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Author Topic: Critique my Strategy after Saddle Mountain Failure  (Read 1212 times)

Offline acnewman55

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Critique my Strategy after Saddle Mountain Failure
« on: November 15, 2017, 11:42:04 AM »
I had the opportunity to join a friend of mine on an elk hunt in Oregon’s Saddle Mountain unit.  This hunt was November 11-14, the first rifle opening.

We hunted the Northern end of the unit just above the Columbia between Rainer and Astoria.  The area is a patchwork of logging roads, clear cuts, timber and reprod of all ages.

It was his first elk hunt and mine as well. We both live near Seattle, and did not know the area.  Buddy knew a local that shared some knowledge, took him on a scouting trip a few weeks prior to the opening, and gave us some tips on strategy.

We did not kill a bull.  We did not see a bull (legal or otherwise) during our hunt.
Afterwards, I’m questioning our strategy and the quality of the advice we were given.
The information below is what we were provided with:

•   Most hunters would not get out of their trucks.
o   This proved to be true.  We rarely saw a hunter step foot out of his pickup.
•   Elk could be caught moving through clearcuts in the morning and evening hours, during which time we should be setup on a vantage point from which we could glass edges of timber/reprod along open clearcuts.
•   During the majority of daytime hours, especially in inclement weather, elk would be hiding out/feeding in reprod/timber.
•   During high winds (which we experienced), the elk would move out of the timber and hunker down in the younger reprod (10-15 year) to escape the noise and chaos of the larger timber.


Our game plan followed this advice. 

•   We setup in the morning above open clearcuts, moving in about an hour before daylight and remaining silent while we glassed timber edges.
•   After about 9 am we would begin hiking timber.  We ran a shuttle, parking a truck below a timber stand and hiking down to through the timber to it.  We moved slowly looking for sign – in areas with a lot of sign we would sit and listen for 15 minutes or so at a time.
•   After eating lunch back at the truck we’d hit another stand of timber until about 3:30.
•   At 3:30 we’d head back to the truck to setup and glass until darkness fell around 5:00pm.

On the first day we heard a lot of gunshots at first light, which continued into the late morning.  We saw nothing during out glassing.  In our first hike through timber we found significant elk sign.  We spooked what we believe to be a solitary bull (didn’t get eyes on it) that crashed through the timber above us as we climbed through some steep timber.  After circling around to try and locate it (failing) we found an old skid road through the timber that we followed until we jumped a group of 5-7 elk.  I believe they got our wind as it changed direction temporarily.  I got eyes on two cows but didn’t see the other animals as they scattered from the timber’s edge into thick brushy reprod.  After this we sat along the edge of this transition and caught a cow feeding slowly into us at 15 yards.  When she moved off and no additional animals followed her, we backed out of the area.

That was the last time we encountered any elk – by noon on day one we had seen all the elk we would see in the 4 day opening.  We saw a dozen blacktail, including 2 bucks. But the elk eluded us.
We continued to hear gunshots throughout the 4 day opening, but it thinned out considerably and was limited almost completely to the first and last hours of light each day.  So other hunters were having some success when glassing during these hours.

So I’m curious what went wrong for us?  After day 1 we were convinced we would locate more elk in the timber, but increasingly we were frustrated that they seemed to be hiding in the thick reprod along the edges of older timber.  We often thought we could hear them in there, but never again laid eyes on them.

This was our first time hunting the unit so we expected to miss out on the best glassing locations simply by not knowing the layout of the area well enough.  We tried to identify promising spots but who knows if we were above elk-inhabited areas or not.  As for the timber, we found some patches with significant signs and others with very little.

Our biggest weakness, we believe, was not knowing vantage points from which we could effectively glass into the reprod, where we were told the elk were hiding out during the high winds we experienced.

Curious if anyone has any critique of the tactics we used – what would you have done differently?

Thanks for helping out a newbie elk hunter!

