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Elk Hunting: Decades of Experience & Wisdom

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Old 02-28-2019, 10:59 AM
  #11  
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Elk hunting . . . my passion for 34+ years. Every year I think I know enough to succeed . . . only to be reminded that they have the upper hand.
My favorite hunting is archery, best weather, Aspen are turning, elk are rutting, absolutely the best time to be in the woods. Here that means September. Yep . . the WHOLE MONTH!
But my tactics/strategy stays close to the same for rifle.
1st: always keep your nose into the wind. They will be more alarmed by your scent than hearing you or even seeing you. Just don't be doing jumping jacks! There's no such thing as "scent free" clothing, sprays, or detergent. Example: my buddy bought some expensive scent free camo a few years ago and the first morning out we were driving to our honey hole and he farted . . . the whole truck could smell him!
2nd; I have the luxury of putting out game cameras all summer. Doesn't mean they'll be there when you're armed, but it is encouraging to know they've been there. So scouting helps, but is no guarantee. If you're out of state, research best you can. I would not hesitate calling a Game Warden assigned to the area you are coming to. They can be very helpful most of the time. Don't expect too much, they are hunters too and sometimes get skunked.
3rd; Stay out all day. Carry a light load with plenty of water, some food, toilet paper, knives and such. The middle of the day means more walking, 's l o w' walking, the elk are there all day, you should be too.
4th; if you suck at using calls . . . leave them at home!! You can find them with out the use of a call. They talk to each other every day all year long, they know when an intruder is there. I use them (90% cow calls) just to locate and identify, then walk in on them. You will run them out of an area faster than dropping a bomb on them with bad or excessive calling.
5th; Wear good, warm, lightweight, waterproof boots because you'll be walking some.
6th; Last but not least . . . shoot them by a road!! The real work starts after you have harvested an elk. (lol)

Last edited by dig4gold; 02-28-2019 at 11:03 AM.
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Old 02-28-2019, 01:26 PM
  #12  
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ok lets assume you've never hunted ELK, and you just stepped out of the truck,
you've got a topo map of the area and you have a compass and ideally a gps
step one, you need to pack your back pack, make sure you have the licences, and gear you think youll need and the boots clothing and gear you expect youll need, keep it light ,
you first step is locating or scouting the area and getting some concept of the area your dealing with,break out the topo map and locate where your truck is parked on it.
locate the logging or access roads and if there are any marked trails,
lets just for giggle use this topo map, notice theres compass directions, locate your current location on the map,your going to need to relocate camp and the truck at some point so you need to know what compass directions the ,
canyons and roads are in relation to where you intend to hunt.
look closely at the map, notice every so often theres a number like 6700, or 6200 on the lines, these are elevation numbers, the lines on the map are each at a specific elevation
lets assume your truck is parked on a logging road or trail, and you locate your location, follow the elevation lines, lets assume your parked at the spring where I placed the dark red pointer arrow, your parked on a rolling incline and too your south-west is a lot of closely spaced lines this indicates a steep incline, or ridge that juts up or canyon between you and moving directly to the south west, reading the elevation numbers and comparing those to the area your parked at will indicate if that incline is going to be upward or downward from your current location,
generally roads follow ridge lines (higher elevations or rivers lower elevations) some follow contours , its your job to locate your camp, then its relation and location compared too the surrounding lands contours. notice too the north east theres fewer contour lines, this indicates fairly level meadow or open areas, if its shaded on the map its more likely covered in trees and brush.
ITS hard to read this posted map but lets assume your at about a 6700 ft elevation,and too the southwest is sawmill creek at about 6200 ft elevation, that means theres over 500 feet in drop walking into that canyon, and about the same change in altitude walking back out if your route is directly south west, notice the slightly darker tan contour line, denoting your current elevation, follow it south east then back to the north west into sawmill creek, and you may find easier walking

