Tracking elk in the snow?

TommyCorrgs

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Esp fresh snow. You know the tracks are recent, it keeps the sound and scent down, you can tell if they’re spooked and on the move. Get your wind right and GO👍🏻
I agree with the above poster. Your buddy probably just didn’t want to kill an elk. I’d rather someone just say “I’m not willing to pack an elk out of here” rather than try and make up an excuse.

In 2017 I shot my biggest (~290” in my profile pic) bull by going out after we got about 12 inches of fresh snow. I snowshoed in a couple miles and had only crossed one set of fresh elk tracks. I took my snowshoes off and told myself I’d go “just a little bit further.” 1/2 mile later I came across a set of what ended up being very fresh elk tracks. The soft powder makes it very easy to stalk as you can remain practically silent. I tracked the set of tracks for about 1/2 mile until I caught up to the elk. Unfortunately the elk saw me before I saw them (ended up being 3 bulls). They spooked, but having the determination I did I dropped down and hauled towards them as fast as I could catching glimpses of their bodies moving through the trees. They only ran about a quarter mile and stopped. Once I stopped seeing them run I got behind a tree and just watched. Eventually the biggest one stepped out for a clean shot at 190 yards and that was that.

In 2019 I took a buddy of mine from Ohio out. We hiked in about 4 or 5 miles and we were getting pretty whipped. We took lunch, hunkered down in some rocks up on a ridge with the wind absolutely howling. It was so windy you couldn’t really glass where we wanted to without getting tears in your eyes. I glassed up a bull bedded at about 1 or so in the afternoon and asked him if he wanted to go after it, and of course he did because he never an elk and this was a 3 1/2 year old 5 point. There was about 6-10 inches of snow in most places. We stalked in to where we knew the bull was and I put him in front of me and just told him to take it one step at a time and be ready. Well the bull was bedded on a hill crest and turned out there was no way to have really approached him without immediately being seen. He jumped the bull and wasn’t comfortable shooting through small pine trees at the bull when it stopped to look back. It took off. I went up to him and he was very discouraged as he has always hunted white tails back East and if this was a deer back there the day would have been over. Having remembered my experience and having read a recent article in Bugle (“To Follow an Elk” Nov/Dec 2019 issue) I knew there was a solid chance we could catch him with the deep snow. We started following his tracks and after about 30 minutes or so of climbing through the forest he was getting pretty beat (and I was indifferent of packing a relatively small bull out of an unknown drainage in the dark). I told him this was his hunt and whenever he was ready to be done we could start heading back. He replied that he could go “just a little further.” When he told me that I had a great feeling, and not 50 more yards of walking he dropped to his knees and got his gun ready and I looked up to see the bull just standing there staring at us. One shot to the brisket with his 7mm mag and that bull crumpled picture perfect.

The situation you described is my preferred way to hunt ell. Both of those hunts are very memorable and in my experience when there is ample snow elk don’t particularly enjoy running and are less likely to bail out of a drainage. Rather they will run off but they always slow down and watch their back track. A smart hunter can use this to their advantage and in timber it makes stalking very achievable.
I appreciate the input, the particular area is very dense vast timber, knowing this technique will serve me well over the next few years while I go to college here I can imagine it being particularly deadly, that particular canyon widens out and has several

Sorry, but your buddy really screwed you over. That's one of the best scenarios for killing elk in rifle season.
My friend and I found this spot the week before it has fresh sign and as soon as we found that we backed out. The hunt was with my friends family friend or uncle, and he hunted like a total clown that day. The worst part was after talking to several hunters no one was seeing anything however the spot my friend and I had scouted was loaded with elk sign that got fresher the deeper in we got. Everything was going as it should have and then the elk pass by maybe 50 yards away in thick brush leaving steaming scat to greet us and that was when the guy with the tag decided to pull the plug.
 

Mainewoods

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Mar 17, 2019
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My friend and I found this spot the week before it has fresh sign and as soon as we found that we backed out. The hunt was with my friends family friend or uncle, and he hunted like a total clown that day. The worst part was after talking to several hunters no one was seeing anything however the spot my friend and I had scouted was loaded with elk sign that got fresher the deeper in we got. Everything was going as it should have and then the elk pass by maybe 50 yards away in thick brush leaving steaming scat to greet us and that was when the guy with the tag decided to pull the plug.
The best part about tracking (besides knowing theres a potential shooter animal laying down those tracks) is not knowing where you'll end up, and potentially seeing some amazing new country. But to some it's overwhelming, and probalby a little scary.
 

