How far for best hunting experience?

TRS_Montana

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Helena
I'm finding there is a window regarding distance hiked that is optimal for creating the best hunting experience. I think it depends on your fitness level (if you kill yourself, probably not a fun hunt) and hunting pressure (high pressure areas require further hiking and vice/versa).
Just wondering what your guys' prime distance windows are for elk hunting. Right now my best hunting is about 2.5 to 3 miles from the trailhead and about a 2 hour hike (shut up, I'm slow).

One of my best hunting buddies claims to have a honey hole that is only a 10-minute hike from the road. I am having a hard time believing him, but he has WAY more experience than I do.

Anyway, what do you guys think?
 

npaden

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Lubbock, Texas
I don't think there is any real hard and fast number you could throw out there.

Sometimes there is a spot that everyone looks at on a map and thinks they should hunt there. It could be several miles from the trailhead and still have lots of traffic.

Sometimes you will find areas that are overlooked by others even though they are close to the road, but maybe have some physical barrier like a creek/cliff/etc. that keeps folks from using it.

My personal experience is that if you forget about following a "trail" and just bushwhack through some nasty stuff you can have pretty good success. Of course it takes about twice as long for me to cover a mile bushwhacking as it would to cover it on a trail.

Find a nasty spot with big steep elevation gain and combine it with some heavy deadfall and mix in some thick brushy spots and you have a place that is an absolute pain to get through and probably has a good chance to hold some elk during hunting season.

A friend and I have killed 7 elk in 6 years in the same general area that is less than a mile from a pretty decent road. No trail, and a steep climb just to get off the road though.

My 2 cents.
 

TRS_Montana

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Yeah, good points. Maybe "difficulty" should be the metric used instead of distance. I've also found that getting off the trail is one of the best ways to find a lot of interesting things, including animals. However, I have a tendency to start off on trails. Maybe I need to break this habit and just look for good spots, rather than good spots with a clear path to them.
 

Bambistew

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It depends on lots of things. NPaden pretty much mirrors my thoughts.

I believe your buddy...good areas can be right next to the road.

If it doesn't look good from the road or trail as you drive/walk by, many people will keep going. Most won't even stop to look over a ridge thats 200 yards off the road. I have a few places in Eastern MT that are like this. Usually have a couple square miles to myself to hunt because people are focused on getting to the "good spot" as they blow right by and don't get out and take a short hike. Areas that are easily seen from any road are usually not that great. If you can see it so can everyone else and you'll have company. If its 2-4 miles off the road, the vast majority of people can't pick out animals at that range. It takes quality optics and a trained eye. I run into hunters all the time when I'm spotting from the road, even with point out animals to them they rarely find what I'm looking at and none of them would walk to where they are, let alone pack one back.

IMO, getting to a spot first increases your odds of success on elk, that means being where you want to be before you can shoot, or darn close to shooting light. Most people leave the truck at daylight. If you miss the first hour of daylight when elk hunting, you might as well stay home. 90% of the action has happened.

My experience has been, on average, that once you get past the 1 mile mark off a trail, or about 2 miles with a trail, you've eliminated the majority of foot competition, or once you get past about 1000 vertical. Neither are that difficult, but many hunters aren't willing to put in that level of effort.

Personally I focus in on areas with great habitat or areas I think animals will go if pressured from the obvious "good" spots. Then I look at access issues and likelihood of "company" while I'm there. Areas that don't offer easy parking and simple access by vehicle/hiking/atv are usually much better than areas with easy or developed access. Think like others would... if you wanted to access an area would you go to the trail head, or stop 4 miles before it and hunt adjacent to where the trail/access would be? Most are going to blow right by and go to the trail head because that's what everyone else does. I also look for areas that would be attractive to other hunters. "Walk in areas" or large chunks of public land are magnets to hunters. Many think that large chunks of property = quality hunting. Not generally the case.

There is really no one size fits all secret to hunting public land, but its really not that difficult once you understand that people are by and large lazy. Put some sort of barrier (think effort) between you and the spot you want to hunt, get there first, and you'll have it all to yourself. Put boots on the ground and scout your area out.
 

phutch30

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SW MT
Ive shot 4 bull elk on a ridge above a country rd that you can usually see your truck from the kill site, always less than 1.5 miles from the truck, usually less than a 30 min walk. You have to be in there early cuz the hoards show up the 2nd week and drive the elk out, but early theres always elk. Its not one of my favorite places to hunt as Im always worried Im going to run into someone in there.

Then I have a place thats 4-5 miles in depending on where you hit elk that I love to hunt, but has gotten real popular the last few yrs.

I prefer hunting areas without people but as I get older I also really dont mind easy pack jobs
 

Coyotes-R-Us

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I only go as far as I think I can drag or pack the game back out.
Bird /predator hunting or fishing I can and will walk farther.
Bison and Moose better be really close to the truck !!!
 
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Thinking about recent experiences a lot have been on the extreme of hilariously close to the truck or way far in.

2 years ago I had a great turkey spot that was 100 yards from the trail head parking lot on public land that was heavily groomed for other recreation and we never left 2" grass or gravel trails for more than 10 feet. Also had an antelope doe killed 30 yards off the road in a small patch of BLM land where we were setup before shooting light. 40 acres got overlooked next to 20 square miles. The opposite was on that same trip having 3 and 5 mile pack outs for other antelope on foot. Same thing while fishing in Ontario this summer, very few wanted to portage a mile of mossy forest to fish for northerns and even few people wanted to carry keeper northern's back from that lake so it was basically catch and release.
 

WapitiBob

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Bend, Orygun
recent experience, distance from main road/hwy:
Arizona, 300 yards
New Mexico, 1/4 mile
Oregon 1/3 mile
Utah, 1 mile

Trails attract hunters like a moth to a flame. I avoid them.
 

WHOCARES

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Jun 29, 2012
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northern Minnesota
Took a bull two weeks ago and one last year less than 100 yards apart on public land less than a mile from my truck in heavy hunted and trafficked area. Surprising to me but trying this due to knee issues. Actually 3 bulls in 3 years here but the one two years ago was a 3 mile hike and needed a friend with mules to pack it. My favorite place is a five mile hike into a wilderness area I've hunted for 14 years and could go 2 weeks without seeing a soul. The last few years I've had to act my age!
You just never know. Careful scouting and some luck and you can stumble on a good area. All part of the fun!
 

Ben Long

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Kalispell, MT
I think it also depends on the season. Where I hunt, the mature bulls will be down in the lower (midslope) clearcuts with the cows during the rut. But after the opening salvo of rifle season is on and the rut is over, the bulls hide out in the steep, deep and thick. The cows may remain in the more forgiving terrain, if there is no general season on them.
 

Eyeguy

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Aug 1, 2014
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Lincoln
I'm finding there is a window regarding distance hiked that is optimal for creating the best hunting experience. I think it depends on your fitness level (if you kill yourself, probably not a fun hunt) and hunting pressure (high pressure areas require further hiking and vice/versa).
Just wondering what your guys' prime distance windows are for elk hunting. Right now my best hunting is about 2.5 to 3 miles from the trailhead and about a 2 hour hike (shut up, I'm slow).

One of my best hunting buddies claims to have a honey hole that is only a 10-minute hike from the road. I am having a hard time believing him, but he has WAY more experience than I do.

Anyway, what do you guys think?

Randy often talks about a go-to spot he has in colorado that is not far from the road at all....but it requires a steep hike straight up a ridge. "Closely packed contour lines can be the stairway to elk heaven" is I believe how he said it. Difficulty isn't always measured in miles from the road. If most people refuse to go there...and there are food and water close by...there will be elk. :)
 
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