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Author Topic: Elk hunting East or West?  (Read 771 times)

Offline spencerpants

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Elk hunting East or West?
« on: May 07, 2022, 11:51:29 AM »
Hi everyone!

Me and my buddy are self-taught hunters and still pretty new to the sport (2020). Been loving it and learning a ton, but no tags filled so far. We're both based on the west side outside Olympia, and in the past we've generally stayed pretty close to home. This coming year, I'm starting to wonder if we should try hunting the eastern part of the state for elk specifically, and I wanted to reach out to see what you guys on here think.

What sparked this whole idea was I recently took a camping trip out east, and just saw so much elk sign it blew me away, especially after spending two seasons in the brush and not seeing much at all! In the past I was pretty set on trying to tag a Roosevelt bull in our home turf, but I'm thinking maybe I should start following my eyes and going where the elk are. Plus, I'm imagining we'll probably get much longer shooting/scouting opportunities and less rain... no complaints here!

Right now I'm trying to wrap my head around the main tradeoffs. I've seen people on here mention that the eastern half of the state has more elk, but also more hunters, so I guess that kinda cancels out? We both dont mind long days getting far out into the backcountry, so I'm optimistic that we can get away from other folks. I'm thinking the main down-side would be that we're hunting an area much farther from where we live, so we'll have way less opportunities to scout it and get to know the land ahead of time. In the past, that was enough for me to stay grounded in our home area, but the more I'm reading about elk specifically, I'm hearing that they cover so much ground day over day that pre-season scouting is less effective, and you just gotta get out there and cover tons of ground once the season starts? So if that's true, I was thinking the winning strategy would be to scout a general area that looks promising, and then once the season starts just setup a base camp and get out hard every day.

Anyways, I'd love to hear any wisdom people have for folks in our shoes. Thanks a ton and good luck to ya this coming season!

Offline bobcat

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Re: Elk hunting East or West?
« Reply #1 on: May 07, 2022, 12:14:24 PM »
The problem with eastern Washington is you can only shoot spikes. That makes it much more challenging. Unless you're a bow hunter and hunt a unit that's open for cows too.

Offline Dan-o

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Re: Elk hunting East or West?
« Reply #2 on: May 07, 2022, 12:17:00 PM »
Welcome.

What kind of weapon do you hunt with?

My thoughts:
* Scouting for elk IS very important.   Critically important until you really know the area.   Being close to home is a major bonus.   Knowing when and where the elk will be is the difference between a lucky hunter and a consistently successful hunter.
* Look up herd sizes.   There are lots of elk east and west.
* I've hunted east side for 30 years.   Just my opinion, but chasing spikes only is really hard to get excited about.    I go because it's great fun, I love the country, I have great memories there, and we get a few elk, but at least for me it is hard to actually be excited about trying to find a unicorn in the wild.
* I live on the west side.   If I had it t do over again, I might stay west.........   IDK.

Good luck!
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Offline Bowhunter3

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Re: Elk hunting East or West?
« Reply #3 on: May 07, 2022, 01:05:30 PM »
The problem with eastern Washington is you can only shoot spikes. That makes it much more challenging. Unless you're a bow hunter and hunt a unit that's open for cows too.

And those units seem to get fewer and fewer.

Offline spencerpants

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Re: Elk hunting East or West?
« Reply #4 on: May 08, 2022, 04:10:40 PM »
Thanks everyone for the input and warm welcome!

We're hunting modern firearm, and I didn't realize that a lot of the eastern GMUs are spike only. Sounds to me like if it's kind of a toss-up, and not a clear answer of "yes go east" then we'll just save our time and gas and keep putting in the work closer to home. I personally love the coast ranges, so that's no problem for me. Thanks for the encouragement!

On a related note, my deer hunting got a lot better once I picked up a copy of "Blacktail Trophy Tactics" and started reading stuff that applied specifically to the west side coast ranges, as opposed to other books that seem to be written for more open country further east. Would love to hear of any books that are similar for elk, since most of what I've seen tends to focus on Rocky Mountain Elk further east. Thanks again!

Offline mburrows

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Re: Elk hunting East or West?
« Reply #5 on: May 08, 2022, 04:14:17 PM »
Go east, like way east. Grab a Colorado 2nd or 3rd season OTC tag

Offline HillHound

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Re: Elk hunting East or West?
« Reply #6 on: May 08, 2022, 05:11:08 PM »
Thanks everyone for the input and warm welcome!

We're hunting modern firearm, and I didn't realize that a lot of the eastern GMUs are spike only. Sounds to me like if it's kind of a toss-up, and not a clear answer of "yes go east" then we'll just save our time and gas and keep putting in the work closer to home. I personally love the coast ranges, so that's no problem for me. Thanks for the encouragement!

