Go Back  HuntingNet.com Forums > General Hunting Forums > Big Game Hunting
Elk Hunting: Decades of Experience & Wisdom >

Elk Hunting: Decades of Experience & Wisdom

Big Game Hunting Moose, elk, mulies, caribou, bear, goats, and sheep are all covered here.

Elk Hunting: Decades of Experience & Wisdom

Old 02-26-2019, 07:59 AM
  #1  
Super Moderator
Thread Starter
 
CalHunter's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: Northern California
Posts: 17,553
Default Elk Hunting: Decades of Experience & Wisdom

Big Country has suggested establishing a reference topic for elk hunting tips and tactics from people who either have decades of elk hunting experience (sometimes over 50+ years) or have taken several elk (say at least 5-10). The idea is to have members share their experience and wisdom with other members who have less experience or are just starting out.

This topic is not designed to have any links, gear lists, states to apply in, calibers or gun recommendations (those can be posted in other topics). Just your suggestions for other members on how to be a more successful elk hunter in any of the Western states with elk tags on public land. IOW, provide tips and tactics to help newbies, just like you would provide for a son/daughter or niece/nephew who are going elk hunting for the first time or have elk hunted only a little and are looking to substantially up their game and chances for success. With all of your collective experience gentlemen, this topic could easily provide over a couple hundred years of combined elk hunting experience--something no book provides.

In PMing back and forth with Big Country, he suggested many of the following members as having a lot of elk hunting experience and who have a lot to offer. Iíve added a few names myself but am not on this list. I have hunted elk before but don't have anywhere near this level of elk hunting experience. Some (but not all) of the members who have this level of elk hunting experience and wisdom include: Alsatian, Big Country, Big Uncle, bronko22000, BRUSE, buffybr, Champlain Islander, dig4gold, flags, hardcastonly, idahoron, Iowawhitetail2016, MountainDevil54, mthusker, Muley Hunter, Rob in VT, ronlaughlin, sundance55, TwoBears and of course, stealthycat. I know more members have this requisite experience and apologize in advance for not naming all of you. But please consider also sharing your experience and wisdom.For the rest of us, please respect the topic guidelines and elk hunting experience for requirements for posting. And for everybody else that would like to soak up a whole lotta years of elk hunting experience and wisdom, enjoy the topic from all of these guys paying it forward.
CalHunter is offline  
Old 02-26-2019, 09:25 AM
  #2  
Super Moderator
 
