Elk tactics?

Winnie

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May 13, 2020
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the one thing that concerns me about the OPs post is that he has not even seen any sign. Most of the tips mentioned above pertain to when there are elk in the area. So, are you moving fast enough to cover some territory? Are you off the trails? Are you looking in the top 1/3 of the mountain in the dark timber and the steepest stuff you can hunt? Are you confident you can recognize elk droppings? I know those are basic questions, but 5 days of hunting and no sign makes me want to start with the basics. Is there evidence of other hunters in your area (although nobody likes other hunters, if they are there, then there should be elk there). If there are no other hunters in a CO OTC unit, then something is weird.
 

canthitbombz

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Wyoming
^ ding ding ding Circle gets the Square

I was just about to type the same thing. you can try all the tactics in the world, but if there are no elk there your just practicing.

my suggestion is find good recent sign, trails used recently, rubs, droppings. Then use all the great advise above.
 

AaronMColeman

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Nov 20, 2018
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Wyoming
You have to get to an area that has elk. Period. No tactics make any sense if there aren't elk there. I know where elk are in the mountains I hunt. This year it is so quiet and sign is minimal compared to last few seasons. So I'm not so concerned with killing an elk as I am with finding the elk! I'm covering a ton of ground quickly, just looking for sign (tracks, droppings, smell, recent beds, elk in the distance). I'm not concerned with being super stealthy, not concerned with the actual "hunting" part. Just find them.

Once I've found them then I start with location bugles. See if the big bull will come out and show himself, or rip off a defensive bugle. Then I'll start moving on the bull if he bugles...continuously getting more and more aggressive.

But this doesn't happen as often as we would like. So the last step is find a good set up and sit and cow call. Raghorns will come in like crazy, and who knows, you may hear a big dude rip one off. So that's my three prong approach.
 
OP
rb695

rb695

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Well, we ended up having to come home about 4 days early due to some unforeseen circumstances back home. With that being said, we finally located an elk a few miles away and made a move on it on our last day. We circled a large chunk of private to try and make it to where we thought the elk was. We actually got into a decent amount of sign (all old) and found a wallow. Unfortunately, the wallow had a camera on it and nearby were the remnants of a quartered elk. I think it was a perfect storm of ML season, the early snow, COVID, and fires that just had a lot more working against us than what we were accounting for. With that being said, the amount of information I feel I was able to assess and analyze will only help my success in the future. I am already counting down the days until I can go next year. I want to sincerely thank everyone that commented or messaged me on this thread in an effort to share their advice and experiences with me. The Rokslide community is unmatched in terms of unity and trying to help out their fellow hunters. Thank you all!
 

Finch

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Roanoke, VA
It was nice reading the tips on this thread. I'm currently hunting and not finding the sign either. It's all old. I've seen plenty of muleys, a couple of bears, but no elk.

I'll employ these tactics. I have until archery season ends.
 

Gerbdog

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CO Springs
It was nice reading the tips on this thread. I'm currently hunting and not finding the sign either. It's all old. I've seen plenty of muleys, a couple of bears, but no elk.

I'll employ these tactics. I have until archery season ends.
Keep moving, archery season is coming to an end soon, if your in old sign go to a different mountain, different side of the valley, anything to find the elk, they arent where your at currently so see if you can find them.
 

Finch

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Roanoke, VA
Keep moving, archery season is coming to an end soon, if your in old sign go to a different mountain, different side of the valley, anything to find the elk, they arent where your at currently so see if you can find them.

I get hung up on that maybe the elk are just being quiet and I'll eventually stumble into them/fresh sign. I'm hunting one side of a mountain today but how does one know that they aren't on the other side and being quiet? I haven't heard a single bugle and I've hunted three different areas so far during my time here.

I did get to hear a mountain lion screaming and making other sounds this morning. Pretty cool.
 

AaronMColeman

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Nov 20, 2018
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Wyoming
I get hung up on that maybe the elk are just being quiet and I'll eventually stumble into them/fresh sign. I'm hunting one side of a mountain today but how does one know that they aren't on the other side and being quiet? I haven't heard a single bugle and I've hunted three different areas so far during my time here.

I did get to hear a mountain lion screaming and making other sounds this morning. Pretty cool.

Bugles are awesome. And that’s what we all want to hear. But the truth is you have to be where they are. I take a “run and gun” approach to finding them. Don’t worry about being quiet...just cover a lot of ground and move to another spot. If I don’t know an area well I’ll have maybe 5 spots picked out to walk. Take some time looking for tracks, droppings, smell. Move in quickly if nothing looks fresh.

It’s a tough season so far so don’t be discouraged. But there’s no point “hunting” a spot until you have some evidence elk are there or use that area regularly.
 

Finch

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Roanoke, VA
Bugles are awesome. And that’s what we all want to hear. But the truth is you have to be where they are. I take a “run and gun” approach to finding them. Don’t worry about being quiet...just cover a lot of ground and move to another spot. If I don’t know an area well I’ll have maybe 5 spots picked out to walk. Take some time looking for tracks, droppings, smell. Move in quickly if nothing looks fresh.

