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What is considered 'cold' for elk?

CJnGA

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Aug 23, 2021
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We're heading to MT in a couple of weeks for what we thought would be a late season transition zone hunt. Now it's looking like those things are going to still be lounging by the pool when we get there due to it staying so warm.

How cold does it need to get to start pushing Elk downhill at all? I watched Randy's video from a couple of years ago where they were doing a warm late season hunt and he mentioned they were going to be looking around 8-10k which is higher than what we've been looking at up to this point. Any insight or riddles for what is different between a 'warm' late season hunt vs. a 'normal/cold' late season hunt? North facing slopes preferred over south facing slopes? Do they still head to sanctuary areas when it's warm or do they hold to water harder than normal for this time of year?

TIA,
CJ
 

JLS

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Snow depth is not created equal either. Crusted and drifted snow will move elk a lot more than 18” of powder. It also depends on the area/elk herd as to what triggers migration movements. Sometimes elk will hang out in belly deep snow. Other herds migrate at the first snowflake.

Look for little sanctuary areas to find the bulls.
 
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rustednuts

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Research shows it is snow driven not temperature driven. There are some tools you can use to see current snow depth.
 

CJnGA

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Well, there you go. My original premise is busted. That's good to know. Looking at the forecast 10 days out, it doesn't help the situation though. Guess we'll just have to move our target range uphill a bit. I guess the good thing is that as you go higher, there's less square footage where they could be, right? ha
 

hank4elk

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Snow and the type move them here. Hell they migrate uphill in the winter here.
Only cold I've seen effect elk is the wind cold. They get out of it or hunker down like bison.
 
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Talk2elk

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Anaconda, MT
Like everyone has said, snow depth is the determining factor. Very cold weather will have them out feeding longer is your advantage we are talking temperatures at zero or below.
 

kwyeewyk

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Start high, if there's decent snow but no elk/sign, move lower. I've seen them follow the snow line down and then move back up as it melts/blows out. Cows will usually be lower and bulls hold out higher longer.
 

diamond hitch

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Depends on where you are. In western Mt. guaranteed movement at -10. Doesn't mean they are going to move where you want but the migration will start. Crusty snow same effect. They will move below it.

On the western Mt-Id border I've seen the big bulls in chest deep snow on the last day. They feed till they are tired and then lay down.

Everyplace is differant. Learn what is normal and where.
 

Ben Long

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Kalispell, MT
I agree that snow is a bigger factor to move elk out of the high country, but they may move on more micro level with cold, for example seeing out sunny, south-facing slopes. But a hard-hunted bull will do whatever he can to avoid getting shot, including putting up with a lot of cold and snow. They do not like getting shot.
 

Michigan_flatlander

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Sep 8, 2021
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When people say you want weather in the late season, is that generally because a front or a system will force them to get up and find new food, making them more vulnerable versus just moving around a few times a day?
 

yakimanoob

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Oct 10, 2021
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Pray for snow! Good luck fellow.
This! General elk in WA starts a week from today, and I'm praying for just enough snow that I can still drive to something close to the TH I have in mind but enough to keep the other hunters out and make it easier to track the animals.

As to the original question: the district bio in my area told me what others have stated - it's about food, not temperature. If they can still get to their feed of choice, they'll hang around. If not, they'll move down.

What cold will do is alter their position within a given area. When it's really cold, they'll spend more time in the sun for obvious reasons. (Yet another reason to pray for snow!)
 

brockel

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Baker,MT
I agree that snow is a bigger factor to move elk out of the high country, but they may move on more micro level with cold, for example seeing out sunny, south-facing slopes. But a hard-hunted bull will do whatever he can to avoid getting shot, including putting up with a lot of cold and snow. They do not like getting shot.
I’ve glassed bulls feeding in almost belly deep snow. I say glassed because even my dumbass didn’t want to go up after them in that.
 
Yeti

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