Which MT week?

VanHook

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Dec 22, 2014
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So if you had only 1 week to rifle hunt for elk in the MT general season, which week would it be? The 1st week would seem good to hunt elk that haven't been pressured much in October but I'm sure the mountains are crawling with hunters. For guys who have hunted quite a bit, when would you say hunter numbers are the lowest? I plan on hunting the 2nd or maybe 3rd week this year.
 

double_a85

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Depends on where your heading--- but as a general rule of thumb the 1st week is usually crazy everywhere.

I have noticed the week before thanksgiving... 2nd to last week of the season, is usually the least crowded.
 

Pagosa

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This was basically the same question I posted last year, and I got multiple different responses. Last year was my first year as a resident, and I hunted opening weekend, mid-week in early Nov, and mid-Nov before I even seen or shot a bull. I seen way less hunters in Montana as compared to other states I hunted, but only one bull in five days of hunting and maybe 5-6 really fresh tracks. I really didn't see any hunters up high in the timber, maybe that's the reason I didn't see many elk.
Anyhow, back to your question. It's a full moon opening week this year, and I like hunting after November 11th or whenever the cold/snow makes tracking effective. The deer will be rutting too by mid-November. Going mid week reduces the amount of hunters you see. From my limited experience I think the rifle season is all about hunting in miserable snowy conditions, and cover ground until you locate tracks/elk. It seems very weather or private land access dependent up here.
 

TRS_Montana

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If you are coming from out of state, I would stay away from opening weekend. I usually head out on opening weekend to spots I have been scouting/bow hunting and have a pretty good idea of where the elk will be. If they aren't there, I don't spend too much time glassing because I know I will just get discouraged by all the hunters. That being said, if you are willing to hike, you have an advantage over a LOT of other people that are out. It is also a guarantee that the elk will be moving around a lot on opening weekend, and anything can happen! SO...final vote from me would be 2nd or 3rd week.
 

VanHook

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I should add that I am a young guy with a good set of legs and would like to get 1-2 miles from the roads. I don't have horses though and so I'd be cautious about getting much farther than 2 miles depending on the terrain in case I had to pack one out.

One other thing is that when I look at maps, it seems like some areas have trails all over hell and it would really be tough to even get 1 mile from a road/trail. I'm sure it can vary tremendously but do many of the Forest Service trails get closed off during hunting season?
 

mixedbag

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A friend of mine from Pa went 3rd week last year and tagged out.He has gone on the opening week before but said it was a zoo.I would want a little snow cover myself for tracking.It not very hard to get in range following fresh tracks in the snow.
 

Bambistew

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I would skip the first two weekends unless you have a spot scouted, and its difficult for horses and others to get too. Opening weekend is a zoo. IMO you either shoot one first light, or won't see much besides other hunters. Problem with picking the "right" week is the better hunting is weather dependent. Pray for snow/cold weather to get them and keep them moving. If you are flexible and live close-ish, watch the weather. Usually by the end of the season there is enough snow to make it interesting. The first week or two could be pretty warm.

Closed trails, as in foot trails? There are a few ATV trails in SW MT that close for hunting season, but most all open year long, or at least until Dec 1 I think.

I would suggest getting 3+ miles from the truck/road if you can. You'll want to be where you expect to find elk at first light, that usually means leaving the truck at 4-4:30 am. The "easy" elk hunting is over about an hour after daylight, after that you have to be at the right place at the right time to catch one moving, or find one to track up.

My favorite time to hunt elk in rifle season is the week before Thanksgiving. Very few people in the woods, and there is usually enough snow for a good hunt. The deer are usually going nuts then as well. Thanksgiving week is usually pretty good too, but usually lots of people, but not generally very far in.
 

VanHook

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Thanks for the replies guys. That helps out quite a bit and I'll plan on skipping the first week. I have other plans for the last week of October anyways so it will work out well.
 

.280 Remington

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Hmmm. Tough question.

First week is definitely crazy. But lots of elk hit the dirt! Sometimes having other hunters push them around is not a bad thing.

Later is good too, if the weather cooperates. The problem is, every once in a while, the weather is too much of a good thing. I've been snowed out of my spots before.

An acquaintance of mine always goes for a week that encompasses Veteran's Day. Always comes back with an elk...or two. The mountains and elk have definitely calmed down from the opening week chaos by then.
 
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