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Author Topic: Beginner elk questions  (Read 1113 times)

Offline Huntnfish89

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Beginner elk questions
« on: October 11, 2020, 09:03:14 PM »
As the title states I am new to elk hunting, this will be my first season really targeting elk. I am rifle hunting north Idaho, so my season lasts till the 24th  of this month. That being said, with work and family, I essentially have 2 weekends (Sundays and Mondays) to actually hunt, so 3 more days, so my expectations are realistic.

 Sorry in advance if this is a little rambling.
 I have had to basically teach myself to hunt since no one in my family does, and while one would think living in Idaho I would have found some decent hunting partners, ethical ones seem to be pretty hard to come by. So I have had to pretty much figure it out on my own. Part of my motivation for targeting elk this year, aside from it being something that I have always wanted to do, but didn't really have the confidence in the past is that while scouting for deer I ended up running into probably 2x as much elk sign. I set up a cam in one spot during the last 2 weeks of September and was able to get a few pics of elk and also a nice Mtn. Lion (got a tag for him to just in case). This spot is in a draw with a little creek running through where two trail converge and go over the creek. When I went in to place the cam the place stunk like elk, had a few older rubs, and looked like the little trickle was used as a wallow at some point. So I know there are elk in the area, but I am curious how the best way to hunt it would be. Today I went out and "still hunted" my way into the area that I had the cam placed at it was pretty quite and didn't spot or hear anything other than a couple grouse. I gave a few quiet cow calls and then sat for about an hour before relocating to another spot. As I was moving to the other area I crossed over a point on the ridge that was littered with scat and rubs and stunk like elk again, so good to know. Being the seasoned elk hunter that I am, I though I would follow one of the trails leading off the point down into the adjacent draw. This resulted in me getting 3/4 down, then essentially bushwhacking my through the rest and probably spooked every animal within earshot. I sat again till sun down on another trail and once again didn't see of hear anything although every now and then when the wind would shift a little I would get a whiff of elk.

So, I guess my questions are: Should I be calling at all at this time in the year? I have heard bother yes and no, and I know the there are wolves and Mtn. lions in the area, that according to some have caused the elk to become less vocal?

Should I be more mobile, less time sitting more time slowly working my way through that area?

When I am getting these whiffs of elk, could that be only coming from the bedding areas even if they are a ways off ( a few hundred yards at least) or does it seem like there are elk in the area, just not visible, and super quite?

Should I continue to focus on this area, or branch out and look into more areas given my allotted time?

It may be relevant to note that this area gets pretty heavy pressure, from hunting, people cutting firewood, shooting, atv's dirt bikes etc. It is essentially a zoo, but it does hold animals and its close to home so I have become pretty familiar with it hunting deer.

I should also mention this is at about 3000 elevation so pretty low, should I be look higher in elevation at this point?

Any thoughts would be appreciated,
Eddie



« Last Edit: October 11, 2020, 09:14:07 PM by Huntnfish89 »

Offline phildobaggins

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Re: Beginner elk questions
« Reply #1 on: October 14, 2020, 08:57:48 AM »
Hey Eddie, I'm not an elk hunter, but checked in on your thread because I am new to elk hunting too. I hunted for some Roosies in Oregon and it was incredibly difficult because of the dense cover everywhere, but I've got arrangements for modern elk at the end of Oct. up here in WA with some friends who're more experienced than me, but I'm also looking for tips!

An old guy told me to hunt where the elk are. If you smell them, they've been there. Depending on the terrain I've heard it could linger for days, especially in heavier cover.

IMO, it doesn't hurt to call as long as you can do it well.

If you can't see far, and you can move quietly, I prefer to sneak and walk around in newer areas rather than sit and twiddle my thumbs and hope something walks by. I love hunting alone and going full beans ninja status and spending the energy and time moving super slow and quiet and observing all of the landscape around me.

If you've put good time into an area and haven't seen or heard an elk, they may not be there right now. Depending on how the weather's been you may need to adjust your elevation. Spend your time in the evenings after work scouting the area on topographical maps (If you don't have OnX maps, ya best get it. I spend so much time on it and it's changed my entire hunting experience for the best) and look for benches up high that could be hiding spots during the day time for the elk.

From what I've heard, they're still bugling around my neck of the woods, but your area could be very different. From what you've said in this post, I'd do some aggressive digital scouting and try to go get my eyes on a new spot at least one more time before you have to commit your final days to a spot.

I had a buddy on the border of WA/ID muzzleloading elk last week and he was balls deep in the elk and had a great time chasing them around. He was running bulls around 3000'-4500' feet.  :twocents:

Offline WSU

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Re: Beginner elk questions
« Reply #2 on: October 14, 2020, 09:23:06 AM »
If you are smelling them elk are around.  Sometimes its hours old and sometimes they are close by and you are smelling the elk themselves.  Either way its a good sign.  In general, if it is in the open it is a night time feeding spot.  They will bed on benches in the timber.  If that's where you find it, you likely found a bedding area.  The general pattern is the same every day - in the open at night feeding and bedding in cover during the day.  Keep that in mind as you evaluate the sign and you'll put together a pattern of what you're seeing. 

