Here’s​ ​how​ ​to​ ​hunt​ ​elk​ ​in​ ​Colorado​ ​on​ ​a budget

Share or Comment

Author’s​ ​note:​ ​This​ ​is​ ​part​ ​three​ ​of​ ​a​ ​three-part​ ​column​ ​series​ ​about​ ​my​ ​recent​ ​Colorado​ ​elk​ ​hunt.

Let​ ​me​ ​be​ ​up​ ​front.​ ​Even​ ​a​ ​low-budget​ ​elk​ ​hunt​ ​involves​ ​expense,​ ​but​ ​if​ ​you​ ​are​ ​one​ ​of​ ​the​ ​many​ ​deer hunters​ ​who​ ​have​ ​dreamed​ ​about​ ​an​ ​elk​ ​hunt​ ​in​ ​the​ ​Western​ ​U.S.,​ ​it​ ​may​ ​be​ ​within​ ​your​ ​reach, financially​ ​and​ ​otherwise.​ ​Although​ ​Western​ ​outfitters​ ​and​ ​private​ ​ranches​ ​charge​ ​anywhere​ ​from $3,000​ ​to​ ​$10,000,​ ​my​ ​scenario​ ​involves​ ​significantly​ ​less​ ​money.

My​ ​tenth​ ​Colorado​ ​elk​ ​hunt,​ ​and​ ​one​ ​of​ ​the​ ​best​ ​yet,​ ​is​ ​a​ ​recent​ ​memory.​ ​Only​ ​one​ ​of​ ​these​ ​elk​ ​hunts involved​ ​an​ ​outfitter;​ ​the​ ​rest​ ​were​ ​low-budget​ ​hunts​ ​like​ ​I​ ​am​ ​about​ ​to​ ​describe.​ ​The​ ​last​ ​trip,​ involving six​ ​hunters,​ ​cost​ ​me​ ​just​ ​under​ ​$1,000,​ ​and​ ​that​ ​includes​ ​some​ ​new​ ​gear​ ​purchased​ ​for​ ​the​ ​trip.​ ​And​ ​I wound​ ​up​ ​with​ ​half​ ​an​ ​elk​ ​in​ ​my​ ​family​ ​freezer.

That’s​ ​the​ ​good​ ​news.​ ​The​ ​not-so-good​ ​news​ ​is​ ​that​ ​low-budget​ ​hunts​ ​involve​ ​hard​ ​work​ ​and​ ​personal discomfort.​ ​Take​ ​it​ ​from​ ​me,​ ​no​ ​matter​ ​how​ ​much​ ​experience​ ​you​ ​have​ ​had,​ ​there​ ​is​ ​just​ ​no​ ​escaping​ ​the aforementioned​ ​downside​ ​of​ ​a​ ​low-budget​ ​elk​ ​hunt.

Here​ ​are​ ​some​ ​of​ ​the​ ​basics​ ​that​ ​will​ ​keep​ ​you​ ​on​ ​course​ ​and​ ​your​ ​costs​ ​within​ ​reason:

1.The​ ​Colorado​ ​elk​ ​lottery​ ​is​ ​your​ ​best​ ​statistical​ ​chance​ ​of​ ​being​ ​awarded​ ​an​ ​elk​ ​tag.​ ​Bulls​ ​are too​ ​expensive.​ ​A​ ​cow​ ​tag​ ​is​ ​$450.

2.A​ ​group​ ​of​ ​hunters,​ ​three​ ​and​ ​no​ ​more​ ​than​ ​4,​ ​need​ ​to​ ​drive,​ ​preferably​ ​nonstop,​ ​from​ ​the​ ​East​ ​to Colorado.​ ​At​ ​today’s​ ​prices,​ ​gas​ ​for​ ​the​ ​round​ ​trip​ ​will​ ​be​ ​between​ ​$800​ ​and​ ​$1,000.​ ​(Remember you​ ​are​ ​dividing​ ​this​ ​expense​ ​among​ ​four​ ​hunters).

3.The​ ​first​ ​rifle​ ​season​ ​in​ ​Colorado​ ​is​ ​always​ ​your​ ​best​ ​bet​ ​for​ ​hunt​ ​success.

