Wapiti Talk | Elk Hunting Forum | Elk Hunting Tips
 

Where Are The Elk?

Moderators: Lefty, Swede, Tigger, Indian Summer, WapitiTalk1

Where Are The Elk?

Postby Swede » 11 07, 2018 •  [Post 1]

I have read a lot about where to hunt elk, but honestly I don't take a lot of stock in most of it. Why? Because it just depends on so many factors, that you have to weigh when you are hunting. What time of day is it? Are they feeding or bedded? How are you hunting? If I am calling, being on a ridge might be perfect as I can reach out in more directions and cover more country. If I am tree stand hunting a saddle could be just the ticket. Are you hunting with a rifle or a bow?
If I am bow hunting, calling in the morning or after sunset, I like to stay low on the mountain side as the thermals are going down slope. During the warm part of the day, I prefer to be up higher, but as Indian Summer said, I stay away from the ridges. I know that somewhat contradicts what I wrote above, but the are few hard and fast rules. Elk generally cross ridges and soon get pushed away by hunters. This is a general thing and you can find bedding places on fairly narrow ridges. My tree stands are generally about 2/3 of the way up on the side of a mountain near a water hole next to a bedding area.
North slopes are touted as the elk's place to hang out. Well maybe that is where you will find them, but look other places as well. The elk have not been trained well to stay on north facing slopes, so you will find them hiding out on the other faces as well.
Swede
Wapiti Hunting - Tree Stand Tactics
 
Posts: 6351
Joined: 06 16, 2012

Re: Where Are The Elk?

Postby elkstalker » 11 07, 2018 •  [Post 2]

:lol: You're right about "no hard and fast rules". I think most of us have hiked through plenty of elk country that looks great, tons of old sign (maybe even yesterday!), but they're just not there today. They are where you find them! But there are some guidelines that can help us narrow it down. For me, most of these lessons have been learned through experience on the mountain.
User avatar
elkstalker
Rank: Rag Horn
 
Posts: 241
Joined: 04 16, 2015
Location: Montana

Re: Where Are The Elk?

Postby saddlesore » 11 07, 2018 •  [Post 3]

Usually elk seek the north slopes to get away from the heat or because there is thicker growth there for cover and that big canopy of trees provides a little bit more warmth during a storm. But clear cold weather will have them hanging on south slopes where there typically is more forage. Hot summer days,you might find them up high on unmelted snow banks to get cool and away from the bugs
User avatar
saddlesore
Wapiti Hunting - Strategy and Tactics
 
Posts: 1195
Joined: 11 07, 2015
Location: Colorado Springs,CO

Re: Where Are The Elk?

Postby Swede » 11 07, 2018 •  [Post 4]

I understand what very experienced hunters are saying about where elk bed and etc., but I have seen herds out in the open meadows and fields, mid afternoon when the temperatures are in the low 90s. I can take you where we can see them there next summer. Just don't plan on shooting one. The question is not so much where they are, but why are they there? Sure they are feeding, but why there? The answer has to be in the quality of the forage, and security.
Swede
Wapiti Hunting - Tree Stand Tactics
 
Posts: 6351
Joined: 06 16, 2012

Re: Where Are The Elk?

Postby Jhg » 11 08, 2018 •  [Post 5]

00404_2JbVKeCRyRB_600x450 (1).jpg
00404_2JbVKeCRyRB_600x450 (1).jpg (26.33 KiB) Viewed 104 times
00j0j_7VotvmbbrAW_600x450.jpg
00j0j_7VotvmbbrAW_600x450.jpg (37.26 KiB) Viewed 104 times
I am always surprised how often elk will find a nitch area- an area that seems totally stupid for them to be in because its easily accessible for hunters, or near a road. But they are there because hunters pass by these little islands on the way to "destination areas".

But the obvious destination areas are the places to go in our search because we have been conditioned to think that way about elk.

I read someplace that the reason we think photographs of majestic mountains are great is because we have been shown those images over and over. We are taught to think of the West in those terms. So we walk right by the other beauty an the way to the majestic vista, not even seeing what else there is thats worth seeing because we are conditioned to only give value to the one thing- that big mountain image.
My point being that we are also taught over and over what an elk spot looks like and it is often not very accurate given what elk have to deal with in terms of hunters and the like.
Attachments
00M0M_gnHFJxV3enA_600x450.jpg
00M0M_gnHFJxV3enA_600x450.jpg (49.89 KiB) Viewed 104 times
Jhg
Rank: Spike
 
Posts: 136
Joined: 07 18, 2018
Location: Longmont

Re: Where Are The Elk?

