Northwest Colorado big-game hunting: Three tips per species

Elk are a big draw for Colorado hunters i(Photo by John DePalma).

Black Bear

1) Bears are gorging in September and October. Hunt the Sarvis Berry rich hillsides along with Oak Brush if the acorn crop is exceptional. Bears will be active most of the day, so stay in the woods and be ready because they are usually feeding and moving.

2) Hunting a water source like a wallow or spring is an exceptional way to create opportunity with a bear tag.

3) Most important: Bear meat is excellent when it’s cared for properly. Get the bear skinned quartered and cooled asap. The thick layer of fat a fall bear has will not let the meat cool, it will actually start to spoil if the skin and fat is left on even during a cool fall night.


1) Antelope live and thrive in our low land sage country.  Water is a need multiple times per day especially if it’s archery season in August and September. Hunt water sources and stay put. I’ve had them come in at daybreak, last light and every hour in between.

2) If there are no trees to brush in your blind, first find your most active waterhole a week or so before the season. Take four T posts and drive them in making about a 4-by-4-foot square. Wrap landscaping black burlap around and wire it tight. The following week, replace or set your blind inside, and the antelope should come right in as they’ve had a week to get used to your setup and you didn’t risk leaving your expensive blind in the field.

3) Spot and stalk using rifle or bow. Use the terrain as best you can or decoy if the rut is on. Decoys work incredible during the rut.  Be ready for incredibly fast action.

Mule Deer

1) Early archery season is a great time to locate, pattern and harvest a trophy buck. Before they shed their velvet they seem to have an easy summer mode and aren’t super wary.

2) The larger bucks seem to disappear mid-September through October as they transition from their summer haunts to their pre-rut areas. Sometimes they can be caught out in the open, but I’ve certainly had a tough time patterning bucks during this time. Glassing hillsides at daybreak and dusk is productive. Put your binoculars on a tripod and get comfy. It’s amazing the difference it makes and how much game you’ll find.

3) Rut hunts in November can be incredible. With some weather the does and bucks will be concentrated on the lower country with movement and action all day long. Find the does and bucks will be there.


1) Early archery before Sept. 10 in most areas as elk will be moving into their rut patterns. It’s the best time to call in a big bull, but they’re still tough, wary and not easy to fool. Calling to locate in the mornings then sitting nearby water sources on hot afternoons can be productive. Always be aware of the thermals and wind.

2) Mid-season, the rut is ramping up with what I’ve noticed is a “first peak” around Sept.  18. Bulls are super-vulnerable to calling and can be hunted very aggressively — moving, calling and taking advantage of their lack of caring for anything except breeding and fighting. Sometimes a tough-to-excite bull can be pushed over the edge with a combo of glunking and cow calls.

3) Late September through October, bulls will taper off the rut and usually start to bachelor back up. Glassing canyons and observing north-facing timber pockets will turn up elk that are primarily recovering from the rut and moving very little until weather moves in. Lastly, elk are huge and getting the meat cool is paramount when one is on the ground. Have a plan, carry game bags, knives, a first-aid kit, and have help available if needed. It’s some of the finest meat in the world and your taste buds will thank you all winter long.