Summer Elk Scouting - Worth it?

Ironman8

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What's the consensus on summer Elk scouting for an out of stater who only has a long weekend available to get out and scout before season? Is it worth the time? This would be for Colorado OTC. Actual hunt dates would be in the third week of the season. This will also be in a brand new area as we have decided not to go back to our old areas.

Some follow on questions...

- When would be an "optimal" time to go? (How early is too early?)
- Will the elk be in the same general areas come mid season? Or found in totally different units?
- Is any location change typically due to seasonal patterns or due to hunting pressure?
- Would this late Spring effect what you look for or how the elk will behave from now until season?
 

cnelk

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Is it worth the time? YES

Since this is a new area to you, every minute you can scout you will be that much ahead of the game.

- When would be an "optimal" time to go? (How early is too early?)
July is good. Mosquitoes will be abundant tho. You'll prob get some afternoon rain showers to cool things off

- Will the elk be in the same general areas come mid season? Or found in totally different units?
Who knows. Dont need to 'see' elk, just sign of them, rubs trails etc. Get to know the lay of the land

- Is any location change typically due to seasonal patterns or due to hunting pressure?
Could be. You wont know that until you're there and see what hunting pressure there is - it can vary year to year

- Would this late Spring effect what you look for or how the elk will behave from now until season?
Late spring? Where?
 

oldgoat

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I wouldn't waste my time scouting otc for one weekend, barely do it living here on years I have to hunt otc. Considering you would probably only have time scout one spot, there are to many ways it can get blown out before then, sheep, other hunters etc. Last season we were going to a place we knew and was usually a good spot first week and we got there day before season opened and the sheep were already in the spot they don't usually get too till after opening weekend. So had we scouted, it wouldn't have helped. I would just put more time into digital scouting and investing the money you saved on gas on gear or membership to hunting fools type web site.
 

Idahohillboy

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I agree with Old Goat. I scout muleys only elk are gonna be where elk are. To many variables with elk including things like other hunters camped in the middle of your spot.

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Vids

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If you've never been there before it's definitely worth it to figure out the lay of the land, which roads are decent, glassing points, etc. Like cnelk said, don't worry about seeing elk, look for sign. Do your internet scouting first, identify likely areas and then hike through those looking for sign.

No matter what you find when you scout it will be a crap shoot once hunting season arrives. A lot of variables can make them move. A few years ago I scouted a rifle area in September - saw a lot of fresh sign in the meadows and spotted bedded elk right in the vicinity. Three weeks later I hiked in there and the vegetation had frozen and all the sign was old, they had left for some reason (I think for better feed). This is an area that not many people hike into either so I don't think hunting pressure was a factor.
 
OP
Ironman8

Ironman8

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@ cnelk, justin, Vids...
Thanks for the input, so it seems that I should be focusing on access, lay of the land, and sign more than actually seeing elk. I guess I was just curious if the elk tended to move due to seasonal migration patterns or if it was hunting pressure...and whether that would happen between July and September? Also, Justin, no it doesn't matter what anyone thinks, but you guys that live there know better than me if the time/expense would be worth it. But our main frustration (and biggest time waster) was bad access to areas and not really knowing the lay of the land. Other than Google Earth, we were going in blind, so looking at it from that angle, it makes sense.

@ Old Goat, Idahohillboy...
Thank y'all as well, would your opinion change if I'm focusing more on the area as opposed to finding elk?
 

hobbes

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I no longer live in Colorado, but which western state I currently live in really makes no difference.*

My 2 cents………….. Elk migrating from higher to lower elevation is brought on my deep snow.* The snow that you may see in September is very unlikely to cause elk to migrate.* They may move because of it but I wouldn’t expect it to be their annual winter migration from higher elevations.* Some elk stay at lower elevations near winter range anyway, so if you are hunting them they may not migrate significantly for winter.

Considering that you won’t be there until the middle of September, closer to season may not make that much difference since there will be a couple weeks of hunting pressure before you get there.* But, I’d go scout in the middle of August if I were going just to be closer to season, not that they move too much from July to August.