Offline dominknows

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Re: Critique my Strategy after Saddle Mountain Failure
« Reply #1 on: November 15, 2017, 01:17:02 PM »
Get in the area you are going to hunt more than 1 day prior to the season starting.  You would at least give yourself more familiarity with the lay of the land, road systems, and areas that were inhabited with elk more so than other areas.

Offline ribka

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Re: Critique my Strategy after Saddle Mountain Failure
« Reply #2 on: November 15, 2017, 01:48:51 PM »
Need to make multiple trips to scout. I think hiking around a lot during a busy season and heavily pressured area personally is not very productive. I would have scouted and identified sat on escape routes most of the day or brought a tree stand or two and hung a few near the reprod where they go during the pressure to gain elevated vantage point. Just my :twocents:

Offline WSU

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Re: Critique my Strategy after Saddle Mountain Failure
« Reply #3 on: November 15, 2017, 01:59:59 PM »
Scout.  To really be successful (especially with only 4 days), you need to be hunting areas you know elk are using.  The overall strategy seems good but you need to refine it by knowing where the elk are that you are hunting.

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Re: Critique my Strategy after Saddle Mountain Failure
« Reply #4 on: November 15, 2017, 02:25:55 PM »
It sounds like you had a general idea where elk were but didn't know exactly where they were, big difference. Locals who live there and have hunted for years in those areas have a big advantage over you. Scouting is a big part of successful hunting, I would suggest trail cams and multiple off season trips into your hunting area to dial it in. Nothing wrong with your tactics.
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Offline Matth

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Re: Critique my Strategy after Saddle Mountain Failure
« Reply #5 on: November 15, 2017, 02:50:54 PM »
Start thinking about elk hunting, and scouting for them regularly prior to the opening day of the season. as stated in prior posts there is no substitute for knowing the country your hunting in.

Offline slowhand

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Re: Critique my Strategy after Saddle Mountain Failure
« Reply #6 on: November 15, 2017, 02:51:59 PM »
tag for later
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Offline elkinrutdrivemenuts

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Re: Critique my Strategy after Saddle Mountain Failure
« Reply #7 on: November 15, 2017, 02:59:32 PM »
Is this a OTC hunt or a draw tag?

Hunting elk in timber is one of the toughest things to do.  If this was an OTC hunt, I am not surprised you didn't see any elk.   

Offline WSU

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Re: Critique my Strategy after Saddle Mountain Failure
« Reply #8 on: November 15, 2017, 03:07:08 PM »
I'll give you an example from this year.  My wife and I both killed bulls on OTC west side hunts.  Because of scouting (lots of info came from a friend that lives 5 minutes away, so a lot of the credit goes to him), we knew which clear cuts had legal bulls using them regularly and how to approach them.  We were in position a couple hours ahead of time.  For the bull I killed, we had another hunter that knew the location of the bull show up about 1.5 hours before shooting time.  He had beat me to the spot the day before but it was too foggy. 

The point is, your best bet is knowing exactly where the elk are (or at least have been recently) instead of the general area.  The only way to do that is a lot of time in the woods before the season starts.  If I was you, I wouldn't want to drive to Oregon over and over.  I'd head down a couple days early and try to locate and pattern a legal bull or three.

Offline acnewman55

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Re: Critique my Strategy after Saddle Mountain Failure
« Reply #9 on: November 15, 2017, 03:11:41 PM »
If I was you, I wouldn't want to drive to Oregon over and over.  I'd head down a couple days early and try to locate and pattern a legal bull or three.

Yeah I wasn't going to make the 3.5 hour drive multiple times to scout for this one.  I definitely understand this would have increased our chances of success - my goal here is to understand whether or not the tactics were sound, given the position we were in.

Had a lot of fun and would do it again - but would probably prefer to hunt somewhere closer to home so I could get out and scout.  Definitely would have made sense to get in there a few days early to scout - just wasn't in the cards this year.

Thanks for the input!

