Colorado Elk Hunting Guide
colorado elk hunting
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common questions about colorado elk hunts

one of our favorite honey holes
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What is the hunting Territory like?

Steep Mountains! The photos to the right and below are from our hunting unit. To the right you see us getting ready to pack an elk out from the canyon bottom of one of our favorite honey holes. Photos do not do justice to depict the steepest of this terrain.

The hunting terrain is at an elevation of 10,000 feet. It is mountainous terrain that is composed of many canyons that run parallel to each other. The north sides have dark Spruce Timber and the South sides have Aspen Trees intermingled with small meadows of bunchgrass. The elk feed on the South sides in the mornings and bed down in the dark Timber during the middle of the day. The rougher the terrain the more elk we will find. We have found game trails that enable us to get in and out of these canyons.

 

Turner Guides elk hunting territory
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hunting territory
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What game unit do you hunt?

Unit 74 in Southwest Colorado which is between Durango and Silverton Colorado. This is on the West Side of the Animas River.

Our permitted hunting area is located on 150,000 public acres in the San Juan National Forest in the middle of the San Juan Mountains.

Does game unit 74 have big bulls?

hunting bull elk
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Mark's first bull!

 
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Yes. There have been some very big bulls taken in our hunting area. However, they are not very common. One of our hunters will get a big bull every season, but the most typical bull ranges in size from a five point to a small six point. If this is your first time elk hunting, we recommend taking the first legal bull you see. Regardless of the size of the antlers, every bull comes hard earned. These elk are getting smarter every year.
We work hard to get you the biggest bull possible, but there are no guarantees.

To be honest, if you really want a huge trophy bull, I recommend putting in for the draw in Arizona. This is where the big bulls are. If you do not care about a backcountry hunting experience you can always get a big bull at an elk farm.

 

 

What is your success ratio?

Rolland gets his first elk
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Historically, 68%. It should be 75% but we cannot control marksmanship. Remember to practice your shooting under pressure! Often the window of opportunity to shoot is about 15 seconds.

How many days do we hunt?

Archery and black powder - 5 days
Regular rifle- 5 days

You will be plenty tired after hunting in our terrain for five days! Five days is all that you will want and need.

How far back do we hunt?

See Trailhead to Base Camp

No motorized vehicles are allowed in our hunting territory! The trailhead to our camp is ten miles from a major highway and the base camp is three miles from the trailhead. Our hunting territory is another hour by horseback from our base camp.

For more information on how far back to we hunt:
See Trailhead to Base Camp

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base camp
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John Sr. & John Jr. ready to ride out of base camp.

 
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Should I be in good physical condition?

Yes. See preparing to go on the hunt

How can I prepare myself for a hunt like this?

See preparing to go on the hunt

Do I have to be an expert horseback rider?

No, you do not have to be an expert horse rider. However you need to be comfortable around horses and have the balance to ride one. Horses are an important part of this guided elk hunt.

We do not purchase high-strung horses off racetracks or performance arenas. We obtain horses that are good solid mountain trail horses.

As the weather changes, the hunting trails can get muddy, snowy and sometimes a little slick. During this time, you have to trust your horse and let him do the work. The horses are used to these conditions. You just need to stay in the saddle, ride as balanced as possible and let the horse do the work.

horses at the Turner Guides Ranch
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We have a wide range of horses for all riding ability levels; from beginner to expert. The photo to the right is a photo of our horse herd at our Durango, Colorado ranch.

 

 

 

Rapp Corral
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Heather McKee

 

 
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How many public hunters will we see while hunting with you?

We hunt on 150,000 acres located on the San National Forest. From our historical experience we locate our base camp away from the main hunting pressure. Just like you, we like to get away from everybody! It is always hard to predict how many other hunters we will see, but on average we have seen about four to five hunters during the season. While hunting on 150,000 acres it always helps the odds to have a few hunters around to keep the elk moving.

