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Hunting with AEI Outfitter in Unit 55

AEI Outfitter Frequently Asked Questions
What does AEI stand for?

AEI comes from the abbreviation of our original company name, Adventure Experiences, Inc.  However, as of 2018, we changed our formal company name to Adventure Experiences, LLC. In order to keep our hard-earned identity and image, we decided to keep the AEI abbreviation the same in our current legal DBA or Doing Business As (AEI Outfitter). 
Do you have experienced guides? 

We take pride in our excellent reputation of hiring professional seasoned, ethical, hardworking and competent guides. We hold ourselves to a high standard and feel confident that we have the best staff found anywhere. Our guides are challenged to work as hard for you as they would for themselves. All guide staff have a proven track record of guiding and are very familiar with various hunting strategies/techniques, the area’s geography, and local wildlife behavior and activity. Everyone on staff, from our guides to our support staff, sincerely desire that you walk away from your week of hunting having had the adventure of a lifetime! Our guides will ensure you have an epic adventure and we promise to go the extra mile to give you the best opportunity at success.
Why should I chose AEI Outfitter? 

Guiding in the valley since 1984, AEI Outfitter offers hunters and anglers an opportunity to hunt and fish in some of the most spectacular and beautiful landscapes anywhere. Our main goal is to make your Colorado experience something you'll always remember. We can provide you with one of the best Colorado hunting and fly fishing guides available in the west. Our guides are professional, knowledgeable, and experienced. We are prepared to hike you deep into wild elk country or to set you up in established stand sites. Our first-class experience includes being the only outfitter in the Gunnison Valley to offer clean and accommodating cabins. When staying at our main base camp, cabin lodging is provided for all hunt packages, complete with comfortable beds, wood burning stoves and bathrooms. A specialty cabin with private rooms and bathrooms is also available for couples and families. The meals are prepared from the hands of a professional chef and are served with big appetites in mind. AEI's main base camp property is ideally situated on 1,500 acres of private land in the heart of prime elk, deer, mountain goat and moose habitat in the Gunnison National Forest. You will find a spectacular view of the Continental Divide and some of the most pristine wildlife habitat within its boundaries. Elevations range from 8,000 feet to more than 13,000 feet at the mountain peaks, making your Colorado experience truly memorable. So, whether you are looking for peace and solitude in the breathtaking beauty of the great outdoors or a solid start on a lifelong passion, AEI Outfitter can offer you an unrivaled outdoor experience- one to be remembered and cherished for the rest of your life.

What are the lodging/sleeping accommodations like? 

All guests that stay at AEI Outfitter’s base camp will stay in clean and accommodating cabins. Guided hunters stay in 1 of 3 cabins on property (Bandera Lodge, Sage cabin or Willow cabin). Each of these cabins is equipped with at least one full-bathroom and a kitchen or kitchenette and a common space for relaxing and sharing the days’ hunt and stories with other hunters. Self-guided hunters stay in a more basic bunk-style cabin with a wood stove and an attached bathhouse. All cabins onsite are walking distance from the main dining hall lodge. Drop-camp hunters stay in some type of outfitter tent. We provide the tent, cots and a wood stove depending on the situation and tent being used. 

For all late season, 3rd and 4th rifle deer hunters, we move our operations to the town of Gunnison, following the migrating deer herds to their traditional wintering and rutting grounds. Gunnison is the perfect hub to access all the units we hunt deer in the late seasons in a short drive. We mostly utilize rental houses to accommodate our hunters and guides. 
Do you provide bedding and towels for hunters? 

We provide bedding for all guided and stand/private land hunters. We do not provide bedding for self or semi-guided hunters or drop camps. All hunters are responsible for bringing their own towels and toiletries. 
Do you hunt PRIVATE or PUBLIC land? 

All AEI guided and self-guided hunts take place on public land; Gunnison National Forest, Gunnison BLM or the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness where we have approximately 370,000 that we are permitted to guide in. Our semi-guided stand hunts are the only hunts conducted on private land (~2,000 acres). For these private land, stand-only hunts, we take a very small, limited number of hunters and generally of which are older hunters or have some physical limitations.

What size animals are hunters expected to encounter in the area? 