Offline 7mmfan

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Re: Critique my Strategy after Saddle Mountain Failure
« Reply #10 on: November 15, 2017, 03:16:08 PM »
In general, yes it seems your tactics were fine, especially for day 1. After all the shooting on day one though, it is rare to find those animals hanging out in the open much at all, they stay in the timber and reprod. It also just takes time to get good at still hunting timber. However slowly you're moving, I guarantee slower is better. Knowledge of the area will play a lot into the animals you find.

The comment about sitting in timber, or timber/reprod edges is valid. They move more during the day than a lot of people think, they just do it in cover. Find travel paths in cover, and sit on them. Also don't rule out the really narrow patches of timber between cuts in creek bottoms. When the shooting starts, they will use those narrow strips as highways between areas just to stay out of the open.
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Offline acnewman55

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Re: Critique my Strategy after Saddle Mountain Failure
« Reply #11 on: November 15, 2017, 03:40:47 PM »
Is this a OTC hunt or a draw tag?

Hunting elk in timber is one of the toughest things to do.  If this was an OTC hunt, I am not surprised you didn't see any elk.   

Draw - though the draw odds are very good apparently, and I believe they are 100% for out-of-state hunters ($$$).

Offline slowhand

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Re: Critique my Strategy after Saddle Mountain Failure
« Reply #12 on: November 15, 2017, 04:17:17 PM »
reprod?
What exactly is it? I google searched it but nothing.
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Offline acnewman55

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Re: Critique my Strategy after Saddle Mountain Failure
« Reply #13 on: November 15, 2017, 04:24:57 PM »
reprod?
What exactly is it? I google searched it but nothing.

Just referring to replanted timber over previously clear cut areas.


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Offline slowhand

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Re: Critique my Strategy after Saddle Mountain Failure
« Reply #14 on: November 15, 2017, 04:29:05 PM »
Thank You, not a term I was aware of. Now I know  :tup:
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Offline bobcat

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Re: Critique my Strategy after Saddle Mountain Failure
« Reply #15 on: November 15, 2017, 04:30:18 PM »
"Reprod," short for "reproduction."

Offline elkinrutdrivemenuts

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Re: Critique my Strategy after Saddle Mountain Failure
« Reply #16 on: November 15, 2017, 04:33:17 PM »
Is this a OTC hunt or a draw tag?

Hunting elk in timber is one of the toughest things to do.  If this was an OTC hunt, I am not surprised you didn't see any elk.   

Draw - though the draw odds are very good apparently, and I believe they are 100% for out-of-state hunters ($$$).

My guess is that it probably gets hunted a lot and a few seasons hunting it are required to really learn the place and be successful.

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Re: Critique my Strategy after Saddle Mountain Failure
« Reply #17 on: November 15, 2017, 05:40:57 PM »
Don't feel like you failed; feel like you learned.

I wouldn't give a first-time elk hunter in an unfamiliar area more than a snowballs chance. You'd have to get "outhouse lucky" to knock one down. That's just reality.
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Re: Critique my Strategy after Saddle Mountain Failure
« Reply #18 on: November 15, 2017, 06:06:54 PM »
reprod to me are those areas of old clear cuts that you can't see into anymore.  I'm talking about 8-12' trees growing about 6-10 feet apart.  if you can actually get on a vantage point and look into it than it probably doesn't hold elk as every other road hunter has looked into it.  IMHO the reprod does hold elk as they can move around in those areas and still feed without being seen.  Obviously an elk is a big animal and needs to feed a lot.  What i look for in the reprod are thick creek drainages between big timber.  I've found that elk are more apt to use these travel routes than just a random area.  Find the most well used game trail on a creek drainage in the taller reprod and set up on the opposite side wind permitting.  you may only be able to see an area that is 60-100 feet long and watching that small area during the last few hours of light can be tedious but it can be productive.  I've always had more success in these areas during the evening hunt than during the morning. obviously there is no substitute for scouting but once you have an idea of what habitat holds elk you should be able to access the area via google maps/earth and be able to actually look at the terrain/cover and come up with a game plan.  clicking on a specific area will give you the lat/long coordinates that can greatly increase your odds.  good luck
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Offline onmygame

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Re: Critique my Strategy after Saddle Mountain Failure
« Reply #19 on: November 15, 2017, 06:09:11 PM »
 
Don't feel like you failed; feel like you learned.

