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Need tips for scouting elk...

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Need tips for scouting elk...

Old 08-27-2007, 01:21 PM
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AppleOnMyHead's Avatar
Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: Russellville, Arkansas
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Default Need tips for scouting elk...

I went on a trip last year and we are leaving Friday for our second trip. This year we will be there a week early to scout. Any tips would be great, but here are some questions I have off the top of my head.

What areas can elk be found in during different parts of the day (when do they feed this time of year, etc..)?

I read a lot about elk being on east facing ridges when it is still hot like this. Why are they here and to they stay facing the east all day?

What is the best way to scout elk that maybe on east facing ridges? I was thinking about walking the west side of the ridge and looking for saddles or other crossing spots and occasionally peeking over and glassing the other side.

I've found some good lookout areas that havemeadows and creeks in their view, but far enough away as to not spook any elk that may come in. What else and where else will elk be eating?

What is the best time of day to scout? I'm guessing elk are pretty stationary during the heat of the day, so I was planning on moving during the day to a good lookout point and watching the meadows and watering holes during the last few hours of light and maybe into the night if it is a crystal clear night. Would I be best off to stay until the next morning as well to catch any activity during the first hours of light?

If it helps we will be just north of the New Mexico border in Colorado hunting at 9,000 to 11,500 feet.

Any other tidbits you think might help are also welcome.
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Old 08-28-2007, 06:11 AM
Typical Buck
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: Colorado Springs, CO
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Default RE: Need tips for scouting elk...

Time; sunrise and sunset. But if you wish to see them be above timber line and glass them. Don't just look at east ridges. If the elk are using east running ridges, there are steep slopes with better than 50% canopee cover to keep them cool during the day. Understand something about elk right now, 1 mile is nothing to them. They may be seen on an east ridge early and late to feed and staying during the day on a north slope 5 miles away. Things to look for, good water and CO has way too much this year from all the rain we have had in the last month. Good cover,I prefer to hunt pine areas over aspen. And good feed areas are every where this year also. Here is the thing I look for, when walking through the woods find a place where the temp drops 10-20 degrees when you walk through. That is the kind of place elk hang out during the day.
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Old 08-28-2007, 07:44 AM
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Default RE: Need tips for scouting elk...

Thanks for the tips. Last year when we were out there the meadows seemed a little dry and dead. I was told it had been a little on the dry side and that elk wouldn't use the meadows as much since they were dead. I found some small, secluded, high altitude meadows to hunt this year and its good to hear that there has been decent rainfall.
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Old 08-28-2007, 08:42 AM
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Join Date: Nov 2005
Location: Cheyoming
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Default RE: Need tips for scouting elk...

Before the snows hit elk food is plentiful. There are lots of grasses, back in the trees. They love mushrooms. They'll eat the bark off of Aspen (must be like candy to them). I've seen Aspen stands that had every tree scraped right at elk head hieght. Very cool looking.
I prowl north facing slopes that I know elk are in from spotting fresh sign, tracks, or even the occational glimpse. Find water that has tracks and especially wallows that are being used.

Elk are NOT whitetails. Just because they are at X-Y-Z one day doesn't mean they are ever there again. They might be, but no guarantees. Just look at the millions of square mile they have as their home. And when they take a step, it's 3 or 4 deer staeps so they cover 3 or 4 times the ground evry step. The old timers will tell you, "The elk are where you find them". Smart asses!
Best advice, get up high and glass and glass and glass. And if you see them, watch and take note of what time, where they come from, and where they go, and how long it takes them. Then watch them later that day or next to establish a pattern. Then you can set up for an
ambush . . . if they're there the following day. And if you don't see anything, nove over to another drainage and repeat. You find out where they are hanging out, then you pray to the elk gods that you get in on them and one is a nice trophy . . . or meat in the freezer.
You can't walk enough. Finding fresh sign, a bench on a north facing slope, FRESH rubs, or maybe even a bedding area and you at least know you are in elk. The rest is mostly luck. I mean, you hear stories like, "I walked outside my tent and there he was!", or "We pulled up, got out, and BAM!, 27 elk crossed right in front of us." It happens that way. You need to believe you will see elk EVERY MINUTE YOU ARE OUTSIDE. When I'm walking the dark timber, I'll take 5-6 steps and stop and glass. Those suckers can be right there and you'd never see them unless you glass. The glint of an antler tip, a patch of color that just doesn't look right, or an ear twitching, might be all you see before the ground errupts and they are gone! Stay all day in the woods. Bring a lunch, water, and take a nap when you want. I don't understand guys that hunt two hours in the morning, go back to camp for lunch/nap/BS and go home skunked. The elk are there all day, and don't just eat and sleep. They could be up and moving at any time.
Generally speaking elk ar out in the open meadows feeding at night, then move to bedding areas. But they get up, go to water, wallow, play, then bed again, and eat. Remember, the elk will have likely split up by rifle season because the primary rut will be over and you'll either find bachelor groups, or cow/ calf/spike groups. They won't be together. Might be near, but not together.