For ELK, our area is managed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife for opportunity and not "trophy" or older age class animals. Many elk taken with AEI Outfitter hunters are nice 5x5's or smaller 6x6's with the average score 260"-280". However, our country is big and rugged enough to grow older age bulls and we usually kill several bigger 6x6's every year. We have taken bulls up to 390" in our area and it is not abnormal to see a couple bulls killed over 300" each year. We believe game management unit 55 is a great blend of opportunity to hunt ever couple of years while offering a quality experience. 

For DEER, our area is managed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife for a high buck-to-doe ratio, which creates an environment for above average, older age class animals on the landscape. This does not automatically mean that someone that hunts with us is guaranteed a 190"+ buck. Though we have killed many deer over the years in that category, we feel that realistically, we are targeting 170"+ bucks. There are a lot of factors and variables that affect the health of deer herds annually; including winter snow pack and conditions, summer moisture, predation, tag allocations, etc. The great blessing of hunting deer in the Gunnison Basin, where we have some of the best mule deer genetics in the country, is that you never know when a giant buck might show up!

Do you need PREFERENCE POINTS to hunt in your area?

Yes and no. Depending on the season choice and whether or not you are a resident, you may or may not need preference points. Please note that the statistics below are taken from statistics in the previous year's application cycle and likely may change form year to year based on the annual decision making process by Colorado Parks and Wildlife. 
Archery Elk - Residents need a minimum of 0 points but are guaranteed to draw with 1 point. Non-residents need a minimum of 1 point but are guaranteed to draw with 2 points. 
Muzzleloader Elk - Residents will need 2 points. Non-residents will need 6 points. 
1st Rifle Elk - Residents need 1 point. Non-residents need 2 points. A cow tag is a draw only tag, but can be acquired with 0 preference points. 
2nd Rifle Elk - CURRENTLY WE ARE NOT OFFERING HUNTS DURING 2ND SEASON. This is currently an Over-the-Counter license for the bull tag. A cow tag is a draw only tag, but can be acquired with 0 preference points. 
Archery Deer (GMU 55) - Residents need a minimum of 2 points. Non-residents need a minimum of 10 points. 3 preference point guarantees a draw for residents and 11 preference point guarantees a draw for non-residents.
Muzzleloader Deer (GMU 55) - Residents need a minimum of 2 points. Non-residents need a minimum of 13 points. 3 preference point guarantees a draw for residents and 14 preference point guarantees a draw for non-residents.
3rd Rifle Deer (GMU 55) - Residents need a minimum of 5 points. Non-residents need a minimum of 16 points. 6 preference point guarantees a draw for residents and 17 preference point guarantees a draw for non-residents.
4th Rifle Deer (GMU 55) - Residents need a minimum of 12 points. Non-residents need a minimum of 22 points. 13 preference point guarantees a draw for residents and 23 preference point guarantees a draw for non-residents.
WE ALSO OFFER GUIDED RIFLE 3rd and 4th SEASON DEER HUNTS IN UNITS 54, 55, 551 and 67. Call for more information about these units. 
Which hunt is right for me? 