4.Start​ ​planning​ ​now​ ​for​ ​either​ ​2018​ ​or​ ​2019.​ ​Do​ ​your​ ​advance​ ​work,​ ​which​ ​includes​ ​acquiring maps​ ​of​ ​the​ ​National​ ​Forests​ ​(​ ​Routt​ ​is​ ​a​ ​good​ ​choice).​ ​Begin​ ​a​ ​savings​ ​program.​ ​Give​ ​up​ ​beer and​ ​smokes,​ ​or​ ​some​ ​other​ ​discretionary​ ​expense,​ ​and​ ​put​ ​the​ ​unspent​ ​money​ ​in​ ​an​ ​elk-hunt \kitty.

5.Don’t​ ​go​ ​crazy​ ​buying​ ​new​ ​gear,​ ​which​ ​is​ ​the​ ​temptation.​ ​The​ ​must-have​ ​gear​ ​for​ ​an​ ​elk​ ​hunt​ ​are quality​ ​boots,​ ​a​ ​big​ ​backpack​ ​that​ ​will​ ​hold​ ​at​ ​least​ ​45​ ​lbs​ ​of​ ​gear,​ ​and​ ​a​ ​warm​ ​zero-degree sleeping​ ​bag.

6.A​ ​pickup​ ​truck​ ​with​ ​four-wheel​ ​drive​ ​and​ ​chains​ ​is​ ​highly​ ​recommended.​ ​Bring​ ​lots​ ​of​ ​coolers.

Some​ ​final​ ​thoughts.​ ​Give​ ​careful​ ​consideration​ ​to​ ​selection​ ​of​ ​your​ ​hunt​ ​buddies.​ ​It’s​ ​best​ ​to​ ​select hunting​ ​partners​ ​who​ ​are​ ​field​ ​tested.​ ​Sometimes​ ​your​ ​best​ ​buddy​ ​is​ ​not​ ​the​ ​best​ ​choice​ ​for​ ​a​ ​trip​ ​like this.​ ​You​ ​need​ ​hunt​ ​partners​ ​who​ ​are​ ​in​ ​shape,​ ​even-tempered,​ ​woodswise​ ​and​ ​resourceful.​ ​You​ ​want individuals​ ​who​ ​can​ ​tolerate​ ​sleep​ ​and​ ​calorie​ ​deprivation,​ ​tough​ ​hiking​ ​conditions​ ​at​ ​altitude​ ​and uncertain​ ​weather​ ​conditions.

There​ ​are​ ​many​ ​other​ ​“tricks”​ ​of​ ​the​ ​trade​ ​that​ ​I​ ​am​ ​more​ ​than​ ​willing​ ​to​ ​share,​ ​but​ ​this​ ​will​ ​get​ ​you
started.​ ​You​ ​can​ ​get​ ​additional​ ​information​ ​from​ ​the​ ​Colorado​ ​Parks​ ​and​ ​Wildlife​ ​website,​ ​which​ ​is:​ ​​If​ ​I​ ​haven’t​ ​discouraged​ ​you,​ ​and​ ​you​ ​are​ ​still​ ​considering​ ​this​ ​hunt​ ​adventure,​ ​which, by​ ​the​ ​way,​ ​has​ ​meant​ ​so​ ​much​ ​to​ ​me​ ​over​ ​the​ ​years,​ ​I​ ​will​ ​be​ ​happy​ ​to​ ​answer​ ​any​ ​questions​ ​you​ ​may have.​ ​E-mail​ ​questions​ ​or​ ​comments​ ​to​ ​me​ ​at:​ ​​​.

One​ ​final​ ​thought:​ ​Beware,​ ​elk​ ​hunting​ ​and​ ​the​ ​Colorado​ ​high​ ​country​ ​can​ ​be​ ​a​ ​tough​ ​habit​ ​to​ ​kick.

The​ ​author​ ​is​ ​editor​ ​of​ ​the​ ​”Northwoods Sporting​ ​Journal.”​ ​He​ ​is also​ ​a​ ​Maine​ ​guide​ ​and​ ​host​ ​of​ ​a weekly​ ​radio​ ​program​ ​—​ ​”Maine​ ​Outdoors”​ ​—​ ​heard​ ​Sundays​ ​at​ ​7​ ​p.m.​ ​on​ ​”The​ ​Voice​ ​of​ ​Maine News​ ​-​ ​Talk​ ​Network.”​ ​He​ ​has​ ​authored​ ​three​ ​books;​ ​online​ ​purchase​ ​information​ ​is​ ​available at ​​.

Share or Comment

Get the Rest of the Story

Thank you for reading your 4 free articles this month. To continue reading, and support local, rural journalism, please subscribe.