I should probably explain that the second season isn't really the second one, it's the fourth, but that's what we call it. A more technical explanation below the photo. This is yesterday afternoon, short intense snow squalls with low clouds and dropping temps, Not much wind but when it came it was out of the north. I'd bet on clearing skies. We'll see.
I got wet, my stuff got wet, my rifle got wet. Wet snow.
There are four regular rifle seasons in Colorado for big game. Preceding the rifle seasons is a bow season which is about a month long and overlaps the start of the elk rut, and then towards the end of bow season is a black powder rifle season. Colorado is unique in that the second and third rifle season have what's called "over the counter" bull tags. That means that an unlimited number of people from any state in the US can come out, buy a tag (assuming they have a hunter safety card in some state) and be hunting tomorrow in any one of most of the game management units in the state.
The exceptions are special units that are reserved for growing huge monster bulls and are by draw only. The other places without over the counter tags are all the units along the front range where the Denver, Fort Collins, Colorado Springs urban corridor contains most of the people of the state. One unit they leave open along the front range so people can at least have a chance of getting an elk.
Why bull tags and why unlimited numbers? It has to do with the number of calves born and relative difficulty finding bulls post rut. Typically one bull will father ten or twenty calves, commonly bull/cow ratios are skewed and it has no effect on overall populations. Populations are controlled by the number of cow tags issued.
I'm not sure what the odds are where I'm at. Higher than zero as I've heard of people getting elk out of there, though I've never met anybody who has. One Kossak has, and he wrote about it. Went way up high into the Wilderness and got one of those bulls that stays high as late as it can trying to regain some weight from the rigors of the rut. Two days ago there were elk milling around, I've even found where one bedded down right out in the open.
I don't understand how elk know that the season has begun, I'm not convinced that they do. No fresh tracks for two days now. I helplessly follow three day old tracks imagining an elk walking through the same aspens. It's this same insanity that causes grown men (and women) to skip work unexpectedly, drive a thousand miles with a bunch of coolers in the back of their truck, and plonk down the $500+ fee for an out of state license, spend more than a week helplessly wandering around in the snow for the worse than 1 in 5 chance that they will be the one to score an animal.
A friend just got back from muzzle loading season. Never saw one animal. I think it was 2010 when I hunted the second season and never saw one. Not here in the elk waste land but up high above Steamboat. Road was closed, I was the only one there, there's just no excuse. Often when you do see an elk it is the ass end as it disappears in the trees, and that's ok, you blew it, you got busted, she saw you (if it was a cow), at least you failed due to being the idiot that you tell yourself twenty times over you are, but to not even see one, sometimes life is just not fair.
When I went down to the range last Friday I put 3 holes in the paper two inches high at a hundred and called it good. Nice little group, why shoot more and start missing. No chance of a shot further than 100 yards on this public land. Little did I know. It must be six or seven hundred yards to the other side of that cut. About ten miles further than I can shoot.
Eventually I wandered over to a good place to bushwack any elk wandering in. They are confined by a couple of small lakes on the other side of the road, so mostly if they cross they will come where the tracks were thickest I tell myself. I hunker down on the lee side of a couple trees, put my sweater over the action of my rifle, and brew up some coffee all the while keeping an evil eye out for any love lorn bull that might come wandering up through the trees.
Sometimes I think I'm less of a hunter and more of a sit around in the woods drinking instant coffee kind of a guy.