While we offer various hunting options, with a history of high shot opportunities, our hunts do not guarantee that you will kill an animal. What we do guarantee, is that our entire staff will work diligently to find the game, put you in a position to be successful and go above and beyond to create an epic overall experience! * All of our hunting options, except for the drop-camp, include food, lodging and pack-out services!
Fully-Guided Hunt – Our fully-guided elk hunts gives you the opportunity to hunt one-on-one or one-on-two with an experienced hunting guide. A fully-guided hunt is our most successful hunt option. This hunt takes place on nearly 370,000 acres of Gunnison National Forest and the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness. This option entails hunting hard; hiking and covering as much ground as possible to find the game. This is a great option for those looking for a challenging but rewarding style of hunting. You should be 
ready physically for mountainous and rugged terrain although we try and adapt the areas we focus on to each person’s physical ability. 
Private-Stand Elk Hunt - The private-stand hunt allows you to hunt on established stands and blinds on both private (~2,000 acres) and surrounding public lands. We utilize about 30 different stand sets. This is a stand-hunt only, but we provide transportation to and from stand locations each hunt. There is minimal walking involved in accessing many of the stands/blinds. Our private acreage is reserved for the semi-guided hunters only and guided hunts operate only off property in the public land. This is a great hunt option for some older hunters and/or those with physical limitations. 
Semi-Guided Elk Hunt
For more experienced or adventurous hunters, the semi-guided hunt is an alternative option. You stay at the main AEI Base Camp and food and lodging is provided. Be prepared to accept the challenge of the unpredictable and rugged Rocky Mountains and hunt hard from dawn to dusk. We will look over maps with you and help you devise a strategy and game plan for each day. This hunt takes place on nearly 370,000 acres of Gunnison National Forest and the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness. This is a great option for those who may have some previous elk hunting experience or those ready to learn on the fly. You should be ready physically for mountainous and rugged terrain. 
Drop Camp Elk Hunt
For more experienced or adventurous hunters, the drop camp hunt is an alternative option. We outfit you with a large tent, wood stove (if necessary) and sleeping cots. We try and keep these camps simple but comfortable. Our drop camp locations have 2 pre-equisites; 1, they are located at least, far back enough to where most hunters will not travel via foot on a day-to-day basis and 2, they are placed in areas that traditionally hold good seasonal elk populations. We hike you and your gear into our drop camp sites. We will also help you pack in your food and other group gear for the week of hunting the backcountry. Before sending you in, we will look over maps with you and give advice on where to focus your hunting efforts. This hunt takes place deep in the heart of Gunnison National Forest or the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness. This is a great option for those who may have some previous elk hunting experience or those ready to learn on the fly. You should be ready physically for mountainous and rugged terrain. 
What is the “success” rate for AEI’s hunts? 
Our guided harvest “success” rates vary from year-to-year depending on rut timing, migration timing, weather, missed shots, etc. We actually use the term “shot opportunity” instead of “success” when talking about our hunts. The term success or kill rate has limitations or is too subjective and doesn’t always paint the best or truest picture of our hunts. Shot opportunity, in contrast is defined as; having a realistic shot opportunity, within a practical distance, for the intended or targeted species. This takes into account shots, missed or not. Our hunts are fair-chase hunts on public land and although our professional guides are competent in their skills and ability to find game, we are still hunting wild animals in wild places! Consequently, we do not guarantee that you will kill an animal, but we do guarantee that we will go above and beyond give you the best opportunity possible. It is also important to remember that preparation and capability such as physical capacity, mental fortitude and shooting skills only increase your chance at success. For all guided archery elk hunts, our shot opportunity usually hovers around 70%. For all guided muzzleloader elk hunts, our shot opportunity is 90%. For all guided 1st rifle elk hunts, our shot opportunity is 70%. AEI’s guided 2nd Rifle elk hunts offer around a 50% shot opportunity. 
All of our guided deer hunts over the years, no matter the weapon, have produced 100% shot opportunities on quality bucks. 
AEI does not record statistics for our drop camps or semi-guided hunts. For these DIY hunts, we promise to put you in or point you to known elk inhabited areas but you are in control of your own opportunities and success. 
What does the REGISTRATION PROCESS look like?

Step 1: Register Online; to register online, simply complete the online registration form.
Step 2: Send 1st Deposit of $500 if it is a draw hunt, or 1/3 Total Hunt Cost or 1/2 Total Hunt Cost (for non-draw seasons or situations where you have more than enough points to draw). You can write a personal check made payable to 'AEI Outfitter' and mail to #2 Illinois Creek Rd. Almont, CO 81210. You may also pay online via Credit Card but must add an additional 3% to your total for a processing fee.  Step 3: Return the Signed, Hunter Contract and all other Forms. Once AEI receives your registration and deposit, we will send you a Hunting/Fishing Contract, Medical Form and Liability Waiver. You must fill out all forms and return them no later than 60 days before of the start of your hunt.
Step 4: Send remaining hunt cost no later than 30 days prior to your hunt. You must pay the remaining balance of your hunt/fish cost no later than 30 days before the start of your adventure.
When are DEPOSITS due? 

