5 replies [Last post]
Joined: 01/28/2010
Posts: 1
DIY first time elk

I'm planning a hunting trip to southern Idaho to bowhunt elk in the rut. I was just wondering which two weeks would be the best to get the most action out of our hunt? I'm sure that i'll be back because i have several questions. Any information would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

exbiologist's picture
Location: Colorado
Joined: 09/19/2008
Posts: 2397
Re: DIY first time elk

I'm a little more familiar with the Colorado elk rut, but I have to assume the middle two weeks of September would be your best bet. Traditionally, there is a cold snap during the first week of September throughout most of the west that ruins our dove hunting and sets off the elk bugling. But it doesn't seem to last very long and probably isn't something you can count on. While the bulls will be rutting regardless of weather, it will be much less spirited without a cold snap.

Location: Denver, CO
Joined: 04/01/2009
Posts: 109
Re: DIY first time elk

DIY with a bow in your first year of elk hunting. It's hard to give any advice without knowing your outdoors background.

That's quite the hefty task. I know competent woodsmen (awesome deer hunter/outdoorsy types) who did not kill an elk with a bow (or rifle) for several years when trying their hand at elk hunting. It took me 9 seasons of rifle and 1 season of bow hunting before I killed a bull this past season with a bow. Each season I would come home eating tag-soup, but would learn just enough and see just enough animals to think I had a shot next year.

I'm a born and bred city boy, and taught myself and spent alot more time walking and researching than I did seeing animals. Maybe I'm just a late bloomer...

I'm not trying to discourage you. Elk hunting is the best hunting experience out there! I would seriously consider finding a good guide your first year, especially if you're hunting solo. A competent one will also ensure the experience is safe and enjoyable even if the animals are not cooperating. I wish I would have on my first year.

If you're willing to get serious, you can have a reasonable chance of sucess. Just be prepared to spend your summer reading alot, phone conversations with biologists, shoot a ton, practicing calling etc...You'll also have to put ALOT of miles on the shoe-leather-express. If you learn how to read a map, you can ease the pain a litle bit though. Call the biologists in the spring time, not a week before opening day. They may cover an area that consists of several counties and are busy people. Once you can get them on the phone they are super friendly and willing to steer you in the right direction.

Again I don't want to sound discouraging, but archery is difficult DIY on public land. With that said, when it finally all comes together, it's the coolest thing I've ever experienced in my life.

Joined: 02/02/2010
Posts: 28
Re: DIY first time elk

Good luck!! Assuming you are a fair woodsman and going at this with a backpack and not any stock.
From what I know of Idaho(not much) it's hunted hot and heavy(lots of pressure)
1. Get up about midnight and climb high. This time of night there is no human pressure and it's the coolest then. If elk are rutting you will hear them. Be prepared to hang out and stick with them when the sun comes up.
2. If you hear no elk look for north or north east facing slopes. Preferably with water grass and good dark timber. Work the benches from top to bottom, looking for sign.
3. The most important thing to do is take an elk nap. Mountain hunting is very taxing so take a nap at hottest part of day.
4. If you find bedding ground stay out of it. Hunt the outskirts. Find a water hole or wallow close by and sit on that. If it's hot I like to sit wallows from about 2 p.m. on. If you have the patience even earlier. Aspens are a good spot to find wallows. Especially where they run into pines.
5. Some may disagree with this, but I hate bugling. Bugle is good for a locator. I have found however, that if you use several different cow calls in conjunction with each other bulls will come. Usually silent especially if there is pressure.
6. Early hunt-they are going to come quite(usually), as things heat up calling will improve. People will tell you you can not call a big bull away from cows. It's total bull. Be patient. Find where they are bedding. Get up there ahead of them. By about ten or so in the morning the cows will want to bed. This is when you strick. Give that bull a hot cow. This is where I see folks go wrong, they stop calling after a bit. Be prepared to be a hot cow for 2-3hours. Wonder around like you are lost. When you get tired stop for awhile. Then hit her again. Be prepared because he will shut up. Next thing you know he's on top of you. Give yourself some distance between you. Move away from him/parallel him/come at him. over and over again. Try not to sound like every other hunter in the woods. I'm not sayin this works all the time, but it is productive. The biggest thing is experience. Unless you have access to wild elk to watch, buy a ton of videos and practice your calls, till you know what every sound on the tv is. Be prepared to be busted a bunch. Cover ground.
Good luck, happy hunting, god speed!!!!

