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Location: North Dakota
Joined: 09/28/2008
Posts: 24
ELK NEWBIE

Well, after hunting deer with the occasional antelope for years - I have put in for a Montana elk license. I know a few experienced guys that have gone both guided and unguided with fair success >50%+ and will be going with at least one of them. so hopefully their experience and my durablity will compliment each other and we can all get our bulls. I live in North Dakota so I'm pretty much right next door. I plan on taking about 14 days off from work so hopefully that will be plenty of time.

I am planning on using my trusted 30-06 Winchester with 165 gr rounds. We'll take in jeep trails as far as we can then packing in our own gear and setting up a basecamp and going out from there on day excursions.

We are going unguided for the most part ...We know a guide outfit out there and plan on getting a good briefing of numbers and movement then have them point us in the right direction and we'll be on our own after that. I'll keep updating this thread as things progress over the summer and into hunting season. If anyone has any words of wisdom feel free to voice them. I'll keep you posted.

Hope to end this thread with some elk meat in the freezer. , but if nothing else get out there and enjoy being outdoors and my first elk hunting experience.

exbiologist's picture
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Moderator
Location: Colorado
Joined: 09/19/2008
Posts: 2399
ELK NEWBIE

Tips for elk hunting?
I don't even know where to start. If you have specific questions I'd be happy to help. There's basically nothing in common with deer hunting except for those who still-hunt. For me, a lot goes into finding the right area, then figuring out how to hunt it.
The 5 years I lived in Montana, I learned a lot about elk hunting, and I learned even more after I left, much of which I wish I knew back then. I'm glad you're giving yourself plenty of time as weekend pressure in Montana can be extremely high if you are near any "major" town. I'd spend as much time as possible figuring out where the best spot for your preferred hunting style is.

Location: Utah
Joined: 02/24/2003
Posts: 596
ELK NEWBIE

The best advice I can give at this point is get some topo's and know your area very well. The Elk will be as high as possible far away from the nearest road. Look for those areas on your topos. They will start jumping out at you.

You should do a lot of scouting if possible but understand what you are scouting for. When pressure hits the area you should have a good idea of where the elk may go. At least have a few options that you can look at when the bullets start flying. Make sure you ask your guide buddy some of those questions.

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Location: North Dakota
Joined: 09/28/2008
Posts: 24
ELK NEWBIE

I have ordered topos from BLM and have been using google earth to locate some "high ground" to do some spotting from. I have located an area with lakes, high meadows, and a couple protected spots to set up camp. There is a jeep trail going up most of the way so hopefully I can get base camp set up by hauling stuff on the quad. I'm planning a little family outing to Yellowstone with plans to scout it out a bit this summer since I live next door in North Dakota.

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Location: Fort Worth, TX
Joined: 09/01/2008
Posts: 56
ELK NEWBIE

I grew up in Montana and as mentioned above the weekend pressure can be heavy. Google earth is a great tool but nothing is as good as getting the old boots on the ground. Get as far away from roads as you can. You have to go where others are not willing to pack meat out of. Just curious, what town are you going to be close to?

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Location: North Dakota
Joined: 09/28/2008
Posts: 24
ELK NEWBIE

Nothing set in stone- as the drawing isn't over, but closest is Cooke city. I'll be prepared to get pretty far up into the backcountry. This of course could change - as we are just beginning to plan and consider our options. I'm planning a little summer camping trip to check out area.

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Location: Fort Worth, TX
Joined: 09/01/2008
Posts: 56
ELK NEWBIE

The planning and preparing for the trip is almost as fun as the hunt, almost. I hope your prepared to be addicted to elk hunting from now on. Even way down in Texas I refuse to miss a season. You should join the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, if you haven't yet. At the very least, you get an awesome magazine every other month that is more than worth the $35 a year. It's a great organization that helps protect our hunting lands.

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Location: Yakima
Joined: 10/25/2007
Posts: 81
ELK NEWBIE

I have a question.. what all does deer and elk eat? i know they eat grass's and acorns but what are some other food sources they go too?

exbiologist's picture
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Location: Colorado
Joined: 09/19/2008
Posts: 2399
ELK NEWBIE

Elk and deer have very different diets. Elk primarily eat grasses and forbs (weeds/flowers) until the end of the fall, when their diet switches to shrubs. Deer generally can't digest grasses, they are referred to as browsers instead of grazers like elk. In the spring and summer deer will focus on forbs, late summer when the forbs and grasses begin to dessicate (turn brown), they switch to mast crops and the leading edges of shrubs. Deer have a much smaller rumen than elk(as a % of body size and in total), so they can't digest coarse vegetation like grass unless it is in the very early growth stages and the fiber content is very low. In winter killed deer, many of them often have a belly full of grass, but all that does is make them feel like they aren't starving to death. It can't ferment in their rumen properly to provide any nutrition.
Muzzle shape also indicates diet strategy. Elk have fairly blunt muzzles, though not quite as blunt as cattle and bison. This allows them to press their muzzle against the ground and grab as much vegetation in one bite as possible. They also can't be as selective on shrubs due to their muzzle shapes. When you see shrubs that have been browsed on the really thick older stems, it is often safe to assume that is evidence of elk browsing. Moose and deer are primarily browsers, they have a very narrow muzzle, which allows them to target individual stems, forbs or mast crops(berries, acorns, seed pods, etc).
So when I'm hunting and scouting I pay close attention to what will be edible during the season. This is where knowing the vegetation really helps. Pay attention to whether there are any little green forbs, as these would be preferred by both elk and deer if the grass is dessicated. Often times, if the grass is tall, you might not notice that the base is green, if it is green, it is still palatable. It also helps to know which shrubs in your area are preferred by deer and which ones are emergency feed only. You'll have to talk to a biologist or do some research at you local college (if it has wildlife program) for that.
It's very obvious if deer and especially elk have been browsing on shrubs recently. The edge of the twigs will be snapped off and the top edge will have what we call a "flag", this is because elk and deer don't have bottom incisors. The flag is a 1-2 inch piece of bark that the deer or elk did not cleanly bite off. The whiteness of the shrub will tell you if the browsing was recent or old.
It takes a lot of practice to get a good feel for all of these things, and knowing vegetation is really only useful when elk and deer aren't heavily pressured. But they are slaves to their stomachs and the must eat.

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Location: North Dakota
Joined: 09/28/2008
Posts: 24
ELK NEWBIE

Well only a few days left and I'll see how I come out on the drawing.

Thanks for the diet info exbiologist, I will be on the lookout this summer when I get up there to do some camping and scout out the area.

I'm planning on going into hunting district 520 on the Stillwater river. Is anybody familiar with that area? I'll be starting out at the Daisy Pass trailhead and going north. There are some good spotting locations, water holes and lakes. I have heard good things.

Since this is my first elk hunt I've been rounding up some gear - I have picked up a primos Hochie Mama call on ebay for $8 - and I'm still looking for a good bugle call. I'm planning on using a game cart since it will be at least several miles to get out. There appears to be a fairly well developed trail along the river that two guys should be able to pull it out on.

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Location: North Dakota
Joined: 09/28/2008
Posts: 24
ELK NEWBIE

Picked up a spotting scope for $80 on ebay including shipping - retails for $140. After ponying up for the tag I'm trying to be thrifty.

15-45x60 45 times magnification might help spot them from some high ground. I've wanted to get one for awhile for deer.

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