Raise Your Glass
By Jay Scott
Copyright Elk Hunter Magazine
Spotting from a distance is a surefire way to get in close
My headlamp dimly showed my path up the steep mountainside. With every step I took, the anticipation of the coming day and the events it would bring was building. I knew the giant bull was lying down in the valley, getting ready for his big day of chasing his girls. I could hear his subordinate’s bugles ringing throughout the valley and I was reminded of why I love elk hunting so much. It sounded like a beautiful orchestra in the crisp morning air.
They were getting more cranked up the farther up the mountain I went. What would happen today? Was I prepared? Did I have everything I needed? These thoughts ran circles through my mind. It’s funny how those same thoughts seem to go through my head day after day while chasing the animal I love so much. I knew that my final destination was the best vantage point around and that my preparation was going to pay off. Was the bull as big as I thought? Had he broken any points since we last saw him? Would he make an appearance today? I snapped back to reality as I reached my rock perch high above the forest floor. If you elk hunt you have probably know what I was feeling on that morning.
When well-known bowhunter and EHM Editor-at-Large, Randy Ulmer, was asked his opinion on what makes a great glassing point, his response was, “Because big bulls typically live in thick, difficult country, I'm an opportunist. I take the best of what's available. I choose my glassing spot based primarily on where I think the bulls will be. All other qualities of the place as a glassing point are secondary.”
I agree with Randy on this and have always used the motto you have to find him before you can kill him. My most efficient and successful tactic to find big bulls is to locate several high points and glass the area extensively for elk. I repeat this process on as many high points as I can find throughout the unit, marking the exact location on my GPS so that I can find the spot quickly in the dark the next time I’m there. It’s also important to mark the best route up to the glassing point. I feel that glassing vast amounts of country, especially after confirming elk activity in the general area, is the most important thing you can do to increase your chance of harvesting a great bull. Knowing the right places to glass from is essential for finding more elk and bigger bulls. Check out the accompanying sidebar at the end of this article for some great options!
At Colburn and Scott Outfitters, using technology to our advantage has played a big part in our success of harvesting great bulls. We prefer to use the National Geographic Topo program. It’s a great tool to plot routes and survey the country like a skilled military operation. Creating routes with the route tool is simple, and downloading them into the GPS takes about 30 seconds. By creating routes, the guesswork is eliminated on the morning commute to the desired glassing knob. Using mapping programs and a GPS definitely makes for a more efficient hunter. When asked about the use of his GPS, Darr Colburn said, “I can’t tell you how many times I've found a great glassing knob from a topo map and found my way to the top in the dark like I've been there 100 times.”
Another part of technology that will help you be more effective is to take pictures with a digital camera from the top and the bottom of the glassing point so that you can show your hunting partner exactly what the knob looks like and what the view looks like as well. I like to do this for several reasons. First, a picture goes along way when trying to explain the travel patterns and behavioral characteristics to your hunting partner. If you tell your hunting partner the bull likes to feed on the north end by the big pine tree and then show the photo, it gives them a much greater reference and decreases the likelihood for miscommunication and misunderstanding. Second, if you’re going to send your partner up to the vantage point, they know what to expect and what it looks like before he even goes up there. And third, I like to save my photos and file them for future hunts. When I draw that unit again or when a friend draws it, it’s easy to pass on the information.