Stats and draw odds to get a gmu.
Hunt Atlas to find herd concentration areas.
Google earth and OnX to find a half dozen likely spots.
Boots on the ground to rule out some areas.
Couple seasons of hunting to really learn the most promising area and explore a couple back up spots.
I do not have a single spot like that! Over 40 years of elk hunting & still looking I guess! I'm a Runner & Gunner of elk so stay on the move until I find elk through Calling. Once in a while I'll glass them but pretty rare for the country I choose to hunt elk in. I will say it would be nice to have an area that there always in. So far finding elk the way I do has worked out well so really don't focus on A Spot. I do have a variety of areas I hope to find elk in but it's mostly a crap shoot, it's nice when they are there but most times they are not so I keep moving, I enjoy that part of the hunt as I do finding & calling them in. For the majority of times it's definitely boots on the ground that I'm familiar with or spots I want to check out via topo maps! It's all good; hope you find such a spot!
The best spots I’ve found are through Google Earth, then boots on the ground, then intuition. Often when I’m scouting a new area I’ll find more elk or sign at spot A, spot B might have the most check marks on a list of important things to look for, but spot C will be where I would be if I were a big bull regardless of all the other places. When I find the good spots they typically feel “right” even though other places may look better on paper.
As this was my first year going, and somehow happened to be successful, I'll share my process:
1.) Apply for a relatively easy to get Limited Entry Either Sex tag for 1st Rifle in CO
2.) Scout via OnX hybrid maps/topo maps in conjunction with Randy Newberg's Elk Prep videos that were released on YouTube Leading up to the season.
3.) Received tag in mail and drastically amp up Aerial Surveillance
4.) Freak out and buy a bunch of gear. Some I used, some I didn't.
5.) Arrive 2 days prior to season to scout your primary spot and set up base camp
-a.) See nice 6x6 and some nice mulies
-b.) Holy $hite, this is going to be great and easy
-c.) snows 6 more inches during the night, realize that hammock camping isn't realistic when its 20 degrees out, snowing, and only going to get worse. Plus the terrain was extremely steep and would be irresponsible to kill an animal in there and get packed out in reasonable time without getting seriously hurt or popsicle-ish
6.) Head into town, re-charge, refuel, get extra supplies and look at options B-F
7.) Hunt new option B for the next 3 days, see tons of sign, eventually see some elk, get lucky and kill a awesome 5x6.
a.) Oh yeah, it was -6 *F that morning
- we got the truck stuck too. that was fun
8.) Drive 27 hours straight back. Thought I was going to get myself killed in Atlanta. Takes a week to recover, then think about elk hunting again every day thereafter
This is an interesting topic. I have found units off gohunt and spots by e-scouting, driving to see country I haven't seen before and hiking. Found one spot from a tip but that's rare. Makes me wonder how large an area a spot should be? I guess I would define a spot being a size I can check out in half a day or so. I guess the size would vary by terrain and vegetation then.
How "big" an area would you say a typical spot is?
Boots on the ground....was glassing one hillside when I glanced at what appeared to be a bare dirt hillside a mile away and saw elk coming out and more kept showing up. Has turned out to be a goldmine, had it to myself until this past year when the amish army invaded, it always reeks of elk. My hunting strategy for years has revolved around this one spot, but that may change with the recent influx of hunters.
I went with an outfitter who guides on public land via horseback. I was very upfront about wanting to DIY when we talked. Killed a nice bull and he told me 'if you can find your way back up here on foot, more power to you'. I'm very stubborn!
Boots on the ground my photo of the area has 8 pin flags within 800 yds of each other and another 2 across the drainage all but one six points....the common denominator dark timber north slope on 8 and 8 require an uphill climb at mid line elevation on 8....8 were rifle 2 archery in an otc unit. I can always find elk on this hillside but the density of the underbrush often sends them running due to the devil wind.