trailhead to The Colorado elk hunting base camp
Lodging the Night Before and After the Hunt
We can recommend various places of lodging in Durango, CO. for the
night prior to being packed in and the night we come out of camp.
Meeting the Day Before at Headquarters
Our ranch and headquarters is located twenty minutes (driving time)
southeast of Durango, Colorado (the photo to the right).
We will provide you with directions.
All hunters are required to check with us at our ranch at 3 p.m.
on the day before we pack into base camp. We will be happy to pick
you up at the airport if you do not drive. We look forward to meeting
you personally. Upon arrival, we will weigh your duffle bags and
personal gear in preparation to pack them on our stock animals.
At this time we will also assign you to a horse that you will be
riding for the week of hunting (except for archery and muzzle loader).
We like to get the gear weighed, packed and loaded into the nose
of the horse trailer on the evening before leaving so we can get
an early start the next day.
The Day We Pack into Base Camp
On the day we pack into base camp, we drive our trucks and horse
trailer from our home near Durango, Colorado to the trailhead that
goes to our guided base camp. It takes approximately two hours and
fifteen minutes to drive from our home to the trailhead. The driving
distance is only about 55 miles, but half of it is on rough narrow
you flew to Durango, you will ride with us in our vehicles.
If you have your own vehicle, you will follow us to the trailhead.
Your vehicle will remain at the same trailhead in which we leave
our trucks and trailers. When returning back to the trailhead after
the hunt, you can conveniently get into your vehicle and drive to
your motel for a hot shower.
At the trailhead, we load all of the pre-packed loads of gear,
duffle and groceries onto the pack animals. Your saddle stirrups
are adjusted, have an orientation about horse safety, get in your
saddle and then head for base camp. We provide you a lunch prior
to leaving for the ride into base camp. Archery and muzzle loader
hunters walk to base or spike camp.
Riding and Walking Time into the Base Camp
Riding time into base camp can vary from one hour to three hours.
It can only take one hour to ride if we can make it all the way to
the end of the road with the trucks and trailers. If snow prevents
us from getting up the road, we have to ride up from the lower valley
trailhead; thus the riding time is three hours.
Packing into Base Camp
This is Sandy & Pete leading a small string of pack animals
into base camp from the trailhead. This is how we get all supplies
and gear into our camps.
We ask you to pack your gear into two small duffle bags weighing
no more than 30 pounds each. It is very difficult for us to pack
one big large bag.
Base Camp Location
Our base camp is located across the canyon from Bear Creek. Flat
camping areas to accommodate big wall tents, pasture for riding
stock and good water are very hard to come by in this hunting area.
Therefore, we are very fortunate to have this base camp location.
It has taken us years to find this base camp location. The elevation
of base camp is 10,500 feet. We set base camp up in mid August.
Colorado Elk Hunting Territory
Our hunting territory is on 150,000 acres of public rugged land.
It is impossible to hunt all of it. Some of our hunting is done
near camp, but only a very small portion. We located our base camp
in an area that is accessible to good elk hunting, but not in the
middle of prime elk territory for obvious reasons. Most of the elk
are located one and a half hour horseback riding time from our base
camp. It is possible that for one or two days we will venture further
out on horseback one way for 2 to 3 hours to get into some remote
hunting terrain. This will be accompanied with 2 to 4 hours of foot
travel actually hunting and stalking. There will be occasions where
you will still-hunt and wait. So...our hunting is composed of a
combination of horseback riding, walking and still-hunting. Be physically
prepared to hunt on foot for 4-6 hours per day for five days.
Inside The Tents
Our base camp consists of three white sheepherder wall (15’ by
15’) tents put end to end. One big structure of 15 ft by 45
ft. The front end of the structure is a kitchen and eating area while
the middle and very back is a sleeping area for hunters and staff.
The entire structure is covered with a heavy clear plastic fly. Tables
and chairs are in the kitchen tent for your use and comfort.
In the fully guided base camp, you can expect six hunters and four
staff members. Chad McKee will always be one of the staff members
in the fully guided camp to supervise the operation. The fully guided
camp staff is composed of three guides, extra wrangler/packer and
a cook. We work as a team. The guides help saddle horses, the wranglers
help guide, the cook helps wrangle and the guides help cook. All
staff members help each other out.
The tents are heated with a wood-burning stove and propane stoves
are used to cook with.
There is a vinyl mesh floor in the tent structure and everybody
is furnished a heavy cot for sleeping.
We only use quality equipment. This makes a big difference when
the weather gets bad.
If the hunting becomes tough due to dry and warm conditions (or
a full moon) we plan strategies & alternatives to get elk. Thus...for
those hunters who are agreeable to it, we have historically spike
camped out for two-to-four nights. The spike camp is very basic
shelter and the food is dehydrated and canned. We pack potable water
into the spike camp. The wranglers take all of the riding stock
back to the base camp so all hunting is done on foot. No riding
animals are left in the spike camp reducing the noise level. Spike
camp puts us right in the middle of the elk and allows us to hunt
earlier in the mornings and later in the evenings. Additionally,
the travel time to and from base camp is eliminated which allows
us more time for hunting. Fires and loud talking are not allowed
in spike camp. The spike camp is located about 1 and a half hours
away from our primary base camp. Can you handle two nights of primitive
We utilize spike camp for four nights during archery and muzzle
Results at Base Camp
This is our goal when we get back to base camp! Those are some nice
elk. Elk hunting is a physically demanding sport and every elk comes
We do not offer any guarantees to take an elk. One would be suspicious
of someone offering a guarantee to get an elk. We have been here
for five generations and every season is different. Hunting with
my father as a young adult, I always remember years when we were
not successful in bagging an elk. That is why we call it hunting.
Over the years, our success ratio has been about
72%. This should
have been higher, but we cannot control the marksmanship of our hunters.
Since our family has been here hunting for five generations, we
know the terrain like the back of our hand. Even though we do not
offer any guarantees, we will certainly improve your odds. Most importantly,
you will experience a quality backcountry elk hunt that you will
always remember for years to come.