Wyoming elk newbie without motivation question

John Galt

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Joined
Aug 30, 2021
Messages
23
Location
Wyoming
So this is the third year of elk hunting for me. I just made up my mind yesterday to go this year but still lacking motivation. The first year I went hunting I was all hyped up to go. Then I was struck with emergency throat surgery a few days before my trip. But I went and hunted anyway on a diet of broth. Lost about 10 pounds in a week and had little energy. Saw one cow the whole time.

Last year I got sick the second day out and found out I caught the covid. Tried going a few different weekends but never saw a single elk.

This year, my luck remains. I broke my trigger finger in July. Still a little stiff and sore but I feel like I can use it. Been out here and there looking for elk and have yet to see anything. But people I work with tell me they see at least 5 to 10 each time they go out. I go by myself because I dont know many people here, and so I am learning on my own. I dont support outfitters because of the things I see many of them do.

So now I'm like WTH am I doing wrong? I have watched Randy Newberg videos. I have cyber scouted tons of potential areas with food (at least I think anyway), water, and shelter. But when I go out on the ground I don't see jack.

So I guess I am not really sure what my question is. What "food" do they eat? Do they like water holes, rivers, creeks? Do they hang out in the heavy deadfall stumbling their way through it? Do I cow call, or bugle?

My motivation is teetering. I just dont know...
 

sethkuhl

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Oct 30, 2012
Messages
170
Location
Mineral County
You might be doing all the right things at the wrong times or all the wrong things at the right times. Tough to say. Keep after it and if something is not working do something different. Hunting is not the destination but the journey. Dont put pressure on yourself and enjoy it! If you don't maybe it is not for you!

I hunted for 8 years before I got a chance at an elk. When I killed that first one the flood gates opened up and I am on a six in a row with a bow streak and know more about the group of elk that I hunt than I care to admit.

Don't give up, but enjoy your time out there. We open Saturday and I will see if I can go 6 in a row with stick and string.
 

kwyeewyk

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Feb 22, 2019
Messages
967
Location
Washington
They're grazers so mostly grass, which is generally associated with openings in the forest if hunting the mountains, but they usually feed mostly at night if under pressure, so find the nearby cover. I look for lots of small openings rather than big parks.

Water is important, but mostly if it's a limited resource, if there's plenty of water around it's hard to count on as a spot to ambush compared to if it's the only water around.

They will definitely hide in the windthrow and you'd be amazed how well they can get around in it. Sometimes if it's too thick they will avoid it, but if it's just enough to make it hard for you it's perfect for them.

The biggest thing might just be covering enough ground to figure out where they go, the people who see them regularly already have them figured out. I plan on doing 8-12 miles a day when I'm covering ground locating elk, usually try to plan a loop through some spots that look promising. Identify as many loops as you can and start hiking and observing, you'll figure them out. Good luck.
 

nrpate05

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Jan 5, 2015
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1,327
How many days do you put in when you go? When I started elk hunting I lived 15 minutes from elk country (in Wyoming) so would go before and after work but didn't really put in multiple days in a row. I killed elk but it wasn't because I knew what I was doing, I just put in a ton of time. Reality is elk are really hard to hunt on public land and in a lot of places 9 out of 10 people don't fill their tag. I think a lot of people have success because they have put in the time and have gotten to know a place year after year. If you only hunt 5 days a year that could take many many seasons to really figure them out. I'd focus on that for now and not necessarily on killing one. Is there hunting pressure coming from a certain area? Is there private land where they can take refuge? How about a likely travel corridor that they would use when pushed by other hunters?

Sometimes these places are overlooked and may be hiding in plain sight. A few seasons ago I was packed 3-4 miles in and glassed back toward the truck and saw a nice bull a half mile from the truck but up on top of this cliffy knob. Dozens of people must've walked right past the spot and never given it a thought.

Elk hunting used to not be that fun for me b/c I took it too seriously. Now I just try to have fun and enjoy my time in the woods and my success has remained the same, but I definitely enjoy it more.
 

Zootownelk

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Aug 26, 2016
Messages
319
Are you seeing fresh elk sign (scat, beds, rubs, tracks, wallows, etc) and just not the actual elk or nothing at all? Are you hunting before sunrise and after sunset?
 

John Galt

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Joined
Aug 30, 2021
Messages
23
Location
Wyoming
How many days do you put in when you go? When I started elk hunting I lived 15 minutes from elk country (in Wyoming) so would go before and after work but didn't really put in multiple days in a row. I killed elk but it wasn't because I knew what I was doing, I just put in a ton of time. Reality is elk are really hard to hunt on public land and in a lot of places 9 out of 10 people don't fill their tag. I think a lot of people have success because they have put in the time and have gotten to know a place year after year. If you only hunt 5 days a year that could take many many seasons to really figure them out. I'd focus on that for now and not necessarily on killing one. Is there hunting pressure coming from a certain area? Is there private land where they can take refuge? How about a likely travel corridor that they would use when pushed by other hunters?

Sometimes these places are overlooked and may be hiding in plain sight. A few seasons ago I was packed 3-4 miles in and glassed back toward the truck and saw a nice bull a half mile from the truck but up on top of this cliffy knob. Dozens of people must've walked right past the spot and never given it a thought.