To solidify a limited hunting spot with AEI Outfitter, we require an initial deposit of $500 or 1/2 the total hunt cost depending on the hunt season and your point situation. The second payment, if applicable, is due by June 15 (after the draw results) and final payment is due 30 days prior to the start of your hunt. The first deposit is non-refundable with the exception being that you do not draw the desired tag. If you do not draw your desired tag, you may request a full refund or choose to roll over your deposit to the following year where you will have priority towards the week and hunt of your choice. Personal or certified checks are accepted and preferred. Only the first payment deposit may be made via credit card with an additional processing fee; call office for details. Checks made payable to ‘AEI Outfitter’. Mail payments to #2 Illinois Creek Rd. Almont, CO 81210. 
Are there any hidden costs or trophy fees? 

No. Our costs are all inclusive in regards to your hunt and stay with AEI.  However, AEI does not cover the costs of your hunting license, your meat processing if warranted and tips/gratuities. 
What are recommended tips for a hunting trip? 

Gratuity is not mandatory but is an industry standard and MUCH appreciated! Our staff work very hard to make your experience one to remember! Recommended Gratuity: Guides: 15%-20% of Hunt Cost, Support Staff/Pack-out Crew: $50-75/person, Head Chef: $75-100, Asst. Chef: $50. 

How do I apply for my hunting license? 

Big game license applications are done online at The online system is the only way to apply for your tags or preference points. There are no longer paper applications. All customers, new and existing, need to have a unique email address and password to create an online profile in the new system (see more details below). I recommend going ahead and setting up your online profile before the system becomes active to apply for tags on March 1. The application deadline is the first Tuesday in April. License fees are no longer due at the time you submit your draw application but you will be charged the license price only if you draw your license. Make sure that prior to the anticipated draw results, your credit card information is current and accurate so it processes your fees. 
You can read through the Colorado Big Game Regs online to more familiarize yourself with Colorado’s regulations and protocol. 
AEI staff can help walk you through the application process. 
Here are a few other notes to be aware of as you prepare for the online application process. 
1. You will need to have your CID# (Colorado ID) and your birthdate to set up a new account. If you can’t find your CID, you will have to call the CPW and recover it (1-800-244-5613). If you have previously purchased a hunting and fishing license in Colorado, you’ll have an account with them, but not a username and password. It is important to look up your existing account before attempting to create a new one. You do this by clicking on the ‘Lookup’ tab on the webpage and begin navigating the process from there. You will also need a unique identifier for registration (Driver’s license, passport, etc.). 
If you have never hunter in Colorado, follow the links to create a new account. 
Lastly, you need proof of hunter education certificate from the state in which your received it. (This card/proof will also need to accompany you in the field unless your license has been verified)
2. Purchase a Qualifying License: 
All applicants must first purchase a qualifying hunting license BEFORE applying for the big game draw or acquiring a preference point. Qualifying licenses are spring turkey, annual small game and/or small game/fishing combo.  Also, a $10 habitat stamp will be automatically added when purchasing your qualifying license. 
PLEASE NOTE from CPW that when you buy a qualifying license you will have to log out after purchasing the qualifying license and then log back in to apply for a license.
If you are applying for any bighorn/desert sheep, mountain goat or moose preference point, there is a $100 per species fee for non-residents and $50 fee per species for residents. There is an opt-out option for applying if you do not wish to acquire a preference point for not drawing a tag. 
Increased application fee for 2019 as follows: New cost is $7 for residents and $9 for non-residents. These fees are per species. 
There is no longer a preference point fee for elk, mule deer, pronghorn, bear or turkey. 
3. For all limited seasons and tags, you are only guaranteed to draw the tag if you apply as FIRST CHOICE on your application. Also note that the 'O' in 'O1' is a letter, not a number.  Hunt codes are below: 
Archery Deer: D-M-055-O1-A or D-M-551-O1-A This is a buck-only tag. 
Archery Elk: E-E-055-O1-A This is an either-sex tag. 
Muzzleloader Bull Elk: E-M-055-O1-M
Muzzleloader Cow Elk: E-F-055-O1-M 
Muzzleloader Deer: D-M-055-O1-M or D-M-551-O1-M This is a buck-only tag. 
1st Rifle Bull Elk: E-M-055-O1-R
1st Rifle Cow Elk: E-F-055-O1-R You cannot have both a bull and a cow tag; you must choose one or the other. 
2nd Rifle Bull Elk: This tag is an over-the-counter general bull tag. You can buy your tag online in early August or you can pick up a tag on your way out to hunt in a business that sells CO hunting and fishing licenses.  This is a bull-only tag.   
Cow tags for the 2nd rifle season must be applied for in the application process. The Hunt code for a 2nd season cow tag is E-F-055-O2-R You cannot have both a bull and a cow tag; you must choose one or the other. 
3rd Rifle Deer: D-M-055-O3-R or D-M-054-O3-R or D-M-551-O3-R or D-M-067-O3-R This is a buck-only tag. 
4th Rifle Deer: D-M-055-O4-R or D-M-54-O3-R or D-M-551-O4-R or D-M-067-O4-R This is a buck-only tag. 
Elk Preference Point: E-P-999-99-P
Deer Preference Point: D-P-999-99-P
Mountain Goat Preference Point: G-P-999-99-P
Moose Preference Point: M-P-999-99-P
Mountain Goat First Rifle: G-E-G03-O1-R   
Mountain Goat Second Rifle: G-E-G03-O2-R
Moose (Residents only, Season Choice): M-M-055-O1-X 
What is expected of me? 