The long daily horseback rides from our base camp to elk terrain help get away from the majority of hunting pressure. Camping areas are very limited because of the rugged terrain and lack of water. Our base camp is one of few areas that it is possible to camp. Our spike camp also allows us to get further out into no-mans land.

 

How hard do we hunt?

tent set up at camp
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We wake up at 4:30 every morning. While breakfast is being cooked the wranglers are saddling the horses. After we eat breakfast and fix our lunch, we start hiking or we are on our horses and heading up the mountain before it gets light. We will hike or ride our horses until we get into our hunting area for the day (we also hunt while we are riding and it is common to run into elk while on the horses), tie up the horses and then proceed to hunt by foot. Our hunting methods include stalking, still hunting and drives by the guides. We hunt all day long and will return back to the base camp by dark (unless we spike camp out for the night).

Please be physically ready to hunt by foot for 4-5 hours per day. Sometimes we hunt right out of camp on foot!

At what altitude do we hunt?

At 10,500 feet. If you are coming from out of state we highly recommend arriving in Durango, Colorado two nights prior to your hunt departure. This will give you two full days to acclimate to the altitude. Your hunt is expensive and you do not want to be in the tent sick because of altitude sickness.

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What are the base camp accommodations?

Each base camp is composed of three 14’ X 18’ canvas sheep herder wall tents covered by a rain and snow fly. One tent is used as a kitchen and the other two tents are for sleeping. We use wood stoves for heating and propane stoves for cooking. There is a floor in each tent. Sturdy sleeping cots are also provided. Our goal is to make you comfortable in camp. There is a full time cook preparing hearty meals.

Spike camp is more primitive since it's located further out. The tents are backpacking style with mummy sleeping bags and pads, we sit on the ground and the food is dehydrated.

What weather can I expect?

snowy pack train on a Colorado elk hunt
 

A Snowy Day!

 
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Expect all weather conditions. We have hunted in t-shirts with sixty-five degree weather and in cold snowy conditions. Generally, the first rifle season is warmer and has the least chance of having snow. The weather as a rule of thumb gets progressively colder and snowy for the later three seasons. However, we have also seen unseasonably warm weather for the later seasons as well.

For archery and black powder, expect cool nights and warm days. During archery season you must also be prepared for rain. Bring some good gortex rain gear!

Will snow increase my odds of getting an elk?

Yes. Snow causes the elk to herd up. Additionally, they are easier to spot in the undergrowth of trees and shrubs. They will tend to stay out in the open areas longer as well as possibly bed down on the south slopes, which are easier to stalk to. Our hunting area is in the middle of a migration route, therefore, snow will tend to move elk into our territory from higher elevations.

The downside is that it is harder to get around and takes longer in twelve inches of snow.

When will the bulls be bugling and in the rutt?

Elk will start their rutt by September 1st. The peak of the rutt can vary according to the weather and moon phases, but historically the peak of the rutt is the middle of September.
The bulls will still be bugling during the first regular rifle season.

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Are there any mule deer in your area?

Yes, we see a few bucks in our area every year. They are few because deer and elk do not share the same habitat very well. Where the elk are high in population, there will be very few deer. Elk are very herd-intensive creatures and are very aggressive in their feeding areas therefore pushing the deer out. Mule deer are very reclusive and will be easily pushed out of feeding area by a herd of elk.

It is interesting to note that for the few mule bucks that we do encounter they seem to have big antlers! So when we see them, they always get our attention!

All deer licenses are obtained by draw only.

Can I hunt bear?

Colorado Mountain Expeditions offers Guided Colorado Elk Hunts
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Yes, you can purchase an over the counter bear tag upon your arrival to Durango.
There are some black bears in our hunting area, however, I must tell you the big picture if you are successful in taking a bear. Your elk hunting days will be reduced drastically. Why? After successfully taking a bear, the Colorado Division of Wildlife requires the hunter and the entire carcass to be checked into the local wildlife office to have the skull plugged. The check in must be within 48 hours of the kill. If you took a bear on the first day, you would have to leave camp the next day and would not return back to elk hunting until the fourth day so you may lose three days of guided Colorado elk hunting. We thought you might like to know this.

