Not seeing elk the whole trip

justin84

Senior Member
Joined
Apr 12, 2019
Messages
115
Location
Wisconsin
Too many guys who have hunted whitetails all their life are used to waiting for the animal to come to them. It is perfectly acceptable to run right the hell at a bunch of elk, making noise and get into them. Elk make noise. You make elk noise. Move in and kill them.

Sent from my SM-G955U using Tapatalk
It's a hard habit to break!
 

justin84

Senior Member
Joined
Apr 12, 2019
Messages
115
Location
Wisconsin
This has been a great conversation so far! After reading through everything I am re-thinking my strategy if I'm lucky enough to draw my first elk tag this year.
 

mxgsfmdpx

Senior Member
Joined
Oct 22, 2019
Messages
722
Location
Northern California
OP. Last time I was in Colorado I was on my way to Estes Park for the rodeo. 2 cow elk were holding up traffic on highway 34. I was 2nd in line. They were cruising at a slow jog for about 5 or 6 miles literally down the middle of the highway. They finally turned off and went up one of the steep faces to North East

This was the moment I thought to myself. I really need to get out to Colorado for elk one of these days.

Do you have a chance to do any scouting before your trip?

If you aren’t able to scout I would seriously consider trying to hunt out of your vehicle instead of packing in and having to worry about that on top of trying to fill your tag.

This is a very fair warning and something that people don’t realize. You can’t always leave your vehicle overnight at many places. All the google maps and OnXing you do can’t prepare you for “shit, I can’t park my truck overnight within 15 miles of where I planned to hunt.” Another reason that using your truck as a base camp will work well. Return to it every evening, park somewhere you won’t get towed or cited and get some quality sleep and hit it hard again the next day.
 
Last edited:

Indian Summer

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 17, 2013
Messages
394
Another mistake many make is they hunt elk like WTs back home.

That tends to reduce the opportunity to see elk.
Hell yes! I’ve guided some really good whitetail hunters that I literally had to drag through the mountains because they wanted to watch every step being sure not to snap a twig. I’d tell them cmon man this is a dead zone I have somewhere I’m trying to get to asap. Nope..... sneak sneak sneak.
 

sneaky

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 1, 2014
Messages
5,136
Location
ID
OP. Last time I was in Colorado I was on my way to Estes Park for the rodeo. 2 cow elk were holding up traffic on highway 34. I was 2nd in line. They were cruising at a slow jog for about 5 or 6 miles literally down the middle of the highway. They finally turned off and went up one of the steep faces to North East

This was the moment I thought to myself. I really need to get out to Colorado for elk one of these days.

Do you have a chance to do any scouting before your trip?

If you aren’t able to scout I would seriously consider trying to hunt out of your vehicle instead of packing in and having to worry about that on top of trying to fill your tag.

This is a very fair warning and something that people don’t realize. You can’t always leave your vehicle overnight at many places. All the google maps and OnXing you do can’t prepare you for “shit, I can’t park my truck overnight within 15 miles of where I planned to hunt.” Another reason that using your truck as a base camp will work well. Return to it every evening, park somewhere you won’t get towed or cited and get some quality sleep and hit it hard again the next day.
That's easy. Don't park it on state land. National forest you can park pretty much anywhere there's a wide enough shoulder, pull out, gated road etc. State land is the issue with no overnight stays.

Sent from my SM-G955U using Tapatalk
 

mxgsfmdpx

Senior Member
Joined
Oct 22, 2019
Messages
722
Location
Northern California
That's easy. Don't park it on state land. National forest you can park pretty much anywhere there's a wide enough shoulder, pull out, gated road etc. State land is the issue with no overnight stays.

Sent from my SM-G955U using Tapatalk
Not always the case and tough to tell a guy coming from the East coast with no knowledge of the area to “just park anywhere in the forest”. Not realistic at all.
 

sneaky

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 1, 2014
Messages
5,136
Location
ID
Not always the case and tough to tell a guy coming from the East coast with no knowledge of the area to “just park anywhere in the forest”. Not realistic at all.
If they've done ANY research at all, they'll know whether or not the spot they've picked out is State forest, or National Forest, or BLM. If they don't have that info already figured out, they've got bigger issues than where to park. There's no overnight camping or parking on state land, but VERY few restricted places for parking on national forest or BLM land. Those places are usually marked as such.