Offline Huntnfish89

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Re: Beginner elk questions
« Reply #3 on: October 15, 2020, 09:53:35 AM »
Thanks for the replies,

That answers my scent question, I just didn't know how long it tends to linger. This all is in pretty think cover, hence why I think they may be more liable to hang around longer since (people not wanting to get into it). I did go out the next day one the other side of the ridge and ran into more sign, I made a few cow calls and sat for a about 45 min with nothing moving in an area just down hill from a pretty decent bench/ flat point where I thought they may be bedded. Nothing, so I moved further up to explore some more, when I can back down about 2 hours later there was fresh scat on the trail I had been sitting about 50 yards from :bash:. So there are animals in there.

I've been spending a lot of time on onX looking for another area (It really is a huge help) and I think I found at least one more promising area to look into this weekend. Possibly tomorrow morning before work.

I too prefer to be more mobile rather than just sitting in one spot waiting for something to happen, so keeping thermals in mind, I tend to start low in the mornings through very early afternoon making my way up through a draw (usually on one side or another of a creek until either the thermals shift, or I get up to where the prevailing wind starts causing the air to swirl, then I will shift to trying to stay up higher and looking down. Does this sound like a reasonable system?

Offline WSU

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Re: Beginner elk questions
« Reply #4 on: October 15, 2020, 09:59:09 AM »
If it's your last weekend, I'd hunt really slowly through the bedding areas and try to kill one in their bed.  People may disagree because if you blow them out they are likely gone for a while.  But, at this point, what do you have to lose.  Get the wind in your favor and spot them before they see, hear or smell you. 

Offline phildobaggins

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Re: Beginner elk questions
« Reply #5 on: October 15, 2020, 01:59:19 PM »
Good luck, let us know how it goes!

Offline Huntnfish89

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Re: Beginner elk questions
« Reply #6 on: October 17, 2020, 01:22:08 AM »
If it's your last weekend, I'd hunt really slowly through the bedding areas and try to kill one in their bed.  People may disagree because if you blow them out they are likely gone for a while.  But, at this point, what do you have to lose.  Get the wind in your favor and spot them before they see, hear or smell you.

This is probably the route I'll take. Like you said at this point what do I really have to lose.

Thanks guys, I'll keep you posted.

Offline Huntnfish89

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Re: Beginner elk questions
« Reply #7 on: October 22, 2020, 09:33:18 AM »
Well it was a bust. I got back into the area and after slowly hunting through the bedding areas and all around it seems that they moved. I tried a couple different areas, but not much to show for it other than a WT doe that was feeding/ bedded down near the area that I was targeting for elk. I set up a cam down there on a licking branch (for deer) and will probably end up seeing a nice bull pass by it one of the days while I am at work :bash:.

 So now, on to deer for the rest of the year, possibly see if I can get in touch with that cougar and then plan for next season.

Things that I know I need to do:
Scout more, find areas with less pressure, work on calling, and learn as much as I can about elk behavior. I am also seriously considering picking up a bow this winter and getting proficient with that so I can hunt the archery season/rut.

In many ways this experience reminds me of fishing for steelhead. It took me years to get into my first one, but after that things started making much more sense rapidly. I guess its just getting over that curve and getting to the point where things start to click.

This weekend at work is going to be rough knowing that I could hunt a few more days, but can't.

Thank you all for your suggestions and comments,
Eddie


Offline phildobaggins

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Re: Beginner elk questions
« Reply #8 on: October 22, 2020, 10:23:58 AM »
Sorry to hear, but that's hunting! You learned and hopefully enjoyed yourself.  :llam:

Offline WSU

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Re: Beginner elk questions
« Reply #9 on: October 22, 2020, 11:15:17 AM »
That's elk hunting.  I got a bull this year on the 7th morning (last day).  I never saw an elk in the open until that last morning and only saw elk the timber once.  I spent a week seeing sign but no elk. 

Your comparison to steelhead is spot on.

Offline kentrek

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Re: Beginner elk questions
« Reply #10 on: October 22, 2020, 02:25:43 PM »
I'm not a fan of hunting bedded areas...its just a low probability you will be moving slow enough to see before being seen...unless your calling

If your elk hunting...you need to be calling but...glass your tail off...

Glassing is the best way to reduce pressure on an area and let the elk calm down..even in heavily pressured areas you can set up to glass in a way that other hunters can see you and hunt to a different direction...youl essentially create your own destiny here..control the pressure by having a presence but not having a big impact on the area and putting the elk on edge...same with deer

Hopefully that makes sense and helps

Offline Huntnfish89

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Re: Beginner elk questions
« Reply #11 on: October 24, 2020, 10:29:57 AM »
Phildo- Yes, this is not my first time not filling a tag. I had a great time and was able to add more memories and information to apply to next year. Anytime I can spend out in the woods is a good day, filled tag or not.

WSU- If there is anything that I [know[/i] for sure, it is that things can all change in a matter of seconds. A lot of it is just working through the mental aspect and staying positive. Not always the easiest, but something necessary nonetheless.

Kentrek- I am glad you brought the whole glassing thing up and using that to control pressure on your own terms in many respects. I have done things is the past and in one area in particular and I would say 9 times out of 10 this has been successful in deterring other hunters from pushing into the area I am interested in.

 


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