Elk hunting used to not be that fun for me b/c I took it too seriously. Now I just try to have fun and enjoy my time in the woods and my success has remained the same, but I definitely enjoy it more.
The first year I put in a TON of time. Second year not so much due to the pandemic. This year, only about a week. Just wasnt sure if I was going to go. Not been motivated at all. My fault.






Are you seeing fresh elk sign (scat, beds, rubs, tracks, wallows, etc) and just not the actual elk or nothing at all? Are you hunting before sunrise and after sunset?
This year, nothing. I have not seen literally anything. I am kinda wondering if they have yet to come back due to half the mountain being burnt up last year. This weekend I am going to check another area and hopefully I will have some luck.
 

Northwoods

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Nov 24, 2016
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463
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MN
Hunting is hard. Every once in a while things come together. Eventually you’ll start adding some things to your “bag of tricks”. I’m skeptical of people that claim to see animals every time they go out.
 

2rocky

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Jul 23, 2010
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3,552
If you have never hunted elk, it is hard to comprehend the size of an area you need to cover to find them.
This time of year and for the next 3 -4 weeks, I would be sure to sit on the highest viewing point in your unit with views of open areas every morning, and every evening. From there I would:

  • Glass. Look for dust raising from elk moving as a herd. Look for sun glinting off newly rubbed antlers, shining off slick summer hide. and don't just look 500 yards . On a clear day you should be able to see elk bodies 1 mile away.
  • Listen. Bull bugles will begin to peak in 3 weeks. Especially in the dark. If you can call, try that.

Or Find visible elk and determine where they go. Pore over maps to see where the cover adjacent to where elk are feeding on private land, and identify similar terrain features within areas accessible to you.

The saying from a friend is you have to FIND the elk before you can kill one. I had poor results when I started because I was operating like I was trying to kill one before I'd found any. Once I'd determined there were elk in an area, killing them or having a close encounter became a hell of a lot easier.
 

elkhnter

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Aug 7, 2009
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On the road again.
If your heart’s not in the game, you may be missing elk that are there. I’ve seen hunters see game that lookers miss.
Better than half of elk hunting is mental. Don’t have any magic words to motivate you, you have to find it yourself. When you do, the time between seasons will feel like it drags on forever.
 

Millsworks

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Feb 6, 2017
Messages
854
I think learning everything you can about the area you hunt is the key.
Cover ground and go places you haven't been every so often.
Especially places others seem to not go....
Once you find elk in an area, they may be there year after year in roughly the same area, or in areas that are nearly the same that aren't far away.
I can cover a lot of ground in a couple to four week trip. But it has taken me 4-5 years to learn the area I hunt.

Persistence is tuff but effective.
 

BuzzH

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Jan 9, 2001
Messages
13,953
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Laramie, WY
Learned long ago what makes a successful elk hunter.

The elk hunter that gets up on day 15 with the same enthusiasm to hunt elk, after getting their butt kicked for the previous 14 days....yeah, that's the guy that will be killing an elk.

If you're heart isn't in it, your mind won't be either and that won't ever lead to success.
 

John Galt

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Aug 30, 2021
Messages
23
Location
Wyoming
Thanks everyone for your input. I am going to go out and hopefully have a better year this time. I would be happy just to see a big bull screaming near me. lol
 

3855WIN

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Jul 17, 2014
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2,167
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Mississippi
John, you need to taste success on big game. Do you have an antelope or deer tag for this season?
It also sounds like you need some hunting buddies. Hunting isn’t all about the killing. It’s nice to have someone to share camp with, or even a lunch while you sit on the tailgate. It’s also nice to have help packing an elk. Help someone pack one out and I bet they help you get on an elk.
 

Addicting

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Jan 19, 2017
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SW Michigan
Call the BIO/ Warden and have this conversation with them. Be brief and concise, I did my home work ( give one or two examples) and identified these spots, I’ve spent x days working them and haven’t turned up anything fresh. I’m on my 3rd year and keep having this problem, do you have any advice on where I should be looking to help break this rut I’m in.

Honesty and candid conversations with the folks that know the area will help you better narrow it down. If they know you’re working your butt off and doing mostly everything you should, they are way more inclined to give a good helping hand.
 

Huntmt28

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Apr 26, 2020
Messages
140
You will fail more than you are successful, but you have to keep trying man!! Get out and hunt keep after it, you can't kill your 5th or 10th Elk if you don't get your 1st, so keep after it. I can't tell you what you are doing wrong or right at the time that you have gone but, keep after it. Like Buzz said your heart has to be in it!! Good luck!!
 

John Galt

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Aug 30, 2021
Messages
23
Location
Wyoming
John, you need to taste success on big game. Do you have an antelope or deer tag for this season?
It also sounds like you need some hunting buddies. Hunting isn’t all about the killing. It’s nice to have someone to share camp with, or even a lunch while you sit on the tailgate. It’s also nice to have help packing an elk. Help someone pack one out and I bet they help you get on an elk.
No, I tried for Antelope. But no luck. I need to try Mulies but I heard they taste like dog s**t. I have taken plenty of whitetail.
 

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