Hunting heavily forested areas

AirborneEScouter

Senior Member
Joined
Apr 23, 2018
Messages
237
Location
KS
Looking for some advice - will be hunting archery elk and mule deer in an area that is primarily in the 7500-9500' elevation range in late September. Mostly there for elk but will be glad to chase muleys if given the opportunity. Fortunately it's a draw tag but the drainages we'll have at our disposal will likely be pressured and the glassing points are either atop steep mountains or don't give you a wide purview of the area as conifers or aspen groves are everywhere. Further, the "good" looking meadows are mostly near well established hiking trails. Hunting with my longtime hunting partner and and have a third tagging along for the camaraderie (he's been on an elk hunt before as well). We've driven the area and are semi-familiar from the truck but mostly going in blind since we've never actually hunted it. The local herd is supposedly strong but this will be year 3 with the previous 2 lacking success (for elk). We've always had good luck with deer and had some encounters with elk but they are elusive creatures (have always hunted OTC units).

I've been struggling to establish a game plan and hoping for some tips to help save time wandering from e-scouted spot to e-scouted spot. We have 8 or 9 days to hunt so time isn't an issue and we're used to being mobile. As much as I'd love to hike deep and set up a basecamp, it's unlikely to be a productive method for hunting as most areas are 3-4 miles or closer to roads. The elevations range from gentle at lower altitudes (7,000-8,000') to rather aggressive (8,000+). I think the general grade in the area contributes a lot to the numerous pine in the area.

I'm a deer magnet, but I'll admit, I am not a good elk "finder". I think all the TV shows and youtube videos I've watched have tainted my skillset. My first thought going into any elk hunt is to find glassing points but I've been reconsidering lately, especially considering the dense nature of the forest. The area we're hunting has a lot of good looking areas, like watering holes and feeding areas, but they are small "pocket" spots. I hate to trudge through an area blindly and without the ability to distance myself from game, but is there a better way to go about finding wildlife in a more forested area? Should I be approaching this more like turkey hunting, trying to listen for bugles, sort of quickly still hunting through the good spots? I often get hung up on hunting high early in the season - I know elk are where you find them but I can't help but think to start high. Might buy the elk 101 course this year to try and find some additional tips. Have studied this for years but still struggling! Appreciate your input as always, this forum has been a great resource and I greatly enjoy reading the variety of experiences and wisdom of others. Interested to hear your thoughts.
 
OP
A

AirborneEScouter

Senior Member
Joined
Apr 23, 2018
Messages
237
Location
KS
If I'd have only searched dark timber, I'd have found loads of posts, so apologies in advance for the redundant question. Hopefully I've asked something that strikes a cord but obviously I'm not the first person to ask about this topic. We'll use calls, selectively and conservatively, but more focus will be spent searching. My initial thoughts are to plan to cover a lot of ground since we won't have the option to glass as much. I've never spent any time in the aspens either, so that will be new
 

Dos Perros

Senior Member
Joined
Jul 30, 2015
Messages
2,329
Location
Lenexa, KS
Can the elk densities in that heavy forest be worth a darn? I'd imagine there wouldn't be much feed in there.
 
OP
A

AirborneEScouter

Senior Member
Joined
Apr 23, 2018
Messages
237
Location
KS
It’s not all dark timber, good amount of aspen groves too. The higher elevations really top out around 9k on average and the Aspen tends to be somewhat lower in the 7,500-8,000 range. I am just unfamiliar with where to expect to find them in September, expecting them to be up in the higher ranges
 

BRTreedogs

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 16, 2017
Messages
3,368
Location
Central Oregon
Id say Treeline academy would be your best bet.
It focuses on e scouting to find elk.

Your questions are very ranging and its hard to get across what is elky in text.

I think if you did that course it would help your knowledge of finding elk greatly.
 

Firestone

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 8, 2017
Messages
134
Location
Northwest Montana
If you can't glass then you are gonna have to call most likely.Plan hunts where your covering as much ground as possible, preferably make loops or hike to a separate vehicle. I like to run ridges if I can, but depends on your terrain. Cover country, find elk, screw it up, and repeat. good luck
 
OP
A

AirborneEScouter

Senior Member
Joined
Apr 23, 2018
Messages
237
Location
KS
I know, I’ve kind of wandered a little. I guess the shortest way to ask is if you had little opportunity to glass an area from afar, how are you approaching an area once you get there on foot? I think we can discern what looks like decent habitat with food water and cover. I guess the other point to make is elevations will likely only vary 1,500’ on average for what we’ll probably target if we stay on the higher areas. I think I was hoping to hear from folks who’ve had success in denser canopy covered slopes what brought them success. Yes there are plenty of openings likely with graze. It’s just not a place we’ll be glassing on a hillside with a tripod and binos/spotter
 

BRTreedogs

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 16, 2017
Messages
3,368
Location
Central Oregon
I know, I’ve kind of wandered a little. I guess the shortest way to ask is if you had little opportunity to glass an area from afar, how are you approaching an area once you get there on foot? I think we can discern what looks like decent habitat with food water and cover. I guess the other point to make is elevations will likely only vary 1,500’ on average for what we’ll probably target if we stay on the higher areas. I think I was hoping to hear from folks who’ve had success in denser canopy covered slopes what brought them success. Yes there are plenty of openings likely with graze. It’s just not a place we’ll be glassing on a hillside with a tripod and binos/spotter
Then try and zoom in and find an area with graze that is not visible from a road and you have to go up over a ridge and back down from a trail to get there.
 