Sent from my SM-G955U using Tapatalk
 

xziang

Senior Member
Joined
Oct 8, 2014
Messages
660
Location
Nebraska
Like you said earlier want the experience of backpacking in etc. First time in a friend and i planned for 5 days. Well we weren't seeing or hearing shiet. Bailed after 2 nights. Learned after that trip to truck camp and or plan for only 2 over nighters on a big loop back to the truck. Much easier to cover miles with a light pack then a heavy pack!!
 

trophyhill

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 27, 2012
Messages
961
Location
Tijeras NM
If a guy isn't seeing elk, either he isn't putting any effort into it, or he isn't hunting in the right spot. You have to keep moving until you find them. If that means jumping in the truck and moving 30 miles, then sobeit ;)
 

roosiebull

Senior Member
Joined
Aug 23, 2014
Messages
313
Location
oregon coast
i'm not sticking around if i'm not seeing sign.... if there is good sign around, then I can be confident they are close enough to get amongst. if you aren't seeing sign, or elk, then cover ground until you do.... if you are seeing sign and no elk, try to figure out why... maybe the sign you are seeing is made at night? start trying to figure that out, but don't abandon fresh elk sign.

the timeframe you are going, bulls will be around more elk, so if you aren't seeing sign, keep moving. early season, before the bulls get going, that approach may be different, because a couple bulls in a canyon won't leave much sign.... I like early season because most people don't ;)

there is a long list of reasons why someone may not see elk, but if you are in elk country, not concerned with what you're doing out there solo in the mountains, and have decent physical ability and high ambition, you'll have encounters. don't get stuck doing something that's not working.... be versatile and keep an open mind.

if you are going to follow someone's advice, pay attention who is giving the advice... if someone doesn't kill elk every year or almost every year they hunt them, don't take their advice as gospel, people seem to get hung up on something that worked once or twice, but didn't work a bunch of times.... don't emulate that style, haha.

maybe reach out to some people who have hunted the country you plan on hunting, and have had consistent success there, so you know what to expect. there are certainly regional quirks that can make life easy knowing.

hunting solo, stay within your means, don't bite off more than you can chew, because concern leads to doubt, and doubt doesn't add to you effectiveness in the mountains.

we are in a trend right now of "going deep" so don't overlook the easy obvious spots, especially solo, it may actually have less pressure closer in some/many areas.

archery elk hunting often seems nearly impossible, and then you get that encounter that seems so easy... no matter how bad things are going, stay motivated and have faith knowing it can change in a minute.... you could go elk-less for 5 days, and find that little pocket on morning 6 and stay in elk for days after that... there will be slow times most likely, but just keep hunting like it's the last day... persistence kills elk.... i'm a testament to that.... I don't think i'm a great elk hunter, but I just don't get phased by lack of action, I know that slam dunk encounter is coming if I keep hunting for it, and it always seems to.

don't let yourself make excuses, that will make you slack... full moon, too hot, too windy, too many hunters etc.... don't worry about it and just try to use the best strategy you can that makes sense in the conditions you have... those factors take a lot of people out mentally.

when hunting is tough, remind yourself how much you anticipated that hunt all year, that much anticipated and preparation deserves full effort.

worst case scenario would be looking back on the season knowing you could have tried harder, and what may have come if you did....
 
