Jul 192017

5 Best Places to Go Elk Hunting in Colorado

by:  Chris Browning – Founder and Editor for Gun News Daily

Colorado is far and away my favorite state for hunting.

With over 250,000 elk within its borders, the state is home to around 40 percent of the particular animal’s population in the country. To get the maximum number of the said wildlife in your freezer, you have to learn the rules of the game.

First, because of the nature of land in the state, you will mostly have to climb, meaning you first have to get physically fit. Many hunters also tend to forget the basic fact that hunting is a backpacking sport.

Stay away from highways as much as possible since the big game in Colorado (and most states) is usually found further away from the road.

Roads are a lot more comfortable for hunters, but the results show that you can’t get much by staying away from the deep wilderness.

Note: it’s illegal in Colorado, and most states, to shoot from the road. You can, however, spot from the road (but don’t do it if you’re driving!).

Colorado Elk Hunting

Similarly, you need to shop for the best boots. The sport involves walking for hours, and if your boots are not capable of standing the pressure, you shouldn’t expect to get any game at all.

Of course, you can do all this and even put in more time and effort, but still, end up with an empty freezer. In such a case, your mistake would simply be targeting the wrong spots.

See the Colorado Do’s and Don’ts, A White Paper outlining important aspects of traveling with a gun in Colorado

That is why we took the time to compile a list of the best places to go elk hunting in Colorado. Here are my top five:

1. Unit 74

This unit spreads across the counties of La Plata and San Juan. For every 1.1 bulls in this area, there are 5 cows.

About 85 percent of the land here has been publicized. Using private land for hunting will require you to let the other hunters know about your activities. The chances of success in this unit are about 21.1 percent, owing to the publicizing of most of the land.

Regardless, unit 74 has still consistently ranked among the top 20 places for hunting in the state. It has one of the highest success rates and total harvests.

The total harvest in the unit is about 100. For unit 74, it is best to hunt during the second and third rifle seasons.

2. Unit 65

This unit crosses over to Gunnison, Ou Ray, Montrose, and Hinsdale Counties. Hunting in this area is determined by snowfall and the best periods are usually the second and third rifle seasons.

The bull to cow ratio is about 1 to 5. Unit 65 is experiencing an increase in elk population, and this has also driven the success rate slightly up to just over 22 percent. The total harvest in 2015 was 95.

The unit is vast, and you will probably have to walk for a minimum of 2 hours before getting to where the elk are. Usually, they are in the rough parts, and these are located deep in the unit. It is best to get to the wilderness before dawn and wait for the elk to go feeding during the day. You can expect to spend the greater part of the day in the unit.

3. Unit 13

This game management unit is located in Upper Yampa. It has a bull to cow ratio of 1:4, and has a success rate of 41 percent. The total harvest in 2015 was 133.

This unit is mostly private land, and this is what contributes to the high success rate. For the best chance of success, go hunting in the archery and third rifle seasons.

The unit has a high population of deer and elk. Unit 13 is also known to have lots of canyons and steep gulches, and these are used by archery hunters very much.

These areas are mostly situated in the southern parts of the unit.

4. Unit 22

Unit 22 is located in Piceance, Colorado. It has a bull to cow ratio of 1 to 5, and hunting is most productive in archery season.

The total harvest in the unit was 84 in 2015. Although this unit has lots of public land, there are natural gas companies that are stationed in the area, and these may cause obstructions. When hunting in the unit, make sure you have recent maps of the area since several portions of the land have come into private ownership. The unit is best accessed from above.

Unit 22 is known for its heat. Some of the elk even succumb to the high temperature in the lower parts of the unit. This also makes it good for bow hunting.

Most of the elk are found in the higher areas of the unit, which are the western and northern ends of the Roan plateau. These parts have dense woods and aspen, and these further increase its value as a bow hunting area.

It is important to note that the unit is also bear habitat. The traditional advice has been to lock your food in the trunk of your car.

Generally, all scents need to be kept to a minimum if you want to avoid a bear attack. This includes body sprays. You should also have a bear spray in a holster so that you can access it fast.

5. Unit 11

This general management unit is located in Lower Yampa. The bull to cow ratio is 1 to 4. In 2015, the unit had a total harvest of 57.

The best times to hunt in this unit are in the first and second rifle, usually determined by the snowfall in the area.

Snow usually forces the elk to migrate to lower regions of the unit. For the same reason, the area is poor for archery hunting. In the warmer seasons, the elk and deer are far apart and fewer in number. The area is best for mule deer and elk hunting.

Because of the high concentration of big game in snowfall, hunters are able to enjoy the very high success rate of 23 percent.

Safety for Hunters

The forest and wilderness are very dangerous places for all types of people. That is why you need to take some safety measures when going hunting.

These tips should help you survive the danger posed by wildlife:

  • Always carry pepper or bear spray when going into woods with bear population. Target the bear’s eyes, and make sure you spray when the bear is at least 2 yards away. The actual distance depends on the particular product, so make sure you know the specifics before spraying your potential killer. The spray should be able to make the bear drop.
  • Carry large-caliber guns for protection against big animals. If you can grok it, I recommend carrying a shotgun like the Remmy 870. If that sounds cumbersome, try a large-caliber handgun like the .44 magnum, .454 Cassull or .500 S&W (my trail gun). These guns are powerful enough to penetrate the skull of bears, and should always be targeted to the said body part.
  • Point the pistol to the mouth and eyes of the attacker. In case you miss, you are still very likely to hit the large muscular lump over the bear’s head.


Colorado is the best state for hunters. It has the highest population of elk in all of the North America.

All you need to do is find the best game management units in the state, and you will be able to fill up your freezer.

Also, remember to check the best times of the year for hunting in each of the units.

Here are a few items recommended by the host wedsite…..

See the Colorado Do’s and Don’ts, A White Paper outlining important aspects of traveling with a gun in Colorado