Michael Rankin

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 10, 2016
Messages
158
I hunt a lot of timber for elk. There are open areas, but for the most part the elk don’t use them during daylight a majority of the time. We cover a lot of ground calling in multiple spots fo 5-10 minutes at each spot until we get a bull to answer. We also set up within a hundred yards or so of known or suspected bedding areas and call for around 30 minutes, waiting to see if something sneaks in quietly. If we feel the bulls are being vocal we do way more of the covering ground and calling. If we feel the bulls are being quiet we call between suspected bedding areas, but focus on getting close to the bedding areas and calling for 30 minutes.
 

5MilesBack

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 27, 2012
Messages
11,675
Location
Colorado Springs
All I hunt is timber, I'm not a glasser. It's all about calling for me, that's my best way of knowing exactly where they are. During September I could care less what's out there 100's of yards away through my bino's. I want them in front of me within bow range. You could hunt for days in thick timber without calling and never see an elk.
 

ShakeDown

Senior Member
Joined
Dec 20, 2017
Messages
483
Location
The Rock
Get to the backside of a ridge with good wind a few hours before shooting and listen. If the elk are close, stay put and make a plan. If they are far, get closer (but not too close!) keeping wind front of mind. Take “temperature“ of elk. Multiple bulls? Solo bull? Bull with cows?

Daylight hits, use knowledge gained to make a targeted strategy.

Call elk.

Shoot elk.
 
Last edited:

Poser

Senior Member
Joined
Dec 27, 2013
Messages
3,482
Location
Durango CO
Tricky for sure. Spend time zoomed in on a pure topo, also reference tools with slope shading. In elk country, a flat area large enough for a few elk to bed with be used as a bedding area, at least from time to time. You can cross reference these spots with an app that has sun angles and probably figure out what time of day these areas are used. If it’s a south facing slope and it’s 80 degrees, it’s probably N/A. If it’s a NW aspect and it’s 80 degrees, it’s probably good in the morning. Get into position, wait for thermals to shift, stall downhill.
 
OP
A

AirborneEScouter

Senior Member
Joined
Apr 23, 2018
Messages
237
Location
KS
This is all great stuff, thanks guys. Unfortunately I've never heard a bugle as my two elk hunts were late August/early September and a rifle hunt in October. Saw elk both times but just never got close enough to any bulls to hear them. I've read a little more since this post and have found a common theme to focus my attention on benches/flat spots and saddles/funnels. Will definitely read up more on calling strategies as I haven't delved into that aspect of the hunt as much. I feel like a golfer with a baseball swing, just need to adapt my thinking as I've been a midwest deer hunter all my life
 

Elk97

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 14, 2019
Messages
469
Location
NW WA & SW MT
Get the elknut app. Buy some reeds (Phelps gray is a good one). Learn to call (don't need to be an expert). Always have an arrow nocked when you call, and keep your head on a swivel. Good luck to you.
 

Ross

Super Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Feb 24, 2012
Messages
3,841
Location
Liberty Lake, WA
Timber is all I know and without vocalization it is a difficult task in the background I have 7 meatpoles in that timber all due to me calling or them talking….use calls and find the line they walk or use routinely….sneaking has never been my game patience yes sometimes I simply have waited them out other times full bore….good luck🤙
 

Attachments

  • 45D6CDD0-D9BC-410B-A22B-1B8CFEBDC2E0.jpeg
    45D6CDD0-D9BC-410B-A22B-1B8CFEBDC2E0.jpeg
    354.2 KB · Views: 49

Next Ridge

Senior Member
Joined
Jun 29, 2020
Messages
205
Focus on understanding the terrain and what elk need-food, water, security. That narrows down the likely spots, focus on those and just move, call, look for sign, hit a couple different elevations on a loop. Even in timber elk leave sign, especially around wallows and trails. If you don’t see sign or hear them you have to move. For example, if there is a finger with flat benches and on one side is steep thick north facing slope and the other is food/water, I would work up or down the finger (depending on wind). If I don’t see elk, a well used trail and sign or hear calling, I’d leave. When I say sign I mean sign that is new, within a day. If you don’t see that move, maybe a drainage, maybe a feature, maybe 15 miles…
 

CGS55

Newbie
Joined
Aug 7, 2019
Messages
9
Location
IDAHO
First, find suitable elk country and fresh sign. I've found that finding where the elk are currently at is sometimes the most difficult part of the hunt. Once you find them then use optics (if feasible) and spot & stalk or cover lots of ground while hitting your elk calls once in a while to see if you get a response.
 
Top