How to questions

Bob-WY

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As a life long NH whitetail hunter, now in WY going on 5 years , I still hunt elk to much like deer.

Ate another elk tag this year, but getting more encounters each year.

Two scenario questions

1) we have a spot in an early morning travel corridor. I get there before shooting light. Hunt there by sitting til sun up is about an hour past. One morning the elk came through, but to far out. I caught small glimpses through the trees, but not enough for a shot. Part of my brain said "get up and angle towards them" the other half said "don't move they might come this way" . I decision killed me. After 20 minutes I got to, found the tracks and went after them, that didn't work. What's the best play here?

2) in fresh snow, following tracks, I feel like I am getting better at predicting where they will bed. Twice I caught elk, but trying to ID cow or bull slows down the shot. While tracking how often and how, do you catch them? I feel like I have a better chance on the first catchup, after that they know I'm coming and go to nasty places and always seem to be out of the beds before I see them

Fun but gets frustrating
 
You'll get much more experienced perspectives than mine, but as someone who mostly hunts deer in the Adirondacks and has also done some elk hunting in the Rockies, here are my thoughts:

1. 80% of elk hunting seems to be about finding elk. At home, the deer are distributed across the landscape. There are concentrations, but there are some deer just about everywhere. Not true of elk. Make sure you're either hunting where elk actually are at that moment, or moving along at a good clip until you find them. This means that in some ways you end up hunting much more aggressively because you are often moving around pretty fast to locate elk.

2. In my experience, elk are about half as spooky as whitetails and more tolerant of noise, movement, etc. (They seem equally intolerant of smelling you). So, in the situation you described, if the wind wasn't wrong, yes, I probably would have been more inclined to go after them and make something happen.

3. In terms of tracking them, I've done some of that, but not enough to really have a strong sense of how to play the end-game. I do a lot of deer tracking (it's my preferred way to hunt) and I think if I were closing in on elk that I was tracking, I would put more thought into playing the wind than I do with deer. Especially since visibility tends to be a lot better in elk bedding areas, I would not hesitate to leave the track and circle suspected bedding areas to keep the wind in my favor.

4. And of course, one of the biggest differences is glassing. As you know, it's basically impossible to do in most northeastern big-woods areas. But, in many areas of Wyoming, you can just accomplish sooooo much by spending a bunch of time glassing (especially at first and last light). Sometimes I end up feeling like I'm not in the game when I'm glassing because I'm not actively hunting, but I think that's the northeastern bias. It's a great way to learn a bunch about where the elk are without knocking yourself out and spooking elk.

5. Also... elk give you a period of time each year, when they are literally shouting out where they are. Coming from my home mountains and deer that are like ghosts, this is just plain magic. I hope you're taking advantage of those times of year, if you can.
 
Theirs lots of folks on here a lot better at elk hunting than I am but here my thoughts
I live in Pa and dont hunt elk anything like I hunt deer I move and look for elk wind is everything being quiet isnt you can make some noise
If I see an elk I make a plan and go for it unless they are moving my direction then Ill watch an see what happens but the moment they seem to be heading a different way Im going to figure out how to intercept them if Its possible
 
Sounds like you are pretty close. Just a matter of getting in the right spot. Im interested in answers to #2. If I knew where they were bedded, would probably let them sit and wait for them to reverse the path. Lot of caveats on that of course, but jump shooting elk in cover seems tough. All that said, I criticize myself for not being aggressive enough.
 
Always move with the herd as long as the wind is right and you have cover. Big animals like Elk cover ground pretty quickly even when moving and feeding slowly.
 
I've primarily hunted elk in timber for going on 50 years. Keep the wind and thermals in your favor. When elk are just walking, not feeding, they can travel 4 mph, hard to keep up with them. If they start feeding, can sneak up on them, but use your glass in the timber and look for color spots, horizontal lines between only two trees etc, encounters can be close. Dad killed a big bull one time in the deep snow that rose out of his bed on the other side of a little fir less than 10' away, didn't even bother aiming, essentially shot from the hip.
 
For #1, more than once I’ve tried to just keep with the elk, when they’re moving, I’m trying to be moving, either parallel or adjacent, obviously trying to use the cover. And it’s worked to get me in bow range once, got me aiming at my first bull that I never shot because of a concern about land ownership, and a successful shot on my most recent cow. So that’s 3 instances following helped me.