The movement that you must worry about is just their normal movement patterns and hunting pressure.* I had one area in Colorado that I could be in elk on opening weekend, but I knew after a few days most elk were blown out and over the divide onto private property.* This was easily accessible country that screamed elk even on google earth, so it gets hammered.* If you are in OTC, easy access, beautiful country……….more than likely it will be hunted and elk will get pushed around until they decide to bail off into a sanctuary area.* That may be private land, the next drainage over that gets overlooked, or even an area close to the road that is a hell hole that hunters avoid.

*Besides hunting pressure moving them, I believe that elk herds will move just as the normal course of their day to day activities play out, not always because they need to but because they just choose to.* There is also the livestock factor that can affect them.* Cattle not as much as sheep.* Dang I hated finding sheep in my hunting area in Colorado.* It probably wasn’t the sheep as much as the sheep herder and his dogs that moved them.

Scouting is always beneficial especially for gaining some on the ground understanding of a new area.* I’d do like mentioned above and look for areas on google earth or something similar (especially in 3D mode) that look promising and check those out if even from a high vantage point early morning and late evening with glass if possible.* I’d pick out several areas, more than you can cover, if you decide to go.* There have been plenty of places that looked good on the map that I crossed off the list, or at least quickly bumped down the list, after showing up and looking at it.

How far are you from Colorado?* How many days do you realistically need to travel and can you work all that travel and a worthwhile scouting trip into a long weekend.* A scouting trip that is only a couple miles in can burn up a lot of time in steep country and not really produce a lot of information, especially if you just drove hours upon hours into high altitude that you aren’t accustomed to.* It may be more beneficial to add a few days to your hunt.

*
 

Jordan Budd

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I agree that if you can take a scouting trip, definitely do it, especially if you've never been in the area. It will look quit a bit different on the ground than on google earth. It'll be much better to get the orientation with the general area out of the way in the summer when you don't care so much about bumping animals around. Otherwise you may waste a day or two of hunting time just adjusting to how the area is rather than what you thought it'd be. I literally drove by a canyon I wanted to hike up 4 times a few years ago in a new area just because it looked so different. Look for things like glassing points, camping spots and access points, then mark them on your GPS. That way especially with a camping/glassing spot, you can hike in in the dark. I've planned trips out on google earth and marked potential camping/glassing points that looked awesome, then got into the area and ditched them because they were terrible. Much better to figure all that out in the off season in my opinion.

Also, maybe put out a trail camera if your in an area that allows.. on a good looking trail or water source that looks like it would still be there during September. Then when you arrive you can go check what may be in the area.
 

cnelk

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I dunno guys.
Not sure why anyone wouldn't want to pre scout a new area.

I can't wait to get boots on the ground in my spots each summer, and I been hunting them for close to 30 years.
And maybe that's why we've pulled over 100 elk out of the woods in those spots too.

But guys will do it their own way and that's cool.
And success rates will reflect it
 

Jason Snyder

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Absolutely pre scout.

When I am looking at a new area, the first thing I do is do a lot of driving. Sometimes a whole day is spent locating trailheads, driving out dead end roads to see if they are used as campsites, and cross referencing things with my MVUM from the local ranger district. As Jordan said, things look different on the ground, and they look even more different at 400 AM.

Next, I pick a few drainage to look at. I try to stay high so I can get a good overview of the country. I'm not really looking for elk, but I'll usually run into some. I'm looking for 1) water, 2) elk trails, 3) rubs and bedding areas. I can have a pretty good idea going in where I want to look from studying the topos and aerials. When I have boots on the ground, I'm not spending a lot of time in any given area. I just want to cover some country.

If you locate a good camp site, glossing area, etc. log it in your GPS so you can find it in the dark. Also,
 

oldgoat

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Yeah, I think just learning access etc would be good, I base a lot of what I say based on figuring you are more than one state away and for a long weekend you would be doing a lot of driving and not a lot of scouting plus unless you wait till August you stand a high chance of getting into a monsoonal weather pattern and raining you out, also assuming you're doing a backpack hunt, so meaningful scouting for one spot would take a day or more. If using a maintained trail system to access area you want to hunt, there are non hunting based hiking websites that give access information, haven't used them hardly at all so can't point you anywhere there! Don't get me wrong, I understand the importance of boots on the ground scouting, I just don't see you getting a lot done over a long weekend when you are more than a couple of hours from the trail! And you have to take into account with my responses that I'm over fifty, don't hike super fast and am frugal with my time energy and gas money when I could be spending it more fruitfully somewhere else! Good luck, however you do your scouting it won't be a mistake if you learn something from it, good or bad to use next time!
 