On a related note, my deer hunting got a lot better once I picked up a copy of "Blacktail Trophy Tactics" and started reading stuff that applied specifically to the west side coast ranges, as opposed to other books that seem to be written for more open country further east. Would love to hear of any books that are similar for elk, since most of what I've seen tends to focus on Rocky Mountain Elk further east. Thanks again!
A lot of those same blacktail tactics will work on the Roosevelts in that thick cover too. Move extra slow, then a little slower, look for parts of animals, and make sure you know where your wind is going. Look at terrain to figure out escape routes That way when you show up opening morning for your slamdunk bull you watched for a week and there’s 50 other guys set up now you have an idea of where the elk are headed not where they were

Offline crazywednesday

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Re: Elk hunting East or West?
« Reply #7 on: May 08, 2022, 07:02:24 PM »
The east side is definitely the way to go. The learning curve is much flatter.
Justin

Offline STIKNSTRINGBOW

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Re: Elk hunting East or West?
« Reply #8 on: May 08, 2022, 07:32:35 PM »
Best advice I can give is to pick a unit based upon your ability to spend scouting.
.
Learning the area is more important than actually seeing animals.
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Find well used trails along boundaries of "safe" zones.
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Drive every open road and locate gates, trails, decommissioned roads, etc...
.
Walk Creek bottoms in the summer.
Mark everything on your GPS, or map.
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If you are hunting modern firearm, have a few transitional spots to sit and wait for the elk to come through.
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In most units the hunters outnumber the elk.
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The lead cow, and any bull that has survived a couple years, will have learned how to avoid pressure.
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Look for patterns, look for escape routes, and have a plan A,B,C,+ because someone is probably going to be in "your" spot.
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Your first elk will be hard work, but as you learn the unit your success rate will improve.
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As you learn your unit you will be able to figure out where they are going when pushed.
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It is easier to be waiting for one, than trying to catch up.
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Much like archery, it easier to call one in when they are coming to you than it is to call one back.
.
And having a plan, beats just "hunting"
The mountains are calling and I must go."
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Offline STIKNSTRINGBOW

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Re: Elk hunting East or West?
« Reply #9 on: May 08, 2022, 07:59:24 PM »
Biggest difference I have seen between east side and west side?
.
An elk on the east side will travel through your "shot window" without stopping, on the west side?
Just about time you decide to quit, one is standing there looking at you..
..
East side, you hear them coming.
West side...
One minute you are alone, and then you are surrounded...
.
The damn squirrels make more noise.


.
The mountains are calling and I must go."
- John Muir
"I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order."
- John Burroughs
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Offline longtrails

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Re: Elk hunting East or West?
« Reply #10 on: May 11, 2022, 09:25:13 PM »
Hi everyone!

Me and my buddy are self-taught hunters and still pretty new to the sport (2020). Been loving it and learning a ton, but no tags filled so far. We're both based on the west side outside Olympia, and in the past we've generally stayed pretty close to home. This coming year, I'm starting to wonder if we should try hunting the eastern part of the state for elk specifically, and I wanted to reach out to see what you guys on here think.

What sparked this whole idea was I recently took a camping trip out east, and just saw so much elk sign it blew me away, especially after spending two seasons in the brush and not seeing much at all! In the past I was pretty set on trying to tag a Roosevelt bull in our home turf, but I'm thinking maybe I should start following my eyes and going where the elk are. Plus, I'm imagining we'll probably get much longer shooting/scouting opportunities and less rain... no complaints here!

Right now I'm trying to wrap my head around the main tradeoffs. I've seen people on here mention that the eastern half of the state has more elk, but also more hunters, so I guess that kinda cancels out? We both dont mind long days getting far out into the backcountry, so I'm optimistic that we can get away from other folks. I'm thinking the main down-side would be that we're hunting an area much farther from where we live, so we'll have way less opportunities to scout it and get to know the land ahead of time. In the past, that was enough for me to stay grounded in our home area, but the more I'm reading about elk specifically, I'm hearing that they cover so much ground day over day that pre-season scouting is less effective, and you just gotta get out there and cover tons of ground once the season starts? So if that's true, I was thinking the winning strategy would be to scout a general area that looks promising, and then once the season starts just setup a base camp and get out hard every day.

Anyways, I'd love to hear any wisdom people have for folks in our shoes. Thanks a ton and good luck to ya this coming season!
Since you say your new to the sport, have you guys ever hunted any other big game? Or are you jumping into the deep end first? Just curious since getting an elk is a whole lotta  meat to deal with if you get one in so many aspects. 

 


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