TommyCorrgs

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Jan 15, 2021
Messages
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I agree with the above poster. Your buddy probably just didn’t want to kill an elk. I’d rather someone just say “I’m not willing to pack an elk out of here” rather than try and make up an excuse.

In 2017 I shot my biggest (~290” in my profile pic) bull by going out after we got about 12 inches of fresh snow. I snowshoed in a couple miles and had only crossed one set of fresh elk tracks. I took my snowshoes off and told myself I’d go “just a little bit further.” 1/2 mile later I came across a set of what ended up being very fresh elk tracks. The soft powder makes it very easy to stalk as you can remain practically silent. I tracked the set of tracks for about 1/2 mile until I caught up to the elk. Unfortunately the elk saw me before I saw them (ended up being 3 bulls). They spooked, but having the determination I did I dropped down and hauled towards them as fast as I could catching glimpses of their bodies moving through the trees. They only ran about a quarter mile and stopped. Once I stopped seeing them run I got behind a tree and just watched. Eventually the biggest one stepped out for a clean shot at 190 yards and that was that.

In 2019 I took a buddy of mine from Ohio out. We hiked in about 4 or 5 miles and we were getting pretty whipped. We took lunch, hunkered down in some rocks up on a ridge with the wind absolutely howling. It was so windy you couldn’t really glass where we wanted to without getting tears in your eyes. I glassed up a bull bedded at about 1 or so in the afternoon and asked him if he wanted to go after it, and of course he did because he never an elk and this was a 3 1/2 year old 5 point. There was about 6-10 inches of snow in most places. We stalked in to where we knew the bull was and I put him in front of me and just told him to take it one step at a time and be ready. Well the bull was bedded on a hill crest and turned out there was no way to have really approached him without immediately being seen. He jumped the bull and wasn’t comfortable shooting through small pine trees at the bull when it stopped to look back. It took off. I went up to him and he was very discouraged as he has always hunted white tails back East and if this was a deer back there the day would have been over. Having remembered my experience and having read a recent article in Bugle (“To Follow an Elk” Nov/Dec 2019 issue) I knew there was a solid chance we could catch him with the deep snow. We started following his tracks and after about 30 minutes or so of climbing through the forest he was getting pretty beat (and I was indifferent of packing a relatively small bull out of an unknown drainage in the dark). I told him this was his hunt and whenever he was ready to be done we could start heading back. He replied that he could go “just a little further.” When he told me that I had a great feeling, and not 50 more yards of walking he dropped to his knees and got his gun ready and I looked up to see the bull just standing there staring at us. One shot to the brisket with his 7mm mag and that bull crumpled picture perfect.

The situation you described is my preferred way to hunt ell. Both of those hunts are very memorable and in my experience when there is ample snow elk don’t particularly enjoy running and are less likely to bail out of a drainage. Rather they will run off but they always slow down and watch their back track. A smart hunter can use this to their advantage and in timber it makes stalking very achievable.
Thanks for the input this ara is Definitely a heavily timbered unit. It is dark forest with small meadows throughout. I'll be living here the next few years for school. Without snow it's hard know where elk are and they don't particularly hang out in the open. They could be anywhere and often times when I hike just a little bit off the road or trail I'll spook some bedded down in the timber. I always smell them and start finding scat and then like ghosts they appear and vanish. This snow tracking method will probably serve me well. :)
 

TommyCorrgs

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The best part about tracking (besides knowing theres a potential shooter animal laying down those tracks) is not knowing where you'll end up, and potentially seeing some amazing new country. But to some it's overwhelming, and probalby a little scary.
The woods around here have a way of putting fear into you, I just try to stay calm and keep a compass on me. Moving to Wyoming from New Jersey for school was definitely humbling this place is vast and can be intimidating especially in the trees.
 

TommyCorrgs

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it’s a fun way to hunt. I’ve stalked up on elk in their beds.

Why didn’t you just follow the tracks?
Not sure, my friend and I were ready to go, but his uncle/family friend who had the tag told us it was futile and instead of following these elk we walked straight out of the canyon and back to the truck. My friend and I were very frustrating because it seemed like a best case scenario and the guy with the tag just wasn't as serious about killing one I guess...
 

