OUTFITTER REVIEW ON:
Part 1:THE HUNT
Hunting The Largest Elk Herd On The Continent With Beaver Creek Outfitters
By Dan Wennerlind
Back in 2010 we were very excited to bring on board one of the top elk hunting outfitters in the country as our Official Colorado Big Game Hunting Outfitter – Scott Gesell of Beaver Creek Outfitters. For over a decade now Scott has been putting hunters on elk, and a lot of them.
This year we were finally able to get out and experience one of Scott’s incredible Colorado drop camp elk hunts for the third rifle season in the Beaver Flattops Wilderness area of the Routt National Forest located just south of the town of Craig, Colorado.
When planning our trip we spoke with outfitter Scott Gesell at length about exactly what our group was looking for out of this trip. He helped made our choice an easy one. First off Scott inquired if we were looking for an elk hunt with a gun or bow. Since we had 2 rookies in the group and for this trip 3 meat hunters, the rifle hunt seemed to be the most logical choice, even though Scott’s archery hunters had another 100% opportunity rate in 2015.
The next question was what season was the best choice for our group. Scott noted that although the first rifle season in Colorado offers the highest success rate traditionally, it does take 1 preference point to get drawn for that season. Since only 2 of the 5 hunters in our group met that qualification we were down to the second and third rifle season choices. Scott then shared that over the past 10 years they have had a 55% success rate in his drop camps for the second rifle elk season and a 65% success rate in the third rifle elk season. This is due to the fact that the elk tend to migrate down through his area later in the year with the cold seasonal temps of early November and the increased amounts of snow found in the higher elevations.
Not being intimidated by the cold late season temps and looking for a higher kill percentage, we elected to book the third Colorado rifle season for our trip. As a bonus we were all eligible for both a draw cow tag in March (with a 100% draw success rate traditionally) and a second over the counter bull tag option. I was also lucky enough to draw a third tag for a Mule deer buck.
Fast forward 15 months later and we were pulling into the great town of Craig, Colorado to meet up with our fearless leader Scott Gesell on the night of October 28th. Spirits were high as three of us drove across the upper Midwest from Minnesota to NW Colorado. We finally arrived at our hotel the night before our hunt. There we met up with the other two hunters in our group, and were all ready for a good night’s sleep in a real bed for the last time for the next 8 nights.
The next morning Scott picked us up in the parking lot bright and early and escorted us to the trail head at the base of the mountain, about an hour south of town. From there we loaded up everything each hunter could fit into 3 duffle bags and a 48 quart cooler and Scott drove us 6 miles up the mountain as far as his mud terrain vehicles could take us. At that point we packed everything onto his horse train and went another 7 miles deeper into the mountains on horseback.
When we finally arrived at our destination that afternoon, we were the only ones around for miles. Scott put us into the camp on a Thursday afternoon, giving us a full day to scout the area and get familiar with our surroundings before the Saturday opener.
Although this was a helpful strategy, it was a painful day in camp that Friday as we got settled in and patiently waited for the hunt to start.
The first morning of our 6 day hunt was a little bit of a cat and mouse day as we got more familiar with our surroundings and looked for elk sign. Luckily we received a good couple inches of snow the previous day making our scouting efforts much more rewarding. Late in the day upon Scott’s recommendation I set up on a nice little land point overlooking the back side of what Scott refers to as Burro Mountain.
Around 3pm a pair of cows started making their way down the open hillside and I connected on a nice 2 ½ year old cow. It ended up being a 156 yard shot across a creek valley and we were on the board!
Hunt The North's
With a Nice Cow
Elk To End Day 1!
Another one of our group members had 11 cows and an illegal spike bull cross in front of him during the day. Unfortunately he only had a bull tag. However having one of the cows walk up to within 20 feet of him that evening was quite an experience in itself.
That night at camp everyone was full of stories to share about the first day in elk camp. Another member jumped a big bull at 60 yards but was unable to get a clean shot. Heck there was even a rare 6 point Mule deer spotted that I was sure to make note of for later on in the trip.
Day 2 we were all up and ‘attem early again with great enthusiasm. However sitting in the heart of elk country I remembered Scott saying if you walk 5 miles in a day you have walked 4 miles too far- we found fresh elk tracks on the ridge right outside of our camp. We were definitely in elk country!