It’s a tough season so far so don’t be discouraged. But there’s no point “hunting” a spot until you have some evidence elk are there or use that area regularly.

Appreciate the advice! I'm definitely moving.
 

Gerbdog

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CO Springs
I get hung up on that maybe the elk are just being quiet and I'll eventually stumble into them/fresh sign. I'm hunting one side of a mountain today but how does one know that they aren't on the other side and being quiet? I haven't heard a single bugle and I've hunted three different areas so far during my time here.

I did get to hear a mountain lion screaming and making other sounds this morning. Pretty cool.
Aaron pretty much nailed my thoughts on it.... i would keep going until you find fresh sign, and THEN i'd set up a calling sequence. A bugle here and there as your moving, or cow calls, never hurts and the inevitable noise you make while your moving may be taken as another elk moving through the woods. The elk COULD be on the otherside of the mountain like you said, and being quiet, but the bugles they make, and you make, only carry so far in the deep timber.
 

Finch

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Aaron pretty much nailed my thoughts on it.... i would keep going until you find fresh sign, and THEN i'd set up a calling sequence. A bugle here and there as your moving, or cow calls, never hurts and the inevitable noise you make while your moving may be taken as another elk moving through the woods. The elk COULD be on the otherside of the mountain like you said, and being quiet, but the bugles they make, and you make, only carry so far in the deep timber.

Thanks
 
OP
rb695

rb695

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It was nice reading the tips on this thread. I'm currently hunting and not finding the sign either. It's all old. I've seen plenty of muleys, a couple of bears, but no elk.

I'll employ these tactics. I have until archery season ends.

I think my biggest takeaway from this trip is that an area can look great and be the kind of set up you fantasize about, but if the elk aren’t there they aren’t there. I took my first trip to SD last April and was hunting areas that looked fantastic for turkeys and should’ve been loaded, but just didn’t have the birds in them. I ended up bouncing around a lot and once we found the birds we were in them each day and I was able to take a beautiful Tom. It was the most “non-turkey” looking habitat we had hunted but was loaded with birds. I guess the biggest thing I could say is hunt the animal and not just what looks best or where an animal should be if that makes sense.
 

IdahoHntr

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Idaho Falls
I think my biggest takeaway from this trip is that an area can look great and be the kind of set up you fantasize about, but if the elk aren’t there they aren’t there. I took my first trip to SD last April and was hunting areas that looked fantastic for turkeys and should’ve been loaded, but just didn’t have the birds in them. I ended up bouncing around a lot and once we found the birds we were in them each day and I was able to take a beautiful Tom. It was the most “non-turkey” looking habitat we had hunted but was loaded with birds. I guess the biggest thing I could say is hunt the animal and not just what looks best or where an animal should be if that makes sense.

This is a tough one to learn. There are times I spend too much time where the animals aren't, just because the country looks good. Especially with elk that move around so much. Just got to keep moving and until you find them or at least some fresh sign. Night bugling from the road can be a great way to find them when they are proving especially difficult to locate. Cover every canyon you can until you get a response and then you at least have a starting point. Guys with a great attitude like yours get it figured out and get it done, so just keep at it. Next year will be better.
 

jyoung1901

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May 16, 2018
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Be patient and enjoy being in nature. If you aren’t finding fresh sign move within your unit or to a different unit until you find sign. After that I have no advice. We are currently on our way back to TN after 7 days spend in 4 different units in different parts of the state. Chased one bugle in the nastiest canyon on the second day. Other than that didn’t hear a thing. The last unit we were in was loaded with fresh sign and was a dark timber north facing slope (hours old scat, rubs, wallows). We spend two days putting in about 13 miles (not on trails, about 2 miles from any trails) and going all the way up to 11k feet. We knew nothing was bugling after the first day, so began creeping along benches about 3/4 the way up, cow calling every 30-40 yards hoping to catch a bull in bed that would sound off.

What finally took the wind out of our sails was bumping a bull within 30 yards of him in his bed, knowing he had to have heard 3 series of cow calls. Wind was good. We had no idea he was there, and he refused to make a sound. We proceeded up the mountain and found a pretty fresh wallow and hours old bull scat. Sat that wallow the whole afternoon, nada.

We ran out of tactics honestly, talked to a local who had hunted the unit for 25 years and he was baffled as well. He also has a buddy that guides in a highly coveted draw unit adjacent to ours and said they had only taken 2 bulls and only seen/heard 3-4 in one of the largest herds home range in the state. Said they were fired up for a few days in the snow then went silent.

But you just have to leave it all on the mountain, and be hungry to make it happen next year.
 

colic

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Be patient and enjoy being in nature. If you aren’t finding fresh sign move within your unit or to a different unit until you find sign......

jyoung1901 I thought you were my brother when I read your post. We also came from TN and had almost the exact same experience. We broke our bodies trying to find fresh sign. We jumped in 6 or 7 different drainages between 8 days, miles back, gaining well over 1k feet elevation in each drainage. When we finally threw in the towel due to time constraints I thought my right foot was gonna break in half.