Postby Indian Summer » 11 08, 2018 •  [Post 6]

Where are the elk? I guess that’s always going to be the million dollar question Swede! I’ take a crack at answering that.

First of all there are no such thing as generalizations such as “elk bed on north slopes”. Truth be known I find that not to be true at all! Well sorta. What I mean is on any slope including south ones there are secondary ridges, or fingers, that have north or east facing sides where elk can get out of the sun. Sometimes that is their goal. Food is never far on a south slope so it’s convenient.

I think the first question a hunter has to ask themselves when looking for elk is just that.... what is their goal? First let’s use a scenario that is probably the most common.... they want to be safe in an area with hunting pressure. That might send them to a north slope because cover is usually thicker there making it difficult to get close without them hearing you. But they have other preferences too. One common bedding scenario is up high where they can see everything below, thermals bring scent up to them.... and with a really steep slope or better yet a rocky cliff behind them making an approach from above impossible. When I’m glassing an area with cliffs I always scan right along the very bottom of them. That’s also a classic bedroom for mule deer. In this scenario they might be on a south slope. They might be in the wide open with no cover at all. Keep in mind sometimes they want some sun in the morning.

One thing elk like is a bombproof escape route. That might mean they are bedded right at the edge of a super steep hill. Or even a cliff where they have an age old way of making their way down. If there is good cover or blowdowns along the top they will spot a predator long before it’s much of a threat and with one jump they will be over the top out of sight and gone. In that type of situation a hunter might never even know the elk was there, especially a lone bull.

One great place to find a bull is... wherever the cows are during the rut. Where are the cows? Wherever they have found the best feed because their goal is to provide a healthy start for their calves. Often times this means they are down low. Maybe on private. Maybe in some small patch of timber that hunters all drive right past every day. You never know until you actually walk it out and see with your own two eyes.

I think one of the toughest times to find a bull elk is during post rut periods. They break all the rules. They aren’t with the herds. They don’t care about prime food sources. They become reclusive and anti social. Truly needles in a giant haystack. Especially since they may be in bachelor groups. That means you either find 3 to even 8 bulls at once..... or none! In my experience the only way to be successful at finding those groups of bulls is through past experiences. You are NOT going to do online scouting or even on the ground scouting to learn where they hang. You are going to stumble on them during the actual hunting season. When you do remember that spot.

One generalization is that elk like geographic barriers. Most people especially new hunters think that putting miles between them and other hunters is the best way to find elk. But putting a river or a sheer cliff behind you can get you into elk fast. Or.... a hike that isn’t all that far but gains some serious elevation fast. In other words the path of most resistance. With that in mind I’ll say this: If you want to find elk pay the price. The path of least resistance is a gated road or a nice cushy pack trail. You can go 8 miles on those to find that hunting isn’t any better. That’s because you haven’t really paid your dues. It’s easy to do that. Go that far with no trail and you have paid a price. Or you can take that trail for 1 mile, bail out and climb straight up 1000 feet in elevation and bam.... elk only 2 miles from the truck. Or put on a pair of chest waders and cross a river then crawl up the only navigable chute that puts you on top of a steep rocky hill and there they are. By doing things like that I’ve killed elk in spots where I could see my truck while I was quartering them.

So that’s my advice to find out where the elk are... pay the price in one way or another and you’ll get the paycheck you are looking for.
User avatar
Indian Summer
Wapiti Hunting Consultant
 
Posts: 3889
Joined: 06 14, 2012
Location: Pennsylvania
First Name: Joe
Last Name: Ferraro

Re: Where Are The Elk?

Postby Indian Summer » 11 08, 2018 •  [Post 7]

I have to add.... it’s not easy carrying tree stands around in the mountains. And for me it’s really hard to sit and wait for elk to come to me. I’m not a waiter in general except for whitetails. So there’s no doubt in my mind that tree stand hunting is also paying the price. I had to hive credit where credit is due Swede.

I know places where I’m certain I’d kill a bull if I sat there every day for a week. I can’t do it!
User avatar
Indian Summer
Wapiti Hunting Consultant
 
Posts: 3889
Joined: 06 14, 2012
Location: Pennsylvania
First Name: Joe
Last Name: Ferraro

Re: Where Are The Elk?