Join Date: Dec 2017
Location: fla
Posts: 955
Default

we all tend to learn mostly through personal experience, but most people are willing to have a more experienced mentor,
speed up the learning curve , and thus reduce the time and effort required to learn through trial & error.
the first thing Id suggest anyone considering an elk hunt do is get the states hunting licence requirements and read through them carefully,
once you've decided to apply for a licence and understand the states licencing procedures,
and you fully understand that in many states youll need a plan "b", "C" and "D"
simply because you may not have access or draw the area you prefer to hunt and may be required to both gain "POINTS" ,
an hunt less desirable areas during your first few years.
thus purchase of several areas topo maps and doing your research on each area is a smart route to take.
generally you'll want to hunt with either a friend or two and/or with an outfitter with a long record of happy former returning clientele.
selecting an outfitter will also require doing research and checking references carefully,
in any business theres scam artists, who are thrilled to take you money and not provide any or inferior services,
its your job to do the required research and assume , some references will be less than truthful.
try hard to get references from several previous years and fairly current references,
and ask the previous hunters for any friends,
or fellow hunters phone or e-mail contact numbers.
check with the local police and better business people and any outfitter organizations for complaints before booking a hunt.
every year you'll hear about guys that sent a healthy financial deposit, to some one,
only to find the check cashed and the people cashing it no longer return phone calls.
you'll need to get in better physical condition in almost all cases,
increased altitude will kick your butt at least temporarily ,
I live in Florida at close to sea level, I generally hunt Colorado or Wyoming,
the change in altitude takes several days for your body to adapt ,
you'll want to consult your family doctor before making the trip, and start spending at least a 1/3 hour,
on a tread mill or running stairs, as often as possible for months prior to the trip,
look up altitude sickness, on the internet, in my case every year without fail,
Ive gotten head aches and feel like crap for about 24 hours as my body adjusts to the altitude change
. It helps to drink lots of liquids like hot tea and gator aid, even when you don,t feel thirsty,
and take an aspirin a few times a day during the hunt and get to the hunt area at least two days early,
buy and use lip gloss it helps keep your lips from cracking.
get and use a decent hat with a brim that keeps sun out of your eyes,
get decent ankle support boots with an aggressive tread sole,
protect anything that will be damaged by moisture in double zip lock bags (wallet, MEDS, licences)
if your dealing with an out fitter ask questions about what they suggest and follow the advise ,
bringing a great deal of extra gear, or failing to bring the suggested gear,
is almost always going to piss off any outfitter. the guides are there to assist you, follow their advice,
but they are not going to act as a personal servant
they can,t take your shot for you, they can,t get your out of physical shape butt,
up on some ridge as fast as it might be required
, where youll get that shot of a lifetime, if your so out of shape that breathing at 7000-9000 ft of altitude is a chore,
and after two days of hunting your ready too pack it in, its not the guide or outfitters fault if you don,t score!
and yes your expected to get up early and hunt till dark if you want to be successful ,wither you have a guide or are hunting on a D.I,Y. hunt.
sleep at a few thousand feet lower altitude and take hot showers,
as it helps the body adjust before the hunt, spend the first few days before you hunt,
getting acclimated, Ive found sleeping the first night at lower altitudes like Denver before going higher helps.
yes you need to practice with your rifle shooting from field positions theres no bench rest in the field,
you should be able to use a rifle with a sling and bi-pod too consistently punch holes in a 3" orange dot,
from 100 yards from a sitting or prone position, and at 50 yards off hand.
most guys can shoot bragging size groups off a bench rest,
few of the guys I hunt with, could initially and consistently hit a coke can on a tree stump,
from 100 yards from a rapidly acquired field position,
youll need a day pack to carry personal items like a spare insulated vest, rain poncho, cell phone, skinning knife , personal med;s, licences, toilet articles etc.
if you hunt on a D.I.Y. public land hunt, a GPS, several topo maps game meat processing tools and a pack capable of hauling 60-70 lbs of meat is also advisable.


this similar thread has a few tips
increasing your odds of consistently being successful.

Last edited by hardcastonly; 02-28-2019 at 02:15 PM.
hardcastonly is offline  
Old 02-26-2019, 09:54 AM
  #3  
Nontypical Buck
 
Big Uncle's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2009
Posts: 1,732
Default

I have hunted elk passionately for roughly the past 40 years. South West Colorado and North Central Wyoming have a lot of my boot tracks. Most of my hunting has been with a backpack at higher altitudes with a rifle playing the spot-and-stalk game. My occupation allows me to be absent from the office for a month or so at this special time of year. As an East Coast guy the altitude is rough on me so I always go a week earlier than the hunting days just to acclimate a bit to the altitude. During this early time I spend many hours behind a spotting scope to get some sense of where the elk were likely to be found, and where other hunters would be roaming.

Elk in this type of country are not at all tolerant of humans and if they are spooked they will go far away. Most other guys like to walk or ride the easy paths on the main ridge tops so I often found the elk liked to bed on a shady bench off the top of one of the side ridges. The stalking part sometimes involved running to try to intercept elk as they went into or came out of the timber. Elk hunting for me was a game of legs and lungs, and going places others would not. I envied the horse hunters (aka "pony soldiers') that could cover more ground but found that there were many places that horses will not go.

