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Success in the High Country: My Public Land Colorado Cow Elk

shotgunshooter3shotgunshooter3 Senior MemberPosts: 5,794 Senior Member
I've started a few threads about equipment and technique in the past year about a Colorado Elk hunt I had coming up. I am very pleased to report that luck was on my side, and the efforts of myself and others paid off, and I was successful relatively early in our hunt! I was able to bag a cow elk on public land in a pretty popular area!



The story isn't particularly epic. It was more so dumb luck, a little dose of "harden the F up," and decision making that yielded success.

For the first two days of the hunt, dad and I hiked into our area from a public access point (instead of the private land we had trespass rights through). On the first light of the first morning I actually spotted a pretty nice bull elk at 250 yards, but by the time I ascertained that it was indeed legal, it vanished over the hilltop. An hour or so of tracking, and it had indeed earned its moniker "ghost of the forest."

So, back at it we were! I linked back up with dad, and we walked, and glassed, and walked, and glassed some more. Probably covered near 10 miles on the first day, and nearly as much the second day. Certainly no rest for the weary as we put boot prints all over our GMU.

Well, maybe there was some rest for the weary.



On day two, a snowstorm was forecasted to hit mid day. We went out anyway, and spent quite a bit of time glassing one particular ridge. I spotted one nice mule deer, but got only a flash of it before it vanished into the scrub oak. Then, like clockwork, the storm set in right on time. We stayed out until we couldn't stand the cold anymore, and packed it in early afternoon.



The third day of our hunt, we woke up to 18" of fresh snow. Most of our hunting party, my dad included, decided to stay in until the afternoon. However, something told me I'd regret waiting, so myself and two others set out at sunrise to see what we could see.

I entered the GMU solo from the private land we had permission to cross, and slowly trudged uphill in the snow. If anyone asked me, I was stopping frequently to glass. I was actually stopping frequently because the going was that tough. On my way in, I saw a few small mule deer bucks, but nothing I wanted to shoot that early in the hunt.

Mid morning I found a spot on a hillside, settled in, and started glassing a ridgeline.



As a side note, a tarp and foam sitting pad are two of the best things I brought on this hunt.

I stayed parked in the same spot for about 4 hours, with variable activity. Mostly mule deer doe moving about. I occupied my time like any hunter would, religiously staying on my binos and systematically scanning the countryside. By that I mean I napped, made Ramen using my Jet Boil, played on my phone, napped some more, and occasionally glassed.

Mid afternoon I'd had about as much sitting as I could stand, so I packed up and started slowly making my way further down the trail. My plan was to keep walking until I had to turn around to get back with some daylight. During this hike I did what any good millennial would do, I checked my phone and with the sporadic reception handled some work stuff that I didn't want to return to after the hunt.

As luck would have it, I rounded a corner to a flat spot (while on my phone) and spotted two elk surprisingly close, just off the trail. I stopped in my tracks and instantly dropped to my knees to reduce my profile. A quick look through the rangefinder revealed that I was watching two spike bulls right at 200 yards away. Since they weren't shootable (4 points on ea. side required for OTC tags), I put the rangefinder away and watched them for a few minutes (mainly for my own entertainment).

Fortunately, my luck continued to build! Just as I was about to get up and start walking again (which would have spooked the elk in the process), I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. When I shifted my focus, I saw what was obviously two cow elk about 1000 yards away in the open. I surmised that they would take the same path as the young bulls, and come right across my line of sight. In anticipation of this, I waited until the two bulls looked away, dropped to the prone (in 18" of snow wearing just a hoody, mind you), "turtled" out of my pack, and scooted forward a bit to offer a better shooting vantage over some bushes. I set up with my rifle across the pack and waited.

Sure enough, as the bulls meandered away, along came the cows, following the EXACT same path. I told myself that the first one that gave me an ethical shot was going down. As luck would have it, the larger of the two gave me a PERFECT broad side shot at 200 yards on the nose (where my rifle is zeroed at). I settled in, put the crosshairs on her, and broke the shot.

She fell immediately, and struggled a bit, her shoulder clearly broken. I chambered another Federal 140gr Trophy Bonded Tip round into my Remington 700 7mm08, and watched for a second. As the other cow hightailed it out of the country, the cow I had shot stopped moving. I stopped for a second to take in the moment, and sent a message to our hunting group chat that I had an elk down on the far end of our area.