Our guarantee is that we will work extremely hard to set you up for success in the field, but ultimately, this is your hunt and your experience. To some degree, this adventure is what you make it to be. Physically, we expect you to come prepared for the hunt, having put in the necessary work to have your body as ready as possible. You don’t have to be the most physically fit person in world to hunt in our area, however, the reality is that this area can be physically challenging due to the combination of altitude and rocky mountain terrain. Mentally, we expect a positive attitude and a mindset of adventure; soaking in the entire experience. To focus only on the kill rather than the entirety of the adventure often leads to a pocket-sized experience. We expect that your preparation and positive mentality meets with natural variables to create significant opportunities for your adventure. Even with the best laid plans, we are still hunting wild animals in wild places.  
Is there an option for non-hunters? 

Yes, AEI loves hosting family and friends of hunters. We count it a great privilege to help build stronger relationships with your significant other, family and friends and provide a quality experience and get-away for those not wanting to hunt themselves. For non-hunting guests, we have food and lodging packages available at a cost of $1,000 per person. Guests who wish to tag along in the field with their friend is generally only permitted in 1x1 hunt situations. Please inquire in advance if that is a request. 
When do we arrive and depart for the hunt? 

We accommodate our hunters the day before the hunt starts. We provide meals starting at lunch the day before the hunt. We do recommend that you arrive at least an extra day early before your arrival to AEI. Recommended stays in Buena Vista or Gunnison for a night will help your body acclimate. Departure is the morning after your hunt ends. We provide you with breakfast for departure morning. 
What is the closest airport? 

Gunnison-Crested Butte Regional Airport is about an hour away (44 miles). If you chose to fly into the GC Airport, with prior arrangements, we may be able to pick you up and take you back to the airport. Other clients over the years have chosen to fly into Denver or Colorado Springs and rent a vehicle to drive out to AEI’s base camp; sometimes this is a cheaper option but more time consuming. 
What is the mode of transportation when hunting? 

AEI primarily uses 4x4 vehicles and ATV/UTV’s to access hunting areas and trailheads. We always stay on designated trails and generally park at trailheads or access points to which we then hike in as far as necessary to access the pre-determined hunting area. AEI does not (or rarely) use horses in our operations. 
How do you retrieve game if a kill is made? 

Any seasoned western hunter knows that one of most overwhelming aspects of a successful hunt happens after the kill. We remove the hassle and stress by completely taking care of this process for you. AEI does not (or rarely) use horses in our operations. Instead, we hire competent backcountry staff or support staff (usually 3-4) to assist in quartering, packing out and retrieving all game animals in the field. Our support staff also are on call for any other assistance guides or hunters may need, including emergencies in the field. If you chose to be involved in the pack-out process, we can bring in a pack-out bag to location. This means that you don’t have to go into the field with a pack large enough to pack out a quarter or a large amount of meat. This is one of the greatest advantages of hiring or hunting with an outfitter; no matter where you kill an animal, we will get you and your trophy back to camp professionally, expediently and safely. 
Do you process the meat in house? 