OP
K

Kcarlson63

Junior Member
Joined
Dec 2, 2019
Messages
19
i'm not sticking around if i'm not seeing sign.... if there is good sign around, then I can be confident they are close enough to get amongst. if you aren't seeing sign, or elk, then cover ground until you do.... if you are seeing sign and no elk, try to figure out why... maybe the sign you are seeing is made at night? start trying to figure that out, but don't abandon fresh elk sign.

the timeframe you are going, bulls will be around more elk, so if you aren't seeing sign, keep moving. early season, before the bulls get going, that approach may be different, because a couple bulls in a canyon won't leave much sign.... I like early season because most people don't ;)

there is a long list of reasons why someone may not see elk, but if you are in elk country, not concerned with what you're doing out there solo in the mountains, and have decent physical ability and high ambition, you'll have encounters. don't get stuck doing something that's not working.... be versatile and keep an open mind.

if you are going to follow someone's advice, pay attention who is giving the advice... if someone doesn't kill elk every year or almost every year they hunt them, don't take their advice as gospel, people seem to get hung up on something that worked once or twice, but didn't work a bunch of times.... don't emulate that style, haha.

maybe reach out to some people who have hunted the country you plan on hunting, and have had consistent success there, so you know what to expect. there are certainly regional quirks that can make life easy knowing.

hunting solo, stay within your means, don't bite off more than you can chew, because concern leads to doubt, and doubt doesn't add to you effectiveness in the mountains.

we are in a trend right now of "going deep" so don't overlook the easy obvious spots, especially solo, it may actually have less pressure closer in some/many areas.

archery elk hunting often seems nearly impossible, and then you get that encounter that seems so easy... no matter how bad things are going, stay motivated and have faith knowing it can change in a minute.... you could go elk-less for 5 days, and find that little pocket on morning 6 and stay in elk for days after that... there will be slow times most likely, but just keep hunting like it's the last day... persistence kills elk.... i'm a testament to that.... I don't think i'm a great elk hunter, but I just don't get phased by lack of action, I know that slam dunk encounter is coming if I keep hunting for it, and it always seems to.

don't let yourself make excuses, that will make you slack... full moon, too hot, too windy, too many hunters etc.... don't worry about it and just try to use the best strategy you can that makes sense in the conditions you have... those factors take a lot of people out mentally.

when hunting is tough, remind yourself how much you anticipated that hunt all year, that much anticipated and preparation deserves full effort.

worst case scenario would be looking back on the season knowing you could have tried harder, and what may have come if you did....
This is a much appreciated post. Thank you
 

Jr1282

Junior Member
Joined
Feb 26, 2020
Messages
11
As I’ve spent hours upon hours planning my first trip out west, I have of course spent a lot of time on this forum. In doing so you obviously see a lot of comments between the guys who make it happen those that never get the opportunity. Going solo on an archery hunt from the 10th-26th. Packing in with enough to stay out 5-7 days at a time if need be. Not afraid to stay out or move if it’s not happening where I am at. And multiple backup plans. For either party..the successful guys or non-successful..what do you think the biggest reasons are for not even seeing an elk at all the whole trip?

-area your in?
-lack of elk knowledge?
-physical or mental limitations?
-hunter pressure?
-something I haven’t listed?

Just trying to gain all the information that’s free on here if your willing to put yourself out there and ask the questions. Probably will be the one of many more threads I’ll put out there before I get in the truck and go.

Thanks for any help guys!
I know last year I made the mistake of camping too close to their one of their feeding areas they were hitting over night. After that first night, our sign dried up.
 

davsco

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 30, 2018
Messages
407
Location
VA
my first year elk hunting, 2018 first rifle nw colo west of meeker, we got out there a week early and covered a LOT of ground via truck and then hiking. saw two groups of nice bulls way on private property before the season, then two cows strolled by first light on first day, then NOTHING the rest of the week despite trying a lot of different areas and hiking in and around 1-6 miles a day.

last year, this time east of meeker, same thing. but didn't see any elk before or during the hunt. pretty disappointing.

i just couldn't find the right real estate, or what i think was the right real estate. either so steep that there was no way i could get anywhere near an elk without being made, or flatter but totally dense again such that they would have heard me way before i got close.

the couple of places i found where i could actually look out a mile + thru sparser trees and brush, never saw anything either. and this is getting up there an hour before sunrise and staying there til it was too dark to see.

i did see a fair amount of muleys both years including some really nice ones.
 
Top