Here's a photo I snapped of my gear as it was when I shot the animal, shortly before moving closer.



As I walked closer, much to my surprise, she looked up again. She wasn't dead! Damn these animals are tough. I quickly closed the distance and delivered a finishing shot, at which she did expire. I took a momentary pause to appreciate the animal, my fortune, and the good hunt so far. Then I filled my tag, and went to work quartering.

I worked well through sunset, and temps started to drop drastically with the sun. Fortunately, the cavalry arrived in the form of one of the more experienced hunters in our group on horseback. Another hunter in the group, and my dad, were short behind him. Between the four of us we made quicker work quartering the animal and cutting out as much meat as possible.

I don't have any autopsy shots of the round's performance. The temps swiftly dropped below 0 and we wanted out of there. I do, however, have one recovered bullet that I can show. Overall I was very pleased with the bullet's performance, and will continue to use them in my 7mm08 for big game.



We finished quartering the animal around 8 PM, and the sun had set into a gorgeous, but frigid night (temps reached -15'F that evening). Fortunately, we had horses and a good group to pack out the meat. We began the 2 mile walk back. Folks, it was so cold our water froze. I am so glad people in my group had horses and were willing to help.

We returned to camp around 10 PM, and much to our fortune the rest of the group had waited on dinner for us! Some folks helped us load the animals into our storage area, and we toasted with Tin Cup whiskey and a good meal.

I am infinitely grateful that I was able to harvest this awesome animal on this hunt. But even more-so than the fruits of my labors, I was grateful for a hugely helpful hunting party and for the opportunity to hit the hills and pursue this animal. It was icing on the cake that my father was able to help with the quartering and pack out.

This is a hunt that I won't soon forget, and we're already gearing up for next year. However, I wasn't the only successful member of this trip. That story, however, is for another thread...
- I am a rifleman with a poorly chosen screen name. -
"Slow is smooth, smooth is fast, and speed is the economy of motion" - Scott Jedlinski
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Replies

  • JayhawkerJayhawker Moderator Posts: 17,030 Senior Member
    Nicely done.  And told
    ..
    Sharps Model 1874 - "The rifle that made the west safe for Winchester"
  • Ernie BishopErnie Bishop Senior Member Posts: 7,566 Senior Member
    Great story and kudos to your successful hunt!
    Ernie

    "The Un-Tactical"
  • LinefinderLinefinder Moderator Posts: 7,203 Senior Member
    edited November 2020 #4
    You sure earned that one! Congratulations and Well Done.

    Mike

    ETA: Proves the old elk hunting adage...."Once you pull the trigger the fun's over". ;)
    "Walking away seems to be a lost art form."
    N454casull
  • LinefinderLinefinder Moderator Posts: 7,203 Senior Member
    Just out of curiosity, what part of the state were you in? It's been a pretty sad elk season here, according to most folks I know.

    Not wanting specifics....just a general region.

    Mike
    "Walking away seems to be a lost art form."
    N454casull
  • Ernie BishopErnie Bishop Senior Member Posts: 7,566 Senior Member
    So so true. 
    At least he had a lot of help
    Ernie

    "The Un-Tactical"
  • shotgunshooter3shotgunshooter3 Senior Member Posts: 5,794 Senior Member
    Thanks all, and the bit about the work starting is very true. I have lower back problems anyway from my occupation, and hunching over the animal for hours definitely took its toll. Dad and I both took the next day off.

    Just out of curiosity, what part of the state were you in? It's been a pretty sad elk season here, according to most folks I know.

    Not wanting specifics....just a general region.

    Mike
    Mike, you've got PM.
    - I am a rifleman with a poorly chosen screen name. -
    "Slow is smooth, smooth is fast, and speed is the economy of motion" - Scott Jedlinski
  • Diver43Diver43 Senior Member Posts: 11,078 Senior Member
    Congratulations.  You did well
    Logistics cannot win a war, but its absence or inadequacy can cause defeat. FM100-5
  • NNNN Senior Member Posts: 24,780 Senior Member
    Great work-----nice story
    Shut up-----KAREN; OK Cynthia
  • ZeeZee Senior Member Posts: 24,355 Senior Member
    Absolutely awesome!  Well done!!  

