Idaho Elk Hunt 2019


Well-Known Member
Jan 5, 2015
I'm looking for some info/tips on elk hunting in Idaho. We will be going in mid October hunting the middle fork zone. None of us live near the area and can't take the time off to do a scouting trip so its basically been all E-scouting. That being said, I feel like we have found a good spot well into the backcountry with good water in the area and a burn from 2017. We chose the area because it has some spots with wide open grassy sections, deep dark and nasty ravines, water, burn areas, and most important, I feel, no trails running right through the middle of it. Does anyone have any info on what we should be looking for to know when we are getting into some elk? Will there be a lot of sign all over the place or should we be looking for single bulls? How should we hunt the burn area, get deep into it, or hunt the edges? Will they be up high or down low, highest peak around(8 mile radius) is 8,000 feet. Should we focus on the deep dark nasty spots or more out in the open? Is the rut still going on at that time or is it over by then? If the rut is over, should we even bother trying to call for them? I know its a lot of questions, but I've read so many conflicting ideas/tips/tactics that I figured I should see if I could get some first hand knowledge from some of the experts on here to try and sort it out.
If they haven't been shot at they will probably still be bugling and chasing cows. Listen for them at night. Get up high and do a lot of spotting at daybreak and dark and do concentrate on the burn. If you are not seeing them or hearing them at night move. I would highly doubt there aren't trails on the ridges or bottoms or both. I've hunted the most remote parts of Idaho (Frank Church and Bitterroots) and even if it is not shown on the maps the guides and cowpokes keep trails in most places. Find the airstrips and stay away from them except for the ones that are only for the forest service. The guides will use airplanes to spot animals and it is hard to compete with that. The problem with this type of area is that the elk will get into one big herd and if you are not in the drainage they are in you won't see a thing. You can literally cover 100 miles of trails but if you don't come across the herd you will leave thinking there are no animals in the area. Idaho is generally very arid so unless there is snow or rain fresh sign will be hard to find. Don't think because you're on a river or creek your at the water source, the elk know where every spring in every little drainage is. My wife is from Idaho and we lived there for years but we left around the time the wolves got re-introduced, my brother in law says they have really changed the way the elk ack so good luck. There are a lot of moose in that unit and more mountain lions than anywhere I've been.
It is tough hunting without horses. Mid October the rut is over. Might have a few second cycle cows but the bulls are much less active and tend to move off as singles and small bull bands. I hunted this general area several time in the past and even then the wolves were starting to be a problem, friends who still hunt those middle fork units say it is getting tougher each year. They say deer and moose are way down and the elk are very skittish! They hunt wolves, cats and coyotes in the same area and their numbers are high!
Sometimes the areas that are heavily pressured by predators produce an occasional nice bull but it’s always hard hunting
Good luck. Keep us posted!
Shamu, and fellow hunters.
I too am heading to Idaho to try and hunt some of the areas around that unit. I am using it as a way to celebrate my twin 18y/o boys finishing High school and leaving for the Army. I am an Idaho resident but have been in the military too long and have never hunted the area. We are looking at areas in the McCall, Elk City , and Selway hunting areas. Its a lot of ground but have been e-scouting those areas for a few months now, and have Plan A, Plan B, and etc. With us not having the opportunity to get there and do some scouting ourselves, I figured we better have some good alternate plans as well. Thanks for all the great info.
Have hunted the Salmon zone long before it was called the Salmon zone. I have heard several bulls talking over the years in Mid Oct. But very few and they are most of the time half hearted bugles. The mature bulls will be away from the cows, only the spikes and smaller rag horns will be near the cows. The bigger bulls will be in some nasty hell hole recovering. You will not catch them out running around in the open meadows, pay attention to the thermals, and go into the nastiest place you can find..
I have hunted close to that area. Close being relative. A lot of burn where we were and the elk held up in the thickest dark timber, using side hill trails through it as much as possible. We were able to find a few small groups working through the burn but anything of any size seen was in the timber. We were at maybe 8200 at the highest with maybe 15 inches of snow there. Not much sign up there except for a few wolf tracks, singles and cat tracks. All the heavy elk sign was on the side hill trails through the timber. We had best luck working the side hill trails where they ran in between patches of the dark timber. But they will be moving. There weren't any real places to glass and stalk where we were.
Mid October in the eastern part of the McCall Zone. Have a friend who hunted LoLo for years until the wolves got too bad. They pulled some very nice Bulls out of there years ago.
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