Do I need a hunter Safety Card?

You need a hunter Safety Card if you were born after Jan 1st, 1949. If you need one, please arrange to get in a class prior to your hunt.

Should I arrive in the area early?

It is highly recommended to arrive two evenings prior to packing into camp in order to acclimate to high altitude. Arriving from sea level and going up to a 10,000 foot altitude in one day doesn't mix, you won't feel well.

Will I have a good time?

Colorado Mountain Expeditions elk hunts
 
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It all depends on your attitude. Our goal, besides getting you an elk, is to make sure you have a memorable and safe hunting experience.

Can McKee High Country Outfitters provide references?

You bet, a long list. We operate under permit in the San Juan National Forest.

We will send you all of the comment forms that previous hunters have personally completed. Thus, you get their perspective and not ours.

Please call us for references. To protect the privacy of our clients, we don't e-mail references.

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How can I get more information about the Colorado Division of Wildlife?

Call us or go to their website at wildlife.state.co.us

What Colorado elk hunting licenses are available to me as a non-resident in unit 74?

bullet Archery- available over the counter. No draw.
bullet Black powder/muzzle loading- available by draw. Usually takes two years (two preference points) to draw.
bullet Cow elk tags- available by draw only.
bullet First regular rifle- available by draw. This is an either sex tag. For the last six years, our hunters have had 100% success in drawing a license. We help you fill out the application and proof read it before we send it to the Colorado Division of wildlife.
bullet Licenses for the second and third rifle seasons do not require a draw. Elk tags can be obtained by over the counter purchase upon arrival to hunt.
bullet Fourth rifle season-available by draw only. The odds of drawing an elk tag for this last rifle season for a non-resident are very good.

For more information about licenses and the Colorado Division of Wildlife please visit their website at www.wildlife.state.co.us

What helpful hints can you share regarding obtaining Colorado elk hunting licenses for unit 74?

If you are an archery hunter or rifle hunter, elk licenses are easy to obtain. The only seasons that require a draw is muzzle loader and the first rifle season. There are three other rifle seasons to obtain a license without a draw!! Archery licenses do not require a draw.

I tell hunters this year after year; Even if you are not planning to hunt this year, apply for a preference point. Yes, get those preference points saved up! Call us and we will help you!! You have nothing to lose by obtaining a preference point even if you do not plan to hunt.

Even if you plan to hunt the seasons that do not require a draw (purchase over the counter), still obtain those preference points. Someday you will want to go black powder elk hunting or in the future Colorado may require a draw for every elk season.

We will fill out an elk license draw application for you! It can be confusing and we are here to help.

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What is the deadline to enter the drawing for a limited license (black powder, first regular rifle and cow tags)?

Michael packs out an elk after a succesful Colorado elk hunt
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April 1st. Please call us for an application. Applications are available the last week of February of each year.

Can I get my money refunded if I am not successful in a draw?

Yes

What are the prices and dates for each elk hunting season?

See prices and dates

How do I pay and what is your cancellation policy?

See prices and dates

What is not included in the price of a guided hunt?

The cost of your license, meat processing, taxidermy and shipping of meat.

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call today for an authentic elk hunt
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Turner Guides-McKee High Country Outfitters, LLC
P.O. Box 1684
Bayfield, Colorado 81122
970-884-0660
Fax: 970-884-5239
E-Mail: info@turnerguides.com

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McKee High Country Outfitters, LLC is a Colorado outfitter providing quality Colorado elk hunting,
archery elk hunting and Colorado elk hunts. Our permitted hunting area is located in a roadless area
on 150,000 public acres in the San Juan National Forest in Southwest Colorado.

McKee High Country Outfitters, LLC operates through an authorized priority permit in the San Juan National Forest
and is a registered licensed outfitter in the State of Colorado with license number 2573

McKee High Country Outfitters, LLC is an equal opportunity employer and provider.

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