Last edited by Big Uncle; 02-26-2019 at 09:57 AM.
Big Uncle is offline  
Old 02-26-2019, 10:27 AM
  #4  
Dominant Buck
 
Champlain Islander's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Vermont
Posts: 21,361
Default

I was a late in life elk hunter. 2 of my hunting partners and I decided to try out elk hunting in Colorado in the early 2000's. Rob had the only experience with hunting the west and that was for mulies and pronghorn. So 3 experienced eastern whitetail hunters took off on a cross country truck trip to learn all we could about elk hunting. I hunted for around 10 years straight and took 6 elk so we all did learn as we went. The other guys had similar results. We all had the basics with equipment but over the years added a few specialty items more suited for western type hunting. One of the first things that comes to mind is get into the best shape you can possibly be. The altitude where the elk are normally at in early September to late October is much higher than any of us could have imagined. The steep terrain and rare air makes everything more difficult. Speaking of altitude we learned along the way that altitude sickness can come into play. I experienced it on one of my first years and every year after that took a prescription med called diamox which conditioned my blood to work better at altitude. It is a common treatment.to prevent altitude sickness and other than a couple of minor side affects is an easy solution to what could be a trip killer or worse. The west is a bit more vast than what most of us are used to so a good compass,topo maps and a GPS are good tools to keep everything straight. Elk are vocal so having a couple of calls seems to help out. An easy bullet proof call is a hoochi mama call. It can hang around your neck or sit inside a vest pocket and to operate it just squeeze the bulb. Cow elk make a lot of noise in the woods and often you can hear them mewing back and forth before you see them. They travel mostly in large herds so there is always a few eyes looking around so it is easy to get busted. I did have some success still hunting them but found that I had to go much slower than when hunting deer. They are big and numerous when herded up so seeing them before they see you is quite possible if you are a good still hunter. Out west there are a lot of terrain changes to help conceal your hunting. One issue that is more of a problem are the winds. Out west they seem to ebb and flow in the traditional ways between morning and evening but because of the mountains and numerous canyons the wind tend to constantly swirl and switch directions. Having a powder wind detector is a good way to combat that problem. Elk have a very keen sense of smell and if they get a whiff of a human they are often gone from the area and they don't stop. Being a herd animal they leave a lot of sign with tracks and droppings so when I am still hunting or just covering land scouting, I look for the fresh sign then slow down. Another specialty item is a good pack frame along with a bunch of hunting buddies to get an elk out of the woods. Learn the gutless method of field dressing ..it will keep both you and the meat cleaner. A Wyoming saw is another specialty item I carry just to get through the bones when field dressing. Another item used after the elk is down are game bags which can cover the meat, keeping both dirt and flies off from it when transporting it out of the woods. Generally when an elk is down it takes most of the day to get it out so having help available is always best.
Champlain Islander is offline  
Old 02-26-2019, 01:01 PM
  #5  
Nontypical Buck
 
Rob in VT's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: Central VT/Big Horn WY
Posts: 1,351
Default

“Elk are where you find them”. This means that they leave a tremendous amount of sign. If you aren’t seeing fresh sign, move on because they aren’t there.

When you get one down, don’t gut it. Do the gutless method. It is so much cleaner and quicker. Go to YouTube and watch a few videos on how to do it.

Gear: A good frame pack that fits you well. Good game bags to keep the meat clean,I like Caribou Gear synthetic bags. I also carry a Wyoming saw which comes in handy. I use a 4” folding Buck knife. You don’t need a huge knife. A GPS comes in handy. Onx chip is also nice if you are flirting with private land and need to stay on a particular track. Leather boots, not rubber boots that us eastern Whitetail hunters always wear. Good binos, I like 10x42s. Stay light and stay mobile.

Elk have a great nose so watch the wind. Even a slight change will send them running if they catch a whiff of you.

Last edited by Rob in VT; 02-26-2019 at 01:11 PM.
Rob in VT is offline  
Old 02-26-2019, 02:51 PM
  #6  
Nontypical Buck
 
Big Uncle's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2009
Posts: 1,732
Default

If you get the chance to do preseason scouting be very careful not to spook the elk into the next zip code. Cruising for fresh sign is good but spotting them from long distance is better. Most of the sign you will find is in the timber near bedding areas or travel routes. It is pretty easy to find sign in the open parks if there is a nice new blanket of snow. A herd of elk leave a lot of tracks in the snow that can be spotted fairly easily with binoculars with out having to walk in and leave human odor.