those lines on the topo map indicate about 20 meters in change in elevation between any two lines the closer together the steeper the grade
there will be natural travel choke points like steep grades and canyon walls the blue and bright red indicate potential travel choke points.
obviously if you can find a place to easily glass those two choke points, game will need to find water and the creek supplies that, many topo maps are shaded indicating vegetation
having a topo map you can read and if you can find any recent Ariel photos helps increase your chances of scoring.
the idea here is to use your ability to glass the area to locate game, youll exhaust yourself if you try to walk the area extensively, but if you locate a ridge you can sit on and watch a terrain choke point you can in theory control with a rifle your odds increase, game generally trys to follow natural contours and would prefer to avoid trying to climb steep grades if not being pushed, as you gain experience in an area take notes, talk to your friends about what they saw.
game prefers area with feed and cover, its your job to locate the areas game uses and think of ways to avoid thermals and being spotted visually or have your odor reach the elk., before your well inside your rifle and your personal skill limitation on making an accurate shot.
easy access to any area from a drive-able road is frequently a strong indicator that game will tend to avoid those areas, as hunters will look for easy road access,
game will look for feed and cover in areas with good cover and less easily accessed areas, that provide cover and food & water,with less hunter easy access,
thus over time travel patterns over wide areas will form,
but keep in mind elk can and do travel many miles every day, your particular canyon or drainage may not hold any elk one day,
and hunter pressure else ware can and will alter movement. herds will move between several drainage's or canyons.
finding a spot that allows you to glass and control or deny access by game with your rifle,
through several natural terrain choke points is a smart route vs aimlessly wondering ,hoping to see elk,

Last edited by hardcastonly; 03-01-2019 at 05:20 AM.
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Old 02-28-2019, 01:58 PM
  #13  
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I'll add another observation. Altitude can make the hunting very difficult. My experience has been that the elk, during the 1st and 2nd rifle seasons in Colorado where I hunted, were hanging out in the 8 to 12K levels. I am in pretty good shape for my age but when I get around the 11K level it starts to get hard to function. You run out of air easily and even a small incline feels like a huge mountain. I got up to 11.5 K one archery season and decided I would let the younger people I was with hunt up to 12k ridge line. I just knew it would have been difficult for me up there since I live at 118 feet above sea level.
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Old 02-28-2019, 03:23 PM
  #14  
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When the big herds move it is usually a few boss cows that lead the way and the larger bulls seem to like bringing up the rear of the column. If the herd spooks they will want to keep following the leader so keep an eye on her if you are tying to into a position for a shot at the trailing bulls. It seems to me that the later in the season the more elk like to gather in larger herds.
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Old 02-28-2019, 06:12 PM
  #15  
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One way to find elk is to wander through clear cuts. Chances are the elk will never be seen out in the clear cut during day light, but if there is snow, tracks made at night whilst feeding, will be seen. The trick will be to find tracks that leave the open, and head into timber. This may be difficult. The feeding elk may meander, and confuse the follower. Following tracks leading out of the clear cut, may lead one to the elk before dark, or it may not. Even if one catches the elk, one may never see them. If one sees them, one may never get a shot.

Some clear cuts attract elk better than others.













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Old 03-01-2019, 03:42 AM
  #16  
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Weather and hunting pressure have been enormous factors in my elk hunting experiences. Most of my hunts were between 9,000' and 12,000' in fairly open country. When it is warm weather the elk do not like t let the sun shine on them and hang out more on the North sides, shady canyons, and timber until the sun goes down. A bit of snow does not bother them at all but if the sky dumps a couple of feet of the white stuff the elk head down the mountain to an elevation more to their liking. A major snow storm pushes them very low on the mountain or even out onto the ranches below.

Forest fires will keep the elk away for a season but the new growth in the burned areas brings them right back later. I have taken bulls in the previous year's burns that many guys will not hunt.

Other hunters are always the wild card. I have seen guys walking or standing out in the open in the parks at daybreak and guys hiking through bedding areas at noon. Elk do not like that at all. I have watched elk listening to a four wheeler or dirt bike that was over a mile away from them. After they listen for a while the herd bunches up and heads in the opposite direction with great speed.. Human intrusion will have a big effect on the elk.
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Old 03-01-2019, 06:25 AM
  #17  
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Many hunters work everyday jobs; can only hunt on week ends. One way to hunt elk, is to hunt during the work week from inside the house, by studying contour maps.

The map shown here was copied from hardcastonly post #12.