QuazyQuinton

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Western Oregon
Not sure, my friend and I were ready to go, but his uncle/family friend who had the tag told us it was futile and instead of following these elk we walked straight out of the canyon and back to the truck. My friend and I were very frustrating because it seemed like a best case scenario and the guy with the tag just wasn't as serious about killing one I guess...

Best case scenario? It's a whole lot easier to peek over a ridge and kill an elk at 200 yards than it is to peek around a tree and kill one at 20 yards. Intense and exciting, yes, but far from easy or high success. Doing it with a group of 5 people sneaking through the woods? Yeah, that sounds futile.

I do understand your frustration at leaving when you knew there were elk there, though.

QQ
 

TommyCorrgs

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Best case scenario? It's a whole lot easier to peek over a ridge and kill an elk at 200 yards than it is to peek around a tree and kill one at 20 yards. Intense and exciting, yes, but far from easy or high success. Doing it with a group of 5 people sneaking through the woods? Yeah, that sounds futile.

I do understand your frustration at leaving when you knew there were elk there, though.

QQ
That is a very good point, regardless of what happened I think I learned some valuable information as it was one of my first introductions to hunting. I hope to be ready to hunt elk for 2022, I'll be hunting an antelope doe this fall.
 

Brian in Montana

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It's not my thing, but I know a couple guys that like to hunt elk that way and have tipped over a few bulls doing it. I've tried it a few times to no avail. My experience has either been following tracks until I thought I was almost into the next stage, or what was said above - easier to shoot one over a ridge at 200yds than to peek around a tree and shoot one at 20yds. I have actually followed tracks in the snow until I found the elk, but in those cases it was close quarters in thick growth and they saw me first.

In a hide and seek type situation, the party that is moving will always be at a disadvantage to the one that's still. That's not to say it can't be done. Besides all that, I don't really like walking around in the snow anyway.
 

mtmuley

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Picking up a track I know is fresh is big. But, if you pay attention and do it enough, you can tell if a bull is headed out or if you can catch him. mtmuley
 

Hunting Wife

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Are you kidding? Waking up to a skiff of fresh snow is like Christmas morning! 😁 I love tracking stuff in the snow. It can make the “finding elk” part of the equation much easier. The “killing elk” part still takes some work and patience though. But if you have a decent understanding of the area and animal behavior, you can follow a track and make some pretty well-informed guesses about where they’ll be and set yourself up without necessarily having to stumble right into the middle of them.

People that are good at working a track are real killers in my experience.
 

Dougfirtree

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The best part about tracking (besides knowing theres a potential shooter animal laying down those tracks) is not knowing where you'll end up, and potentially seeing some amazing new country. But to some it's overwhelming, and probalby a little scary.
Not only that, but at least with Whitetails, following a buck's tracks for a day will often teach you more about an area and how deer use it, than a week of still-hunting the same area. Deer take you to other deer and the places other deer go. If you're a smart tracker, you'll be occasionally pulling out your gps to mark points of interest, like a great stand site for some future snowless time.
I would imagine that post-rut bull tracking could tell you alot about how elk seek sanctuary in your area.
 

Dougfirtree

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Picking up a track I know is fresh is big. But, if you pay attention and do it enough, you can tell if a bull is headed out or if you can catch him. mtmuley
Really enjoying this thread and hearing the parallels between elk tracking and whitetail tracking. This skill of judging what a critter is up to and whether you can catch up to him, is really key in the whitetail woods. Try to follow the tracks of a buck who just woke up and is heading down the mountain to check for does can lead to a long day of not catching up to a buck. Finding that same buck's tracks as he drags his ass back up the mountain after a full night of chasing does can lead to short tracking job and an encounter with that buck.
 

TommyCorrgs

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Why not hunt elk this year?
I can't get the resident tag prices yet and I just don't want to spend the 700 dollars for elk when all over ever killed is a grouse so far so Ill be getting an antelope doe tag.
 

TommyCorrgs

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Can it work? Absolutely. I've done it. Would it work in heavy timber with 5 people, 2 of which are tired, cold, and complaining? NOPE!

QQ
Haha yeah my friend and I were pissed off, his uncle didn't tell us he was bringing his wife and daughter haha
 

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