We do not process the meat for you. It is each hunters’ responsibility to decide how you will process your own game meat. As part of your hunting package, AEI will help quarter your animal if possible, and pack it back to AEI’s Base Camp. We have an onsite walk-in cooler to keep your meat stored until your hunt is over or you are able to take it to the processor in town. There are local processor options in Gunnison that can sometimes turn around the processing of your meat in time for your departure. We can also help coordinate getting the meat shipped to your home after processing is complete. You may bring your own coolers or you can possibly buy coolers in Gunnison if you tag out early enough. City Market in Gunnison also carries dry ice that can be used in transporting meat back to your home. 
How many miles do you hike per day on a guided elk hunt? 

The answer here revolves around someone’s physical capacity. The terrain in this mountainous part of the state can be rough, although we do have some more mild terrain. On average, a 5-6 mile day is normal. However, with guys or gals that come in physically capable, we may hike as much as 10 or more miles in a day.  The farther and harder you can hunt, the better chance you will have in getting into great hunting situations and encounters. That’s not to say that you can’t get into elk right off the road or a mile back, but usually, the more successful hunters are capable of going wherever necessary to get to the game animals. 
How far do I need to practice shooting? 

For archery hunters, we prefer that you are feeling solid out to 50 yards. Once comfortable shooting to 50, then if you wish to stretch your distance, that is bonus! For rifle hunters, we prefer that you are feeling solid out to 300 yards. The same holds true here, once comfortable at 300, we encourage you to try and stretch your competency out further. You must know your effective range coming in to the hunt and communicate that to your guide so everyone is on the same page. The more you practice at longer distances, the more proficient you will be, especially the shorter distances. We also request that you practice shooting in field-like positions and scenarios. Example: shooting from your knees, steep angles, shooting sticks, prone, leaning against a tree, etc. 
How are drop camps accessed? 

AEI does not (or rarely) use horses in our operations. Consequently, we hike you and your gear into our drop camp sites. We always have support staff available to take you into the drop camp site. We will also help you pack in your food and other group gear for the week of hunting the backcountry. Before sending you in, we will look over maps with you and give advice on where to focus your hunting efforts. We give you a radio and an extra battery to check in daily and to let us know if you need a pack out. The radio also provides a way to reach AEI’s main base camp in an emergency situation. We do recommend taking a satellite communication device with you as well, such as the Garmin InReach. Our base radio is very powerful, but has limitations. We ask our drop camp hunters to pack out the animal to their base camp and we will pack it back to camp for you. We have an onsite walk-in cooler to keep your meat stored until your hunt is over or you are able to take it to the processor in town. 
Which archery week is the best for elk hunting? 

This is definitely a valid question related to chasing the monarchs of the Rocky Mountains and I'll try to give you some positives and negatives related to each week. Hopefully this will help you decide which week would be the most appealing to you and your expectations. 

Week 1 (1st week of September)
Positives: Elk are typically vocal in Taylor Park area by this time of year. They definitely aren't bugling at every loud noise or wrong look from another bull, but they are beginning to establish their dominance. The bulls have rubbed off all their velvet and are starting to gather their harem. I have seen mature bulls this time of year with an already established large harem of cows. I have also seen them chasing single or a couple cows all over the mountain or in many instances they are out solo searching for cows. Younger bachelor bull groups can also still be found. This time of year can be an easier time to call bulls in once you find them. They have not been pressured yet by other hunters and that is a major advantage. The other major advantage are that they are somewhat predictable; most elk are still operating on their regular summer routines and patterns... their daily activity consists of moving to and from their feeding and bedding habitat. This predictability can create opportunities to find the same elk in the same relative place from one day to the next, assuming you don't blow them out. Another positive is the weather... some may say it is a disadvantage due to the possibility of hot weather, but Taylor Park rarely has "hot" weather. AEI Outfitter base camp sits at 10,000 feet and we are hunting up to and above tree line (11,500-12,500 ft). Early September has less possibility for snow storms and/or bad weather. 

