Elk Hunting in Colorado GMU 45 - Eagle and Pitkin Counties

As hunting pressure increases, they seek the deeper canyons and dark timber areas way from roads. Concentrating on the large stands of dark timber and the larger wilderness areas will increase your chance of finding a big bull on public lands.

GMU 45 - Eagle and Pitkin Counties


Ease of Drawing
Trophy Potential
Public Access
Ease of Terrain
Room to Breathe
Ease of Effort

Access Notes

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Bounded on N by the Eagle River from East Lake Creek to Dowd Junction, I-70 from Dowd Junction to the Eagle River-TeNew Mexicoile Creek divide; on E by Eagle River-TeNew Mexicoile Creek divide; on S by Continental Divide; on W by divide between the Chance Creek-North Fork Fryingpan-Cunningham Creek drainages and the Cross Creek-Homestake Creek drainages, and East Lake Creek.


Eagle, Pitkin


336 Square Miles (214,832 Acres)

Land Ownership

10% Private, 90% Public, 89% USFS, 1% Other


39.4784, -106.4087


There are 13 hospitals, 20 hotels, 20 campgrounds, and 18 grocery stores within a 20 mile radius.

Elk Notes

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Elk are scattered from about 7,000ft to above timberline. As hunting pressure increases, they seek the deeper canyons and dark timber areas way from roads. Concentrating on the large stands of dark timber and the larger wilderness areas will increase your chance of finding a big bull on public lands.

HuntScore Tip

Public land and private land percentages can sometime be misleading. A unit may have 80% public land, but a particluar species may only occupy 20% on the entire area. And that 20% species distribution may lie 100% within private lands. Does that sound confusing? Just remember that there are always exceptions to the rule, and land ownership is just one piece of the puzzle.

Management Plan

Elk Management Plan

State Agency Website

Visit Colorado Parks and Wildlife

Other Species in Unit

Deer, Shiras Moose, Black Bear, Mountain Lion, Turkey,

Photos and Terrain Notes

Elevation climbs from 6,000ft with sage and piñon to over 14,000ft with alpine vegetation starting at 10,500ft. This area is dominated by the many high mountain ranges such as the Williams Mountains, Red Table Mountain, Hardscrabble Mountain and Holy Cross Wilderness Area Mountains with many peaks higher than 11,000 feet above sea level. The center of the DAU consists of Red Table Mountain (11,000 to 12,000 feet). The landscape slopes down to the north or west to the Roaring Fork, Eagle, and Colorado River valley floors (around 6,000 to 7,000 ft.) Elevations range from a low of around 5,763 feet above sea level at the NW corner of the unit (Colorado River at Glenwood Springs) to the high of 14,005 feet above sea level at Mount of the Holy Cross Peak.

Vegetation types in this unit are largely determined by elevation and aspect (Figure 5). The mountain peaks above approximately 11,600 feet contain mostly bare rock or alpine communities. Spruce-fir grows mostly between the elevations of 8,000 and 11,600 ft. Aspen and aspen-conifer mixes dominate the slopes from 7,000 to 8,500 feet.

Mountain shrubs show up on lower slopes near 7,000 feet. piñon-juniper covers the lower foothills, and sagebrush parks appear on the more level sites as elevation drops. Riparian vegetation runs along the creeks and rivers. Elk prefer a diversity of vegetation types in close proximity to cover and forage.

The vegetation in this DAU can be categorized into five main groups: cropland, riparian, rangeland, forest land, and alpine.

Cropland is found in the valleys at the low elevations and is mostly hay grounds of timothy, orchard grass, wheat-grasses, and alfalfa. Much of this habitat type has been lost due to land development in the Roaring Fork and Eagle River Valleys. Some of the better cropland areas occur in the Spring Valley, Gypsum Creek and Brush Creek areas.

Riparian vegetation is found along the major creeks and rivers. This community supports the greatest number and diversity of plant and animal species. Cover types range from sprucefir, blue spruce, Douglas fir, ponderosa pine, aspen, narrowleaf cottonwood, and various species of willow. Some of the largest riparian areas occur along the Roaring Fork and Eagle Rivers.

Rangelands consist of sagebrush, mountain shrubs, Gambel's oak, and grassland communities. Sagebrush is the most common land cover at the lower elevations. Rabbit brush, western and slender wheatgrass, and native clovers commonly grow with the sagebrush. Mountain shrubs include serviceberry, snowberry, mountain mahogany, and Gambelfts oak.

The shrublandsft grasses, forbs and browse provide an important forage source for elk in the winter, spring and fall transition months. Grasslands occur on the more level sites in forested areas (large bunchgrasses such as Thurber's fescue, wildrye, needlegrass, and broome) and in the alpine areas (Idaho and Thurber's fescue, Sandberg bluegrass, blue bunch wheatgrass mixed with forbs).

Forest communities fall into 5 major groups: piñon-juniper, aspen and aspen-conifer mix, Douglas fir, lodgepole pine, and spruce-fir. piñon-juniper covers the foothills.

They provide good thermal and escape cover but poor forage. This type is well represented on the lower elevations just south of the Eagle River. Aspen and aspen-conifer mixes occupy the middle elevations. The understory consists of emerging conifers (where aspen is not the climax species), lush grasses and forbs, and some shrubs.

This community provides important cover and summer forage areas for elk. Some of the larger aspen stands are located in the Beaver Creek and Cottonwood Pass area. Douglas fir shares the middle elevation zone mostly on the moister sites on north facing aspects, but is much less represented than the aspen ecosystems. It is a long-lived species valued for wildlife habitat diversity, scenic value, and big game cover.

Lodgepole pine grows in even aged stands generally above the aspen and below the spruce-fir. In mature stands, the dense overstory limits the growth of understory forage, but provides good cover. This type is well represented in the middle elevations along the Frying Pan River and in the Vail area. Throughout portions of the DAU, the lodgepole stands have been infected by pine bark beetle.

There will be a significant ecosystem-wide change that occurs when the infected trees die and are harvested or simply fall to the ground. The overstory will be reduced and there will be a conversion to grass and forb type vegetation. Spruce-fir (Engelmann Spruce, Subalpine Fir) dominates the higher elevations up to tree line. This habitat provides excellent summer cover and forage site for elk.

This is the most common forest type in the Holy Cross and HunterFrying Pan Wilderness areas. Alpine sites occur in the high mountain peaks and basins. Grasses, sedges, and numerous forbs are present. Short willows grow in moister areas.

These sites provide excellent summer forage areas and a place for elk to avoid the pesky insects of summer.

Elk Drawing Stats (2016)

Total Quota
Licenses Drawn
Licenses Surplus
Resident Quota
Nonresident Quota
Landowner Quota
Youth Quota
Average Draw Odds
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HuntScore Tip: While most Big Game licenses are allocated through the draw, over-the-counter bull elk licenses are available during 2nd and 3rd rifle seasons.

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