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Big Game Hunting - Elk Elk Hunting Elk hunting is an experience like no other type of big game hunting. When you are out in the woods, surrounded by a herd of elk, large or small, it is all inspiring. The magnificent size of an Elk gets the heartbeat going, and the sound of the herd is amazing. When an Elk is bugling to locate and call in the cows, it is a breathtaking experience. Type of Hunt - Guided or Self Guided Hunt Elk hunting is an expensive hunt. All the Hunting Gear and supplies, your expensive rifle or compound bow, your hunting tag, groceries, gas for your trip, camping gear, a stop at the casino to register for your big buck contest, and so on. It all adds up, to a lot. Is it better to hunt on your own, as a self guided hunt. Or, is it better to hire a guide. If you successfully get an elk, you’ll get about 230 pounds of meat to fill up your freezer. If you spend the money and hire a guide it’s pretty much a sure thing, though not a guarantee, and it will add to the cost significantly. Other options to improve your chances of getting an elk is to pay a trespass fee to a landowner to hunt on some good private land that has a lot less hunting pressure than any public land would have, or a drop camp where a guide will haul you up into the back country, and your gear, then pick you back up a week or two later, depending on how long the season is. Drop camps get you far enough into the backcountry where you will have the woods to yourself, or your group, and they can setup a Hunting Outfitter Tent to set you up in style. Elk Hunting Tags All states are different in how they manage big game, so check with the state that you will be hunting in for their specific tag requirements. Types of Elk In the United States, we have three main types of Elk. The American Elk (also known as the Rocky Mountain Elk), the Roosevelt Elk, and the Tule Elk. Tule Elk Tule Elk weigh about 600 pounds and live in California. The Tule Elk is a subspecies of Elk found only in California. They can be found in the grasslands and marshlands in the Central Valley, and the grassy hillsides along the coast. Rocky Mountain Elk (American Elk ) Rocky Mountain Elk weigh about 800 pounds, and most of them live in Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and Idaho. The American elk can largely be found on the land west of the Mississippi River. American elk are also referred to as the Rocky Mountain elk. Bull elks of this type of reach weights of 800 pounds. To get some perspective, the average cow weighs around 450-500 pounds. Most American elk can be found in Colorado. There are estimates of 300,000 elk living in this state.Hunters will find the biggest herds near the Sun River in Montana, Yellowstone Park and the Olympic Mountains in Washington. The Rocky Mountain elk (Cervus canadensis nelsoni) is a subspecies of elk found in the Rocky Mountains and adjacent ranges of Western North America. The winter ranges are most common in open forests and floodplain marshes in the lower elevations. In the summer it migrates to the subalpine forests and alpine basins. Elk have a diverse habitat range that they can reside in but are most often found in forest and forest edge habitat and in mountain regions they often stay in higher elevations during warmer months and migrate down lower in the winter. They may even come down the mountain and leave the forest into some grassland for part of the day but head back into the timber in the evening. Climate change/warming can keep elk in their higher elevation habitats for longer into the winter than normal.Climate changes such as warming have in some cases even increased the seasonal range of elk in the winter. For example, in Yellowstone the climate warming has kept the snow at a lower level than in the past and has given the elk the ability to populate higher ranges than before. The lack of snow in Yellowstone has also given the elk an advantage over the wolves in their predator prey relationship because wolves rely on deep snow to hunt elk in winter ranges of Yellowstone. The total wild population is about one million individuals. The Rocky Mountain elk was reintroduced in 1913 to Colorado from Wyoming after the near extinction of the regional herds. While overhunting is a significant contributing factor, the elk’s near extinction is mainly attributed to human encroachment and destruction of their natural habitats and migratory corridors. A year later, twenty-one elk from Jackson Hole, Wyoming were reintroduced to South Dakota's Wind Cave National Park for population increase.[2]. Conservation efforts also brought the elk populations in New Mexico from near zero numbers in the late 1800s and early 1900s, to healthy populations in the 1930s in Northern New Mexico. Population numbers of elk in Nebraska continued to increase through the 1970s and 1980s, to a level in which complaints from landowners in the Pine Ridge region led to the implementation of relatively liberal hunting seasons in the late 1980s. Elk numbers continued to increase through the 1990s to the present. All Rocky Mountain elk in Washington are the result of reintroductions conducted in the early 1900s from Yellowstone elk herds. These initial reintroductions have expanded their range and have also been translocated within the State. Not all of these elk have all the habitat to be successful in large numbers; supplemental feeding programs are used to compensate for lost winter range .[3] Rocky Mountain elk from Arizona, Kansas, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, and Utah were used to introduce this elk subspecies to the former eastern elk range. Kentucky Roosevelt Elk Size: 1000 Pounds Location: WA, CA, OR The Roosevelt Elk, the largest species of Elk, can reach up to 1000 pounds. They can be found in Washington, Northern California and Oregon. Roosevelt Elk are a little harder to hunt because the live in wet and rugged terrain, and the bugle less than the Rocky Mountain Elk. Roosevelt Elk like to eat weeds and grass during the spring and early summer and switch to wild blackberries, maple, huckleberry and salal, as they ripen in the fall. Hunting Gear Hunting Weapons Compound Bows Crossbows Rifles Shotguns Handguns - Pistols - Revolvers Air Gun Rifles - Legal for Hunting in Some States Ammo & Arrows Bullets Arrows Broadheads Miscellaneous Big Game Bags Big Game Calls Binoculars Camo Clothing Hunting Blind Hunting Knife Set Hunting Maps and GPS Maps Rangefinder Shooting Tripod Scent Trail Camera Two-Way Radio Research and Planning for the Best Chance of Success Before Elk season begins, it’s a good idea to