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.
Scouting is important for hunting any animal. Unfortunately most non-residents, and many residents, do not have the luxury or time to scout an area for elk. For those who cannot scout there are some ways to increase their success rates. The most obvious way is to use the services of an outfitter. By using an outfitter you eliminate the need to scout, because the outfitter does it for you. They scout the area before the hunt, choose the best places to hunt and do the guiding. If you like to become more involved in the hunt you can choose a semi-guided hunt. Some guides offer pack-in and pre-scouting services to lessen the amount of time you have to scout during the hunt. A semi-guided hunt usually involves one guide for each four hunters, with the guide telling you where to hunt, rather than actually guiding you and going along. In this case you do your own daily scouting.
Another option for those who like to do their own scouting is a drop camp. A drop camp is exactly what the name implies: you are taken to the area by the guide, usually on horseback, and dropped off in an area where the camp, tents, cooking gear and firewood are ready for you. You provide your own sleeping gear and food, cook your own meals, and field dress, quarter and pack your game into camp, where the outfitter will pack it out to his headquarters. Usually you will not have horses in camp, and you have to do all of your scouting and hunting on foot. If you choose this type of hunt you should be in good physical condition, have First Aid, CPR and survival training.
If you have the ability and the time to do your own scouting, do it a couple of weeks before the hunt. For archery hunters this may be as early as late August. By this time some of the older bulls have begun to shed their velvet; making rubs, wallows; and they may be bugling and associating with the cows. However, many of the bulls may be in bachelor herds by themselves in high alpine meadows.
If you are hunting private land that you can drive on, be sure to stop far enough away from where you expect to see elk that you don’t disturb them. If you are using ATV’s to get into back country on National Forest land realize that it will alert the elk and drive them out of the area for you and every other hunter who has worked so hard to get into the area without disturbing the elk. If you really want to be successful as an elk hunter don’t go into elk country with a motor vehicle. To do a thorough job of scouting you will have to cover a lot of territory; elk home ranges may cover as much as forty square miles. Because of these large home ranges elk don’t leave a lot of sign in some of the areas they use. Not finding recent elk sign doesn’t mean there are no elk in the area, or that they won’t be using it the next day, or the next week.