Tips for Scouting Elk Hunting Land in Colorado

Colorado is known for its incredible natural beauty and legendary hunting opportunities for everything from squirrel to big game. It also happens to be the home of the largest elk herd in North America, with more than 250,000 majestic elk. 

Whether you have enjoyed elk hunting for decades or are new to its challenges and rewards, this is one experience that demands a high degree of preparation, ideally beginning months ahead of time. 

Among the many decisions that must be planned well in advance are how you want to hunt (do-it-yourself or with a guide, with a group or without), when you want to hunt (check hunting season dates and license deadlines now), and where you want to hunt. 

It’s the “where” question that will likely require the most time and effort, no matter if you are a local Coloradan who lives within an easy drive away from your preferred hunting destination or if you will be traveling across the country. 

E-Scouting for Elk Hunting Land

Because taking an elk (which can weigh anywhere from 500 to 750 pounds) is not easy, there is research to be done well ahead to make this the adventure of a lifetime. A big part of the preparation will be devoted to scouting out your hunting area way ahead of time. 

Fortunately, this is where high-tech meets the great outdoors, transforming the task of land scouting, even on large and difficult tracts of terrain, into an exciting “e-scouting” experience right in the comfort of your own home. 

Today’s interactive GPS devices and hunting apps (check out these from Huntwise, Huntin’ Fool and onXmaps) allow you to easily determine if land is publicly or privately owned, then identify property boundaries, hunting zones, and potentially hazardous areas. It’s the clarity of aerial photographs without the hassle of packing them and risking their loss or damage, blended with the fine details of a reliable map with the addition of mapping overlays that allows limitless views. 

Among these apps, you’ll find a broad range of additional features, including GPS navigation, hunting predictions, weather forecasts, and 3D mapping to view topography from all angles. You can even set up a hunt consultation with real people, apply for permits and licenses, and receive research and analytics to plan your hunting experience. 

Huntwise offers elk hunters of all levels some valuable tips for success in e-scouting your elk experience before you venture into the wilderness. 

In-Person Land Scouting and Glassing 

Although the knowledge you will gain as you relish your “e-scouting” experience is valuable, it is no substitute for putting your boots on the ground and experiencing the look and feel of your intended hunting space in person. After diligent scrutiny of maps and aerial photos and a thorough digital examination of your intended hunting area, it’s time for the live scouting: an up-close and in-person inspection of your preferred territory.

Because this important step allows the hunter to scrutinize the lay of the land even more closely, experienced elk hunters insist that taking one or even two scouting trips, preferably during July or August, is essential for success in bringing home the big game. The extra time with your boots actually on the ground adds value to the bigger experience, and saves valuable hunting hours and days. 

If you have the time and resources to scout a potential hunting area in person, glassing (explained in detail here in “eight easy steps”), is the next big step in your elk hunting plan. Grab your binoculars and spotting scope, and head for the areas that caught your interest while scouting from the apps, aerial photos and maps. 

After you’ve found key places from which to glass, make sure to identify feeding areas, water sources, wallows, and grass areas that will have rutting activity. These will be the areas to concentrate on once the season arrives. Avoid areas that show ample visible signs of human activity, such as camping residue, harvested elk remains and any hunting gear or clothing, as this area might be a bit too crowded. 

Need More Resources? 

The following resources are available to answer many questions about the 2021-2022 elk hunting season in Colorado. 

  • Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) Hunting Planner: find all hunting season dates for elk, deer, pronghorn and bear, along with information about application and draws, over-the-counter licenses, setting up personalized planning assistance for your hunt with a CPW hunt planner and more. 
  • Big Game License Options: includes information on license purchases, proof of residency, hunter education certification and more. 
  • 2021 Colorado Big Game Guide: the annual go-to book of information for hunting deer, elk, pronghorn, moose and bear in the Centennial State. Here you will find details about hunting licenses and fees, application deadlines, draw dates, preference points, hunting hours, carcass tags, how to read hunting codes, youth hunting, GMU (Game Management Units) and important dates. 
  • Elk Hunting University: a unique online education in elk hunting, complete with 15 detailed “lessons” written by Colorado hunters to teach basic elk hunting skills, then coach them to develop those skills to a higher level, and mentor them through articles and videos. 

Insure Everything You Need with Colorado Farm Bureau Insurance

Are you using 4x4s or other ATVs to reach your hunting area? Colorado Farm Bureau Insurance offers high quality, affordable insurance policies for all kinds of recreational vehicles. For more information on insuring yours, contact a local agent using our Agent Finder.