#2 just from watching ol newberg and the gang, I’d say keeping back and trying to watch where they bed and use that knowledge you’re gaining, to sit back and wait for them to reverse the track, like SAJ said.
 
Unless you have a very unique situation, I would completely abandon the "early morning travel corridor." Elk go this, that and every which way from day to day. They're not whitetails! Maybe if you're hunting private where they're going to alfalfa or something but that's about it. Get where you can see as much country as possible and when you see some, be aggressive going after them.
 
I have not hunted elk the last 10 years or so since I moved to Alaska, but,
I never hunted travel routes. I moved a lot, bumped them and followed them. Never worried a lot about being too quiet either. Elk are loud, they expect some noise. I toot on a cow call every now and then as I stumble quickly after them. Lots of success that way. Probably about 25% success on shots on bumped elk
If I spot them before I bump them, even better. I think my shot percentage playing spot and stalk is north of 70% if I spot them first.
 
Tracking is a good strategy in the right situation. You have to have the wind in your favor, #1. #2. Elk will commonly stop and watch their back trail, especially if they know they’re being pursued. So don’t follow right on their tracks, stay off of them on the downwind side. #3. Go slow! It actually takes a lot of effort if you’re going slow enough.

In your first scenario, sitting for elk, make sure you have the wind. Some spots elk travel through that look good are hard to sit on because the wind swirls. If that’s the case, adjust where you sit.
 
If looking for elk, use your nose. If you smell them slow down.
Hunt on your gps if in a new area. Elk like bedding on flatter spots some of which don’t show in most mapping but if there is a bench above you move slower into it.
Elk can eat anywhere but have to drink, if water is limited in your area use it while playing the wind. One group that I hunt waters at night about 15 minutes after sunset. Has been a great ambush tool for me.
Last trick that I can tell you is time in the woods kills elk. The guys who “get it done” consistently have spent a ton of time getting to know areas and how different elk behave. Some years it happens quick some years it takes 30 days.
10% of hunters kill 90% of the elk. Join that 10%!
 
I know you want to toot those calls like calling ducks; we all feel that way. But thing is, we hear as much as we listen and it’s hard for a man to listen when he’s the one talking.
Steamy fresh elk doo and rank wet grass is gold, all else for sign is chasing hope.
Lastly, reckon at least 20 HTers will provide 30 different answers to this post. And we’re all correct.
 
As a life long NH whitetail hunter, now in WY going on 5 years , I still hunt elk to much like deer.

Ate another elk tag this year, but getting more encounters each year.

Two scenario questions

1) we have a spot in an early morning travel corridor. I get there before shooting light. Hunt there by sitting til sun up is about an hour past. One morning the elk came through, but to far out. I caught small glimpses through the trees, but not enough for a shot. Part of my brain said "get up and angle towards them" the other half said "don't move they might come this way" . I decision killed me. After 20 minutes I got to, found the tracks and went after them, that didn't work. What's the best play here?

2) in fresh snow, following tracks, I feel like I am getting better at predicting where they will bed. Twice I caught elk, but trying to ID cow or bull slows down the shot. While tracking how often and how, do you catch them? I feel like I have a better chance on the first catchup, after that they know I'm coming and go to nasty places and always seem to be out of the beds before I see them

Fun but gets frustrating
From an elk hunter from Mississippi hunt them aggressive, don’t be afraid to occasionally bump elk. The wind and terrain make them hard to kill.
 
A lot of good advice above. Just keep in mind they are fast moving even if they don't look it. Once you find them try to anticipate their movement hunting them is one thing chasing them is another. Work your way around to get them coming to you and always have a wind indicator of some kind and always be checking.
 
With a few years of elk hunting under my belt, I agree with what most everyone has posted. Each hunter has reflected their own successful experience and strategy. Every hunt is different from year to year, every day is different, the weather changes daily , (wind & temperature), grass & water availability differs from year to year, hunting pressure and most importantly the elk presence themselves. Some things are constant... elk will pick up a hunter's...movement, noise and most importantly is smell. Sometimes movement and noise are beneficial to a hunter it just depends on the situation. But if an elk smells you, game over!! So take everyone's advice and apply that to your situation. Once you gain your own successful experiences, you'll form you're own strategy for future hunts. Good luck!
 
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