September is a great time to hunt. Mule deer bucks form bachelor groups during this time so it is not uncommon to see groups of two to ten bucks traveling together. I think of our September archery hunt in two segments consisting of prior to muzzleloader and after muzzleloader. Prior to muzzleloader, we are generally stalking mule deer bucks in velvet above the tree line. This is a fantastic opportunity to harvest a beautiful mule deer with a full velvet rack! During this time, the deer follow known patterns allowing hunters to sneak in with a bow for a shot. We know these patterns because we watch these deer all summer and track them with our trail cameras and glassing them from a distance. After muzzleloader, the mule deer are now hard horned and still follow some of their known summer patterns but are also starting to transition into the Aspen trees and lower elevations. Weather plays an important role in this transition and can alter their timeline. An example would be an early, heavy snow will push them to lower elevation in search of food.
In regards to elk, the archery season opener is the first time these animals have been pursued since the end of November of the prior year. This provides hunters with a great opportunity to harvest a bull elk in his pre-rut pattern. As the calendar days shorten and the nights cool down, the bull elk will start gathering cow elk in preparation for them coming into estrus. Light bugling and cow calls are effective tactics during this time. If warm weather is present, sitting over water or a wallow can be a great way to ambush an unsuspecting bull elk. After muzzleloader, elk rut is in full swing. Bulls will be bulging, and cows will be chirping. Our primary tactics will be to either bulge in a receptive bull elk who is looking to fight or cow call one in who is looking to add to his harem. Midday is a great time to close the distance between you and a bedded elk allowing an afternoon opportunity at a shot.
It should also noted September is a great time of year to harvest a beautiful bear as they gorging themselves on acorns in the oak brush and choke cherries in preparation for winter. Hunters often see them coming to water holes at various times during the day. While baiting bears is not legal in Colorado, we are able to follow special guidelines to allow us to hunt over a mule deer or elk carcass.
Now let’s discuss muzzleloader hunts. Colorado is one of few states which allows hunters to harvest a bull elk during rut with a gun. During this time, mule deer, bear, and elk seasons overlap so hunters may hunt for multiple species if they have multiple appropriate tags. It is important to remember a muzzleloader must be open site (no scope) during Colorado muzzleloader season. Colorado state law also requires use of 50 caliber muzzleloader or larger when elk hunting. While pellets are convenient, only poured powder is legal.
So whether you are chasing a screaming bull elk, a sneaky bear, or a wide rack mule deer, muzzleloader season in Colorado providers a great opportunity to hunt with a firearm in September! Until next time, Nick!