Bulls will be bugling from mid-Sept through 1st rifle opening weekend. Elk are widely distributed. Most stay high until hunting pressure pushes them to lower elevations and less accessible drainages.
Bounded on N by Colorado River; on E by US Highway 50; on S by County Highway 141 and Dolores River; on W by Utah.
Roads provide access to the mesas, but many of the canyons are remote and accessible only by foot or horseback. This unit has a lot of private land, and public access to BLM is often difficult to reach by vehicle. The main population center in the DAU is found in the Grand Valley, in Grand
Junction and Fruita. The land ownership in this unit is unique in Colorado.
Unlike many areas in
western Colorado, public lands in this unit are generally found at lower rather
than higher elevations. The most productive lands in this unit are generally
found at the intermediate and higher elevations. These higher elevations were
homesteaded rather than the dryer, less productive lands at lower elevations.
38% Private, 62% Public, 2% USFS, 56% BLM, 21% Wilderness, 4% NPS
Early season hunters should favor higher elevations of the USFS land, while later season hunters will do better on the lower BLM lands. Hunters can find many water holes within the dark timber stands on north facing slopes. Elk and deer frequent these areas during warm temperatures and heavy hunting pressure. Bulls will be bugling from mid-Sept through 1st rifle opening weekend.
Elk are widely distributed. Most stay high until hunting pressure pushes them to lower elevations and less accessible drainages. Do not hunt areas that have previously received heavy hunting pressureÑelk will not be there. Successful hunters do a lot of walking and looking.
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.
Elk Management Plan
This 750 square mile unit consists of a relatively flat summit leading to sloping mesas bisected by deep, rugged canyons. The highest elevation range is approximately 9,800ft. This unit can be broadly divided into two units: Glade Park, in the northern
portion and piñon Mesa rising south and west of Glade Park. The unit is called
both piñon Mesa and Glade Park and the two are often used interchangeably.
The topography varies greatly in the unit. The highest elevations in the unit
are at its center and from there elevation decreases in all directions. The highest
point is approximately 9,700 feet at the south-center of the unit. The lowest
point is where the Colorado River meets the UT state line at approximately 4,600
The Colorado River forms the northern boundary of the unit. Interstate 70
parallels the Colorado River, forming a significant barrier which restricts elk
movements throughout the northern portion of the unit. Additionally, nearly
vertical sandstone canyons on the north end of the unit prohibit much elk
movement to the north. Along the eastern boundary, the Gunnison River and the city of Grand Junction,
as well as the desert-like, open terrain act as a natural barrier restricting elk
The Unaweep Canyon forms the eastern and southern boundary of
the unit and is a well-known geologic feature. It is a broad, steep-sided canyon
composed of both granite and sandstone formations. Two creeks, East Creek
and West Creek, flow out of either end of the canyon. The Dolores River forms the southern boundary of the unit for a short distance
north of the town of Gateway and to the UT state line.
The western boundary,
the Colorado-Utah state line, is not marked by significant natural boundaries to
elk movement. Sandstone canyons are one of the dominant geologic features of this unit. The
terrain on the south side of the Colorado River from the Colorado National
Monument (COLM) west to the state line is noted for its expansive sandstone
canyon system. This area, including the COLM, Black Ridge Canyons
Wilderness Area, and the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area, has
extensive canyon systems.
The Colorado, Gunnison, and Dolores Rivers surround the unit. The Little
Dolores River is one main drainage that originates in the unit. The highest
elevations in the unit receive significantly more precipitation than lower
elevations, and perennial and intermittent streams are quite common. There are
no large natural lakes in the unit.
Small reservoirs have been constructed for
livestock water, irrigation, and municipal use for the town of Fruita. The wide range of the terrain in this unit provides a variety of physical features
that elk populations find very suitable for their year-round needs. Due to this
variety of landscape features, large numbers of elk can be supported in this herd
unit. Elk summer ranges are found in the center of the unit.
Elk are forced to
migrate to lower elevations during the winter. Annual precipitation ranges from about 8 inches in the desert country near Grand
Junction to over double that amount in the highest elevations of the unit. Much of
the annual precipitation is in the form of snow. Vegetation in this unit varies due to the wide range of elevations.
communities grade into each other in response to slope and aspect. Higher
elevations, which receive considerably more moisture, are composed of aspen
and spruce-fir forests. Ponderosa pine and oakbrush communities are found just
below the aspen/spruce/fir zone. piñon-juniper woodlands are found on the
lower and intermediate slopes throughout the unit.
woodlands are usually found in the lower, drier areas. Sagebrush and
snowberry are commonly found in open areas in the oakbrush zone at
intermediate and higher elevations. Sagebrush is found throughout the unit at
lower elevations also. Desert shrubs types, including greasewood and
sagebrush are found along drainages at the lower elevations.
Irrigated cropland and grassland with half-shrub mixtures and grass/alfalfa
meadows are found in the valleys and on Glade Park. Irrigated crops include
corn, grains such as wheat, barley, and oats, and alfalfa and grass grown for
pasture and hay. River bottoms along the Colorado and Dolores Rivers are dominated by
cottonwood trees and other species including willows, boxelder and alders. Tamarisk is also found along the river corridor, particularly at the lower elevations
near Grand Junction and Gateway.
The vegetation in the unit has been extensively managed for livestock forage
production. Cattle grazing occurs throughout the unit and domestic sheep were
historically grazed in significant numbers. Although there is still significant cattle
production, domestic sheep are found only in small flocks on ranchettes. In addition to grazing, the vegetation has been heavily influenced by other human
Natural fire has been excluded and suppressed for many years. However, several significant fires in recent years have occurred in the unit. These fires have burned in predominantly piñon-juniper woodlands, improving
overall winter range conditions, particularly for elk
Weather can vary by elevation. See how weather varies by elevation within a unit by selecting an elevation range. Elevation ranges are based on weather stations in or near the unit. Not all weather elements are available within the unit.
Use temperature ranges to plan and prepare for your hunt. Large swings indicate a good layering system should be used.
Be sure to make note of the extreme temperatures as these often pose the greatest risk to hunters.
If you plan on hunting in higher elevation, as a rule of thumb, expect the tempture to decrease roughly 5° for every 1000' in elevation gain.
The elk herd is well distributed with good hunting success expected. Elk are scattered throughout the forest and on private lands. Most elk stay at higher elevations (8500- 10,000ft) in thick timber and oakbrush.