Where did they go? (Scouting question)

307

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Jun 18, 2014
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Cheyenne
This past weekend, I returned to the exact location I scouted/camped a month ago. Last month, there were elk EVERYWHERE. Literally every meadow I could glass from the high point where I camped, I'd see Elk. Even had one barking at me all night while in my tent, both nights... Almost all cows and calves, a couple of spikes and out of the 250+ elk I saw that weekend, there was exactly one branch antlered bull. I was at 11k and glassing huge meadows/valleys full of elk.

This past weekend, I saw a total of 6 elk, and that was on the pack out, at a lower elevation. There were ZERO elk in the big meadows/valleys, nor in the many smaller meadows I could see below me.

I was at/near the highest elevation in the area, so they couldn't really be above me.

The only difference that I could come up with was the presence of moo cows... There weren't a lot of cattle that I saw, but they were definitely in the area.

So, in another month archery elk season opens. A month ago, it seemed to be a no-brainer to be in that area on Sept 1. Now, I'm not so sure. I don't know when the cattle will be removed from the area nor how long it will take for the elk to move back in (assuming the cattle are the reason they left.)

Of the few elk I did see, they were probably less than 100m from a group of cattle... So maybe it isn't he cattle after all???
 

Gerbdog

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Jun 8, 2020
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CO Springs
Did you climb into the areas you saw them previously and see how old the sign was? They dont always just hang out in one area and make large /wide/ multiple week long circuits of many many miles .... That and their habits are going to change as the rut approaches. Summer hang out area is not the same as the rutting area.... are there multiple years worth of rubs in the area you were scouting? If not... well the bulls werent there during the rut... which means the cows werent there during the rut either.... If the area is covered in multiple years worth of rubs there is a good chance some elk may still be there once the rut kicks in.

The moo cows have potential to decimate the good feed in an area for elk.... its possible the moo cows pushed them into other areas for certain, just depends how long the moo cows were there and if the ranchers let the moo cows graze it down to nothing... normally ranchers are careful not to let this happen because that means their moo cows arent growing as big and strong as they could if they moved them to better grazing areas
 

AGPank

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Jan 16, 2013
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957
I hunt unit 12 in CO. Livestock on the forest has effects. Both competition for food, but ranchers on horseback moving them. Maybe they just moved into thicker cover?


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Laramie

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Apr 17, 2020
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Cattle and the activities of ranchers will absolutely move the majority of elk out of an area. I have some high country that I have hunted for 20+ years. On years they move cattle in, it's not even worth hunting.

I typically find them a few miles miles on the other side of the fence from the cows. Unfortunately for me this is typically heavier cover where they are tougher to locate.
 
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Idaho4x4Bronco

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Joined
Oct 25, 2019
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518
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Sandpoint ID
This past weekend, I returned to the exact location I scouted/camped a month ago. Last month, there were elk EVERYWHERE. Literally every meadow I could glass from the high point where I camped, I'd see Elk. Even had one barking at me all night while in my tent, both nights... Almost all cows and calves, a couple of spikes and out of the 250+ elk I saw that weekend, there was exactly one branch antlered bull. I was at 11k and glassing huge meadows/valleys full of elk.

This past weekend, I saw a total of 6 elk, and that was on the pack out, at a lower elevation. There were ZERO elk in the big meadows/valleys, nor in the many smaller meadows I could see below me.

I was at/near the highest elevation in the area, so they couldn't really be above me.

The only difference that I could come up with was the presence of moo cows... There weren't a lot of cattle that I saw, but they were definitely in the area.

So, in another month archery elk season opens. A month ago, it seemed to be a no-brainer to be in that area on Sept 1. Now, I'm not so sure. I don't know when the cattle will be removed from the area nor how long it will take for the elk to move back in (assuming the cattle are the reason they left.)

Of the few elk I did see, they were probably less than 100m from a group of cattle... So maybe it isn't he cattle after all???
Assuming there's anywhere not on fire to hunt, my experience has always been give yourself a 3 mile loop in any direction. Elk tend to move to the same areas, they just rotate from area to area. Usually within 3 miles of the last area they were in.

This is just my personal experience, however I am verrrrry successful with it.
 

Poser

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Dec 27, 2013
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Location
Durango CO
Once the calves are mature enough to move, elk will leave calving grounds and start moving around. They’ll also begin to herd up with bulls sometime in August. A month ago was July 2nd -some years elk aren’t even in the high country yet due to snow. Since high, sun exposed slopes often offer the best early season grazing, they’ll hit those first and start moving down. Early July glassing, fun as it may be, doesn’t tell you much about where you should be hunting in September.
 

westrnwild

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 13, 2014
Messages
337
Location
Colorado
Follow the food. Elk will move to the best food. I have experienced the same thing to either find them higher/lower depending on the food. As others have said ranching activity can have an effect. However, if they are used to it it won't matter as much. I've killed a bull with moo cows less then 300 yards away.

This weekend was tough sledding due to weather where I was. That could also have an effect.
 
Joined
May 8, 2019
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FS requires most ranchers to have everything off of the grazing allotments by 10/1. If your area is anything like mine those moo cows will be on the forest until the last possible second.

I had a similar experience a couple weeks ago. A friend and I were scouting a “nursery area” around 10,000-11,000 ft. There were elk behind every tree. What wasn’t there was rut sign. There other “concerning” thing was that the grass around 9000 ft. was already dry and curing. This makes me think that once those cow groups graze out the good stuff in the 9500-11000 range they will be on to (literally) greener pastures.

I like to see the combination of old rut sign, water and decent feed in a general area. Finding a few old kill sites is the cherry on top. After all there really are no “secret” honey holes anymore (at least in CO).


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