What an open ended subject! I love it! I will be elk hunting starting this Saturday, Sept 1st. Archery season here in S.E. Wyoming.

I assume you are rifle hunting and hope that you have practiced long shots, up to 300 yards or more if you can. And know your balistics. Good optics and an 800+ yard range finder is valuable equiptment.

Good elk reading at this site: http://members.tripod.com/~elkhunter2/index.html

Good luck and good hunting.
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Old 08-28-2007, 08:57 AM
Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: Calgary,Alberta,Canada
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Default RE: Need tips for scouting elk...

I find that during dusk and dawn if you are glassing always look to the clearings or the very thin brush cause thats where they tend to be feeding before they head to bed down or where they will be heading. Now during the day i have found that they do like east sides but that doesnt mean i havent seen them in other spots. Look EVERYWHERE!! I have seen a heard of elk in one area at dusk 4 miles from where i was camping then wake up the next morning and BAM the same heard is standing in a field right outside the camp. Its unbelieveable the amount of ground they can cover so never expect them to be in the same place twice cause its rare that they stay in one spot for more then a few days especially a big herd.
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Old 08-28-2007, 09:44 AM
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Default RE: Need tips for scouting elk...

I did some reading before last years hunt and it was obvious that elk range = whitetail range * 1,569,847. However, I think this plays into my favor. I love the outdoors and, lucky for me, I take after my moms side of the family which is full of marathon runners and endurance athletes. I will spend the first couple days doing more listening, fishing, and moderate exercise because last years trip I had a mild altitude headache for 2 days. After that I will be hardcore scouting until season rolls in. I'm bringing a single burner camp stove that is small enough to fit on my belt and a second tent just big enough for me to sleep in diagonally. I'll spend upto 2 full days away from camp just to scout if need be. My biggest concern is not to spook them. I shot an elk the first couple days into muzzleloading season last year in an area that had every sign I can think of except wallows (there wasn't much water in the area). We tracked the elk almost a mile and found tons of blood, but never could find the elk. However, after the gunshot we never spotted any more elk in the area and now I'm on super caution not to try and spook them. The posts here have been great and helped me formulate a plan. I will scout my meadows I've targeted, one with a creek through it, during the evening and mornings and try to make my movements slow and deliberate with lots of glassing. I do have one other question important to my strategy though.

Whitetails will usually concentrate more on one side of a ridge than another. From what I can gather, it seems elk concetrate more on north facing and east facing ridges. Should I try to stay on the opposite side of the ridge up high and look for crossing points and occasionally glass the other side like I would for whitetails? This sounds logical, but as everyone has stated, elk are not whitetail. I think I've read somewhere that some hunters prefer to travel low and just move to higher elevations to scout, but I can't find that literature and I'm not sure why the author stated the reason for traveling low and only moving up to scout. Maybe elk can spot you easier the higher up you are, I'm not sure. I know scouting whitetails you never want to walk at the very top of the ridge becuase you are easy to spot, but as long as there is some forest floor behind you, you are ok. I want to focus on ridges that I think elk will concentrate on, but I also understand elk will use ridges that face other directions, this is why I plan to move slow and glass every other step.
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Old 08-28-2007, 12:09 PM
Join Date: Aug 2007
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Default RE: Need tips for scouting elk...

A techniqueI have used in the past: if you come up empty at first, find the water source they are using and track from that. While you are scouting, don't approachearly or late in the daywhen you don't run the risk of spooking them. Be careful of your smell also. But if you can get onto where they water and find the paths they use to get to these spots they can make great ambush points. Cautious elk will generally not approach the water other than during the pre dawn or post dusk hour. Also, realize with their wide range, they will have numerous watering holes, but this is the one thing they must find daily. When all else fails, go to the water and track from there. Not an end all answer, but an option and some days you need lots of options!
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Old 08-28-2007, 03:43 PM
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Default RE: Need tips for scouting elk...

There are several lakes/ponds and several creeks within a couple miles hike from where we will be camping. Do elk seem to have a preference of one over the other? I know one of the creeks has a very high mineral content and tastes like absolute crap, but will this have an effect on whether or not the elk will use it? I'm just guessing they don't have much of a preference but if they did it would obviously help me prioitize the scouting of water holes in the area.
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