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Anatomy of An Elk Hunt

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Anatomy of An Elk Hunt

Postby Indian Summer » 01 10, 2019 •  [Post 1]

I’m interested in hearing how your hunt unfolds. Out of curiosity and for the benefit of our less experienced hunters.

Do you decide what you’ll shoot in advance? Branch antlered bulls only, any legal bull, either sex elk... ? Do you hunt further in as the days go by? Drive to try different areas? Get later starts and skip a day when you wear out? Do you have a plan or do you play it by ear? If you have a plan do you stick to it or find that maybe you planned on a little more than you can handle and make adjustments?

Let’s hear the play by play of a week or two in the life of an elk hunter!

I’ll listen to your posts before I put my own together. And go.....
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Re: Anatomy of An Elk Hunt

Postby WapitiTalk1 » 01 10, 2019 •  [Post 2]

Good thread Joe. Mine is pretty static, I’ll chime in later.
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Re: Anatomy of An Elk Hunt

Postby Swede » 01 10, 2019 •  [Post 3]

My elk hunt starts well before the season opens. I search G.E. and maps to locate spots to check. On my scouting trip I check the spots I have gps coordinates for. I log them into a book. This year cameras will be set out. Five days before the season opens I will check those cameras and observe what is happening and decide where to set my stands. I will likely set up three stands initially and keep one in camp in case something comes up that causes me to want to quickly add a good location.
The season starts by getting out early and setting in a selected stand. Everything should be in place so all I need to do is climb in and haul my bow up the tree with the drop line. I will get up early to hunt for at least one week. It is likely I will go out early all season and take off mid-day to wash clothes and resupply my groceries and ice. Hopefully my routine is interrupted with the need to take a dead elk into the town cooler. I would prefer to get a large bull, but am happy to take a cow. I am not that fussy about horns. This year may be the first time I would shoot a bear. There has been some thought given to that, but no decision yet.
Mornings start with a quick breakfast and usually a cup of coffee. Lunches may be in the stand or back in camp. That depends on how active the spot I am sitting appears to be, and how far it is back to camp. If I return to camp and am alone, I prefer to make lunch my main meal of the day. Supper is after dark and just before I clean up and go to bed.
That has been pretty much my routine for years. 90% patience and perseverance. 5% skill, 5% luck.
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Re: Anatomy of An Elk Hunt

Postby Lsb » 01 10, 2019 •  [Post 4]

Everyday is different and depends on where I'm hunting. Opening weekend we spend in a spot that is more tradition than strategy. There's elk there. Coffee maybe a poptart. First 2 days never leave camp before shooting light, if we do we bump elk within 200 yards of camp, learned that the hard way. Roll from there. Generally back at camp for lunch. Evenings are spent up high listening if something is hot go, otherwise make a plan for morning. Or maybe a wallow, depends on what my gut says. The private I hunt later, coffee, top of the ridge at daylight to spot them then work in if the wind and conditions allow. If not, down the mountain to chase antelope and/or prairie dogs. Back up top for the evening, go in if conditions allow, if not plan for am and get to bed early.
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Re: Anatomy of An Elk Hunt

Postby saddlesore » 01 11, 2019 •  [Post 5]

Hit the saddle at 4:30, ride 3-5 miles. First two-three days, sit where I ambushed elk in years past. Next 7 days, I hunt different areas until I find elk. I am usually back in camp at about 4 PM.

ML season is always cows for me as it is 2nd tag. Rifle season is bull tag. I shoot the 1st legal bull I see. I have killed enough bigger,stinky, tough bulls , I don't need another.

In the past 5 years or so, killing an elk means less and less to me
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Re: Anatomy of An Elk Hunt

Postby Tigger » 01 11, 2019 •  [Post 6]

I will break it down by your questions:

Do you decide what you’ll shoot in advance? Branch antlered bulls only, any legal bull, either sex elk... ? Sort of. Going in I have a plan and I am free to change that at any time. I will not shoot a cow for the first half of the hunt. Beyond that maybe. Depends on how much we are seeing, weather, etc. I am okay with passing a cow and going home without an elk. I have previously stated that I do not like the phrase "shoot on the first day what you would shoot on the last". To me, that is someone else dictating what you should shoot. I feel you should take the animal that gets you excited when you want. If that is a calf the first day, Great! if that is passing a nice 5X5 midhunt, Great!

