Colorado Elk Hunt Pack List

The best and worst thing about the summer prior to a September elk hunt is that you have lots of time in between leg burning workouts to contemplate what gear to take on your hunt and what gear you need to upgrade.  Fortunately, I spent a lot of time last year organizing my gear and fine tuning what I should bring in the pack.  I spent many hours researching what other people suggested, and began weighing all my gear on a scale and counting calories for my body fuel.  Everyone says this, but weighing everything really helped put things into perspective, and counting calories helped me realize which food items were worth bringing and which ones were worth leaving.  Lastly, the engineering side of me came out, and I put everything in excel tables because I like everything organized.  My set up worked very well for me during our 7 day hunt in 2013 and I will mostly keep it the same for this year’s hunt.

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I was extremely pleased with my daily meal system to keep the muscles firing for 7 days, especially breakfast!  Bacon anyone?  The only thing that I will need to improve on for this year is my daily proportions; I had difficulty eating everything I had planned for each day.  BREAKFAST:  I call this incredible mountain breakfast the ELKis Presley.  Each morning started with a peanut butter, bacon, and honey sandwich.  This might not sound appetizing, but it is delicious, not to mention packed full of calories (I estimated about 700 calories per sandwich).  I pre-made my sandwiches prior to my hunt and vacuum sealed each one separately.  This made them very packable and easy to grab on the fly.  I found it very difficult to eat these guys in one seating, but it was very nice to fold them back into their packing, stuff in a pocket, and enjoy for a mid-morning snack.  LUNCH: My lunch consisted of trail mix, bonk breaker bar, and jerky, which I would really eat throughout the day.  If I ate everything I packed for lunch, I would be eating about 2000 calories, but I failed to do this.  I created my own trail mix of nuts, fruit, and m&ms, which I really enjoyed, but I think 1 cup per day was a stretch.  DINNER:  The last meal of the day can be hard to make some times, but you have to make yourself  because your body needs to recover.  I like Mountain House dinners (1 bag = 2 servings) because they are simple and tasty.  While heating up the water I will usually eat another bonk breaker bar, and then enjoy a chocolately treat when I slip into my down bag.  See the “Food Menu” table below for more details on what I packed for meals.  My daily target was to eat 3500 calories, which weighed in at 27.4 oz.  Again, I am going to keep this pretty much the same for this year, except I will take out some trail mix for weight savings and because I can’t eat that much.

Food Menu 2013

As I mentioned before, I also weighed all my gear for last year’s hunt.  I broke everything up into three categories: clothes, gear, and food.  I weighed everything that I would take into the mountain, from my neck gaiter to my bow release.  CLOTHING: I was happy to realize how valuable the light weight and technical clothing (I chose C4E) was going to be compared to what I had for whitetail hunting in Texas.  My total clothing system weighted about 8 lbs., and I found it effective and comfortable.  I generally wore the long sleeve merino top for base layer, then primaloft jacket if very chilly, and Element jacket as outer layer.  I loved the Element pants, and mostly wore them without any base layer.  With an easy adjustment to zippers or vents, I was able to use this layering system through the entire day without discomfort.  Of course I love gear and camo, so I had to add a couple new items to my clothing system for this year.  GEAR: This is where the weight really adds up!  I feel that I kept things to necessary minimum, and if I wanted to shave significant ounces here, I would heve to dish out some dough and buy higher end equipment designed to be super light weight.  For instance, KUIU’s new Ultra Packs feature a shocking 3 lb total weight, which would shave off more than 5 lbs. compared to my Badlands Pack.  I have not tried the KUIU pack yet, but it sounds like a dream.  Including bow and pack, my total gear wight came out to be 26.8 lbs.  I dont know if I will be able to trim this down much for this year’s hunt.  FOOD:  We already went through my meal system, but for seven days my total meal weight came out to 9.1 lbs.  As shown in the next table below, my total pack out weight for last year’s hunt was just shy of 44 lbs.  I felt like this was a great accomplishment to get it near 40 lbs. for a seven day trek.  When we hit the trail, I could feel a significant difference compared to my 2012 pack weight, which was before I bought any light weight gear and weighed anything.   The selection of quality bivy style hunting gear and clothing is getting better every year, and I love it!

Pack List 2013

The days are down to the low 30’s until G&D head back into the dark timber in search of the Wiminuchi again.  I have not weighed and packed my gear yet, but if anything changes dramatically from last year, I will definitely post an update.  Let me know if you have any questions about the gear that I am packing, and if you have any suggestions please share your experiences.

Hard Work and Fearless Faith

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G & D Colorado Elk Hunt 2012 DIY

This post is long over-due.  Five weeks out before G & D venture to the Colorado mountains once again, and I have yet to give a recap from last year’s hunt.

In 2012 G & D spent the first 5 days of September in the backwoods of the San Juan Mountains near Creede, CO.  The Southern San Juan Wilderness is an expanse of nearly 160,000 acres with prime Elk habitat calling our inner Indian name.  We had a single bull/bow tag for the archery season for GMU 77, which is regarded as some of the roughest terrain in southern Colorado.  The intimidating slopes and ridges are largely why this unit was so desirable to us; we wanted to pack in where the elk hide and where we wouldn’t be bothered by other hunters (and we weren’t).

Heading several miles into the wilderness from the Rio Grande Reservoir, we set up camp for the first night as sunlight slowly drained from the sky.  We got an early start the next morning, ate some quick oats, and headed to where we thought wapiti would be holding up.  Numerous hours pouring over topo maps and dreaming about  where we would find that perfect 5×5 bull was leading us to a couple high basins deep in the San Juans.

Most of day 2 and all of day 3 were spent trekking through thick timber that bordered picturesque mountain meadows, where we thought we would find the elk feeding.  Honestly, I do not think that we made many mistakes on this trip, but our major fault was in this hunting strategy these two days.  We discovered countless rubs, shredding small trees to pieces, and elk droppings throughout this timber, but no real fresh sign.  We did see elk every day, but our rookie experience did not help us slay the beast.

Finally on day 4, feeling a little frustrated, we decided to head deeper into the basin and higher up the mountain.  This immediately proved to be a good decision when we got two bulls to bugle back and forth with us early that morning.  The problem was that we were down low and they were up high, and with all the adrenaline pumping through our veins during the bugle battle, we decided to climb up the nearly vertical slope where they calls were coming from.  We probably didn’t have mountain goat agility and likely did not possess snow leopard stealth, but when we got near the tree line we were caught in a starring contest with a weary cow.  Soon the bull and his cows were tearing down the trail, leaving us gasping for more thin air.  Although this didn’t fill our packs with elk steaks for the grill, we discovered where the wapiti were hiding.  We found a well used trail, seemingly an elk highway, deeply rutted into the dirt and with scars covering adjacent trees from passing antler racks.

Sadly, we learned where the elk were traveling too late into our hunt and were not able to successfully close on anything.  However, the hunt was nowhere near a bust, and like I said before, I do not think that we made many mistakes during this hunt and the wealth of knowledge we gained is priceless. The experience of enduring the Colorado wilderness and chasing wapiti with a lifelong brother is an experience that words can not truly explain.  I am blessed to have had to opportunity once, and I look forward to many more.  Here is a video, giving a glimpse to what we experienced in the San Juan Mountains last September.

The 2013 Colorado elk archery season is not far away, and you bet your boots G & D will be back in the backcountry during the last week of September.  I hope to make some more posts to share what we learned form last season and how we are prepping ourselves for the next trip.  Stay tuned.

God Bless TGR.

Follow the Lord.