I wouldn't give a first-time elk hunter in an unfamiliar area more than a snowballs chance. You'd have to get "outhouse lucky" to knock one down. That's just reality.

 :yeah:

Offline acnewman55

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Re: Critique my Strategy after Saddle Mountain Failure
« Reply #20 on: November 18, 2017, 09:42:14 PM »
.  What i look for in the reprod are thick creek drainages between big timber.  I've found that elk are more apt to use these travel routes than just a random area.  Find the most well used game trail on a creek drainage in the taller reprod and set up on the opposite side wind permitting.  you may only be able to see an area that is 60-100 feet long and watching that small area during the last few hours of light can be tedious but it can be productive.  I've always had more success in these areas during the evening hunt than during the morning.

This is exactly where we spooked that herd on day 1. But we didn't find them there again afterwards. However in the evening and morning hours we were up high classing, not sitting over the creek drainage. It was a very high traffic area though, lots of sign.



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Offline Humptulips

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Re: Critique my Strategy after Saddle Mountain Failure
« Reply #21 on: November 19, 2017, 01:18:26 PM »
I will disagree a little with some of the comments. I would say your basic tactics were OK but I would give more consideration to tracking the elk when you found tracks in the timber. Even when the elk head into the doghair if you have been tracking them it gives you a general direction so you can make a guess where it is best to glass in the morning.
Up until a few years ago I always hunted the timber. I learned from my Father. We would get on some tracks and keep on them 'till we jumped the elk. Now with more brush and less timber I spend more time watching the edges but I always pay attention to tracks to at least get an idea where they might be headed.
4 days hunting though, that is a lot to expect to get an elk in only four days hunting.
I would say you did about as good as you could of considering time and knowledge of the area.
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Offline beav1980

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Re: Critique my Strategy after Saddle Mountain Failure
« Reply #22 on: November 20, 2017, 08:16:25 PM »
Scout ahead of time.  During season is not the time to be learning the area.  Sounds like u just had someone tell u where to go imo

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Re: Critique my Strategy after Saddle Mountain Failure
« Reply #23 on: November 20, 2017, 09:22:39 PM »
As stated earlier, track em up n kill a bull....if u can track good and don't giv up u should kill a bull every year

Offline Randonee

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Re: Critique my Strategy after Saddle Mountain Failure
« Reply #24 on: November 22, 2017, 07:47:29 AM »
I just wanted to thank the OP for the post and everyone for the very helpful answers.  I hunted WA west side this year and had a similar experience to the OP.

Offline Magnum_Willys

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Re: Critique my Strategy after Saddle Mountain Failure
« Reply #25 on: November 22, 2017, 09:30:54 AM »
No failure at all - You are right on track !  For a four day hunt in an unscouted area your results were better than average.   The average success rate in washington for general bull is 6% or one in every 16 years.  Not sure Oregon.  If you repeated your hunt every year I'm certain your results would beat that average.   Many hunters go many years between even seeing a legal bulls.  Thats just the nature of the challenge.   Sure your odds will get better with more scouting and experience.  The number one thing you can do to increase odds in brushy westside  is make sure you take advantage of the opportunity when you get it.  When you do see that legal bull you must get a shot off - whether hiking, driving or what ever make sure you can get a shot off in 4 seconds or less.   Most people that struggle to get an animal regularly do so because they don't close the deal.  ELK ! one... two... three...boom!  No fumbling scope covers, mittens, sling, sight picture etc.   If you have more time great, most elk that have gotten away from me didn't give me that 3rd second. 

 

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