Finally first Elk hunt, harder than you think!!!

Braveheart

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After asking a lot of questions here, the time came for a 53 year old retired guy to set off on his first Montana elk hunt solo. I drove from Missouri to Montana, 23 hours total. Its been a long time since I took that long of a road trip.

It was decent weather when I got here Sunday, I was able to glass the 1200 acres in Mountain City that I am hunting, which is just ten miles south of Helena, MT. The land is made up of several meadows with two active creeks following through it. Also it is surrounded by mountains on two sides. There is a few dense pockets of pine timber on the place with a lot of sporadic timber pockets with a lot of little coves of grassy areas. Some of the grassy areas near the creeks are still very green. I was given a tour of the farm, which has been homesteaded since 1907 by the same family. It has several access roads leading to the various parts of the farm.

I am able to glass most of the place from one high spot which is located near the entrance to the farm. The first day, I saw a cow and her calf. I was within 50 yards of them for about 10 minutes. I saw no other elk. Yesterday, I saw no elk. Each day, I have checked a few pockets of timber after glassing for a few hours. Today when I pulled into the farm this morning there were several elk present in the dark in the meadows. I could see several elk through my bino's even thought it was not yet legal shooting light. As it started to get light in about 15 mins, I could hear and see the elk begin to move off the property onto the neighbors. There is a rock quarry near the farm and I have seen several elk crossing the road from there to the weapons restricted area basically located across the street. I am sure after studying the map, those elk went across the street into that area as I have seen several cross the road behind the neighbors since arriving here (antelope use the same path as well). I see a ton of elk sign on the place and a couple wheel barrow loads of elk poop in most of the fields and coves

I have five days left to hunt, I slipped through some pockets of timber checking some coves today to see if I could find any bedded elk. I saw none. The most depressing part of the trip is the incoming weather. It is allegedly going to snow 8 to 12 inches here in the next few hours. Then the temps will nose dive below freezing for days with single digit temps at night, by this Saturday, it may warm some above freezing and be in the teens at night.

What will the elk do in weather like this? Feed in the meadows more? I tell myself, that I need to restrict myself to glassing from the truck and set out to intercept any elk that I see as there is now way in these wind gusts a person can survive single digits for long. It is not what I had thought my elk hunting trip would be like but, I must adapt. My plan is to glass from the truck most of the day and maybe make some short trips to check some pockets of timber weather permitting. I know that I cannot kill one if I am not here, so I plan to be here as much as possible.

What would you experienced elk hunters do in this weather?
 
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Some pics
 

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Wait to see if they come back out into the meadow right before dark/end of legal shooting hours (and good luck!)
 
the weather should be super helpful. elk will be more active during the days, later into the morning. so if you're hunting the farm where they are feeding they may be out later, so i'd be in position before daylight to get them before crossing. They'll also potentially come back to the fields ealier in the evening.
Plus fresh snow in timber means easy to see #freshtracks. That will narrow down where to glass and present you stalking opportunities.
 
Just as Pro Mo wrote. Use the wx to your advantage, snow and sub-freezing temps are part of elk hunting. Pics look like good elk country. Put on your warmest clothes and get in position near the trees if the shooting distance is ok with you or position yourself as they cross over. If they have not been shot at or scared they should return to the meadow for grass before light or just before dark. You'll need to get away from your truck and intercept them or from the trees wait until they are in the meadow eating watch the wind also. Considering elk hunting and its challenges, this is an easy hunt opportunity compared to most elk hunts. Good Luck
 
I agree with both guys above. Dress warm and be where the elk are going to be before light and or before dark. The weather will help them stay out later and come out earlier in the afternoon. Take a thermos with something warm in it if need be. Good luck
 
Just as Pro Mo wrote. Use the wx to your advantage, snow and sub-freezing temps are part of elk hunting. Pics look like good elk country. Put on your warmest clothes and get in position near the trees if the shooting distance is ok with you or position yourself as they cross over. If they have not been shot at or scared they should return to the meadow for grass before light or just before dark. You'll need to get away from your truck and intercept them or from the trees wait until they are in the meadow eating watch the wind also. Considering elk hunting and its challenges, this is an easy hunt opportunity compared to most elk hunts. Good Luck
This! Especially the part about being a easy hunt opportunity
 
I checked the weather. It doesn’t look that bad near Helena. Snow may push them into the valley. In my limited experience, it gets them moving…maybe not while it’s actively snowing but soon after. Plus you get fresh tracks. The weather is your friend.

As far as this being a hard elk hunt? I was expecting a lot more. You’re hunting relatively flat land and have had elk on the property 2 out of 3 days at least. I hunted elk 3 years before I killed my first. There were some long cold days going up and down mountains and many, many days without seeing any. My recommendation is you do what gives you the best chance to kill elk, not what’s most comfortable. Was the 23 hour drive not enough time in the vehicle? Sitting in a truck and glassing isn’t a great way to kill elk, but maybe the property you’re on is conducive to it. I’m not saying you should make things suck for the experience of it, but ask yourself if you really think your best opportunity on an elk is going to come from glassing from the truck or if you’re just leaning towards that because you don’t want to be cold. Go find the elk and kill one.
 
I think the snow and cold will be a blessing.

Also, I would not pull my truck into the area you can see the meadows. Park back a ways and sneak in before light.
 
Good plan. Don’t be afraid to go find them though. You said in a different post that the private land you’re hunting is surrounded by public on three sides. If the elk aren’t on the private, go up into the public and find them. As others have said, cold weather keeps elk on their feet longer in daylight. It’s very possible to follow fresh tracks in snow to get within killing range of elk while they’re in timber.
 
Every hunter in the Helena area is licking their chops and sending vacation requests to get out this week. Trudging through snow keeps you warm, build a fire if you stop to glass. You're incredibly lucky to be here during this storm; it's socked in today but I have a feeling a lot of elk are going to die by the end of this weekend.
 
I made it out at first light, about 6 to 7 inches of snow, temp about 15 degrees. I slipped along or should I say crunched along in snow checking each meadow and most of the 1100 acres. I came back to the truck at 11:30. I saw zero elk and could not find any tracks. It was still spitting a little snow until 9:30.

I am hoping they will move early this afternoon since it has stopped snowing.

I can basically see that having 1100 acres to hunt elk is not a big area esp if there are no elk. I am gonna check a few places on public land to see if I find any tracks before I head back out this afternoon.

Thanks for all the advice.
 
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