Jason Snyder

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I can certainly tell you this, spending a weekend in the summer driving around and finding your spur roads and access points is a HELL of a lot easier than trying to do it at 100 AM when you've been driving for 8 hours already and you still have a two hour hike in to camp. Those are the times when you find out how good your sense of humor is, and how much your hunting buddy really likes you.

Right Ted?
 

mod700

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I'd go for sure, I'd look at it this way, if you get to spend 1-1/2 days early looking over the country, getting a plan together, you'll be 1-1/2 days ahead come hunt time.
Mike
 

Bar

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I pre-scout a lot because I like watching elk. I'm looking more for bedding areas more than anything. I'm never concerned with water. Elk will travel a long way for water. Food only counts if that food will be there in hunting season. Good bedding areas will work for a lot of different areas. They can go in many directions from bedding areas. Where they hang out during the day is what i'm looking for.

We hunt different ways and we look for different things. Make sure you hunt the same way as the person you're taking advice from.
 

oldgoat

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So, what if, had a thought and re-read your OP, any way you can make your long weekend out scouting on Labor Day weekend? Then you could actually hunt and scout?
 

FlyGuy

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I agree that if you can take a scouting trip, definitely do it, especially if you've never been in the area. It will look quit a bit different on the ground than on google earth. It'll be much better to get the orientation with the general area out of the way in the summer when you don't care so much about bumping animals around. Otherwise you may waste a day or two of hunting time just adjusting to how the area is rather than what you thought it'd be. I literally drove by a canyon I wanted to hike up 4 times a few years ago in a new area just because it looked so different. Look for things like glassing points, camping spots and access points, then mark them on your GPS. That way especially with a camping/glassing spot, you can hike in in the dark. I've planned trips out on google earth and marked potential camping/glassing points that looked awesome, then got into the area and ditched them because they were terrible. Much better to figure all that out in the off season in my opinion.

Also, maybe put out a trail camera if your in an area that allows.. on a good looking trail or water source that looks like it would still be there during September. Then when you arrive you can go check what may be in the area.
I'm with Jordan on this. I'd have killed to have had even one day of just driving around the unit prior to arriving at last year's hunt area. I seriously underestimated the actual scale and terrain of our hunt area in Google Earth. In fact, I don't think I've ever been more wrong about anything else in my life. That mistake cost us a lot of good hunting time that I would have paid a lot of money to have had back. Also agree on the access and Glassing points, verifying those and saving waypoints in your GPS will make things a lot less stressful when you are running around in the dark trying to beat the dawn. This year I'm flying in for a 3 day camping/scouting trip at the end of July. (And hopefully a little fly fishing too)




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Jordan Budd

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I'm with Jordan on this. I'd have killed to have had even one day of just driving around the unit prior to arriving at last year's hunt area. I seriously underestimated the actual scale and terrain of our hunt area in Google Earth. In fact, I don't think I've ever been more wrong about anything else in my life. That mistake cost us a lot of good hunting time that I would have paid a lot of money to have had back. Also agree on the access and Glassing points, verifying those and saving waypoints in your GPS will make things a lot less stressful when you are running around in the dark trying to beat the dawn. This year I'm flying in for a 3 day camping/scouting trip at the end of July. (And hopefully a little fly fishing too)




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It definitely happens! Utilize the measure tool in google earth and measure things out. That same trip I had a (what I thought) 8 mile round trip route planned one day and ended up being like 15 miles.. I made it to a couple of spots and was like no way is that going to happen today. Lol.


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sab

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I'm an out-of-stater when it comes to all my western hunting, and I try to do a long weekend in summer when looking at new areas, but I'm not necessarily scouting for game; rather, I'm scouting for terrain - roads, trail heads, meadows, etc. It helps to have a "lay of the land" ahead of time!

Regards,
Scott
 
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