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Joined: 09/16/2007
Posts: 8
Elk situation help.

For the past several years I have been learning how to hunt. I've done it all on my own. Things I probably should already have learned I am just starting to realize. I am fortunate that I live in elk country and I have herds within a few hundred yards of my house. Just basic hunting lingo I never really got a handle on (benches, saddle, drainage). I had no one to talk to during hunting so I never used the terms. I experienced all these terms though when I was out in the woods. And many times I'd go to areas to find the elk in these places that turned out to be (benches, saddles..etc). With that being said I could use some help figuring out whats going on and where the elk might be going.

My neighbor has a pretty good size field probably 7 acres of grass surrounded by timber. I have permission to hunt on his land which is also surrounded by State and BLM land. At some point in the night the elk come down and graze on his field(as few as 7 to as many as 100+). If I get into the timber 30 minutes prior to first light many times they will still be on the field. Even though its dark out I can still use binoculars and see them out there....due to a light thats on a barn or the moon and star light. Seven times out of ten they leave the field the same direction. I base my whole hunt on that plan(which this year I don't want to do that). When I see them on the field...I hustle to wear I think I can ambush them come first light. It is amazing to me how many times no matter what time I get up to go hunting I can miss them by 2-3minutes. Once I get behind them and glass the field one last time to see if they are headed off the field in the same direction I start my climb. Now the elk are out of sight. I'm on one trail they are on another with about 500yds of timber in between us. Its a 50/50 chance that when I reach the top of this long hill they will be within a minute or two of coming my way....or they may have already headed into the darker timber beyond the hilltop and skirted around me. Either way they seem to be heading in a Northern Eastern direction. If I miss them at the crossroads at the top of the hill....many times my hunt is over, unless I get on them or different elk by chance just walking through the woods.

This year is gonna be different...I hope. I have bought a nice GPS with areal photography, I bought all the elknut stuff to educate my calling and strategies. I've learned how to use the internet programs like google earth, and have custom maps made of my area at the 7.5 scale. I am updating my camo.......I'm raring to go. My biggest problem is still lack of experience and no one to bounce ideas off. I still don't have a total grasp of what a saddle is though I can read the definition all day long. I don't understand how to find bedding areas. You can't walk 30yds back there without seeing elk scat that can still be pretty soft to the finger squeeze. There are trails everywhere like highways, and just torn up section of intense herd tracks everywhere. There is so much it puts me right back to Zero. Many techniques offered in the "elknut playbook" start with when you know your near elk. Well hell I don't know if I am since there is sign everywhere...everywhere. I don't know if its todays, yesterdays or three days ago and they are far from this spot.

Many times I ended my hunts by 10am because I missed the intitial ambush and I was just wandering around aimlessly....many times it felt like I woke up at 4am to put on a bunch of gear and go for a nice morning hike up a mountain, to be back home before my family was even awake yet....but I did find some wallows like that....but I didn't have gps at the time so I might find them again or I might not. And I do know my way round pretty well back there....thats got to be an advantage.

Anyone willing to help me with a strategy for these elk from the field? Maybe I'll try and scan a topo of the area and maybe someone will see something that will indicate where those elk might be heading every morning...........thanks...Anthony

exbiologist's picture
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Location: Colorado
Joined: 09/19/2008
Posts: 2399
Elk situation help.

Oooh baby, this is a good one Think . First of all, just in case my definition is different than what you've been reading a saddle is the essentially the lowest spot you can cross a ridge at. Typically water flowing down the drainage has eroded the soil to make it the most natural crossing point over the ridge.

So first, I don't understand why you are glassing them first, then hustling when the move off. Why don't you just pick the most natural spot that they like to go to and ambush them there, rather than try to race ahead of them?
And what season/weapon are you hunting them? If it's during rifle (in Montana I presume?), no need to fool with the stupid calls, you'll probably spook them if you don't know what you're doing.
So that was the main thing that didn't make sense to me.
Now, to find bedding areas, generally you are looking for flat "benches" in the heavy timber. These sometimes occur on a shelf above a stream.
Anyway, I know how frustrating armed nature walks can be, but it's still kind of hard to figure out why you're doing what you're doing. I don't know why you're racing to cut them off when you could be at your cut off spot ahead of time.

SoCoKHntr's picture
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Location: Pueblo Colorado
Joined: 12/18/2006
Posts: 1797
Elk situation help.

I totally agree with Exbio, you already know where their headed get somewhere along that point ahead of them instead of trying catch up to them. Also, why heading home so early. When I hunt elk it's sun up to sun down. Even though you traditionally see game early morning and late evening you never know when they might be moving for whatever reason. Case in point my bull I killed two years ago was at 2:00 PM in the afternoon. Fairly early in the afternoon on a hot Sep. day. Not when you'd expect to see movement. I wasn't back at camp though, I was up on the mountain in the hunting grounds getting ready to take a nap on the edge of some pines. I hear movement grab my rifle to investigate and see my bull breaking out of the timber into the wide open and my shot was true. Many hunters head back to camp at around 9:00 am and then go back out around 3:00 pm to hit the traditional movement times. I don't, I keep myself in the prime grounds from dark to dark ninety percent of the time. I take what I need to spend the whole day out there.

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Joined: 09/16/2007
Posts: 8
Elk situation help.

Let me clarify.....I bow hunt and the reason I glass them is to see which way they leave the field. 7 out of 10 times is pretty good odds that I could get to where they cross at the top of the hill.....but I guess I don't want to climb that big fricken hill if I see them leave the field the opposite direction.

I hunt alone and I'm pretty good at calls. I don't think I will make it a habit this year to think hunting is over by 10am. I'll probably learn more just staying in the woods...even if it is taking a nap out there, because I too could hear something coming and the hunt could be back on again.

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