Guided and Self-Guided Elk and Mule Deer Colorado #144

Guided and Self-Guided Elk and Mule Deer Colorado #144


CO-144-Elk-214x180-150x150  This outfitter operates in the elk-rich San Juan National Forest near Dolores, Telluride and Rico in southwest Colorado (GMU#71). The outfitter has 25 years of elk hunting experience. We have worked with him for about 15 years and he has a very solid operation. He prides himself on the fact that, even for his DIY hunt, often 75% or more of his clients are repeats! Many have hunted multiple years with him, and he’s even had guys coming back for as many as 20 years. That tells you a lot about the quality of the operation. The outfitter takes prides in being well organized and provides superior service and amenities to his customers, and one thing you can count on is that the outfitter and the guides will tell you where to go and what to do.

These hunts are in mountainous terrain in an area with a good population of elk, mule deer and black bear, and the official record books and hunt publications continue to list San Juan National Forest lands as a prime area for producing record book animals.

Some facts:

  • You can combo with deer in GMU 71 – about 50% draw odds with 1 point. Bumps up the cost slightly. If doing a combo, consider 1×1 due to down time handling a downed animal.
  • Two points might draw for muzzleloader season, but 3 is better. Bulls bugling normally.
  • Second and third season rifle elk is over the counter tag.
  • First rifle season in 2017 with zero points it was about a 60% draw. With 1-2 points you would draw and get an earlier crack at the elk. But deer is not open then. Elk less wary, some possible bugling.

Elevations here are 8,000 to 10,500 feet. Get in condition and it will pay off. Horses are an alternative and he rents them, but you must request them early. They take them out to the trailhead, and you jump on and go. Or consider doing a drop camp, as that gets you hunting quickly.

A record book mulie that scored 226-inches B&C was taken near here. So for heaven sake, apply for that deer tag! If you don’t draw you get a point and can be almost sure of pulling the tag in the second year. There are also some very good elk and if you can draw those early season rifle or muzzleloader hunts you will be in the best position for a premiere hunt.

The archery and muzzleloader hunters will find relatively little competition and bulls should be bugling.

A number of self-guided hunt options are available, with accommodations in cabins or in the main lodge, or in tent camps on their “drop camp” hunts. Fully-guided hunts are also available, as are guides and pack horses on a daily basis (subject to availability). Here’s a description of each:

This is for hunters who want minimal assistance and prefer to do their own cooking. There are several comfortable 1-, 2-, or 3-bed cabins with free WIFI, satellite TV, gas heating and cooking stoves, bathroom with shower, refrigerator, electricity, and cooking/dish utensils. Just bring your bedroll, linens, food and personal gear. Horses, guides, game pack out, etc., are available at extra cost, to be booked in advance. Six-night minimum booking required.

 PRICES (all prices subject to change without notice until deposit received)
1-2 hunters – $375/night
Each additional person – $100/night

Another popular low-budget option is the 7-day self-guided lodge hunt for those who are tired of camping out and want a nice warm bed, hot showers, home-cooked meals (that you don’t have to prepare yourself!), a large fireplace to sit around and swap lies in the evenings, and even free WIFI. We think having 7 full days to hunt is a big plus. Self-guided clients have about 50% shooting opportunity, and average 35% success for elk (some skilled and savvy hunters are successful almost every year). That is an excellent average for a do-it-yourself hunt!

Most of the hunting takes place within a 15-30 minute drive of the lodge, and most hunters harvest their game within 8 miles of the lodge. This hunt includes 7 nights’ lodging (minimum 2 hunters), all the food, snacks and non-alcoholic drinks you want, advice on where and how to hunt the area, pack service to get your trophy out, topographic maps (he usually has large aerial maps with kill sites plotted for the last 3 years), and pick up of your party at the Cortez or Telluride airport. Everything is included except a sleeping bag, personal gear, transportation for hunting, rifle and game licenses.

Archery or Muzzleloader Hunts – $2,100
Rifle Hunts – $2,300
Youth Hunters – $1,000/person
Non-hunting Observers – $1,000/person
Extra days – $90 per night/hunter; $45 per night/non-hunter

If you want horses, you need to book them when you book the hunt. The outfitter figures success is the same on foot as on horseback, but flatlanders and older guys may want the horse to do the climbing for you.

