Knowing your prey is one thing. Knowing how to find it is another issue altogether. These tips for elk hunters from the experts at Pursue the Outdoors will get you after your target in no time.
You should begin scouting by checking a topographical map to locate east-facing finger-ridges with adjacent watercourses, meadows and conifer forests. Saddles between high drainages and meadows are excellent elk crossings, and lookout points you can use to look and listen for elk. High ridges, where you can overlook several valleys and meadows, allow you to hear and see elk over a wide area. Look for elk at sunset as they come into open meadows to feed; stay as long as you can – because the bulls often don’t show themselves until the shadows cross the meadow, which may be up to a half-hour after the cows first begin to appear. When you see elk at sunset watch them to see which way the go when it gets dark. If they are not disturbed during the night, they may stay in the meadow all night long, or return to it again the next morning.
In the morning elk often feed until the shadows recede, then they move into nearby wooded areas to bed, usually near water they can use during midday. If you know where these bedding areas are before the hunt it makes it much easier to locate the elk once the season opens. Check wooded areas you think may be used as the bedding sites. When you find bedding areas determine if there is a way to stalk or ambush the elk while they are in the bedding area, or as they move into or out of it. Do not go into the bedding area as long as the elk are there; wait until you are sure the elk have left their beds, realizing that most forested bedding areas are used during the day, not at night.
When you see elk, take note of where they appear, the time you saw them in relation to sunrise or sunset, and which way they came from and left. When you hear bulls bugling, try to locate them by sight, or pinpoint them by sound, and record the time and place on your map and in your journal. Be careful not to disturb the elk during these scouting trips, particularly if you are using private land. If you “bump” the elk they may leave the area and not return for some time. You may drive them off the property – where you can’t hunt, but someone else can. The best tactic is to scout, observe, record and pattern the movement of the elk without disturbing them.