Later that afternoon I made my way right back down to my perch overlooking the back side of Burro Mountain. Around 5pm what should appear, 2 nice bulls! As they sluggishly ate away at the hillside vegetation, basking in the late afternoon sun I took aim and dropped my second elk of the trip within 100 yards of my first day’s kill. I knew my shot hit home as the big bull immediately dropped to his knees and then slowly rolled over stone dead. What a thrill! I was on cloud nine as I made my way up the mountain to find my trophy.
He turned out to be a nice 5 x 4 bull which I knew was about average for this region. Scott had told us that although they do harvest a couple big bulls each year that top the 300 mark, the typical sized animals they harvest in Unit 12 are usually 5 point bulls.
I honestly couldn’t believe it within the first 48 hours of the hunt I had two nice elk down and hanging in the tree waiting to be picked up by Scott’s guides and taken into the processer in town. They would then be ready to pick up the last day, on the way home. That is another nice perk of Scott’s operation.
That night at camp all of the other hunters in camp celebrated my early success as I brought in the back straps for dinner! Now that I had already filled both my elk tags, I was sure happy I had drawn that third Mule deer tag. Although I knew it was going to be tough to find and nice Muley at these elevations (most of the Muleys in the area were typically hanging down around the bottom of the mountain).
Day 3 turned out to be another adventure as another party member had 3 cows broadside at 120 yards, unfortunately he was the other hunter in the group who only had a bull tag. Exciting none the less. I spent the afternoon with two of Scott’s guides getting my animals packed up and headed down the mountain.
On Day 4 Scott stopped into camp for an afternoon lunch to check in on us and see how things were going. We found out that the other two drop camps Scott had set up were successful as well with a nice 5 point bull and a cow already harvested. Scott’s guided camp also had taken a smaller bull the day before. Scott also warned us to batten down the hatches as we had another winter storm headed our way that night. I think we were all more excited than worried as we knew more snow meant migrating elk from the mountain peaks above.
HuntTheNorth's Dan Wennerlind and Outfitter
Of The Year Scott Gesell
We awoke on Day 5 to two feet of fresh snow on the ground. Everyone was eager to get out and cut some tracks. Being the second to last day of the hunt, we started the day by splitting up into 2 groups in search of some new blood in the area. That morning 4 of us saw elk and I even had a cow run by at 20 yards on my quest for the mighty Mule deer buck. However no one connected.
By that afternoon we were all getting a little worn out as the high elevations were now taking their toll on us flatlanders. I elected to sit back at my perch on Burro Mountain with another group member in an attempt to assist in another kill. I arrived on site around 11:30am, about an hour before our scheduled meeting time and wouldn’t you know it 3 bulls and 5 cows made their way down the mountain right in front of me. Heck they even took their time and stayed out in plain sight for 27 minutes. Of the three bulls there was one nice 5 point bull, along with 2 spike bulls. Upon further inspection I identified 4 cows and a calf mixed in. About 20 minutes after the animals made their way back into the timber my buddy arrived, just 20 minutes too late unfortunately. But that’s hunting right, all we could do was laugh about it.
The snow continued into the night and on our final day of the hunt, the snow was now knee deep in some areas. However today we were all on a quest- We needed meat. I was personally going to make a long hike up the back side of Burro Mountain in quest of some fresh Mule deer tracks. After a 2 hour walk up the back side of the mountain I did not find any Mule deer sign.
Unfortunately as I made my way down to lower elevations all I found was one lonely elk track from the night before. The mountain was bare… or was it. I followed the elk track down across the mountain to what would appear, 2 more tracks, no wait 4, no 10…20…40! Wow I found the mother load. However all of the tracks except for one were from the night before. They couldn’t have gone too far though, I thought.
I quickly crossed back over the creek and met up with another group member waiting below and shared my findings. He was all for making a stalk on the herd. We then met up with 2 more members of the group but with the cold temps that day and the late hour, only one of the three had enough left in the tank to make the final stalk.
As we all patiently waited behind, an hour later we all heard it- Bang… Bang Bang… Bang!!! He had walked right up on the herd just around the bend from where I found the tracks, all still bedded down. He harvested a cow and a legal 3 point bull! What a way to end the trip. 4 elk harvested for 5 hunters. This was truly a hunt to remember!!!
