First time bow hunting for elk in Southwest MT

Rkeene9

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Jun 5, 2019
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Hi I'm new here so I hope I'm writing this in the right area. Thanks to everyone in advance for replying.

This year I got the wild hair to pick up bow hunting for elk thanks to my cousins success this last fall. I'm curious if anyone could help me out on some areas or some tips/strategies hunting public land elk in Southwest Montana. Specifically south of the Bozeman area. I've tried to educate myself as much as I can on this topic but I would assume there's a few things which are more specific to the general area.

I like to give brief background because it pertains to what I know best and what I know little about when it comes to elk. I'm from South Central Montana but currently go to school in Bozeman. Growing up, 90% of my hunting was in praries/grasslands with cooleys. I mainly hunted for antelope and mule deer in these regions. In other words. If you gave me some BLM and deer or antelope tag I wouldn't have hard filling it. I have hunted and killed cow elk but it has been in much flatter land and not as heavily Forested as the mountains around Bozeman. The one thing I got going for me is im young and physically fit and I do participate in alot of hiking. In other words, I'm not afraid of hunting rough country.

A few questions I have for everyone is what elevation should I be looking in for elk in both bow and rifle season. I've heard different takes on this but it seems that some of the ranges in my general area seem to not have alot of habitat. Basically where I've heard of finding bulls at 9k feet, in certain mountains there seems to be primary rock and sparse grass at that height. Another question I have is should I be looking in huge drainages or valleys normally with creeks running down them or should i be looking in areas with many small drainages or small ridges that are all condensed together? What I'm referring as a big drainage is around a mile or more wide compare to a small one which a few ridges or drainages fit into a square mile. Should I generally avoid areas where their is only north/south facing slopes or should I look for areas which have ridges going in all directions? Finally is there any mountain ranges that could be recommended for a first year hunting like this? No afriad of grizzly country but I will end up hunting a solo a bit this fall. So if I can help it, it would be nice having a few spots with less bears. The last thing I would like to keep in mind is that my main focus is to fill the freezer. So if I see a cow I will take advantage of the situation. Although I won't turn down any opportunity for a rag horn bull. Any ideas or tips on finding both bulls and cows in the general area both bow and rifle season. I'm also not asking for specific spots as I don't wish to blow anybody's honey holes.

Thanks
 

jeremyA1987

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Jun 5, 2018
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Fort Collins, Colorado
I'm not sure you are asking the right questions.. Elevation doesn't matter as much as habitat, what are the elk looking for during that time of year, what do they need? Same thing goes for the slope directions, which slope has what they need?

I'd start here.. I love Randy's "system", it's not a magic bullet, but it is a logical easy to access way to begin thinking about animal behavior. Pair that with some e-scouting and time in the field scouting and you should find animals. Hard to beat time in the woods and boots on the ground.

 

ElkFever2

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Mar 4, 2019
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Um...OK

Anyways, Welcome to HT!

I'd recommend start watching Randy's elk hunting videos on youtube. He does an excellent job of explaining why he is hunting the areas he is hunting, how he scouts the areas, and his hunting strategy based on what the elk are doing that time of year. You'll build confidence in creating your own strategy. Have fun!
 

Rkeene9

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Jun 5, 2019
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I'm not sure you are asking the right questions.. Elevation doesn't matter as much as habitat, what are the elk looking for during that time of year, what do they need? Same thing goes for the slope directions, which slope has what they need?

I'd start here.. I love Randy's "system", it's not a magic bullet, but it is a logical easy to access way to begin thinking about animal behavior. Pair that with some e-scouting and time in the field scouting and you should find animals. Hard to beat time in the woods and boots on the ground.

Thank you for your reply. That's makes total sense in the fact that elk go where they have the correct habitat, not the specific slope directions or elevations. I've watched alot of videos and podcasts from Randy pertaining to elk hunting. I guess I overlooked the fact that Randy only ever mentioned a rough elevation once where you could expect elk. I guess a more realistic question I have is what type of grasses should I look for hiking.
 

codycoop95

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Bozeman, Billings, MT ----> Omaha, NE
Two things.

1: Elk are where you find them. I have seen them in the prairie at 3200 feet and 10 miles away from that location at 10,500 feet during archery season. In other words, there is no predicting where you will find them.

2: You mentioned you like to hike. Put the work in all summer and find the elk. Look for sign from years past, find where the elk are in August leading up to September, and during season put miles on. You do that and you'll find elk...simple as that.

Best of luck.

