Holy Cross Wilderness vs. Eagles Nest Wilderness - Colorado Backcountry Hunt

Discussion in 'Big Game Hunting' started by Dcmcmill, Mar 23, 2015.

  1. Dcmcmill

    Dcmcmill Newb

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    Gents,

    As a CO resident, I am trying to get a muley, bear, and elk OTC tag for 2015. I hunted all last year covering several miles a day, all wilderness areas, but was not able to get any meat. I noticed last year that hunting Byers Peak Wilderness, Vasquez Wilderness, and Eagles Nest Wilderness - the issue was that the trails had a TON of non-hunters on them. Even at 5 miles in, we had a group of 6 hikers come through our drainage at nearly 12,000 feet. I am looking for a better wilderness unit, with less foot traffic in general, and the most difficult terrain (to keep people away). Unfortunately, I don't have the time to be able to properly scout wilderness areas that are way off the beaten path. My assumption is that the further I can get from Denver, the less issues I will have with people. But I do need to consider travel time. I am getting ready to close on my first home purchase in Frisco and feel that my best option would be to explore Holy Cross Wilderness. Questions for you gents:

    1) Has anyone hunted Holy Cross Wilderness? Thoughts?
    2) Are there any guides that service this area? I have been looking around online and actually have not found anyone who really guides there?
    3) I am ultimately debating Eagles Nest vs. Holy Cross. HC has a 14'er on the far east side of the wilderness and gets a ton of traffic - but Eagles Nest is 30 miles closer to denver and has to deal with the 10's of thousands of people that lives in Frisco, Dillon, Silverthorne.....

    Any help is much appreciated!
    dustin
     
  2. bz_711

    bz_711 Die Hard Bowhunter

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    I can offer a little opinion. Congrats on the home in Frisco - that is where we always stop to get our OTC archery tags, and took my wife there one night last summer on an excursion around CO...really like the Frisco area (backcountry brewery for dinner and butterhorn café for breakfast - fantastic)

    I have no experience with Eagles Nest, but 5 seasons at Holy Cross. I'm not sure the extra drive time keeps the Denver/locals out any. At least during archery the roads are busy (a lot of jeepers and mountain bikers on roads) and the Mount of Holy Cross trails appear busy. Weekends are obviously the times to avoid - I ran into 7 hunters one morning on a weekend...all CO residents who said they were up just for the weekend.

    But...once you learn to avoid the "easy" areas it gets much better. I like the area, much of it is very steep, rugged, and dark timber...things that can keep the casual hunter away. It is not an area for getting above tree line and glassing...the elk are in the nasty stuff. I have tagged a bull the last two seasons, and although I get an opportunity each year - we do not see large numbers of elk...and typically someone in our camp does not see a single elk...you earn them that is for sure.
    I do believe one guide operates in HC: Big Game - Elk
    I have not ventured to the most remote parts of HC, because I fear all that effort may just meet me up with the horse and outfitter camps that pack in all that way. Mule deer are everywhere in my opinion and would take little effort to tag just any deer.

    Holy Cross is beautiful area - I'm sure many other units and wilderness areas have better elk numbers (the harvest stats sure say so)...but it's where I went first, fell in love with it, and can't get myself to start all over in another area. I've also met many new friends camping in the area...and really enjoy crossing paths again with them each year.

    PM me if any particular questions.
    Best of Luck!
     
  3. soccerdan90

    soccerdan90 Grizzled Veteran

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    I hunted holy cross last year and it's definitely a tough hunt. I saw 1 elk the whole week. I was in the same camp as bz_711. I still had a blast and am returning in 2016!


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  4. Dcmcmill

    Dcmcmill Newb

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    thanks, Dan (assuming).

    I have been doing a ton of google earth scouting and am planning to start my scouting next weekend. I have been dying to put to use the absurd amount of gear i have bought in the off season. probably need to sell a kidney.

    Dan, I am aware of the guys at Summit Co outfitters and their drop camp setup. Mike usually hunts Eagles Nest and packs Waaaayyyy back in there. Have you hunted Eagles Nest?

    dustin
     
  5. soccerdan90

    soccerdan90 Grizzled Veteran

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    I have only hinted within a few miles of No Name Rd. I did get down by that old military base twice but the freshest sign I saw was off of No Name but I'm sure that changes every year. Next time I go out I will be going much farther in! I was a newbie and didn't know what I was doing. Bz_711 would be a better one to talk to since he seems to consistently get on elk! He was the only one to kill one in our camp last year and I hunted the same area several days! Screw you Matt lol.


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  6. bz_711

    bz_711 Die Hard Bowhunter

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    Dan,
    Now you sound like my buddies:)
    You are on the right track, and even just seeing one elk means you were closer than you think to an opportunity.
    Don't forget I mastered 3 years of tag soup first...before finally bagging one:)

    I thought I was prepared the first year I went - now I realize that I knew nothing and had little chance...you truly do gain knowledge & confidence each time. My confidence is very high now, but I did only see 5 elk last year, and 4 elk the year prior...I'm fine if I only see 1 elk each trip - just hope it's at 10yards:)

    The elk definitely move around, each of the last few years I have had my encounters in new areas I had not hunted before...first goal is always to just put on the miles until we find elk.
     
