Skip to main content

Plan Your Own Elk Hunt with a Higher Percentage of Success

Internet Technology Equals More Elk Seen and Taken 


Editor’s Note: Donnelle Johnson of Franktown, Colorado, is an elk-hunting fanatic and has been hunting elk since 1998. When she’s not hunting and calling in elk for herself, she goes with friends and family members and calls in bulls for them. “I just love to be in the woods hunting, calling and trying to outsmart Colorado bull elk on public lands,” Johnson says. 

My husband, David Johnson, and I moved to Colorado in 1991. Dave started going elk hunting with his boss in 1991. For the next 5 years, they would hunt together. In 1996, Dave asked me to go with him elk hunting. In 1997, I went on my first elk hunt with Dave, and we went to the place where Dave’s boss always had taken him to hunt elk. I chased cows around trying to get a shot with my bow, even though I had a tag that would allow me take a bull or a cow. 

DJohnson_day1From Dave’s experience, we founded our company called Hunt Data. We began to look for all the data we could find to help us hunt smarter and find more elk on public lands. Dave and I kept going back to the same spot every year for a couple of years without taking an elk. In the 1998 and 1999 Colorado elk seasons, I studied our data to discover where bowhunters with three preference points had harvested the most elk in past years. I chose to go during the third season, because I wanted to hunt where the elk herds were concentrated during the winter months. I also wanted to travel to an area that had the most public land to hunt. I drew a tag and went to a unit I never had hunted before and scouted for 2 days before the season. On the first day of my scouting trip, I found myself in the middle of a herd of about 200 elk. I was totally overwhelmed! I surveyed the herd and tired to determine which bull I wanted to try and take with my bow on the opening day of the season. I felt sure there was no way I couldn’t get an elk on opening morning. But on opening morning, I soon learned that I wasn’t the only bowhunter who had found that entire herd of elk. During that hunt, I did harvest my first 5x5 bull, and the picture of me and my elk was in the Denver newspaper with an article explaining how I was using technology and the resources available to locate and harvest elk on public lands. Fired up with what I had learned about technology as it related to pinpointing and taking elk on public lands. I went back to my computer to research the under-subscribed cow elk units for the fourth season. 

The following year I found and took a cow elk with my bow on a hunt with my father. I grew up hunting whitetails with my dad and my brother in Oklahoma. So, having my dad out in the mountains with me and his watching as I took a cow elk with my bow was special. I took a really-nice whitetail buck with my dad last year. While trying to solve the problem of the best places to hunt public lands in Colorado and doing all the online research’s that’s available to help hunters spend more time in the areas of the highest concentrations of game, especially elk, we discovered that the data we were collecting was not only beneficial to us - it also could and would be beneficial to other hunters who wanted to increase their odds for taking elk on public lands in Colorado, without a guide.

To learn more about hunting in Colorado, Wyoming and Arizona, go to, to see a wealth of information available for each state. The State of Utah’s data will be added in August, 2016.

Tomorrow: Gather Information Yearly to Increase Odds for Taking an Elk

Latest Content