Muzzleloader vs. First Rifle Elk Hunting

RB1

Lil-Rokslider
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Hi all, I am sure you will be able to tell by my questions that I am rather novice to hunting elk (outside of bow hunting in 2020), but I was hoping for some general input or thoughts on whether someone would prefer to try to draw an early muzzleloader tag or first rifle tag in CO. This is coming from someone with limited experience and who would be over the moon tagging any legal bull.

I would be able to hunt the entirety of either season. I am aware that either tag would be a draw, but work obligations are keeping me from hunting any of the later rifle seasons. I have a pros and cons list of each but am really curious to see if they are even valid concerns as a novice elk hunter.

Also, I hope this does not get me skewered, but it would be focusing on 0-1 pt units.

I appreciate the input.
 
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Both are a wash for advantages and disadvantages. There are pros and cons to both, I'm sure they'll get hashed out in this thread.
The one that's better is the one you have the elk figured out for. That's going to be the one factor that puts one season above the other.

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RB1

RB1

Lil-Rokslider
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Both are a wash for advantages and disadvantages. There are pros and cons to both, I'm sure they'll get hashed out in this thread.
The one that's better is the one you have the elk figured out for. That's going to be the one factor that puts one season above the other.

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That’s kind of where I am at honestly. They keep evening themselves out. The most important thing is to just pick one and go, right?
 
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Yes, exactly. Figure out what the elk are doing for the season you choose and the area and really focus on it.
That produces success on elk 100:1 over research and e scouting.

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RB1

Lil-Rokslider
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Yes, exactly. Figure out what the elk are doing for the season you choose and the area and really focus on it.
That produces success on elk 100:1 over research and e scouting.

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Yes, exactly. Figure out what the elk are doing for the season you choose and the area and really focus on it.
That produces success on elk 100:1 over research and e scouting.

Sent from my Pixel 6 using Tapatalk
Thanks for the input. I’m honestly in a paralysis by analysis situation right now. Need to just focus on where I want to go/can likely draw and dive all in on that unit.
 
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Lil-Rokslider
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What experience do you have in the unit you are going to apply for?
The experience I have in the unit is only about 2 days worth as we didn’t move into the unit until the very end of our hunt. However, we did finally get into sign on the last day there in terms of rubs and wallows.

I definitely feel like if we didn’t have to cut our hunt short we would have done more hunting and less hiking.

I will say, some of the earlier areas we went to in the unit… I have never seen the amount of other hunters and recreational hikers in my life. However, that was a rookie mistake when I look at where we actually were in terms of tourism and that time of the year. I’m sure it is like that everywhere throughout such a popular time of the year, but with some areas being worse than others.
 
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I used to take guys out the first season and my motto used to be “if an elk bugles, he’s dead, unless you don’t want him”


If I hunted with guns, easy choice.
 
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I prefer the elk muzzleloader season over rifle. The weather is nicer and the logistics are easier to put together especially when guiding newbie elk hunting buddies. Ultimately, knowing where the elk are and finding the sanctuary pockets away from hunter pressure is key.
 
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Lil-Rokslider
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I prefer the elk muzzleloader season over rifle. The weather is nicer and the logistics are easier to put together especially when guiding newbie elk hunting buddies. Ultimately, knowing where the elk are and finding the sanctuary pockets away from hunter pressure is key.
That is what I am gathering. Once we got into sign, it was the first trailhead we found not littered with vehicles. Shocker that we found sign less than a 10% of the distance from the truck opposed to how deep we had been hunting. Live and learn, right?
 

westslopelaker

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A lot more pressure during September from both hunters and non hunters. Plus with a rifle you can kill them 200-400+ yards out. Way higher chance to fill a tag first season. Plus a lot of first season tags are either sex.
 
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Lil-Rokslider
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A lot more pressure during September from both hunters and non hunters. Plus with a rifle you can kill them 200-400+ yards out. Way higher chance to fill a tag first season. Plus a lot of first season tags are either sex.
Great point. We honestly dealt with more non-hunter pressure than hunters. Which like I referenced earlier, a lot of that was inexperience on choosing where to go and not putting 2 and 2 together and seeing how obvious that would be given the area we were in.
 

Dave_

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1st season can get very crowded, all hunters are squeezed into a 5 day season not spread out. but at least the elk had a 2 week rest before being chased again, and prob less non hunters later in the year. As soon as the first shots are fired they go back into hiding.

In the unit I hunt I've had great bugling and also dead quiet times during both seasons, impossible to predict. I like both seasons but f i had to choose it would be muzzleloader . I just like September.

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Lil-Rokslider
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1st season can get very crowded, all hunters are squeezed into a 5 day season not spread out. but at least the elk had a 2 week rest before being chased again, and prob less non hunters later in the year. As soon as the first shots are fired they go back into hiding.

In the unit I hunt I've had great bugling and also dead quiet times during both seasons, impossible to predict. I like both seasons but f i had to choose it would be muzzleloader . I just like September.

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Do you feel first rifle is even more crowded than muzzleloader even though muzzleloader has the overlap with bow season, or do you feel it is unit dependent and pressure is pressure no matter when you go?
 
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A low point unit that I am familiar with sells over 2,000 first rifle elk tags. Muzzleloader is about 1/4 of that number. You are going to have company either way.

I would lean on how far you expect shot opportunities.
 
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ckleeves

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^ It’s all unit dependent. Look up the #’s on how many first rifle and muzzy tags are issued. Some units issue a pretty insane amount of first rifle tags.

The one advantage (or disadvantage depending on how you look at it) of muzzy is elk are pretty much doing the same thing everyday so once you find them as long as your smart on how your hunting you can hopefully hunt the same elk a few days in a row. Other hunters can certainly ruin that plan though.

First rifle can have elk moving everywhere but that can be an advantage too. I have seen some bulls get killed in some pretty dumb spots during first.
 
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RB1

Lil-Rokslider
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A low point unit that I am familiar with sells over 2,000 first rifle elk tags. Muzzleloader is about 1/4 of that number. You are going to have company either way.

I would lean on how far you expect shot opportunities.
That’s what I’m gathering. I may be leaning toward first rifle. If I am lucky enough to locate elk, with my limited experience, I’m not sure how confident I would be getting one within a range I am comfortable shooting a muzzleloader at.
 
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