Do you hunt further in as the days go by? Not necessarily. I don't rank my areas by how much further in they are. Maybe I should! We just try and learn from the first few days and apply that to where we think the elk are.

Drive to try different areas? Certainly may involve driving to an area we had some knowledge of (internet scouting or better yet, boots on the ground

Get later starts and skip a day when you wear out? We have only skipped one day and that was a blizzard. We have slept in a couple times due to pouring rain or big winds. Usually once during the middle of the hunt we may not be out as early as we would like but it is usually weather driven

Do you have a plan or do you play it by ear? We start with a plan and then call audibles as needed.

If you have a plan do you stick to it or find that maybe you planned on a little more than you can handle and make adjustments? We certainly make adjustments. Last year, a couple of our guys hit the same spot 3 days in a row and were into elk each day. that certainly wasn't planned. hunting the same area more than once really helps in that regard.
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Re: Anatomy of An Elk Hunt

Postby Indian Summer » 01 11, 2019 •  [Post 7]

Tigger wrote:I will break it down by your questions:


Thank you! That’s exactly the kind of answer I was looking for. How the week in camp progresses.
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Re: Anatomy of An Elk Hunt

Postby Kessler10 » 01 11, 2019 •  [Post 8]

at this point in my hunting career for my back country archery elk hunts I will shoot any elk. A cow on the first day goes down.

I prefer to start closer to the trail-head and work my way further away as the days go as needed. 6 miles is about as far as Ill go. Any further get to be an issue to get meat out.

Wake up at 5AM. Pack up camp if i am moving my camp that day.

Start low and head up so I have the wind in the mornings. Call wait, call wait, call wait. Hike up hill more look for fresh sign and try to cut some tracks. Find fresh sign call wait, call wait, call wait. Repeat until I get up as high as I can or until the thermals shift. If I get up as high as I can and thermals haven't shifted yet I sit and have my lunch/snack until they do. 11am-1PM I usually am staying in one spot if I am not on anything.

I then will stay high and try to locate a bed bugle or more fresh sign that I can maybe follow to see where they are bedding. I usually will hear mid-day bugles when they get up to stretch their legs or get a drink (if I am in the right spot). in the 1-3PM time-frame. If not I work my way staying high to try and find where I should start to break down the hill keeping thermals in my favor
As it gets closer to dark I will try to make my way to a meadow if I know of one near by and sit the edge of that meadow (if I haven't gotten on anything to that point). Hunt until its dark out and either head back to my camp or find a flat spot if i am carrying camp.

Make dinner, hot chocolate, review the day maps for tomorrow, make some notes in my journal and Go to sleep and repeat the next day.

I will usually spend 3-4 days in the back-country then go into town for a rest. Then come back and rinse and repeat.
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Re: Anatomy of An Elk Hunt

Postby WapitiTalk1 » 01 11, 2019 •  [Post 9]

