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Hunting pre rut elk

Old 08-13-2010, 11:57 PM
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Default Hunting pre rut elk

Archery season starts in less than a month. Sept. 4th to be presise. A few weeks before the elk rut begins. What methods have worked for you to bring in elk? Do calls work? Finding a mud wallow? I'm gonna need some tips. Thanks everyone.
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Old 08-14-2010, 06:54 AM
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Elk are social creatures and they are curious. They will respond to calls, but generally more subtly. It isn't abnormal to get a bull to bugle even this time of year, but they won't repeat themselves very often, so it is a good locator strategy to find the general area where one is. Cows will chat a little too. If your going to call, set up on sign or in an area you know they are about, set yourself down with the wind in mind relative to where you think they may approach, and subtly call. Use a cow/calf call and occasionally give a gentle call. A couple of different calls mixed up may give the illusion of a small group. They will generally come in quietly and you may be surprised how close an animal that large can sneak in on you, even in the driest conditions. Approach it a bit like predator calling, keep your movement to an absolute minimum, set up so it is difficult for them to approach from a direction where the currents will betray you, and be patient. It is probably similar (though this is based on what I've read, not personal experience) like calling lions. Plan on keeping your butt still for an hour or more before giving up. I've not used decoys, but expect they may really shine in a set up and call situation.

Many have had success setting on wallows. I don't much have the patience to do either. Don't under estimate the benefits of glassing at first light. They will move into cover, but if you can spot them, at least you have a starting point. Still hunting can be effective, but you must work the timber VERY slowly, pay attention to the air currents, and again you will benefit by glassing every few feet. You will be looking for small indicators of body parts: a lower leg, the twitch of an ear, a portion of a tine... Remember that while you may come across the odd lone bull, there are greater odds of finding them in pairs or small groups. I.e., if you spot one in the timber, you'd best know if or where the rest of the group is as well. It isn't uncommon for me to work my way through the timber only to have a group explode out of their beds all around me.

Excepting for sitting on wallows, all of the above have gotten me many close encounters with elk. That being said, I've harvested few beyond the glassing and spotting method. I hunt sunup to sundown with the odd short nap thrown in and find I have more opportunities to spot and stalk than anything when they aren't assertively coming into a call. Elk bed during the day. They also get up and browse, get a drink, and otherwise move around. In 25+ years of hunting elk, I can say I've seen at least as many during the "non productive" times of day as I have early morning and late evening.
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Old 08-14-2010, 01:20 PM
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As long as the elk have rubbed off their velvet they will respond to a bugle by answering back, though in this case, I would stalk the bull instead of expecting to have him come to you. Generally the bugle is intended for attracting cows to a stationary bull and not to challenge other bulls. This is a great time as the bulls are alone and you won't have a bunch of extra eyes/ears to deal with.
This ideal sitation will only last for a few days or a wkk so take full advantage of it.
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Old 08-16-2010, 10:52 AM
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Well I guess it depends on how you define "rut". Most guys classify pre "peak" rut activity as pre rut but not me. On september 4th the bulls will be tearing up trees, starting to search for cows and the first cows will be coming into estrus. The full blown bugling contests between bulls across canyons won't be happening much yet and most bulls won't be cowed up but make no mistake I would not classify this time as "pre rut".

I've had bulls come in silent to hot cow calls in August. Just plan using some hot cow calls and excited cow activity and expect bulls to come in silent early and listen to them, you may get some responses from bulls.
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Old 08-17-2010, 08:40 PM
Join Date: Jun 2010
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I hunt elk from the get go of the season, and according to the Sept. 4th opener, I might guess your hunting MT? If so, it's usually very warm still. This in return makes bulls want and need to stay cool. Of course they are going to need water and if you can narrow down where the water is, then that's always a good idea to sit by. Wallows are great as well. If you find a bull that is in fresh mud, I would try to find the wallow he used, they tend to return and use the same one in order to stay cool and keep spreading their scent. It's something to try. Good luck

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Old 08-22-2010, 06:29 AM
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Before I reply we should define a fe terms

The rut includes any behaviro associated with the breeding season; velvet shedding, rubbing, wallowing ( althopugh it happens in any warm weather), bulging (althoug it too can occur year round), herding sparring, fighting, breeding.

Peak rut refert to the 1 week when more breeding occurs than any other week. However, breeding, especially the primary breeding phase lasts from 3-4 weeks.

Since peak breeding occurs from early to mid September in most states, breeding may begin as early as the first week of September. If breeding occurs during the rut, then the pre-rut would be the velvet shedding and initial bugling activities in August.

Therefore it is unlikley that anyone hunts the elk pre rut.

Because September is teh breeding season any call used during what soem refer to tas the rut will and should be used. However, unless you understand what the calls are, and what they mean to the elk, you may not be using them appropriately. If there is not a thread up on "The calls elk make, and what they mean" I will put it up.

God bless,

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Old 08-23-2010, 08:52 PM
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Yeah, I am in Central Montana. Right now the weather is looking to be in the high 60's when Sept. 4th rolls. around.

Thank you for all your help everyone. Just under 2 weeks. I'm really pumped for it. I have my area scouted. Hope the elk show up now. haha. Good luck to you all during your season.
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Old 08-24-2010, 06:23 PM
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I'd say leave all the calls in the truck. Maybe bring a good cow call just to stop a spooked bull or cow. Spot and stalk would be my first choice (if you have the time). It could take a couple three days.
Drag a spotting scope up high where you can see forever and locate them (especially in the morning and evening.) Then put a stalk on them or even sit somewhere you know they will travel and wait to ambush.
That time of Sept the bulls should still be in small bachelor groups or even alone and probably still up high in elevations (where its cooler) compared to the cow/calf groups.
If you're in heavely forrested terrain with no real vantage points, work the north slope from the ridge line down in likely areas holding water and/or wallows.
I don't see elk responding heavily to calling until they get twitterpaited in mid to late September. So calling one in is not likely. (IMO) of course.
But experiment! Get to that "honey hole" pre dawn and let a squeeky bugle fly and see what happens. You may get a response and then you make a bee line to him and put some meat in the freezer. I say squeeky because I believe it takes elk a couple weeks or so to get their "voice" back to full blown. And squeeky makes you sound small and unthreatening.
Bottom line . . . find them . . . then go get 'em!

Last edited by dig4gold; 08-24-2010 at 06:26 PM.
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