P.S. Be smart in Griz country. Hate reading about bad encounters every year. Bad stuff happens, but you can help avoid it by using your head.
 

Rkeene9

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Jun 5, 2019
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7
Um...OK

Anyways, Welcome to HT!

I'd recommend start watching Randy's elk hunting videos on youtube. He does an excellent job of explaining why he is hunting the areas he is hunting, how he scouts the areas, and his hunting strategy based on what the elk are doing that time of year. You'll build confidence in creating your own strategy. Have fun!
Thanks for your response. I'll be sure to watch his scouting videos again as it's been a while since I've watched them.
 

Rkeene9

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Jun 5, 2019
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Two things.

1: Elk are where you find them. I have seen them in the prairie at 3200 feet and 10 miles away from that location at 10,500 feet during archery season. In other words, there is no predicting where you will find them.

2: You mentioned you like to hike. Put the work in all summer and find the elk. Look for sign from years past, find where the elk are in August leading up to September, and during season put miles on. You do that and you'll find elk...simple as that.

Best of luck.

P.S. Be smart in Griz country. Hate reading about bad encounters every year. Bad stuff happens, but you can help avoid it by using your head.
Thanks for getting back. I've always been told a few things to avoid bears and I was wondering if I could get your take on them. I was always told that if you smell foul smells of anything close to a gut pile or rotting carcass to avoid that area. The other thing was a bad or terrible smell of body odor is also linked to bears being close by. Other than seeing obvious signs of bear droppings and fresh tracks, is there anything else I should avoid.
 

MTTW

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Montana
That bad b o is most likely Bigfoot. As far as bears are concerned, they are everywhere all the time. If you keep that in mind you will be ready when you need to be. Seriously. Except for Bigfoot. When I smell bad b o it is always me. So far.
 

Rkeene9

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That bad b o is most likely Bigfoot. As far as bears are concerned, they are everywhere all the time. If you keep that in mind you will be ready when you need to be. Seriously. Except for Bigfoot. When I smell bad b o it is always me. So far.
Thanks for your input. I just mentioned the BO thing as a family friend had a encounter with a grizzly and that was the first thing he noticed. Do you think it's realistic to carry a sidearm in my backpack or just stick to my bear spray and knife? Im not sure if I'm right but I entertained the fact that the only weapons for defense that should be the ones on your hip.
 

MTTW

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There is a lot of discussion on this forum about pistol vs spray. I say choose whichever you are confident in, practice with it, and keep it handy at all times.

Bears are not something to be all paranoid about, but they should not be taken lightly. There really is no guessing the when and where.
 

JLS

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Somewhere in the basalt rocks
Bears are where they are and so are elk.

I don't worry about looking for specific grasses. I look for signs elk are there or have been there. During archery season I typically find them in higher elevations, but this is in now way an absolute. I've found them right down next to the valley floors some years.

Wherever you are finding elk in August, they'll likely be somewhere close in September unless they've been blown out.

Carry your bear spray and go wear out some boot soles. Good luck.
 

Western Traveler1

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Rocky Mountain Front Montana
As to bear encounters it is sort of like securing your home against burglars. Take adequate precautions and let it go. Don't carry the worry with you after you leave the house.
Just to be clear, Whatever protection you carry for bears needs to be easily accessible on you, not in your backpack. I carry both a handgun and bear spray when hunting archery alone. A charge could come from upwind or in a heavy downpour at which time I would prefer a gun but that's just me...
If you get a whiff of a bear I bet you would know it.
 

ElkFever2

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Iowa
IMO, the best preparation for grizzlies is learning about their behavior. There are certain scenarios where a bear is much more likely to attack you - learn about these scenarios and how to avoid them. Grizzlies are rare, and so are their attacks on humans. You're more likely to get struck by lightning, injure yourself and not be able to hike out, or lose GPS capability and become lost in the wilderness. I will carry bear spray when hunting in grizzly country, but I am not confident it is going to save my life, or that i will even use it correctly in the moment of truth. The speed and agility of a grizzly charge incredible. I was charged by a bull bison once and completely lost my s--- and panicked/ran.

I did not intentionally approach this jewelry bear to such a close range (~20 yards), but once spotted, I was about as significant to this animal as a fly on it's ear. It was digging through rock hard earth as if it was marshmallow fluff, and eating roots. I didn't hang out long, and quietly, slowly left.

grizzly.jpg
 

Rkeene9

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Jun 5, 2019
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Thanks everyone for all the input on bears. I guess the biggest thing is excepting that they will be out there with me and I'll have to take the appropriate precautions to be able to deal with them.
 
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