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DIY Elk hunt near Pagosa Springs, CO

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  • DIY Elk hunt near Pagosa Springs, CO

    Hi all.
    I've been researching my first DIY rifle elk hunt and I'm planning around Pagosa Springs, CO. One of my main questions is setting up a main campsite vs. staying in one of the campsites with cabins/lodges. Right now, I'm planning on a 10x10 canvas tent setup for a base camp sort of thing and taking a bivvy tent, along with my other ultralight setup, with me in the event I'm way out and stay the night out in the hills. I'm thinking it would be more advantageous to set up a camp back in the forest somewhere vs an established campsite. Other limiting factors are I'll have to be somewhere vehicle accessible (full size truck) to set up my main camp, so it'll have to be near a somewhat viable road. I'm not looking for specific places, just general tips, BUT I'm not opposed to specific places. Haha! I just want to be clear I'm not trying to poach someone's spot. I also ask so I don't do something to ruin someone else's hunt. I really try to be respectful to other hunters, and try to stay out of their way when I see them at parking areas, let them know the direction I'm headed, etc. Another main reason I ask is so I know before I sink the money into one of those canvas tents, wood stove, etc., along with hauling all that extra gear.
    Thanks for the help everyone!

  • #2
    Setting up a base camp with a 10x10 tent with a wood stove is not going to be done on your back, not with all the other gear you will be needing in camp and hunting. The closer you are to roads ( which you will need to be) the more hunting pressure will be encountered. If you are doing this hunt alone, you would be better off to go light, backpack in and rough it as much as you can. I have hunted that area, you will not be alone unless you are back in the wilds away from others who find access easy to obtain. Of course, hunting alone also means packing out an elk is going to be difficult. I am not trying to put you off, but you will need to know that elk hunting away from the masses is not an easy task in today's world of hunting. If you are thinking of going light away from base camp and possibly staying overnight, I would just forget the base camp originally. Will it be less comfortable ? Yes, but that is part of elk hunting if you are not guided. Hunting alone, you can only take just so much gear and still get away from pressure. You will still need to figure out the task of packing out an elk if successful, it will not be done in less than 3 trips and depending on your ability, probably at least 4 ! To me there is nothing better than elk hunting and I wish you the best !

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    • #3
      Thanks for responding and for the well wishes on hopeful success. I'm really looking forward to chasing after them.
      I guess my thought process with the tent and wood stove is to set up something in the event I get wet and need to dry off/warm up. And, with that, I would need to set up near a road, but during my hunts, really hump out a ways from the roads, etc. I've read that folks recommend a mile (at a minimum) from any road, with the farther the better usually. I do agree with you to pack light and just suck it up and suffer a bit. Just don't want to put myself in a tight spot with safety.
      I'm not going to lie, seeing these wall mounts of these big bulls makes my stomach a little uneasy when I think about a solo pack-out. Haha! Granted, my chances of taking one that size are slim to none, but I'm mentally (and physically) preparing myself for that. I would consider myself to be fairly well above average fitness, and as for now I have access to elevations between 7,000-9,500 pretty easily. But, I'll drop down to 5,000-6,500 or so in the three months or so leading up to the season just due to the nature of where I'll be for my job.
      Thank you again for the insight. Everything is helpful.

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      • #4
        You appear to already have thoughts as to altitude adjustment and that is very important. Even a altitude of over 6,000 feet needs to be acclimated to, and Pagosa Springs is between 6-7,000 feet on the level. You did not mention your expected dates of being there, and that could have a huge bearing on what to prepare for in regards to equipment needed. I envy your excitement in looking forward to the hunt, it brings back many wonderful memories of my days working into a decent bull ! Talking with elk, both cows and bulls is more than exciting, learn to use a mouth call for cow chirps to add pleasure to your hunt. Chirps are even more important than bugling, as that can quickly be overdone. I hope your hunt can fulfill all your expectations, I wish I was looking forward to such a time !!

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        • #5
          I would love to get out there early for archery, but since this is my first time and I want to increase my odds, I'm going to get a 2nd rifle tag. I realize the hunting will be difficult because of the pressure they've already had to endure by then, but I'm just excited to be out in the backcountry and chasing a new type of animal, and the adventure of the whole thing. I'll look for a cow call at the local archery shop while I'm still here in Flagstaff. Thanks for the tip!
          If I had a snowball's chance in hell of drawing a tag in California (where I live--for now) I would hunt there, but I could apply for several years and never draw a tag. Not only that, but IF I draw a tag in California, once I figure all the licenses, draw fees, and finally the tag, I've almost paid as much for an out-of-state tag there in Colorado.
          Thank you again for responding and for the tips. I really do appreciate every, single bit of it.

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          • #6
            Dbsavage, there is also another option to hunting public land, albeit does require some time on your part, that being an attempt to locate some private property where hunting pressure is more limited. If you have the time to spend a few days or so to knock on some doors of local ranchers, even small properties of 2-3,000 acres can provide some hot spots. I bowhunted a ranch near Craig, 23,000 acres which was obtained by just asking permission from ranchers. Some of those contacts can turn into long friendships as mine did, don’t hesitate to go eye to eye with those people, most are very friendly and helpful. That may not open something for this year, but there are also future years to consider. Since my hunting was with a bow, I do not know if that made it easier to gain access or not, but if a person does not try, the answer will never be known ! And, as far as the elk call goes, if you do not have the time to practice with it, don’t use it. ‘Chirps’ that are incorrect will do more harm to your hunting than wind directions. Again, good luck !

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            • #7
              Awesome! Good to know about the private property owners. I wasn't sure how out-of-staters might be received, but it's worth a shot. I can definitely understand hesitation from property owners. Sometimes hunters can leave a bad taste in their mouths. I'll start looking for private property surrounding the area and see if I have any luck. I'd planned on being out there a few days early anyway to set up, get a feel for the area and hopefully a day or so of scouting. I should be able to find some time to practice with the call. I've never used an elk call, but I'm pretty competent with a turkey mouth call and not too bad with a duck call--even though that's a completely different type of airflow with the duck call.

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              • #8
                One of the biggest advantages of the Pagosa area is the weather.
                If the weather is good, you have access to the high mountains.
                If snow moves in, hunt the Piedra and/or San Juan river drainages.
                I haven't been to Pagosa in many moons, but the Piedra river used to be pretty hot when snow moved game out of the high country.

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                • #9
                  Awesome! Thanks for the tip! That'll help narrow things down a little bit.

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                  • #10
                    I hunted the Westcliffe. Co area the San Isabella National Forest. We rented a cabin at the bottom of the mt for the first night and then the next day hiked up the mt about six miles and set up our tents. It was 8000 ft at the cabin and 10,500 feet where we set up our tents. I don't think one person can carry what you need for a couple days. There were 4 of up and each guys pack weighed around 60 pounds. I wasn't elk hunting I was mule deer hunting but saw elk about every day. I was lucky enough to kill a 30 inch mule deer on public property with no guide. The altitude didn't seem to bother me any but a friend of mine that was out a different time got altitude sickness and laid in the tent for 4 days.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by dbsavage View Post
                      Awesome! Thanks for the tip! That'll help narrow things down a little bit.
                      I don’t want to sound negative but you should do a little research on the web and call the regional biologist before you go all-in for the Durango and Pagosa Springs area. From what I read, the SW Colorado elk herds are in jeopardy with very low numbers and low calf recruitment . Might be worthwhile to investigate elsewhere. Happy Trails

                      Comment

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