The map reveals a nice looking 'bench' which may hold elk the coming Saturday??










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Last edited by ronlaughlin; 03-01-2019 at 06:28 AM.
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Old 03-01-2019, 10:17 AM
  #18  
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one of the things I find rather amusing, and too some extent depressing ,is the more modern need, or desire, many people have for near instant gratification,
and the nearly companion desire for avoiding any physical labor. Elk hunting is NOT primarily
( at least in my opinion based on the need to kill an impressive elk!)
its about learning the REQUIRED SKILLS to mentally and physically challenge yourself, while learning to enjoy pristine remote mountain areas,
areas, mostly devoid of mans encroachment, and getting back into a way of life mankind followed and basically perfected for hundreds of thousands of years,
man has not the strength, teeth, claws or endurance to kill elk like a cougar , but we have the intelligence and ability too out think any elk,(well most of us do)
we have the ability to use TOOLS to vastly increase our natural lethality, and have developed weapons that vastly increase reach and our muscles destructive ability's
you hunt elk in some of the most beautiful mountainous, locations on earth, your seldom forced to meet a strict dead-line, and its a skill set,
that takes most people many years and many miles covered before you prefect the required knowledge.
modern man has weapons like rifles and compound bows , accurate maps and warm moisture resistant clothing,
that would amaze the mountain men of only 200 years ago, but they understood the mountains and game to a greater degree than most more modern and better equipped, modern hunters ever will.
yes its entirely possible for someone new at the sport to kill an elk, you have access to huge advantages in recent technology, but to be consistently successful ,
youll need to still locate and get reasonably close to the animal you hunt , that has remained somewhat unchanged.
you need to relax, enjoy being in a more stress free environment, and LEARN HOW TOO, look and listen, too observe carefully, your surroundings,
if you use the advantages modern technology provides like warm clothing, decent boots, accurate maps, spotting scopes, GPS, synthetic materials in back packs, tents, clothing,
and vastly improved lethality and range the modern weapons provide you,
it would seem to be a totally un-fair advantage over elk. yet the elk still have several advantages, many modern hunters are rather UN-observant, and LAZY,
they are not willing to spend days locating elk, nor are they willing too spend the effort required to learn how to get in close without being detected.
perfecting those skills takes time and effort, enjoy the challenge and enjoy the country, the scenery, relax and learn the skills required.
If your loosing sleep over thoughts your rifle does not have the range or power required... don,t bother,
I've used an iron sight revolver and archery equipment to kill elk. your problem is finding the legal elk, not in your equipment's limitations


. https://www.midwayusa.com/product/5...cf-430-diameter-310-grain-flat-nose-gas-check
MOLD DC C 430-310-RF
sized .430 and loaded over 21 grains of h110 does a great job


Last edited by hardcastonly; 03-01-2019 at 12:33 PM.
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Old 03-01-2019, 05:17 PM
  #19  
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I had high hopes for this topic after reading the opening post. There's some good stuff in there but a lot of copy/paste, links, guns and gear stuff. That's just the prep stuff. What are each of you doing when you start your hunting? Things like looking in the snow for tracks are useful but what do each of you do whether there's snow or not? Where do you look for elk and how do you find them? Obviously some of you guys are pretty good at this stuff. Not asking for honey holes, just how you hunt the elk?
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Old 03-01-2019, 05:52 PM
  #20  
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After a long hard day, one has a tendency to kinda quit 'hunting', and start moving too fast. Discipline is required to keep moving quiet, and slow as one finishes the day. One never forgets, spooking elk, by moving too fast, right next to the truck.

Hunting back through the same country on the return, kinda seems fruitless. Doing a drop hunt by placing a second truck, if a road is available, makes it so one never has to retrace steps at the end of the day.

If one is hunting alone, a second truck isn't possible, but a gps with a topo map installed, allows one to pick a circular path through mountains, and return to the truck without retracing steps. The gps with map, allows one to hunt strange country, and pick a path, without getting 'trapped' by cliffs, and such. The gps may also help one pick a path that will take one into unsuspecting elk. Watching myself refer to gps is interesting; we hunted more years without gps than with.











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