They often do not use the same trail when going into timber like whitetail deer do but often enough they will use the same general area. If you can watch where they enter timber to go to a bedding area in the morning odds are pretty good that they will pop out of timber somewhere near there when the shadows are long in the afternoon.

Sometimes you can smell elk if the wind is right and you are not far from them. To me the smell is kind of like being around cattle.
Big Uncle is offline  
Old 02-26-2019, 03:06 PM
  #7  
Dominant Buck
 
Champlain Islander's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Vermont
Posts: 21,361
Default

Originally Posted by Big Uncle View Post
If you get the chance to do preseason scouting be very careful not to spook the elk into the next zip code. Cruising for fresh sign is good but spotting them from long distance is better. Most of the sign you will find is in the timber near bedding areas or travel routes. It is pretty easy to find sign in the open parks if there is a nice new blanket of snow. A herd of elk leave a lot of tracks in the snow that can be spotted fairly easily with binoculars with out having to walk in and leave human odor.

They often do not use the same trail when going into timber like whitetail deer do but often enough they will use the same general area. If you can watch where they enter timber to go to a bedding area in the morning odds are pretty good that they will pop out of timber somewhere near there when the shadows are long in the afternoon.

Sometimes you can smell elk if the wind is right and you are not far from them. To me the smell is kind of like being around cattle.
All great points. Normally our scouting is via truck looking for crossing tracks and long distance spotting into the meadows especially early and late in the day. We normally start to drive out on Saturday, get there on Monday. Open the cabin, get supplies and then starting Tuesday do vehicle scouting. Come Saturday it is leather on the ground. We normally hunt all week and head home the following weekend. Usually gone from home for a little over 2 weeks. Ahhhh yes they do smell just like cattle.
Champlain Islander is offline  
Old 02-27-2019, 10:55 AM
  #8  
Giant Nontypical
 
Join Date: Oct 2013
Posts: 8,126
Default

Hunt light. Carry your camp on your back so you can stay on the tracks if needed. Carry what you need to take care of the carcass. Bone it out where it hits the ground if legal to do so. Leave the hide, bones and head in the field next to the gutpile (if you want to get it mounted learn to cape it out and just take the cape and the antlers with a small piece of bone and leave the unnecessary weight there) since the coyotes need to eat too. Remember to take the ivories.Learn how to read a map and use a compass and don't be afraid to leave the trail and get into the back country. Hunt uphill and pack meat downhill.

Take time to savor the experience and look at the scenery.
flags is offline  
Old 02-27-2019, 02:11 PM
  #9  
Nontypical Buck
 
Rob in VT's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: Central VT/Big Horn WY
Posts: 1,351
Default

Bring a camera and take lots of pictures. Elk country is beautiful.
Rob in VT is offline  
Old 02-27-2019, 03:25 PM
  #10  
Nontypical Buck
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: Rapid City, South Dakota
Posts: 3,732
Default

Don't be afraid to hunt over on the other side of that ridge. This means one will probably end up hunting down. Hunting down is mentally very uncomfortable, but it may pay off. Most other hunters are too sensible to do such a thing.

Hunting on the other side of that ridge will get one away from most/many other hunters, and may allow one to stumble into undisturbed elk. Mostly, you will just get tired, and won't see elk.

Having a well designed durable pack frame is a great help. A good pack frame allows one to wander far from the truck/camp. Remember, if one hunts down, one has to pack the meat up. It is surprising how carrying elk quarters up is easier on knees than carrying them down. Carrying elk up isn't fun, nor easy. Carrying elk down isn't fun nor easy. Good heavy duty meat sacks are good to have, as is plenty of rope.
ronlaughlin is offline  

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Terms of Service - Do Not Sell My Personal Information -

Copyright © 2018 MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands. All rights reserved. Use of this site indicates your consent to the Terms of Use.