This is the third type of hunt this outfit offers, and it’s for those hunters who like to rough it a little and camp out under the stars. Hunts are a minimum of 5 days up to 12 days (plus 1 day pack in and 1 day pack out) – your choice – and the price is the same regardless of the length of the hunt! Drop camps are in prime habitat for mule deer and elk hunting in the San Juan Mountains. The outfitter supplies a complete tent camp with equipment set up. Or if you bring all of your own equipment, you will save 30% on the cost!

You bring your own food, sleeping bag with foam pad and drop cloth or cot, personal gear, rifle and game licenses. The outfitter provides all the rest and packs you in and back out with game. Add the cost of horses if you prefer to have them in camp. The benefit of drop camps is that you are hunting from the minute you step out of your tent in the morning – no long rides into good country. And often that first and last hour of the day is the best time.

2 hunters/camp      $2,400 ea.                   $2,600 ea.
3 hunters/camp      $2,200 ea.                   $2,400 ea.
4+ hunters/camp    $2,100 ea.                   $2,300 ea.

NOTE: You can save 30% off these rates by providing and setting up your own camp gear. So 4 guys with their own gear pay only $1470 each for a rifle hunt!

FULLY GUIDED HUNTS T his is a lodge-based hunt. You’ll go out on horseback or 4WD each day. The cook starts a big breakfast at 4:30 AM, packs you a lunch and off you go. Opportunity on these guided hunts is close to 80% on elk with about 50% of the hunters actually harvesting elk. Deer are also available as a combo hunt if you apply for the tag by the deadline in early April. These are 5-day hunts, including 7 nights’ lodging and meals and the lodge, plus your personal horse, the services of a professional guide and his horse and/or truck. Just bring your sleeping bag, personal gear, rifle and game licenses.

Archery/Muzzleloader  1×1   $4,950    2×1 $4,300    3-4×1 $3,800 ea.
Rifle      1×1   $5,300      2 x1  $4,500 ea.         3-4×1  $3,900 ea.
Elk/Deer Combo, add:    1×1  $500      2×1  $400     3-4×1  $300 ea.

Guides are also available on a daily basis if you are doing a DIY hunt, subject to availability. You simply put your name on a list, preferably at the time you book, perhaps taking a guide for the first day or two.
2 Hunters per Guide $350/day ea. 1 Hunter per Guide $450/day

Rates include use of a horse. If you prefer to hunt without a horse, or already booked one separately, deduct $75/day.

Get back into remote elk and deer hunting areas rested and ready for the hunt. Gentle and sure-footed mountain horses are available to allow you to cover a lot of country. This is especially recommended for those who do not exercise regularly or who live near sea level. Bookings for a “full hunt” provides you with a horse for up to 12 days, and includes tack, feed and daily trailering to local trail heads (daily delivery and pickup of horses applies only to clients staying at the ranch). Daily horse rental is also available, but horse are usually booked up well in advance on a “full hunt” basis , so daily rentals are therefore subject to availability during your hunt and may not be reserved in advance. The rental fees shown are for those who have booked a lodge or drop camp hunt; add 10% without a booked hunt.
Archery/Muzzleloader $640 ea.
 Rifle Season $680 ea.
Daily Rental (all hunts) $150 ea.


• Archery: September 2-30
• Muzzleloader: September 12-20 (by draw)
• 1st Rifle (elk only): October 10-14 (by draw)
• 2nd Rifle (combined deer and elk): October 24-November 1
• 3rd Rifle: November 7-13

• Deer $395.00
• Bull Elk $661.00
• Cow Elk $495.00
• Bear $100.00
• All Youth $100.75
• Habitat Stamp $10.00

Muzzleloader, 1st Rifle Elk, Rifle Cow Elk, and all Deer licenses are available by drawing only. All other licenses can be purchased upon arrival. Applications for licenses through the drawing process must be submitted by early April 4 by writing to: COLORADO DIVISION OF WILDLIFE 6060 BROADWAY, DENVER, COLORADO 80216 (303) 297-1192, or call their Durango office at (970) 247-0855, or go to the DOW’s web site: 

We suggest that on elk hunts that you try to draw a deer tag too. There are some giant, gray-muzzled mulies here. You can also apply for cow tags for a second elk, and there may be leftover tags as well. So it is possible you could take two elk and a deer. Then, you can drive to Durango, buy a bear license and hunt bears too. Or fish in front of the lodge.

If flying, best pricing often seems to be into Durango for flights and rental cars, but shop around. Or drive there. Hunters can drive to the lodge or can arrange to be picked from the Cortez or Telluride airport.