The Mighty Hunters With The Fruits Of Their Labor After 8 Long Days In The Colorado Rockies!
Although only 2 of our 5 hunters in the group were successful, 4 of the 5 hunters had elk within shooting range during the trip and would have been successful with an extra cow tag. Even though the non-resident tags are not cheap, I would highly recommend the extra investment on a trip of this caliber. I would not however recommend spending the money on a Mule deer tag on this specific hunt as the multitudes of Muleys are all down in the lower elevations.
Overall we all felt this was truly a hunt to remember and everyone in our group agreed that we would definitely book this trip again. Scott only solidified what I already knew- If you want a legitimate opportunity at harvesting a Colorado elk, with rifle or bow, Beaver Creek Outfitters is the place to go! I was privileged to give Scott Gesell our most prestigious award naming Beaver Creek Outfitters The 2016 HuntTheNorth.com Outfitter Of The Year!
Part 2: THE REVIEW
|OUTFITTER KNOWLEDGE / PERSONALITY: ||Score||5 / 5 |
After talking with Scott for the past 5 years about his hunt, I have had a chance to get to know him and his knowledge of the area and the animals is uncanny. Heck after a 5 minute conversation in camp Scott told me exactly where to go and I harvested 2 elk from the same spot. Scott was also sure to stop in and check on us throughout the hunt as well. He is a very knowledgeable and personable outfitter, which is a hard combination to find these days. Scott definitely scored a 5 / 5!
|QUALITY OF |
|Score||5 / 5|
On this trip I will defer to the horse train and pack team as the equipment used. Scott sent to strong men to pack out both my elk. They were both hard workers and readily up for the challenge of getting my animals off the side of the mountain. Scott’s horses were incredible as well. Another nice perk is having the option of sending the meat straight to the processor if harvested early on in the hunt. This made the trek home a lot easier. 5 / 5 in this category as well.
|Score||5 / 5|
Although not everyone in our group was successful, all of our group members except for one had elk within range at some point during the trip. I personally had elk in range every day. I have been on several elk trips where we only saw elk one day of the trip or even not at all, so to have that many animals in the area provided plenty of opportunity. For those looking for that once in a lifetime trophy bull, this may not be the trip for you, but to have the option to purchase a cow and bull tag essentially over the counter is a huge bonus. Having 4 elk harvested for our group was exceptional. We felt Scott earned a 5 / 5 in this category as well.
|QUALITY OF MEALS |
|Score||3 / 5|
Although there was nothing particularly special about our tent camp, it had all the necessities we needed. We had a wood burning stove and cooking utensils, with a fresh wood pile out back. We had a cook stove and camp lights with several propane tanks. Each hunter was allowed to bring in one 48 quart cooler with their food for the trip. We each had a cot and pad for our sleeping bags. We had a clean water source just up the mountain with several clean water jugs as well. We even had a private handmade outhouse to do our business. And let me tell you, after a long day in the mountains, after dark that tent was as close to a home as I have ever had.
HUNT PACKAGES AND
|Score||5 / 5|
Scott charges $1,800 - $2,000 for his 7 day drop camp hunts (depending on the season) for his Colorado elk hunts. The ideal group size is 4 hunters but he can accommodate up to 6. For that fee Scott will also pack out your animals and will deliver them to the processer in town upon request. Scott also offers a fully guided 7 day elk hunt package for $3,800 - $4,200 for a rifle hunt (again prices vary depending on the season) and $3,800 for a 7 day guided archery hunt. Those are very reasonable package rates in our opinion- 5 / 5!
|OVERALL QUALITY |
OF THE TRIP:
|Score||5 / 5 |
Overall we all felt that this was a trip of a lifetime. Not just to have the opportunity to harvest a beautiful Colorado elk, but the overall experience was fantastic. From the horseback ride up the mountain on day one, to the absolutely gorgeous scenery throughout the trip. To being the only hunters on the mountain other than Scott’s other 2 groups several miles away. This was an elk hunt to remember! 5 / 5 for sure!
Overall Beaver Creek Outfitters Scored A 28 Out Of 30 Giving Them An "A" Rating. We Would Not Hesitate At All To Refer Scott For His Spectacular Colorado Elk Hunts and Named Beaver Creek Outfitters the 2016 HuntTheNorth.com Outfitter Of The Year!
|28 / 30|
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