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Using goHUNT Maps species distribution layers for Colorado elk and deer

Using goHUNT Maps species distribution layers for Colorado elk and deer

Colorado is one of those states that has a ton of game opportunity and scores and scores of data for hunters. This information includes harvest data, population numbers, summer ranges, migration corridors, wintering grounds and much more. goHUNT Filtering 2.0 summarizes the majority of the numerical data while goHUNT Maps compiles ranges and migration corridors along with additional information into easy-to-view 3D models by simply clicking on the appropriate layer. 

Colorado also boasts the highest population of elk and excellent mule deer genetics and numbers. When it comes to scouting for elk and deer in most states, it is common to look at high elevations first, then work your way down the mountains. During the summer and early fall, many elk, deer and other species call high elevation basins home since there is plenty of food and water. These animals thrive in these 10,000’ or more elevations because they are away from the majority of hikers and hunters and because temperatures allow them to stay cool — even on the hottest of summer days. However, there is one big dilemma in Colorado’s high elevation basins and this problem is snow. Often, as early as late September and early October, the weather in these basins can turn inclement, dumping a feet of snow on the ground and covering up the lush food source that was prevalent all summer. Snow covering food combined with hunting pressure forces these elk and deer to migrate for better feed and to stay safe from hunters. It is at this time that a well planned strategy and attack using information readily available can allow a hunter to be successful during any of the six or more seasons. Here are two huge ways to utilize information that Colorado provides on these animals to increase your success this year.

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Utilizing summer and winter ranges

During early and late seasons, using information on elk and deer winter and summer ranges can aid a hunter in finding these animals on the first day of a hunt — even in a new area. Log into goHUNT’s Maps and click Colorado layers. Turn on elk, deer or another animal’s winter and summer ranges and concentrations. During the early September archery and muzzleloader seasons, you can utilize this information to see where the home summer ranges are for many species and then hone in your e-searching in those particular areas. Using goHUNT’s 3D mapping and elevation bands can really allow you to see what elevations deer and elk might have a tendency to be at during these early seasons. Then, look for areas that are away from roads that have both water and cover; you should find your intended quarry there. 

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In the late season, especially during third and fourth rifle seasons, your search should be concentrated on the lower elevation wintering grounds. Often, if you drive by these wintering grounds, you may see open sageland, agricultural fields or barren grasslands and think that nothing lives there; however, that would be wrong. During the summer and early fall, there may be very few elk or deer calling these areas home; however, when the weather gets tough and food is lacking, these open areas are exactly where you will find deer and elk preparing to stay for the winter. The winter range maps available will allow you to see exactly where Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) pinpoint elk and deer to spend their winters and even where to expect the highest concentrations. goHUNT has put this into their mapping feature so why not use this information to find elk and deer during the early and late seasons?

Utilizing migration corridors

While the summer and winter ranges can be super important, there is one problem with using them to hunt. Many of the Colorado seasons (like first, second and third rifle season) occur during the middle of migration when elk and deer are moving from high elevation to lower elevation. As mentioned before, this elevation change and migration can happen naturally due to snow and rutting activity, but can also be forced to happen because of hunting pressure at the highest elevations. CPW highlights migration corridor information that you can easily turn on using goHUNT Maps under the Colorado layers. This data shows hunters some of the major migration corridors that elk and deer use to move and can give you an excellent idea of where to hunt. A popular strategy in order to utilize this information is to sit on any of these corridors during the more heavily hunted seasons at lower elevation. As deer and elk experience hunting pressure, they will make a move down and towards private land. If you are waiting there, you can increase your chance of harvest. Most of the time, elk and deer will move towards private land at lower elevations, which means that anytime a migration corridor goes onto private land, it is a definite kill spot and should not be ignored. Using all of the data provided in combination with goHUNT’s seasonal harvest statistics can make you successful year after year.

In closing

When it comes to hunting in the West, you will never be alone in some of the best basins and drainages no matter how deep you go onto public land. It becomes crucial to think outside the box and hunt differently than the average Joe or Jane carrying a rifle tag. This may require you to use all of the information provided to be successful, especially to be successful consistently. Using summer ranges, winter ranges and migration corridors in combination with goHUNT’s Filtering 2.0 data will give you the advantage to be successful right out of the gate this fall and winter. Whether you are searching for elk, deer or another quarry, it is crucial that you do your homework preseason and have multiple plans in place to find the ever-elusive buck or bull of your dreams. A lot of times it is easy to think that being successful consistently is impossible; however, if you do the work prior to heading out to the mountains you will be way more satisfied at your results and maybe even give a buck or bull a dirt nap.

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