common questions about colorado elk hunts
What is the hunting Territory like?
Steep Mountains! The photos to the right and below are from our
hunting unit. To the right you see us getting ready to pack an elk
out from the canyon bottom of one of our favorite honey holes. Photos
do not do justice to depict the steepest of this terrain.
The hunting terrain is at an elevation of 10,000 feet. It is mountainous
terrain that is composed of many canyons that run parallel to each
other. The north sides have dark Spruce Timber and the South sides
have Aspen Trees intermingled with small meadows of bunchgrass.
The elk feed on the South sides in the mornings and bed down in
the dark Timber during the middle of the day. The rougher the terrain
the more elk we will find. We have found game trails that enable
us to get in and out of these canyons.
What game unit do you hunt?
Unit 74 in Southwest Colorado which is between Durango and Silverton
Colorado. This is on the West Side of the Animas River.
Our permitted hunting area is located on 150,000 public acres in
the San Juan National Forest in the middle of the San Juan Mountains.
Does game unit 74 have big bulls?
Yes. There have been some very big bulls taken in our hunting area.
However, they are not very common. One of our hunters will get a
big bull every season, but the most typical bull ranges in size
from a five point to a small six point. If this is your first time
elk hunting, we recommend taking the first legal bull you see. Regardless
of the size of the antlers, every bull comes hard earned. These
elk are getting smarter every year.
We work hard to get you the biggest bull possible, but there are
To be honest, if you really want a huge trophy bull, I recommend
putting in for the draw in Arizona. This is where the big bulls
are. If you do not care about a backcountry hunting experience you
can always get a big bull at an elk farm.
What is your success ratio?
Historically, 68%. It should be 75% but we cannot
control marksmanship. Remember to practice your shooting under pressure!
Often the window of opportunity to shoot is about 15 seconds.
How many days do we hunt?
Archery and black powder - 5 days
Regular rifle- 5 days
You will be plenty tired after hunting in our terrain for five days!
Five days is all that you will want and need.
How far back do we hunt?
See Trailhead to Base Camp
No motorized vehicles are allowed in our hunting territory! The
trailhead to our camp is ten miles from a major highway and the base
camp is three miles from the trailhead. Our hunting territory is
another hour by horseback from our base camp.
For more information on how far back to we hunt:
See Trailhead to Base Camp
Should I be in good physical condition?
Yes. See preparing to go on the hunt
How can I prepare myself for a hunt like this?
See preparing to go on the hunt
Do I have to be an expert horseback rider?
No, you do not have to be an expert horse rider. However you need
to be comfortable around horses and have the balance to ride one.
Horses are an important part of this guided elk hunt.
We do not purchase high-strung horses off racetracks or performance
arenas. We obtain horses that are good solid mountain trail horses.
As the weather changes, the hunting trails can get muddy, snowy
and sometimes a little slick. During this time, you have to trust
your horse and let him do the work. The horses are used to these
conditions. You just need to stay in the saddle, ride as balanced
as possible and let the horse do the work.
We have a wide range of horses for all riding
ability levels; from beginner to expert.
The photo to the right
is a photo of our horse herd at our Durango,
How many public hunters will we see while hunting with you?
We hunt on 150,000 acres located on the San National Forest. From
our historical experience we locate our base camp away from the
main hunting pressure. Just like you, we like to get away from everybody!
It is always hard to predict how many other hunters we will see,
but on average we have seen about four to five hunters during the
season. While hunting on 150,000 acres it always helps the odds
to have a few hunters around to keep the elk moving.
The long daily horseback rides from our base camp to elk terrain
help get away from the majority of hunting pressure. Camping areas
are very limited because of the rugged terrain and lack of water.
Our base camp is one of few areas that it is possible to camp. Our
spike camp also allows us to get further out into no-mans land.
How hard do we hunt?
We wake up at 4:30 every morning. While breakfast is being cooked
the wranglers are saddling the horses. After we eat breakfast and
fix our lunch, we start hiking or we are on our horses and heading
up the mountain before it gets light. We will hike or ride our horses
until we get into our hunting area for the day (we also hunt while
we are riding and it is common to run into elk while on the horses),
tie up the horses and then proceed to hunt by foot. Our hunting
methods include stalking, still hunting and drives by the guides.
We hunt all day long and will return back to the base camp by dark
(unless we spike camp out for the night).
Please be physically ready to hunt by foot for 4-5 hours per day.
Sometimes we hunt right out of camp on foot!
At what altitude do we hunt?
At 10,500 feet. If you are coming from out of state we highly recommend
arriving in Durango, Colorado two nights prior to your hunt departure.
This will give you two full days to acclimate to the altitude. Your
hunt is expensive and you do not want to be in the tent sick because
of altitude sickness.
What are the base camp accommodations?
Each base camp is composed of three 14’ X 18’ canvas
sheep herder wall tents covered by a rain and snow fly. One tent
is used as a kitchen and the other two tents are for sleeping. We
use wood stoves for heating and propane stoves for cooking. There
is a floor in each tent. Sturdy sleeping cots are also provided.
Our goal is to make you comfortable in camp. There is a full time
cook preparing hearty meals.
Spike camp is more primitive since it's located further out. The
tents are backpacking style with mummy sleeping bags and pads, we
sit on the ground and the food is dehydrated.