    Thought you were taking the 7mm Rem Mag. Either way, it worked. Good job. 

    Where did the first shot impact?  Curious on her still being alive on approach. Just so I can learn more. 
    "To Hell with efficiency, it's performance we want!" - Elmer Keith
  • CHIRO1989CHIRO1989 Senior Member Posts: 12,841 Senior Member
    Glad you got to see elk and observe them with the bonus of shooting one!
    I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn away from their ways and live. Eze 33:11
  • orchidmanorchidman Senior Member Posts: 8,133 Senior Member
    Excellent result, love the write up and I particularly like this bit...........
    ' However, something told me I'd regret waiting, so myself and two others set out at sunrise to see what we could see.'

    Great instincts SS3.

    Still enjoying the trip of a lifetime and making the best of what I have.....
  • LinefinderLinefinder Moderator Posts: 7,203 Senior Member
    That's one thing about the high country in Colorado. It might hit 50F at some point in the day, but once the sun goes behind the mountain just to your west, you can loose all 50 of them in 20 minutes.

    When JerryBobCo and I were chasing elk in the Flat Tops.....there was no sitting around the campfire after dark and shooting the breeze. It was every man for himself, and you better have brought a really good sleeping bag.

    Mike
    "Walking away seems to be a lost art form."
    N454casull
  • shotgunshooter3shotgunshooter3 Senior Member Posts: 5,794 Senior Member
    Zee said:
    Absolutely awesome!  Well done!!  

    Thought you were taking the 7mm Rem Mag. Either way, it worked. Good job. I was going to, but I hit a road block in load development. Having simultaneously run out of patience and time I tossed the 7 RM aside until the off season and grabbed old reliable.

    Where did the first shot impact?  Curious on her still being alive on approach. Just so I can learn more. Best as I could surmise from the short look I got at the entrails before we high-tailed it out of the cold, it broke the shoulder and hit the liver. I may have aimed too high, I'm honestly not sure. I'm not particularly proud of that, but so be it.
    .
    - I am a rifleman with a poorly chosen screen name. -
    "Slow is smooth, smooth is fast, and speed is the economy of motion" - Scott Jedlinski
  • LinefinderLinefinder Moderator Posts: 7,203 Senior Member
    The first time I chased elk was along the South Platte River in South Park. The day started out at -26F and never got above -10F. A day like that is one when you don't begrudge a dime you've spent on good gear.

    Mike
    "Walking away seems to be a lost art form."
    N454casull
  • shotgunshooter3shotgunshooter3 Senior Member Posts: 5,794 Senior Member
    edited November 2020 #16
    The first time I chased elk was along the South Platte River in South Park. The day started out at -26F and never got above -10F. A day like that is one when you don't begrudge a dime you've spent on good gear.

    Mike
    Between snowboarding, alpine hiking, and hunting, I don't regret a single dime I've spend on cold weather gear. Merino Wool base layers, in particular, are worth twice their weight in gold.

    On this last hunt, temps swung anywhere from -15F at night to 75F some days. I always advise people when visiting CO to pack for all four seasons regardless of time of year.

    There's no such thing as conditions too rough, just unsuitable equipment.
    - I am a rifleman with a poorly chosen screen name. -
    "Slow is smooth, smooth is fast, and speed is the economy of motion" - Scott Jedlinski
  • ZeeZee Senior Member Posts: 24,355 Senior Member
    edited November 2020 #17
    I don’t doubt the high hit through the shoulder. High in the shoulder, below the spine, and above the lungs is a place I call “no-man’s-land”. Breaking the shoulder and stunning the spine could be the result. 
    I doubt you broke the shoulder and then just hit the liver. There are lungs in between those two and you said she was broadside. Unless your bullet turned 90 deg after hitting the shoulder, curved around the lungs to hit the liver........something is amiss. 