Joined: 02/22/2010
Posts: 18
Re: DIY first time elk
goat wrote:
I'm planning a hunting trip to southern Idaho to bowhunt elk in the rut. I was just wondering which two weeks would be the best to get the most action out of our hunt? I'm sure that i'll be back because i have several questions. Any information would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

Im also planning a hunt in idaho unit 66 i have hunted two diy hunts in co had my chances but opted to let a cow go and a calf at differnt times the best advice anyone gave me was gps and get off the trails you will find elk

Joined: 02/19/2010
Posts: 10
Re: DIY first time elk

I would recommend the book "Elk Hunting the West" by Mike Eastman. It is accompanied by an informational DVD that I thought was really helpful. It also has worksheets that you can used to "sniff out" good elk country and to use when speaking with the biologists. Once you read that book and learn how to locate good elk country by looking at a topo map give the biologist in the area a call and ask him questions about the areas you have narrowed down. If the biologist senses that you have done your homework before calling him he will be a lot more willing to help. Also, you can speak to the game warden of the area. They are out in the field during the hunt and will be able to tell you where most of the elk are taken during the seasons. I have also found that Google Earth in use with topo maps is an invaluable tool. A lot of times there will be pictures taken by other people of the surrounding country that will let you know what kind of foliage you are dealing with and if it is really rocky, thick timber, quakies, etc. After you have some good places to scout I would do my best to get out in the area and scout at least a few weekends before the hunt to get yourself familiar with the terrain, drainages, watering holes, etc. There is only so much that topos can tell you. During this entire time you need to be shooting your bow. You should shoot multiple days a week, even if it is only 20 yards but you should be comfortable shooting between 40 and 60 yards depending on the strength of your bow. I shot a nice bull from 30 yards away broad side last year and it was like second nature. A lot of people talk about buck fever (or elk fever) but if you have put the practice in you will be just fine. I was calm and collected from the time I pulled my bow string until I let it fly. Then I got excited and started to shake. Put in the time and you will not regret it. Also, practice holding your string back for about 2 minutes. A lot of time elk will get caught up and their vitals will be covered by a twig, tree trunk or other obstacle and you will not be able to shoot but if you do not draw you will not have the chance later. Lastly, go get yourself some mouth elk calls. I find Primos has the best sounding and easiest to use. I practice all year but I have to do it during my commute in the car. I have an elk calling C.D. by Jim horn and I mimic his calling so that I know I am doing it right. If you do not sound real during the time there is high pressure the elk will know. If you can learn to bugle using these calls with a tube it will sound much more authentic. I have the Primos one with the blue reed and it works okay but it does not sound nearly like my buddy who just uses a mouth reed and a tube. If you see an elk, shoot it. When you are first getting going you need to have mulitple opportunities but sometimes there are only one opportunity, so do not pass it up. I began bow hunting elk about 4 years ago and passed up on a spike my first year because I head some bugles but I regret that to this day. Two years ago I passed up shooting a cow because it was early in the hunt but I did not see another elk the entire hunt. Once you get one a time or two then you can get picky.

Related Forum Threads You Might Like

ThreadThread StarterRepliesLast Updated
Wyoming official leftover listexbiologist006/30/2010 11:05 am
My 2010 Elk Camp - "The Complete Story"HeavyC1012/23/2010 10:41 am
TWRA ELK RESTORATION PROJECTLynn003/01/2007 11:50 am
Alaska DIY - Moose or CaribouFullCryHounds104/22/2012 18:51 pm
Alaska DIY - Caribou and MooseFullCryHounds304/18/2012 06:32 am