Hunted GMU 421 last year...3 ML bull tags + 1 OTC archery either sex. Drove out from IA / MI / SC. Also had two "opportunity" mule deer buck tags for ML. First time DIY hunt in Unit 421....hunt report is below in case others are looking for info on this area:
Weather was cold and rainy with occasional hailstorms...not too conducive to elk hunting the high country and stayed that way for basically the whole week. Overall success for bull elk ML in this unit had been 26% prev 2-3 years and dropped to 13% in 2013. We tagged 1 bull elk and 1 mule deer so better than average, and actually pretty proud of that after a tough week of hunting. I passed on a calf with my bow.
Started the week hunting the Porter Mountain / Bronco Knob area. Day before season opened we saw a small herd of about 10 cows on a knoll at dusk, along with a cow and calf moose. After that we had very few sightings. We found that the ATV trails in the area were MUCH rougher than we anticipated, so traveling into the places we'd scouted on Google earth was either taking much more time and gas than expected, or not realistic by the time you'd take a beating on the ATV for an hour and then hike a mile or two in the dark. We weren't really prepared to take our whole camp back deep into the ATV trails. Also found WAY more cattle in the area (in the most remote places on the mountain) than we'd anticipated. Had occasional cattle visits to our camp.
View from original campsite by Bronco Knob. Camped at approx. 8600 ft.
After several days we moved across the unit up on top of the Grand Mesa closer to the mesa lakes. Camped at 10,000 ft and hunted either on top of the mesa or part-way down. The campsite was much better, hunting was still tough but the scenery was fantastic! Overall we found it more enjoyable on that side of the unit, and eventually we got into elk.
Had one night/morning in particular during which we could hear bulls bugling from the tent. That morning pre-dawn we had 3 bulls bugling in a single canyon, and I had a blast bugling / cow calling back and forth with these bulls. At one point we had a bull screaming at us from about 150 yds, but couldn't see him through the brush. Could see cows moving up the mountain slope through the brush, so using the wind moved in a few yards closer. Suddenly, a legal bull appeared, pushing a cow, and paused about 20 yds from my brother and myself. My view was partially obscured by brush, and I had no time to draw my bow, but my brother was quick and able to anchor the bull with his ML. DIY bull down!!!
We'd both taken bigger bulls in 2008 on a guided hunt, but we were absolutely thrilled with this bull. We'd scouted the best we could from 1000 miles away, spent several days working hard and figuring out the area, learned to call elk ourselves (somewhat) and finally connected on one beautiful morning!!! Packing him out felt like a reward, as it should.
The next several days we got on more bulls, getting more bugles, and twice within 150-200 yds but couldn't connect on another bull. I did have a spike at 10 yds for a moment, and several times had cows at 100 yds or so but never close enough for a shot with my bow.
Bill also tagged a muley, but the rest of us went home empty-handed. We were somewhat disappointed that we didn't have more elk sightings, even from afar. We'd heard from previous hunters and CO DOW personnel the unit was known for having herds by the hundreds. That's hunting, though, and we were pleased that we were able to fill the tags we did.
It was still a fantastic experience and I can't wait to get back out to hunt the West again. I wasn't sure how I'd like the area b/c it's ATV accessible. I still don't think that's my preferred method of hunting, but it worked out in this area, and we'd have been at a very significant disadvantage if we'd not had the ATVs here.
If anyone is interested in more info on this area, shoot me a PM. Still got all my maps and info, and now I've got "boots on the ground" experience there, so maybe can help the next group headed out there from afar.
Kind of a nice shot here.
Decent shot of the Grand Mesa.