Challenges: Although the elk are vocal, they are not nearly as vocal as they will be and their communication and sounds only amplify and increase throughout the course of September. Consequently, it may be more difficult to locate bulls in the areas you are hunting. Bulls often come in to calling silent which can create challenges. Also, the weather, although nice, can be warmer and drier. In this weather scenario, the elk will have a tendency to spend less time active on their feet during the day and move more during the cover and coolness of the dark. 

Week 2 (2nd week of September)
Positives: Elk are becoming more and more vocal with each passing day now and their rutting activity coincides with their vocal increases. This means simply that you may hear more bulls than you would in the first week, and will possibly be able to create more opportunities on set-ups and stalk situations. The weather is also still really nice and if you are lucky enough to avoid the late summer monsoons that grace Colorado’s high country, you will likely have great hunting weather. Elk this second week likely have still had a small number of intrusions from other hunters and will still come running to the right calls in the right circumstances.

Challenges: The elk are still not as vocal as they will be and still are working their harems and establishing dominance (can also be an advantage discussed previously). Elk have now had a week of having the possibility of other hunters chasing them and blowing calls at them. Sometimes if they are messed with early on, they may be call shy for the rest of September. 

Week 3 (3rd week of September)
Positives: All variables aside, this is a great week to elk hunt in Colorado, much less in Taylor Park and unit 55; even when shared with muzzleloader hunters, it is hard to overlook this week. Muzzleloader season always starts the 2nd Saturday in September. Sometimes this falls during the 2nd week of September and sometimes it falls on the 3rd week. Some guys decide that they don't want to deal with a few extra people in orange chasing after elk with the smokepole. I can definitely understand this sentiment; however, I think to rule it out for archery hunters is not wise. Firstly, there are limited muzzleloader tags available and they require up to 5 preference points to draw. Many archery hunters don’t hunt this week because of the misconception that there is significantly more hunting pressure. The reality is that the elk are fired up and starting to be very, very vocal and demonstrating more aggressive rutting behavior. They are also more apt to react to challenges from other bulls trying to steal their cows. In some years, this is the apex of the archery season and if you are able to find the bull(s) that have not been too pressured, you could have an epic experience or two! 

Challenges: I've alluded to the fact that there are hunters with guns in the woods this week and that can be a negative variable. There's also the reality that this is the 3rd week of the season and a lot of elk may have been pressured on multiple occasions making them call shy. They may run the other way when they hear elk sounds that they don't recognize. I am typically shocked if by this week, there have been no small snow storms or bad weather. Weather becomes cooler and this week has a higher chance of having less than ideal weather to contend with. 

Week 4 (4th week of September)
Positives: I've known many Colorado elk hunters who prefer this last week of the archery season over any other. Bulls are, for sure, at the peak of their rutting activity and are very vocal. I am not shocked to hear a handful of bulls bugles echo throughout basins at this time of year and likely, you will hear more bulls this week than any other in September. Again, if you are able to locate a bull and get in his "wheelhouse" i.e. within 100 yards, a challenge bugle and sounds could encourage a fiery rage of slobber and testosterone to come running. 

Challenges: Now the last week or archery season, it is difficult, but not impossible to find a herd or bulls that have not been chased or pressured to some degree. This typically results in both cows and bulls becoming "call shy". Also, weather is very unpredictable late in September and sometimes create extra challenges in your hunting (although a little snow is not a bad thing in my book). 

In reading these short descriptions of the progressive September elk rut, you should recognize that each week has both its own unique advantages and challenges in increasing or decreasing values. Of course, the picture painted above is just an overview and each year has its own set of twists and turns from one week to the next that changes the game. However, no matter what week you chose to hunt, our experienced and capable guides know how to act and react according to the variables and rut stages in Taylor Park. I personally have great encounters each week throughout each season. They key is being adaptable and recognizing when your game plan must change or be tweaked given the tenuous nature of the rut and other variables out of our control. 

What does a “normal” day look like? 

