North Idaho Elk

JWhunter

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Joined
Jul 3, 2012
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242
I'm attending the University of Idaho studying wildlife resources, but I am from South-Central Idaho... I have hunted in the Sawtooths all my life, but these elk up here just don't talk, you can't see so you can't catch them moving.... How do you hunt them? Also White-tails I don't understand them, I've hunted mule deer.
 

Pinecricker

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Dec 23, 2014
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193
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North Idaho
Hey JW. I'm just North of you. It can feel nearly impossible in our thick timber and brush, but it is possible to get close enough in on them for a shot. The best advice I have is that you really need to know the terrain you're hunting on a small, intimate scale, i.e. every little notch and saddle, every open spot in a draw, where game trails converge, all the shooting lanes, where the cover is thickest, etc.

Also, if the wind isn't working with you, don't even bother, even if it feels like you're right on top of them. Spend some extra time silencing all your gear, things like all the little squeaks on your pack straps and sling swivels, squeaky boot leather, etc. Most of all, avoid noisy synthetic fabrics. Wool is your friend. Practice moving slow and quiet, and travel very light with no superfluous gear. Be a minimalist.

If you find a draw with good elk sign, brush out some trails in the off season so you can move around quietly. Find key spots where you can set up and still hunt with good shooting lanes. Pruning shears work well for clearing brush. Your best success with calling is going to be a very short window during the peak of the rut during archery season. If you're in an area with elk sign, but nothing is calling, its probably because wolves (or people) are in the area. If you can't get them to come in when they are calling, try scraping or maybe cow calling instead. Its a much more subtle thing here, so don't over do it. They will often come in silent, so be extra, extra patient. I can't tell you how many times I've got up to walk some where else, and spooked elk that were coming to me.

To that point, you're never going to sneak in on them in heavy brush. They will work around and wind you damned near every time. If you're hunting with some one, think in terms of one person pushing them into the other, or set up ambushes with one guy set up to shoot, and the other a good distance behind in heavy cover doing the calling.

I always laugh when I watch hunting videos where guys are standing around shooting the shit for 10 minutes before they take a shot, whispering back and forth (and that's after they spent 20 minutes moving in closer, ranging the shot, counting the number of points, etc). You're never going to get those kind of opportunities here. You've got to be super quick on the draw. Its a split second kind of thing before they disappear into heavy cover. You need to have your head on a swivel, and be 100% ready and focused, because it happens way faster than it does hunting the more open country like what you are used to. That means keeping your rifle ready, not slung over your shoulder.

If you're in Moscow, you are actually very close to some great elk and whitetail hunting, just head East.
 

Big Billy

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Feb 4, 2015
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86
Location
Montana
excellent advise...wool is definitely your friend wear real lite shoes and get yourself a pair of big wool socks to pull over your shoes when you start getting close.
 

TheTone

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Sep 14, 2002
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3,580
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ID
Elk hunting here can be beyond frustrating. In 2013 I was into elk the first day of the season and didn't see another elk until the last week. Truth is we really don't have a ton of elk in public areas around here and the ones we do have see a lot of pressure. Tons of roads and ATV's everywhere also doesn't help. Being willing to hunt even just a little harder than the other guys can pay off; I'm amazed how many elk hunters I run into that really have no clue what they are doing. Paying attention to the wind is key. Are you archery hunting or rifle?

As for whitetails; they can be super challenging as well. Things are either great or terrible and it seems there is very little in between. Again massive road and ATV issues can make it tough to hunt the way you want to. Maybe the best thing to do is wait for November and hunt slow with lots of just sitting and watching
 

Ben Long

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Joined
Aug 8, 2011
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1,168
Location
Kalispell, MT
I grew up hunting northern Idaho from my hometown of Moscow. I think it's a real head game to learn to hunt the cold, wet jungles of the panhandle. You cannot expect to see the game, even when they are there. It can be real hard to get used to. I know some southern Idaho guys who feel positively claustrophobic. The cover is just so thick. Aside from the occasional shot across a clearcut and some opportunities in the canyons, it's close-quarters work. I think it can be a lot more similar to hunting east of the Mississippi than hunting in the arid West. But the game is there, both quantity and quality.
 

James Riley

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Jan 10, 2015
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I went through something similar, coming out of wide open Colorado. I lived in Moscow for three years going to school and hunted east-north-east of there. At first I thought I'd have no use for binos and so I ditched them. Then I tried them again and found they are good for seeing more than just long range. With a good, clear pair, you can really pull in a lot from close range that you would not have seen otherwise. I think it may have something to do with taking your peripheral away and temporarily taking your focus off of movement. You know those animals who make that thumping sound with their hooves as they bound off through the brush unseen? You see them before they do that.

North Idaho is also the first place I tried something that I've found to work rather well once you are in elk country. I bought a pair of construction knee pads and padded gloves. I set a grid coordinate for where I wanted to end up and then crawled on hands and knees the entire distance. Sometimes it would take a night or two or three to get there but I heard and ran into a lot more. I don't do this often but it is an exercise in self discipline.

Here's some winter kills I found crawling around out there. Also note some of the Vine Maple (?) and undergrowth, but leaves are down.

North%20Idaho%20Bull%202.jpg
 
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JWhunter

Member
Joined
Jul 3, 2012
Messages
242
I refuse to hunt from a tree stand, I prefer to be on foot, plus I need to have a really good feel before I could place a tree stand.
 

roknHS

Member
Joined
Mar 9, 2015
Messages
37
Location
Idaho, Tick Fever County
First you need to find some elk. Use logging roads and look over clearcut areas for elk sign. Then you figure these elk are probably within a mile or so of where you see recent activity. Now its time to start sneaking around to find well traveled trails. If its hot, go for the deep draws and side hills that have thick cover and are hard to get to. In this country, the North side of a ridge is usually thick and dark and moist.
Elk might frequent a clearcut to feed for a number of days and then up and move a mile or two without apparent reason. You need to hunt where you find fresh sign of activity. Don't waste time hunting where the elk have been....hunt where they are. You don't often find them in the open after the first hour of daylight. Sneaking around in the thick stuff is usually where you find them and figure a long shot could be 70yds. Soft soled shoes that allow you to feel a stick under your foot before you step on it and snap it, quiet clothing (like fleece or wool) that allows you to slip through thick brush silently and always keeping the wind in your face are mandatory for close engagement. It doesn't hurt to be good at snap shooting. Elk don't usually give you a lot of time to screw around before they disappear.
Hunting whitetail deer is very similiar to elk hunting. Its all about stealth and being quick to capitalize on an opportunity.
Elk talk changes everyday depending on what the elk are feeling. If they are nervous you probably won't hear much. If they are undisturbed and calm, chances are they will be more vocal. Many times a cow call will get you more than a bugle.
You don't have to travel far from Moscow to try your skill at elk or whitetails.
I'm located on the North Side of Moscow Mtn. There is not a huge elk population in this area but, enough to keep it interesting. The Uof I has a large land holding in the Long Cr./Hatter Cr. area that would be a good place for you to start if you get serious about either elk or whitetail.
 
AMK Sportsman

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