    This is not judging, criticizing, or questioning your observation or intent. 
    I just enjoy terminal ballistics and I try to learn every chance I get. 
    But, broadside, breaking the shoulder and hitting the liver alone.......likely ain’t gonna happen. Maybe the angle was different or the liver was struck on the second shot. Meh......you got an elk. Well done. 
    "To Hell with efficiency, it's performance we want!" - Elmer Keith
  • minnesotashooterminnesotashooter Senior Member Posts: 785 Senior Member
    Cool story. Congratulations 
  • bullsi1911bullsi1911 Moderator Posts: 11,247 Senior Member
    Great job, and congrats!
    To make something simple is a thousand times more difficult than to make something complex.
    -Mikhail Kalashnikov
  • knitepoetknitepoet Senior Member Posts: 21,306 Senior Member
    Well done Matt, Congrats!!!!
    Seven Habits of Highly Effective Pirates, Rule #37: There is no “overkill”. There is only “open fire” and “I need to reload”.


  • bellcatbellcat Senior Member Posts: 1,900 Senior Member
    Congratulations! Nice pics and a very entertaining read. What a great time with fam and friends! 
    "Kindness is the language the deaf can hear and the blind can see." Mark Twain
  • JerryBobCoJerryBobCo Senior Member Posts: 8,070 Senior Member
    Great hunt.  Great story.  Great kill.  Congratulations.

    BTW, one of my must have items in my day pack is a small 4x6 plastic tarp.  Never carried a pad, but my dad did.  
    Jerry

    Gun control laws make about as much sense as taking ex-lax to cure a cough.
  • sakodudesakodude Senior Member Posts: 3,978 Senior Member
    Nicely done, Congrats. I really miss hunting the high country in the snow, I'll take it over dry ground any day.
  • GunNutGunNut Posts: 6,099 Senior Member
    Outstanding buddy!!!!  Thanks for sharing the story!
    Old West Saying: God created men, but Col. Sam Colt made them equal.

    General George Patton:  “Watch what people are cynical about, and one can often discover what they lack.”

  • Gene LGene L Senior Member Posts: 11,826 Senior Member
    Great hunt and great telling of the story.  About how much meat did the elk provide?
    Concealed carry is for protection, open carry is for attention.
  • shotgunshooter3shotgunshooter3 Senior Member Posts: 5,794 Senior Member
    Gene L said:
    Great hunt and great telling of the story.  About how much meat did the elk provide?
    ~180#. The quarters and rib meat yielded 173# according to the processor. I am guessing on the backstrap and filets since dad and I processed those ourselves. 
    - I am a rifleman with a poorly chosen screen name. -
    "Slow is smooth, smooth is fast, and speed is the economy of motion" - Scott Jedlinski
  • JerryBobCoJerryBobCo Senior Member Posts: 8,070 Senior Member
    Gene L said:
    Great hunt and great telling of the story.  About how much meat did the elk provide?
    ~180#. The quarters and rib meat yielded 173# according to the processor. I am guessing on the backstrap and filets since dad and I processed those ourselves. 
    That's the way to do backstrap and filet.  There are some processors who take a little for themselves.
    Jerry

    Gun control laws make about as much sense as taking ex-lax to cure a cough.
  • Six-GunSix-Gun Senior Member Posts: 8,150 Senior Member
    Great work, my man!  That's how you get it done in a high pressure area.
    Accuracy: because white space between bullet holes drives me insane.
  • jbohiojbohio Senior Member Posts: 5,590 Senior Member
    Nice work!  Great story.  All the more special to be able to experience it with your father.
  • MileHighShooterMileHighShooter Senior Member Posts: 4,852 Senior Member
    Congrats! Any public land elk is a trophy worth cherishing.  

    My hunt was a giant cluster flub due to that weird September snow storm sandwiched by record high temps.  Pushed the animals from their usual haunts in that area/ season down to the floor where it was 75 and smoke haze choked sky. 
    Wambli Ska wrote: »
    Once again, please refrain from cutting short any baseless totally emotional arguments with facts. It leads to boring, completely objective conversations well beyond the comprehension ability of many.
  • LinefinderLinefinder Moderator Posts: 7,203 Senior Member
    Congrats! Any public land elk is a trophy worth cherishing.  

    My hunt was a giant cluster flub due to that weird September snow storm sandwiched by record high temps.  Pushed the animals from their usual haunts in that area/ season down to the floor where it was 75 and smoke haze choked sky. 
    You can say that again. We're halfway through December and the most snow we've had was mid-September. Not that I'm minding that. Just saying...

    Mike
    "Walking away seems to be a lost art form."
    N454casull
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