Grand Mesa Unit 421
I am currently in the planning phase of an DIY hunt for unit 421 for muzzleloader/archery during 2013. I have done some research and studied up on maps, talked to forest service etc. Hoping to get some first-hand knowledge from someone that knows the area about how difficult the roads are to get around in late Sept. We are planning to set up a "base camp" accessable by 4x4 truck and then pack in and spike camp if needed to get to elk. I realize there are many ATV trails in the area - but desire to get somewhat away from that pressure and hauling our jeep that far would be painfull on the gas mileage.
I was just there couple weeks ago hunting the 3rd rifle elk season. We were in elk almost everyday. We saw huge herds of 100 plus animals. We hunted off our quads, but there is lots of hiking trails if you want to stay off the quad trails. Try bear gulch, there is always lots of elk in there and its accessible by hiking only.
Also realize that in that unit many people get all wrapped up in hunting the high country that looks like elk country. However there are lots of elk lower in the brush/transition zones. As far as quads go, I hate em and have seen elk run miles ahead of a single quad coming through the trees. Especially true of the archery/early seasons. It also happens a lot during rifle seasons but unfortunately there are enough hunters out on quads that eventually they run from one gr0up into another and people have success. Look into the silver spruce area/salt creek etc. The unit is hunted pretty hard, but in most cases you hike a little ways and you will get out on your own. I have not hunted the area I was in high school, but still have lots of friends that hunt it with varied success.
As far as roads, well it all depends on weather. Most of the roads on the mesa are well maintained and gravelled etc. get away from the mesa and you will find more traditional 4x4 2 track roads etc. A decent 4x4 truck should be able to access 90% of the roads in the area in dry conditions. There really are only 2-3 roads that are hard core 4x4 roads and they will be pretty apparent from the 1st mile. In stead of packing in a spike camp I would suggest finding a central area with good road access then hunting out of the truck at first to see and monitor other people. Basically camp someplace easy to get in and out of, then go to one spot 1st morning and see what pressure look like while hunting it. Then at lunch back to camp looking at pressure, etc. Spend the 1st day or 2 hitting a variety of spots looking at sign vs. people and after the 1st 2 days focus in on an area that hes good sign and fewer hunters. As an otc type of unit it is really hard to say what the season will be like. One year you may have a whole canyon to yourself and hunt it, next year you might pull up to that canyon and find a group of 4 campers and 8 hunters that are hunting it everyday. It can also happen from day to day, but if you figure out people a little early you have a better chance at finding animals. Most hunters will tend to hunt the same 2-3 canyons all season and as a result they become somewhat predictable.
I live in Mesa Co. And like was said earlier during archery they are usually rutting lower on the mountain. Good luck