Herald Hunts the World: Colorado Elk
Outdoor Hub Staff 01.04.17
Over the past 15 plus years, I have made my living in the outdoor industry as a writer, TV host, hunt consultant, and marketing professional. I’ve been beyond blessed to travel the globe hunting and fishing, and it has given me opportunities I never thought I’d have to see some of the world’s wildest and most beautiful places, and meet some of the most interesting people imaginable and see how they live in their homelands. I am very excited about this new feature for OutdoorHub where I will be able to share my travels and adventures with you.
I will write up-to-date pieces on my current travels and fill in between with trips from the recent past. I have upcoming adventures to places such as Uganda, Kazakhstan, and Roatan, but I’ll also write about trips here in the U.S. from Kentucky, South Dakota and a number of domestic destinations. In this first piece, I will take you to western Colorado on an elk hunt I went on this past October.
As an owner and hunt consultant at Worldwide Trophy Adventures (WTA), part of my job is to go try out different outfitters to see if they meet the quality standards that we set in order to represent and book hunts for these companies. We had heard good things about a certain Colorado elk outfitter, I had an opening in my schedule for October, so I bought an over-the-counter elk tag and booked the hunt.
This hunt was to be in late October after the elk rut has generally been over for at least 2 weeks, although it seems the rut has been later and later each year in many places. I expected the trip to be a spot-and-stalk affair much like a mule deer hunt, and I have to be honest, I was a little disappointed that I wouldn’t get to chase bugling bulls. That is my favorite hunt in North America.
Our camp was made up of small plywood cabins with propane heat and a big cook tent where we ate meals, all set at about 8,300 feet. The mountains were almost straight up, but once on top, there were miles and miles of rolling hills and small drainages, mostly covered in sage and oak brush, but with small pockets of timber scattered about.
The first morning out, we glassed a decent-size bull at 500-600 yards away, but we got only a quick look at him before he disappeared into the brush. My guide, Rod Cogburn, said he thought it was a big 6×7 that a fellow guide, Wyatt, had seen the evening before. That was the only elk we saw that morning, but we did also glass up a 180-class mule deer.
That afternoon Rod and I headed to an area about 10 miles away, and saw a few scattered elk, but nothing I was interested in. About an hour before sunset, we saw a loan bull feed out of a timbered draw all alone, but he was 1,200 yards away. I quickly found him in my spotting scope, and Rod and I both were pleasantly surprised. The bull was wide with long beams and all his tines were excellent. He also had a big inline tine by his fourth point on one side. We both agreed he would go well over 350 inches.
Hide and Sneak
We knew we were short on time, but we made a hurried move that took us over two small ridges and valleys. When we came over the last ridge, we expected the bull to be at about 250 yards, but he wasn’t there. We waited until dark to see if maybe he had gone back in the timber and would re-emerge, but we didn’t see him again.
That evening we learned that the other hunter had taken a beautiful 320-ish 6×6 bull down in the bottom of the mountains. With his good fortune and our sighting of a big bull in the evening, Rod and I were pretty pumped up about the morning hunt.
Just at first light, we were back glassing the area where we had seen the big bull, but there was nothing there. We thought we would spend an hour or so and move on, but then we heard a bugle down below us. There was a draw with a small pond, and within the next 10 minutes, over 50 elk emerged from the timber and converged on the water source.
There were a number of small bulls fighting, bugling and chasing cows just like during peak rut, but we didn’t see anything big. Wyatt showed up and helped us glass, and in short order he found the herd bull about 200 yards up a brushy hillside. I took one look at him through my spotting scope and told Rod that I would be very happy to take that bull. I guessed him at a 320-plus solid 6×6, and the fact that all the bulls were bugling really got me excited.
It took us an hour to move around the hills and draws to get into a decent position on the elk, and the bugling actually had increased. The big bull was by a small creek in the bottom of the drainage, and I had him at 300 yards. He was bugling and staying right on a hot cow, and though his neck and head were in the wide open for me, his vitals were covered by thick oak brush. I needed one step for a good shot, but he never presented it. After 15 minutes, he turned and followed the cow in the opposite direction.
Rod and I quickly relocated, including crawling on hands and knees under the brush and almost running around a point to see down another draw. The big bull was still chasing his cow, but when I set up, he was only 250 yards away.
I cranked my riflescope up to 16 power, and settled in on the bull, and squeezed the trigger on my rifle. The bull made a short dash and then stopped, so I gave him another round that tipped him over. The big herd regrouped and ran over the closest ridge, and Rod and I made our way down to admire my beautiful bull.
This post-rut hunt turned into a full blown bugle fest, and I couldn’t have been more pleased with my hunt. I stuck around for a few days looking for a big black bear, and even though we saw a number of sows and cubs, we never found a boar. We did see elk every time we went out, and the last evening I watched another 350-inch bull for over an hour. This is definitely a solid elk hunt, and I was just shocked that you can buy a tag over the counter.
SIDEBAR: Choose Optics Wisely on Western Hunts
Seasoned western hunters know that when pursuing mule deer, elk, pronghorn or sheep, you’ll spend much more time glassing than stalking. Having high-quality optics are of the utmost importance.
I’m always armed with my Nikon EDG 10X42 binocular, but on this Colorado elk hunt I was trying out Nikon’s Monarch Fieldscope 82ED-A. This spotting scope is waterproof, the body design is ergonomic for comfortable extended viewing, and it has an optimized system for very fast focusing. These are all important features when you are spending hours picking through the brush looking for antler tips, but the glass is the real standout.
The Monarch Fieldscope has a Field Flattener Lens System that ensures absolutely sharp images throughout the entire field of view. Curvature of field is an aberration that occurs when focusing on the center of the viewing field, causing the periphery to go out of focus or vice versa. Nikon’s Field Flattener Lens System provides consistent, edge-to-edge sharpness throughout the entire field of view.
It also features Nikon’s ED (Extra-low Dispersion) glass that provides a contrast-rich and color-faithful field of view. Every product I have used from Nikon with ED glass has been of the highest quality.
An accurate and flat-shooting rifle can make or break a hunt, but if you don’t have top-notch glass to find your quarry, you might not ever get that shot of a lifetime.
Editor’s note: Tim Herald is an owner and hunt consultant at Worldwide Trophy Adventures (WTA). To book this or any other high-quality hunt anywhere in the world, contact Tim at [email protected]. WTA’s services are free; WTA is paid directly by the outfitter, and your hunt cost is the same whether you book directly with an outfitter or through WTA.