The third drainage we jumped into we got lucky and a bull responded to us at around 5 or 6 AM. We put him to bed and made a play around 11 AM but the wind that day was horrible and he was bedded in a bowl. You know the story: was a mature 6 that came into 25 yards but it was thick and the wind swirled. He had 2 or 3 steps before I could have released. We backed off after he spooked and gave him a couple hours before trying to play him again.

The craziest part of the story is the only fresh green poop we saw the whole trip was while we chased that bull a second time. We saw one fresh pee and one fresh scat. He must have been bumped from somewhere else and we just happened upon him.

We ran across one point that was full of days old poop and the bedding was rank and well used. I believe they had been bumped because there was just no fresh fresh sign. Other than that, every nice point, bench, or deep meadow was around 2-3 week old scat/rut sign. Where we got on bulls last year was the same story. Old sign, water holes dried up, no elk, no talking.

It was a rough year and it has definitely shaken us up wondering what to do from here. Seeing others having the same trouble is somewhat soothing.
 

Finch

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Roanoke, VA
I'm still at it but still not finding fresh sign. I drove an hour and some change to a different spot but the same story applies.

I went to a trailhead that we stayed at some last year. Last year we met a Mennonite family from WI. Three men (father, son, and son in law), their wives, and kids. Last year when we left, they had killed two bulls. I pulled into that trailhead the other day and hunted half the day. No elk but I did get to hear a mountain lion scream and make other noises. Anyway, I walked over to the Mennonite camp and they all three had killed branch antlered bulls, found two dead heads that looked to be 5x5s or better, a pile of sheds, and they had killed a bear. The men were hunting but I did talk to the wives. They normally stay a few weeks and the men leave camp around 3am. I don't think they ever drive to hunt.

I just can't believe how successful they are! Hell, ask me if I'd shoot a calf. 😄
 

Gerbdog

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CO Springs
I'm still at it but still not finding fresh sign. I drove an hour and some change to a different spot but the same story applies.

I went to a trailhead that we stayed at some last year. Last year we met a Mennonite family from WI. Three men (father, son, and son in law), their wives, and kids. Last year when we left, they had killed two bulls. I pulled into that trailhead the other day and hunted half the day. No elk but I did get to hear a mountain lion scream and make other noises. Anyway, I walked over to the Mennonite camp and they all three had killed branch antlered bulls, found two dead heads that looked to be 5x5s or better, a pile of sheds, and they had killed a bear. The men were hunting but I did talk to the wives. They normally stay a few weeks and the men leave camp around 3am. I don't think they ever drive to hunt.

I just can't believe how successful they are! Hell, ask me if I'd shoot a calf. 😄
You know what the Mennonites do? They go where the elk are hahaha, not to be tongue in cheek at all, they're not afraid to walk into that steep n nasty deadfall area riddled with cliff faces and oak brush thorns, just some good ole tough hunting. See where the wives said the men leave camp around 3 am? They probably don't get back to camp until 10 pm or later either. Those guys just hunt hard every single day to fill their tags.

I think the only advice I still have is just to keep moving, the elk are there, your just not running across their sign currently. Seems like scouting this summer if i just picked a direction and started walking, eventually I would get high enough or into thick enough areas, checking around the low spots that will hold wallows, and I found fresh sign eventually. Your not crossing game trails or anything you can follow for a ways? Thats one of my favorite things to do when I'm just hiking around out here in the mountains, pick a game trail and see where it ends up, jump onto a new game trail that looks like it has fresher prints in it, they can lead you to all sorts of new hunting areas you may not have spotted on a topo. Last couple days, don't give up, that bull could step out the last 5 minutes of shooting hours on the 30th, keep your head up and stay alert.
 

FlyGuy

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The Woodlands, TX
Agree with last post. You hear it a lot, it can all change in an instant. That’s exactly what happened to us.

I just wrote up the entire story if you care to read it. Maybe it gives some inspiration.

2020 CO archery Elk recap




You can’t cheat the mountain
 

Finch

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791
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Roanoke, VA
Agree with last post. You hear it a lot, it can all change in an instant. That’s exactly what happened to us.

I just wrote up the entire story if you care to read it. Maybe it gives some inspiration.

2020 CO archery Elk recap




You can’t cheat the mountain

I'll definitely read this when I get some time. Thanks! I'm getting a shower at the campground marina and going to bed. Don't have wifi or coverage anywhere but in this marina shower. :)

I just responded the following below to a PM gerbdog sent me. I nocked, unnocked, renocked, etc an arrow tonight. It almost happened.

After I hit send on that last post, i threw out a bugle and got a response. Long story short, darkness and property lines screwed me. It got intense though! 5 days and I found a bull.

I'm going back after him in the morning. Call me crazy but i think it could be the same bull i shoulder shot last season. Same piece of land and a really quiet bugle like the one I shot had. Of course, i haven't heard many other bugles to judge it by though.
 
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