Elk hunting is challenging, enthralling and one of the most enticing adventures. For those who aren’t fortunate enough to live in elk country, the chance to chase one should at least be a bucket list hunt. For decades, Colorado has been one of the prime destinations for non-resident hunts for several reasons. Unlike other western states, Colorado offers over-the-counter tags to non-residents.
This means anyone can show up, purchase a cow or bull tag and hunt any of the over-the-counter units. There’s also a ton of public land in those units, providing access to elk territory.
For non-residents with a little more patience, you can even apply for preference points and eventually apply for the draw. This is how you obtain a license to hunt those more selective units.
Lastly, there are tons of resources out there providing information on where to hunt and how to navigate the tag system, so you can plan a hunt from your computer. Check out the Parks and Wildlife page for these resources.
If you’re wanting to plan a hunt several years out, start collecting preference points. This buys you time to pick a unit so you know how many points you’ll need. While not necessarily known for giant bulls, Colorado is known for having a huge herd, which means a lot of opportunity. Preference points are how you get into the units of land that typically have more bulls, bigger bulls, etc.
If you’re planning a hunt for next year start researching your season, unit and regulations now. Even if you’re going for over-the-counter, you should look into the unit options. Also, know that OTC units changes depending on which season you’re looking at. Regardless of what and where you’re hunting, checking the updated regulations each year is a good idea.
Once you have your unit or units picked out, the scouting begins. If you can afford the trip out there, on-the-ground scouting is great. If that isn’t an option, then no worries. There’s a magical tool out there called HuntData (http://www.huntdata.com/). This is my go-to tool. It shows data collected on elk patterns specific to each unit and season. You can literally scout from your computer. You can also use it on your mobile device in the field. It works as a GPS even when you don’t have service so you can map your routes, drop pins and more.
I’d also watch the weather as snow can be a huge factor in location and behavior of elk and prepare for the high altitude and long days with many miles. But most importantly, appreciate the excitement of the hunt and natural beauty Colorado has to offer!