On a normal hunt day, you would wake up and head over to the dining hall for a hot breakfast. The evening prior is when you schedule the time you will be eating breakfast. Then, after packing a lunch for the day, you head out for the morning hunt. Most guides and hunters are leaving in 4x4 vehicles to drive to the area that you will be hunting for the morning or day. Some choose to stay out hunting all day depending on how far back in the wilderness they hike or based on the animal activity in that area. It may not make sense to hike out and drive back to camp. Some may choose to come back to the main camp for lunch and go hunt an entirely different area for the afternoon/evening. Hunters usually hunt until legal shooting light and then return back to camp for a professionally cooked, hearty, meal and brief strategy session for next day’s adventure before going back to the sleeping cabins for bed time. Of course, every day is a new adventure and most look very different depending on the areas you are hunting, the time it takes to get there and the results of your strategy. 
What area map should I use? 
With the advancement in mapping software/technology, we advocate using various mapping platforms on your phone. A few of the better mapping software apps include, OnX Maps, GAIA GPS, Go Hunt and BaseMap. You should choose one and download all maps of the area before arriving for your hunt as you will not have access to WiFi at our base camp location. We ask that hunters on our guided or semi-guided hunts do not mark spots with a notion to return to those spots to hunt on your own or share with others, apart from future use of AEI's services. Though we are hunting public land, we feel that is not right, ethical or respectful to come back to spots that we have spent countless hours and years of exploration to have someone return to without involving AEI. We definitely applaud and advocate if someone wants to learn how to elk or deer hunt on their own, but there are so many other areas and units in the state that one could take and apply the same newly learned skills and knowledge. 

What caliber rifle should I use? 

A few recommend Calibers for elk hunting in Colorado: .284 and .30 Caliber rifles are the best options in our opinion! 30/06, 28 Nosler, .7mm PRC, .7mm Rem mag, .308, .300 Weatherby, .300 RUM, .300 Win mag, .300 WSM, .338 RUM, .338 Win. Be comfortable and solid shooting out to 300+ yards and if you can push your range beyond that, then that is beneficial. 
Can I use a mechanical broadheads? 

We much prefer fixed blade over mechanicals for elk. Mechanicals for smaller game (like white-tail, mule deer, pronghorn, etc.) are completely ok. I know of a few western big game hunters that use mechanicals for elk successfully, but my experience with the majority, is that they do not prefer them either. I have personally seen and heard first hand stories of them failing to get the job done on elk or failing to function as they ought. It’s not that I think they can’t work in the right scenario, but that is exactly my point. Rarely do scenarios while hunting elk in the Rocky Mountains, lend themselves to the perfect scenario. A fixed broadhead can get the job done, even when the circumstance does not play out perfectly. With new technology, we are beginning to see a few hybrid heads that utilize both fixed and mechanical blade functionality. I have an easier time with those as you have some advantages of both in one head. You’ll never hear us tell you that you that you can’t use mechanicals on hunts with AEI, we can only advise you not to.
There are many good heads out there, and some fly better than others depending on your personal archery equipment setup and how well tuned your bow is. Some suggestions are: QAD Exodus, NAP HellRazor, G5 Montec (125 grain), Muzzys, Slick Trick Magnums, G5 Strikers and Magnus Stingers, Iron Will Broadheads, etc. Ideally, you should make sure that your total arrow weight is a minimum of 450 grains. 
There is one huge caveat to this whole dialogue regarding broadheads; regardless of what head you are using, THE MOST IMPORTANT THING is shot placement!
What kind of weather can I expect? 

Weather can be variable in the high country any time of the year. We often get snow all months of the year, although the snow doesn’t usually start to stick around until October. The basic assumption is to be prepared for anything from snow to rain to warm, clear sunny days. Septembers are known for their cool crisp nights and mornings (~31 degrees) and warm daytime temperatures (~66 degrees). October temperatures can also be mild, but generally they are cold in the mornings (~22 degrees) and cooler during the day (~54 degrees). It is very typical during the fall for temperatures to fluctuate as much as 40 or more degrees in the context of a day. Packing various layers is always a vital part of staying comfortable and safe during your hunt. 

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AEI Outfitter
#2 Illinois Creek Rd.
Almont, Colorado 81210

Phone: (970) 641-4708

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