Elk are where you find them.

Discussion in 'Elk Hunting' started by TopGunner, Aug 2, 2011.

  1. yes

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  2. no

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  3. mabe

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  1. TopGunner

    TopGunner Member

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    It’s an adage among some hunters that “The Elk are where you find them.” There is a lot of truth to this statement as these elusive denizens of the forest are famous for their ghost like qualities to appear and disappear in a heartbeat or two. Their long legs and stride can move them over mountains and distance in just a blink or two of the eye.

    There are things you can do, however, to enhance your opportunities for success when entering into elk country.

    For the Early Rut and Bugle hunt it’s a good idea to have an understanding of the big bull’s habits in the weeks leading up to the rut. The heat of the summer puts the elk in search of their favorite wallows. They enjoy a good mud bath to help deal with the flies and mosquitos as well as the heat of the day. It is not unusual to find the area around their watering holes and wallows marked by their rubs as they seek to remove the velvet from their antlers on a small lodge pole or other tree. Often there will be rubs from prior years also that give you an indication you are in their summer territory.


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    In addition to their rubs, the hunter is wise to know that an understanding of their browsing habits is useful too. Often you can see the tops of the bear grass have been eaten. It is almost like candy to them. As the weather cools and the green grass withers to brown the elk start to eat the small budded branches of various shrubs such as service berry and others. The observant hunter can see where they have been foraging and also see signs of their tracks and droppings.

    One of the keys to having a successful elk hunt is discovering where they bed down. Often it might be on a knob or a ridge where they have a good view of the approach from below. It is not uncommon for the herd to post a lookout that is bedded down with an excellent view. If the hunting pressure is up, the elk will bed down in a north slope where the brush is thick, still quite often they will post a lookout to watch their back trail.

    If you come across fresh beds, rubs and signs of their foraging, at least you know that the elk may not be far away.
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2011
  2. youngbuck

    youngbuck Well-Known Member

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    I suppose it depends on the state and the season. This is my experience in AZ ONLY. Approaching the rut, I find it most productive to find cows. When the rut hits, the bulls will find the cows, regardless of where they are. After the rut, the bulls will go hide to recover from the rut. In my experience, the bigger bulls prefer the tighter, thicker more secluded canyons. It is also my experience the biggest bulls prefer to be alone. I find more raghorn bulls and bulls smaller than 280ish bachelored up. After they drop their antlers, it seems the bulls move more, atleast into country that isn't so secluded. I have many more trail cam pictures of growing bulls than I do prior to them dropping. I also think that bulls don't necessarily rub their velvet in the "rutting grounds". In my experience the bulls leave their comfort zone where they grow and rub antlers to go chase cows. My experience may vary from others. In AZ I often hunt in old burns. Some burns are close to 20 years old and others just a couple years old. I haven't spent very much time chasing cedar bulls, but rather bulls in the ponderosas and manzanita. In my opinion elk are more influenced by pressure than Coues. I am a firm believer that Coues are where you find them. I think coues get big by being more able to hide anywhere regardless of the proximity of traffic, roads, trails, people. I think bulls get big by finding a secluded canyons during the late season elk hunts (Nov and Dec in Az). I also think the bigger bulls become bigger, due to the amount of cows they have in September. The more eyes make it awfully hard to get in archery range in the rut.
     

  3. danj

    danj Well-Known Member

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    Oct 5, 2010
    I agree 100%.
     
  4. TopGunner

    TopGunner Member

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    Jun 15, 2011
    Youngbuck makes some excellent points.
    Most of my experience is in Western Montana. I doubt there is a universal rule book of elk behavior. Even in the same drainage I find that different groups of elk behave much differently. Our season runs from early September through the end of November. During that time period the behavior of the elk changes a lot as they enter and leave the rut and according also to the weather and the hunting pressure. In this area there are also extremes of elevation from bottom land at around 3500 to ridges at 7-9 thousand feet. Tie that with the different slope aspects and you have many different conditions of cover, forage and water supply.
    What I have noticed is that there are hunters who consistently hunt for days and never seem to see a thing and there are those who seem to always come back with sightings. The first group seem to say that the elk hunting is really bad and the second seem to consistently bring home the bacon. What I am trying to do here is try to get a bit of a discussion going as to what the difference is between the two groups. What can we share that will help each other improve our skills.
    Elk hunting is, by and large an individual sport. What works for one person, does not necessarily work for another. I do believe, however, that there are some things that will help most people improve their chances of success on the trail of the Elk. Many times it comes down to water, forage and cover.
    I have observed hunters spending days searching for elk on dry south aspects that look like perfect elk country. You can find their Winter droppings and their spring droppings but search as you like there are no elk there- upon examination you find that the watering holes of spring and early summer have dried up and the elk have moved on to more suitable areas.
    Elk are also creatures of habit, I watch the elk from my bedroom window as they visit a mountain side to the west of me. I can count on seeing them in a certain opening, grazing in the evenings about every 2 weeks during the fall months. Often there is a lead cow that guides them in their circles of habitual activities. If that cow gets killed, often it changes the pattern of their activities as another takes the lead.
    For me, success is tied to LUCK and how much I discover about when and where they eat, drink and sleep. In addition it is good to know where they go to hide out when the pressure gets tough. My own success seems to be dependent upon how well I observe and interpret the many signs of elk behavior.