJunk

    ZeroJunk Well-Known Member

    Sounds like a great experience, especially the night by yourself with the snow. I could get in to that.

    I have been going on a similar type hunt in Montana most years since 1985 or so. More often than not I strike out. To be honest, I really don't care. Not anymore.

    I have hundreds of photos, unfortunately most were long before digital. I guess I should scan them sometime and post a few.

    Be careful, It's addictive.
  3. Cob

    Cob Well-Known Member

    Overall, IT was an awesome experience. My main objective was to see Elk in the wild, and secondary objectives were to hunt in a remote area in the Rocky Mountains, Both objectives were met. I will go elk hunting another year, and will practice my long shots.
  4. H&Hhunter

    H&Hhunter Moderator

    Good job Cob! It takes some cajones to solo hunt elk on your first time out. What rifle/caliber are you shooting?
  5. Cob

    Cob Well-Known Member

    I was shooting a .270 Win, with 150 grain Winchester Supreme, Elites. (Cxp3, with polymer tips) I liked the ammo, and was ready for a shot 300 yards or less. Unfortuantely, all of the legal bulls i saw were in the 400-500 yard range.
    (If you look closely in the scabbard on Bert, (the mule in the snow pic, you'll notice the rifle.
    Weirdly enough, H&H, i thought about your solo goat, hunt & THR post while out there, camping solo... The post really was an inspiration, so thought i would follow up with similiar post. Unfortunately my ending was a bit different... I did not harvest an elk. But then again that leaves this particular species as an open challenge, yet to hunted on another day. BTW, you mentione your dad had a similiar rifle to the one i am hunting with once.

    For me, the chase has always been the best part of the hunt, and I feel i tried my best this time. I really look forward to getting back out there another day. I've since picked up a 7mm remington mag, and will practice with both rifles before going back again though, out to 500 yards.
  6. rogwar

    rogwar Member

    Nice pics! That is like a dream hunt.
  7. oneounceload

    oneounceload member

    Don't know where your "North FL Woods" is, but if you are near Graham, there is a club that has a 850 yard range

    I lived in CO for a few years a while ago - those scenes brought back some neat memories; it is real pretty this time of year
  8. wankerjake

    wankerjake Well-Known Member

    Looks like fun, I can't wait for elk season to come. Congrats on the fine hunt.
  9. H&Hhunter

    H&Hhunter Moderator


    My dad's hunting rifle was a ditto to yours and a .270 as well. Thanks for the great hunt report I love your pictures and can tell that you are the real deal and a hunter to the core.

    There is nothing like a season of opportunity with no kill to ignite the fires of desire for next year!
  10. Cob

    Cob Well-Known Member

    i'm in Suwannee County, near the GA line/ dead center between Jax & Tallahassee. I have a 200 yard range set up at the house, and a 300 yard range set up at the farm, but will have to go to the in-laws pasture to take a 500-600 yard shot safely. (all of the property we have is mostly planted in pine trees.)

    Never heard of Graham...
  11. BK

    BK Well-Known Member

    Good thread Cob.
  12. Wow Cob, that looks like a great hunt. Awesome pictures, and beautiful country. The story was great, sound like a great time.
  13. sixgunner455

    sixgunner455 Well-Known Member

    Beautiful pictures, beautiful country. Sounds like you had a great trip.
  14. Big Bad Bob

    Big Bad Bob Well-Known Member

    That is just awesome!

    The picture with the mule, snow and rifle in the scabbard for some reason really stuck out to me as pure Americana.
  15. kbbailey

    kbbailey Well-Known Member

    Thank you for taking time to take/ and post all the pics. I enjoyed it very much. It looked like a great adventure.

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