Gender? I can’t remember the last time I hunted an area that allowed cows to be taken but even then, the only elk gender I’ll pull back on (or take a bead on) are bulls (this is my current mind-set for personal reasons but certainly there is nothing wrong with a hunter taking “any” elk in fair chase) . Size? 5-point or better unless a smaller bull is relentlessly taunting me and is very close to a road. My buddy and I “normally” will not hunt the same spot/area two days in a row; how deep we dive just depends on which area/spot we’re hunting that day. Could be 1/3 mile from a road and it could be 2 plus miles in; it just depends on the target area of the day I spose. Very, very rarely will I head out on a hunt not knowing that there are elk there. I know there are elk there because 1. I heard them talking the night before or before daylight that morning 2. I saw them via glassing recently 3. somebody told me they were there ;) or 4. It’s an area that I have gotten into them consistently, pretty much each and every time I’ve hunted it, and the odds are that they will be there again considering their bedding/feeding patterns and known lack of hunting pressure in said area. I guess on normal years, my buddy and I will skip one day in the middle of a two+ week hunt and head into town to re-supply a bit. I have bagged a day or two due to extremely crappy weather in SEP (sideways torrential rain, howling winds, etc.) but that is rare. Up and at em at zero dark thirty each morning; cup of coffee and off we go either hiking out of camp or driving to a target spot up/down the road. If it’s a spot/area that is really just a ½ day hunt (morning hunt) then yep, we’ll return to the road/trail we started from and screw around a bit and off to the next spot/area for the evening hunt. Oftentimes we’ll stay in the area/spot for the entire day and get outa there after dark. I pack all the food I need for the day in my pack (Bfast, snacks, lunch) and will eat a big meal once back at camp. Once I return to camp in the evening, first order of business is to prep my pack for the next day so I don’t have to screw with that in the morning. Since most of my elk hunting is archery based, during SEP, my daily plans revolve around vocal elk. If I hunt an area where the elk aren’t vocal, as was the case last year, (for whatever reason) I won’t hunt it again…… September’s are too precious to waste time and effort in an area where the elk don’t speak. And yep, we’ve absolutely moved camp….lock, stock, and barrel a few times if we find that the area is not what it should be. We hunt hard, hunt smart, and are relentless in our goal to get close to vocal elk each year. Ya, we do some cold calling also but again… pretty much only in an area that we fully suspect holds elk. This is all for a static base camp setup; for backcountry gigs, it’s a bit different but not too much.
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Re: Anatomy of An Elk Hunt

Postby Lefty » 01 13, 2019 •  [Post 10]

First I go out to experience the hunt, not necessarily to kill,.. and to some that may not make much sense. Being out there is foremost important. Providing a good hunt and experience for my daughter is next and foremost when she can hunt.


Ive been changing. I was only a 6x6 or better hunter the years hunting iin the desert for all except the last day I would hunt. Now the first few week a bull depends house far in and how late in the season. . Ill shoot any mature bull, nice 5x5 or bigger again until the last days of the season.
I toted a rifle for a couple days on a spike only. The a few days cow muzzle loader.

While I really do want to kill some big bulls and fill the freezer Overall my goal is to be in the woods, not in a box 6 foot down.
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Re: Anatomy of An Elk Hunt

Postby Indian Summer » 01 13, 2019 •  [Post 11]

RJ you’ve never hunted an area with either sex elk hunting? Wow. For about 10 years I hunted Montana where I could kill either for 6 weeks of archery and another 4 in gun. If I didn’t kill a bull I’d hunt cows and kill one in the last 2-3 days. I love elk antlers as much as the next guy but I’m also fond of a freezer full of elk meat.
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Re: Anatomy of An Elk Hunt

Postby WapitiTalk1 » 01 13, 2019 •  [Post 12]

Indian Summer wrote:RJ you’ve never hunted an area with either sex elk hunting? Wow. For about 10 years I hunted Montana where I could kill either for 6 weeks of archery and another 4 in gun. If I didn’t kill a bull I’d hunt cows and kill one in the last 2-3 days. I love elk antlers as much as the next guy but I’m also fond of a freezer full of elk meat.


No sir, not for a looooong time. WA areas I hunt are 3 point or better and Idaho is bull only. I do remember the cow allowance way back in the days when I lived in the Big Sky State.
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Re: Anatomy of An Elk Hunt

Postby jmez » 01 13, 2019 •  [Post 13]

Until last year I'd only hunted either sex areas. Last year was cow only. I had just as much fun cow hunting as bull hunting. I shoot the first legal elk I'm close enough to drop the string on.

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Re: Anatomy of An Elk Hunt

Postby Fridaythe13th » 01 13, 2019 •  [Post 14]

Soooooo I'm not to fond of shooting cows but if there close to camp say less than a mile done deal. As far as bulls go, dont care how big it is, spike will work if it's not in a terrible spot to haul out. Brother passed on a spike 3 1/2 miles back at 2 in the afternoon.
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