April 1st is quickly approaching. Normally I would be planning an April Fools’ prank or two, but not this year. If my hunting partner, Alex, and I do not get our big-game limited license applications submitted in time, we will be the fools.
Alex and I needed advice, tons of it, and help was just a door away. Amy Bulger’s office is right next to mine where she does an incredible, and sometimes thankless, job producing the Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) regulation brochures. After a short chat, Amy offered up the services of her newlywed husband, Aaron. He built CPW’s hunt planner program, and for years guided hunters through the application process. He has since left the agency for a career as a paramedic and fireman, but he has taken his knowlege with him. (CPW hunt planners can be reached from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (MST) Monday through Friday at (303) 291-PLAN (7526) or (303) 297-1192.
After a flurry of talks, texts and emails, Aaron presented us with four plans that would give us the best chance to be successful in the draw, as well as successful in the field. He took into account that we will be a resident hunting with a nonresident, and that neither of us have any preference points.“The first decision that you should make is where to apply. After you draw your tags the real work of scouting and planning can begin,” said Aaron. “But if you understand the animals, the better off you will be.”
Plan No. 1 — Central Moffat County
This allows Alex to have a good shot at drawing a bull tag, while I will be going for a cow. “The Flattops area is heavily hunted by the ‘Orange Army,’ but it also produces a lot of elk every year,” Aaron said. “There are a ton of smaller bulls that get taken, but if weather allows you to hunt deep, you have the possibility to find some quality bulls.” As for my cow hunt, “There are a ton of cows in the unit, and although Alex cannot draw a cow tag, Wayne could, and hopefully put some meat in the freezer,” added Aaron.
Plan No. 2 — North Grand County
As if I needed another reason to drop 20 pounds and get in better shape. According to Aaron, the terrain is rough and we will need to hike in quite a ways to get to more secluded areas away from the road hunters. “This tag allows you to have either-sex licenses, and the area does produce some great bulls,” said Aaron. “A client of mine was able to harvest a 370-class bull out of this unit last year.”
Plan No. 3 — South Grand County
“This hunt allows you to have an either-sex tag and have good scouting access as it is only an hour or two from the Metro area,” said Aaron. “This area has a healthy elk population but does receive its fair share of pressure. Like the hunt above, the terrain can be pretty rough, but it is doable to kill a good bull out of here. Success rates in the area are not all that great. Because of its proximity to Denver, it attracts a lot of road hunters.
“This is a good tag if you take advantage of the location being closer and you have the ability to do some scouting. The area does not have the largest population or even the highest harvest rate, but if you understand the animals, the better off you will be.”
Plan No. 4 — Durango Area
Durango — it’s a beautiful area, but also about as far away from my house as you can get in this state.
“This area has some great elk in it, allows you to have either-sex tags and has a fairly good success rate,” said Aaron. “The downside is the drive from Denver. The hunting pressure is far less than in the other plans. The location would also limit the scouting you would be able to put in before the season.”
After weighing the pros and cons of each plan, as well as taking into consideration the time and effort Alex and I are willing to put in, Aaron suggested which hunt codes to apply for. “These two choices should be good enough to get you through the draw,” he said.
He also suggested that if, for some reason, we do not draw either of these choices, we should check the box during the application process online that enrolls us into the leftover draw. We can also get a second or third season, over-the-counter bull tag and hunt these areas or we can try to plan a fourth season hunt. The later hunts are usually pretty successful but very weather dependent.
Which plan did we choose? I’ll gladly share all the details with you — after deadline day.