  7. DarkTimber

    DarkTimber Newb

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    I have lived in both Summit (walking distance to EN) and Lake (25 min to HC).

    I am a very unsuccessful elk hunter, so take this with a grain of salt. I have hunted in both Eagles Nest & Holy Cross. Backpacked in and day hunting.

    Most of my elk encounters have been anywhere from 100 yards to 1.5 miles from the Forest Service road of the National Forest bordering Holy Cross Wilderness.

    Wilderness backcountry hunting has increased greatly lately, therefore, hunters are reporting seeing more hunters in Wilderness areas. I can hike in 0.5 mile from the road and never see another hunter, therefore, I do not backpack in unless I am feeling ansty & adventurous. I don't see more elk by doing a spike camp than I do by car camping. However, I am an inexperienced hunter.

    Backcountry hunts lock you into an area. Car Camping keeps you more mobile to search for the elk. See Matt's statement of putting on the miles. I found this more true after Sept 15th when they are in herds and archery and muzzleloader pressure has driven them from some of their late August locations.

    One Outfitter has the NF contract to guide the Southern part of Eagles Nest (Gore something) and the other has the upper portion. I have chatted with the Gore outfitters while hunting EN and they seem like a nice outfit.

    There is a big misconception that those recreationalists in Eagles Nest Wilderness are scaring the elk and deer away. Nope, they are not. The elk are used to seeing those hikers, x-country skiers and snowshoers year round. I used to live in Wildernest above Silverthorne. I did a stalk on a mule deer 75 yards from the Gore Range trail while hikers were passing nearby. The mule deer could care less because they are used to seeing the hikers. Same goes for ATV traffic over near HC. I watched a cow and calf cross Homestake Road after a vehicle passed by during hunting season. They experience that traffic year round. Same goes for hikers in HC Wilderness.

    I tried hunting elk in Eagles Nest, but the amount of outfitter camps in the heavier populated elk areas caused me to abandon it. In some ways, I find the EN terrain rougher than HC area terrain.

    Matt is correct. Halfmoon Packing & Outfitting outside Leadville will packout meat from HC, drop camp or guide. They have a permit for that GMU and the 2 nearby draw units. I have never used them and I have never heard any reviews of their services.

    HC hunters come from Lake, Eagle, Denver and out of state hunters. Plus, recreationalists are there throughout September if the weather is nice. Weekdays are the best time to hunt HC, but I see elk on weekends too.

    You are going scouting next weekend? Interesting. Do you have snowshoes or at least microspikes for your boots? You can glass their winter feeding areas. If they are dropping antlers, expect some competition for shed hunting.

    If you are going to HC during calving (mid-May thru June), please try to avoid the calving areas. I do not know if the NFS closes any of the HC hiking trails for calving season like they do closer to the Front Range. It would be posted at the trailhead if they do and sometimes listed on trail maps. You may also see the USFS page for the latest information of White River National Forest conditions and road closures.

    Take a chain saw or some saw if you go on those NF roads. Lots of trees fall down in Spring and during monsoon season that block the road. I once dropped an aspen tree on my foot moving it off the road. Never again. Now, I carry a saw.

    Congrats on the new home in Frisco.

    Good Luck and have fun.

    -Patricia
     
  8. bz_711

    bz_711 Die Hard Bowhunter

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    This is all spot on.
    I do believe road to HC trailheads used to be closed thru late June to allow for undisturbed calving season.

    I know 2014 was snow heavy, but when I stopped by this area quickly in late June on a leisure trip, there was a lot of snow up high still...not sure how this spring will progress.
     
  9. Bails-UK

    Bails-UK Die Hard Bowhunter

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    Hi Dustin,
    I'm another Holy Cross Bowhunter, I travel from the UK every other year and have hunted this area 3 times and Unit6 1 time. My experience in Holy Cross is very similar to Matt's, just without his success :). I've seen Elk on every visit, even been in bow range on 3 occasions, but Elk don't always play by my rules. Believe there are Elk there, but boy'oh'boy do you have to look for them, knowledge of this area is essential and you should start your homework early, I studied Google Earth and Hunters Database and my TOPO Maps methodically before each trip and even then I had to put in the Miles. Last year was my slowest year for Elk, I saw plenty of Mule Deer, but those Elk were elusive, it took a long walk in and and 3 nights on the Mountain to find my Oasis and my Trophy Elk, but again the Big Boy(7x7 340" @ 54yds) outsmarted me...... Although I know exactly where I'm going in 2016 ;).
    Now Unit6!, Big heards, Big Bulls and lots of Bugling, I saw more Elk in Unit 6 in 9days than I've seen in Holy Cross in 3 visits, But Unit6 is vast, steep, dense and personally I think less pleasant(thunder and lightening storms every afternoon, as well as rain), its got its own weather system, so be prepared for wet weather and little sleep lol.
     
  10. soccerdan90

    soccerdan90 Grizzled Veteran

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    I know where I'm going as well


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