What weather can I expect?
Expect all weather conditions. We have hunted in t-shirts with sixty-five
degree weather and in cold snowy conditions. Generally, the first
rifle season is warmer and has the least chance of having snow. The
weather as a rule of thumb gets progressively colder and snowy for
the later three seasons. However, we have also seen unseasonably
warm weather for the later seasons as well.
For archery and black powder, expect cool nights and warm days.
During archery season you must also be prepared for rain. Bring some
good gortex rain gear!
Will snow increase my odds of getting an elk?
Yes. Snow causes the elk to herd up. Additionally, they are easier
to spot in the undergrowth of trees and shrubs. They will tend to
stay out in the open areas longer as well as possibly bed down on
the south slopes, which are easier to stalk to. Our hunting area
is in the middle of a migration route, therefore, snow will tend
to move elk into our territory from higher elevations.
The downside is that it is harder to get around and takes longer
in twelve inches of snow.
When will the bulls be bugling and in the rutt?
Elk will start their rutt by September 1st. The peak of the rutt
can vary according to the weather and moon phases, but historically
the peak of the rutt is the middle of September.
The bulls will still be bugling during the first regular rifle season.
Are there any mule deer in your area?
Yes, we see a few bucks in our area every year. They are few because
deer and elk do not share the same habitat very well. Where the elk
are high in population, there will be very few deer. Elk are very
herd-intensive creatures and are very aggressive in their feeding
areas therefore pushing the deer out. Mule deer are very reclusive
and will be easily pushed out of feeding area by a herd of elk.
It is interesting to note that for the few mule bucks that we do
encounter they seem to have big antlers! So when we see them, they
always get our attention!
All deer licenses are obtained by draw only.
Can I hunt bear?
Yes, you can purchase an over the counter bear tag upon your arrival
There are some black bears in our hunting area, however, I must
tell you the big picture if you are successful in taking a bear.
Your elk hunting days will be reduced drastically. Why? After successfully
taking a bear, the Colorado Division of Wildlife requires the hunter
and the entire carcass to be checked into the local wildlife office
to have the skull plugged. The check in must be within 48 hours
of the kill. If you took a bear on the first day, you would have
to leave camp the next day and would not return back to elk hunting
until the fourth day so you may lose three days of guided Colorado
elk hunting. We thought you might like to know this.
Do I need a hunter Safety Card?
You need a hunter Safety Card if you were born after Jan 1st, 1949.
If you need one, please arrange to get in a class prior to your hunt.
Should I arrive in the area early?
It is highly recommended to arrive two evenings prior to packing
into camp in order to acclimate to high altitude. Arriving from
sea level and going up to a 10,000 foot altitude in one day doesn't
mix, you won't feel well.
Will I have a good time?
It all depends on your attitude. Our goal, besides getting you
an elk, is to make sure you have a memorable and safe hunting experience.
Can McKee High Country Outfitters provide references?
You bet, a long list. We operate under permit in the San Juan National
We will send you all of the comment forms that previous hunters have
personally completed. Thus, you get their perspective and not ours.
Please call us for references. To protect the privacy of our clients,
we don't e-mail references.
How can I get more information about the Colorado Division of Wildlife?
Call us or go to their website at wildlife.state.co.us
What Colorado elk hunting licenses are available to me as a non-resident
in unit 74?
Archery- available over the counter. No draw.
Black powder/muzzle loading- available by draw. Usually takes two
years (two preference points) to draw.
Cow elk tags- available by draw only.
First regular rifle- available by draw. This is an either sex tag.
For the last six years, our hunters have had 100% success in drawing
a license. We help you fill out the application and proof read it
before we send it to the Colorado Division of wildlife.
Licenses for the second and third rifle seasons do not require a
draw. Elk tags can be obtained by over the counter purchase upon
arrival to hunt.
Fourth rifle season-available by draw only. The odds of drawing
an elk tag for this last rifle season for a non-resident are very
For more information about licenses and the Colorado Division of
Wildlife please visit their website at www.wildlife.state.co.us
What helpful hints can you share regarding obtaining Colorado elk
hunting licenses for unit 74?
If you are an archery hunter or rifle hunter, elk licenses are easy
to obtain. The only seasons that require a draw is muzzle loader
and the first rifle season. There are three other rifle seasons to
obtain a license without a draw!! Archery licenses do not require
I tell hunters this year after year; Even if you are not planning
to hunt this year, apply for a preference point. Yes, get those preference
points saved up! Call us and we will help you!! You have nothing
to lose by obtaining a preference point even if you do not plan to
Even if you plan to hunt the seasons that do not require a draw
(purchase over the counter), still obtain those preference points.
Someday you will want to go black powder elk hunting or in the future
Colorado may require a draw for every elk season.
We will fill out an elk license draw application for you! It can
be confusing and we are here to help.
What is the deadline to enter the drawing for a limited license
(black powder, first regular rifle and cow tags)?
April 1st. Please call us for an application. Applications are available
the last week of February of each year.
Can I get my money refunded if I am not successful in a draw?
What are the prices and dates for each elk hunting season?
See prices and dates
How do I pay and what is your cancellation policy?
See prices and dates
What is not included in the price of a guided hunt?
The cost of your license, meat processing, taxidermy and shipping