In the words of America’s greatest hunter-conservationist, Theodore Roosevelt, “When hunting him (wapiti) … he must be followed on foot, and the man who follows him must be sound in limb and wind.” And that’s somewhat of an understatement. In most elk country, the term is “climbing” rather than “hiking.” As a result, when someone asks me about elk hunting in Colorado the first thing I mention is getting in shape, even if they already appear to be generally fit.
I also emphasize that there’s no magic formula for putting an elk in the freezer. Even with more than 250,000 elk within our state’s borders (Colorado is home to somewhere in the vicinity of 40 percent of the entire continental elk population), less than 30 percent of elk hunters harvest an animal in a given year. And over the years, I’ve made plenty of mistakes and have been among the 70 percent enough times to internalize some hard-earned elk hunting lessons.
1. Get in Shape.
This can’t be emphasized enough, and jogging (not running) is the answer for me. Each morning during the months leading up to fall, I get up an hour or so early and jog for half an hour, covering three to four miles. That’s about it, and come September-October I’m fit enough to move through the mountains at a steady pace.
Of course, hunters coming from lower elevations will face additional challenges (i.e., adjusting to Colorado’s elevation), even if physically fit, but they’ll adapt more quickly and be less likely to get sidelined by acute mountain sickness (AMS) if they leave the “spare tire” at home. “Up to 42 percent of visitors to Colorado fall prey to AMS,” says Peter Hackett, M.D., a Telluride-based altitude specialist, “and you can feel the effects of AMS at elevations as low as 6,500 feet.” Read more