Postby Swede » 11 08, 2018 •  [Post 8]

Indian Summer wrote:I’m certain I’d kill a bull if I sat there every day for a week.


A week! If that is all it took, I would not pack half the gear from home to camp that I do. That would be a piece of cake. I spend 12-13 hours per day for about three weeks often times, contend tree stand hunting is very effective. It may be the most effective way of taking elk. It just takes determination. If you do not believe it your setup location, tree stand elk hunting is probably not for you.
Swede
Wapiti Hunting - Tree Stand Tactics
 
Posts: 6351
Joined: 06 16, 2012

Re: Where Are The Elk?

Postby saddlesore » 11 08, 2018 •  [Post 9]

I guess I must shoot really stupid elk then.I don't do any of that stuff.Last year was the first year in about twenty plus that I didn't shoot an elk.Maybe I paid my dues by hunting them for 50+ years ,but elk are not hard to find nor hard to kill.I use to hunt that mean nasty country and kill elk in it then work my butt off getting them out.The last ten years, I haven't .I hunt easy country that I know.
This year was a lot of work,but that was packing the elk out,not the finding and killing part.I rode about3 miles,climbed a 1000 feet ,tied up my mules and walked about 1/2 mile.Sat down and as it got light,I spotted the elk and killed one. The next day I showed a fellow where to get on them but he missed the shots . I have given locations to a few hunters on this site and other sites and they all have gotten into elk. In the last five years,I have killed 3 bulls and one cow from the same spot. In a completely different area several years ago,I took 8 bulls out of one bowl in the same number of years using the same tactics . In a ML loader area, 5 cows in 5 year.

An outfitter friend of mine got in a bind and asked me to guide two of her clients fr one day in ML season. That one day, I got them on three different groups of elk.The just couldn't close the deal.

First thing to remember is elk don't like people and go where they aren't. We can sit and theorize of why they went there, why they are here, yada, yada, yada, but unless you can figure out what they do because of other hunters, especially later rifle seasons, what they do when it is not hunting season doesn't mean squat.

I have killed quite a few elk on south facing slopes,but that was in late seasons when food was scarce ,covered with snow,but I have killed lot more on north facing slopes in heavy timber.
User avatar
saddlesore
Wapiti Hunting - Strategy and Tactics
 
Posts: 1195
Joined: 11 07, 2015
Location: Colorado Springs,CO

Re: Where Are The Elk?

Postby Indian Summer » 11 08, 2018 •  [Post 10]

Maybe where hunters kill elk has to do with their preferred method. I prefer spot then stalk. That means more open country. Even in timbered mountains I find areas that fit my style of locating elk before they know I’m there. If you are a still hunter you kill your elk in the timber.

Likewise your gear is tailored to fit your tactics. I used to still hunt more. But as I got older I decided to put miles on after I saw elk instead of to find them.
User avatar
Indian Summer
Wapiti Hunting Consultant
 
Posts: 3889
Joined: 06 14, 2012
Location: Pennsylvania
First Name: Joe
Last Name: Ferraro

Re: Where Are The Elk?

Postby Swede » 11 08, 2018 •  [Post 11]

Indian Summer's and Saddlesore's experiences and observations cause me to believe our experiences fit our style of hunting and the time. I have killed elk on all slope faces. I have killed them up high on the mountain side and down low. I pay no attention to that stuff. I am looking for a place that I can see elk are frequenting. Sometimes I get fooled because they have just moved, and I am watching where there were yesterday. Anyway, I think it is a good idea to pay attention to a lot of opinions and see what works for you.
Swede
Wapiti Hunting - Tree Stand Tactics
 
Posts: 6351
Joined: 06 16, 2012

Re: Where Are The Elk?

Postby Magic » 11 09, 2018 •  [Post 12]

On 4 different situations we have found satellite bulls that have been kicked around too much by herd bulls and were content to lead a solitary life alone. They were tucked away and being quiet. Alas we did not find one in October partially due to the drought that affected the two Units in Colorado where I hunted. In both of them there were herds of elk already on the Wintering Grounds. In one location there were ~90 head with three very nice bulls. I talked with the Wildlife Officer in the Unit where I hunted/killed last year and reported the same situation there.
User avatar
Magic
Rank: Rag Horn
 
Posts: 253
Joined: 07 30, 2012
First Name: Lynn
Last Name: D


cron