Fun western state elk hunt can be done with proper planning

Fun western state elk hunt can be done with proper planning
Charles Enos, left, and son Charles Enos II had an exception experience on opening day of their Colorado Elk archery hunt in 2013, bagging one elk each. (Andrew Aughenbaugh photo, HANDOUT)

On August 31, 2013, Charles Enos and his son Charles Enos II (Chuck) experienced a day in the Colorado wilderness not many hunters can claim to match. For on that day, both father and son shot elk using archery equipment on the opening day of the season. The real claim of accomplishment comes with the fact that they were on a do it yourself (DYI) hunt. No guide or outfitter helped them on this hunt, they did it themselves.

Chuck's father has been hunting the mountains of Northern Colorado for better than 15 years with gun in hand. During those years he has taken three elk and a few mule deer and pronghorn antelope. At his asking, Chuck joined his father in 2013 to hunt Elk with archery equipment. This was Chuck's first time Elk hunting and his first time hunting the western states.


Driving west, the father and son team reached Colorado a few days prior to the all important opening day. Staying in a local hotel, they scouted the mountains looking for a place to establish camp and hunt. The early arrival and time spent searching paid off. As the sun set on the eve of opening day, they had hiked a few miles into the wilderness and camp was set. The freeze-dried soup returned to life with the heat of the single butane burner. Father and son discussed their plans. Each hunter had his hunting spot chosen for the next morning. Both had selected an ambush location overlooking heavy used trails marring the hillside.

Chuck was hunting close to camp, only about 150 yards from where their tent was stationed. His father traveled in the opposite direction from camp. In the darkness of pre-morning, father and son separated and began their Colorado Elk hunt.

Both father and son returned to camp by mid-day having shot and recovered bull elk on the first day of the season. The success rate of a Colorado archery Elk hunter is in the neighborhood of 10 percent. That means, on average, 90 percent of hunters pursuing Elk with a bow return home to tag soup. I cannot even begin to fathom the odds of two bow hunters sharing the same public land hunting camp shooting Elk on the same morning.

Chuck was quick to inform me, however, that the fun ended and the real work began after the shot. It took two days and the help of a loaned cart to retrieve the elk and get their gear and elk meat back to the truck.

Elk hunting in Colorado is a dream hunt for many Maryland deer hunters. With proper planning the dream is attainable. Just as Chuck and his father have shown, one does not have to spend the high cost of a fully guided outfitter hunt to experience a western state elk hunt. A trip like the one they experienced can be done with a budget between $1,500 and $3,000 per hunter. A brown bag lunch vs. going out to lunch for a year along with making coffee at home instead of stopping at the convenience store can net enough savings to make such a trip.

The 2015 Colorado Elk archery season runs from Aug. 29-Sept. 27. The Colorado Elk hunting license will cost just shy of $650. The Colorado Big Game Limited Draw Licenses Applications are due April 7. However, Colorado does offer elk and deer tags for purchase over the counter (OTC) and these OTC tags provide amble hunting opportunities in prime elk habitat and these were the tags Chuck and his father had purchased. According to an article written by Dan Allan on his website Backcountry Chronicles, there are over 23 million acres of public hunting lands in Colorado.

Planning a trip like this can be a confusing task to the hunter who has never hunted west of the Mississippi River. To help with the task, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has done a great job helping get through the process with an interactive website that includes a hunt planner ( A hunt planner is also available by phone at 303-291-7526.

Another great resource for planning a DIY western state elk hunt is the book "DIY Elk Hunting Guide" written by Dan Allan and available at his website, The first section of the book is full of informative statistics and data from several western states on acres of land available, license draw stats, and hunter success rates. The Guide then goes into detail of hunting techniques, gear and tons of information on how to make your first Elk hunt a reality.

All the planning and gear preparation will be of little good, if your body and mind are not in good proper shape for the hunt. A few years ago, I elk hunted the Teton Mountains in Wyoming. In preparation of the hunt, I was running three miles on the trails of Monocacy River National Park three times a week. Even with all that running, the lack of oxygen above 8,000 elevation took my wind. I was able to recover quickly and move on, but the climbs from 8,500 to 10,500 were slow going at times. Planning a trip like this is the perfect excuse to get back into shape.

Mental conditioning is another important aspect of the hunt, and I believe the most important. Set realistic goals for the hunt based on the area. Setting goals not attainable is a quick way to ruin the experience. The hunt should be viewed as a total experience and attacked in that manner. Whether an elk is killed or not is only a small part of the equation.

So often we as eastern hunters dream of western state hunts believing the hunt unattainable. They are not. The largest hurdle is taking the first step and beginning the planning process. Success like what Chuck and his father experienced can only be had, if you go.

Andrew Aughenbaugh is a Times outdoors writer. His column appears every other Sunday. Reach him at 410-857-7896 or