study the area you will be hunting, and to do some pre-season scouting to locate the animals that you want to target in your hunt. The most successful hunters will spend a lot of time in their hunting grounds to take a look at their favorite spots to locate some animals, and learn their patterns throughout the different seasons of the year, so they can have a better chance at spotting the animals that they are looking for during the hunting season. The key to a successful hunt is to learn their eating habits, locate their primary food sources, and water sources. If you find a good source of food, a good source of water, the chances are that you will see game trails to and from those life sustaining nutrients and hydration, that will also lead you to where they hide during the day, and where they will hide when the hunting season starts. Mapping Your Hunt To map your hunt, you will need to make use of both free online resources, and tools that you can purchase to give you the cutting edge technologies to help you with your hunt. I use google maps for a free resource with their satellite view, I purchase a good map book, I bought a nice Handheld GPS, along with the software from onX Hunting Maps. Details of each are below. I use OnXMaps to identify property boundaries. I used to spot deer herds, and big bucks, and not be able to tell if I am still in my zone, or still withing the property boundary of my hunting area to be able to shoot. I always error on the side of caution, and do not take the shot. I would pull out maps, and my gps, and try to figure it out, but it takes too long. With OnXMaps, I always know exactly where the boundaries are, and if it’s ok to shoot. By far the most time saving piece of equipment that I have. What to Hunt Them With Now you know the where, it’s time to figure out the how. How do you want to target elk. The most popular type of hunting for elk is Rifle hunting, in some states this is known as the general season. Many places will let you use a shotgun, or a crossbow, during the general season as well. I prefer to use a compound bow in Archery Season, and if I am not successful during archery season I will use a rifle in the general season. Air rifles have been gaining in popularity for big game hunting, and the advancements in technology has made this possible in areas where it is allowed. I like to hunt during archery season because there are a lot less people that choose to hunt with a compound bow. Also, a bow is very quiet, so there are a lot less people in the mountains, and a lot less noise, so the deer are a lot less jumpy. There are also out and about more during the day, providing for more opportunity to see more animals. No matter what you like to hunt with, I would recommend a nice large gun safe to store you expensive gear, as well as your firearms and bows, to keep them safe and secure. Additional Items For the Hunt It’s important to do a lot of spotting for animals when big game hunting, so a good pair of binoculars is critical to a successful hunt. If you like to hunt in a stand, I would recommend a good hunting blind. If you are hunting with a friend, or family member, I also like to use two way radios to be able to keep in touch with the group I am with, so we can keep an eye on where everyone is for safety, and to make sure if anyone needs any help we can meet up. For when you do get an animal, you will need a good hunting knife set to field dress, and then process the meat or get it ready for processing. To sneak up on big game and stay hidden you will need a nice set of camo clothing. Some hunters like to use game calls on their hunt. A good trail or game camera is great for learning what animals are hanging out on a game trail, and what their feeding, drinking, and bedding patterns are. Another great tool to have in your arsenal is a high quality laser rangefinder to be able to tell how far the shot is for planning your shot. Take a look at our online outdoor store for all of these products and more, for all of your hunting, fishing, camping, boating needs and more. Now the Main Topic - elk Hunting elk are known as ghost deer by many hunters. Chances are, if you put in your time in the woods, you will see some record class Elk, but it will be brief. They are there one second, but completely gone without a trace in the next. You may just see a flash of the right color deep within the bushes, but not able to find them again. They are quick, nearly silent, and are experts at hiding from hunters and animals that prey on them. When they sense the slightest of hunting pressure as the season opens, elk will vanish into the thick vegetation, and change their movement habits to nearly full nocturnal. For hunters that do their homework, and put in the time in the woods, once they learn the tricks and a successful hunting plan of attack that works, and a good area where elk hold up, they are usually successful year after year. You will hear a lot of hunter that get burned out due to the difficulty of hunting elk in places like California, where the mismanaged forests and many years of drought have made it very difficult to be successful. However, the deer are there, they are just hard to find. Techniques for a Successful Hunt 1. Number one rule - get out of the truck, and put boots on the ground. California is made up of about 75 percent road hunters. Yes, you can get lucky and stumble across a good buck driving around in the woods, but to be successful year after year, you have to get out and into the woods. 2. Look at your maps, and satellite images, to find places where there are no roads. A good rule of thumb is that you should try to walk in to where you are atleast two to five miles from any roads. This will mean less hunters, less noise, and deer will prefer these areas especially when there is a lot of hunting pressure. 3. Try to find private land, if you can, and work with the landowner to get permission to hunt their property. 4. Don’t let a big Elk bust you then bust out of dodge. Wear camo, don’t go out into the woods smelling like the campfire. Don’t wear your camo except for when you are hunting, so the scents of the camp don’t come out into the woods with you. Unscent yourself, they make sprays, soaps, and deoderants that are unscented, so you can blend in. If you don’t have that, some natural local scents of the forest rubbed onto your clotes will do the trick as well (dirt, pine needles, etc). 5. Try to blend in when you hike into the woods. Take a few steps, pause, and listen. If you step on a noisemaker branch, pause a bit longer, to lower the alarm level in the forest. Keep walking slowly, quietly, with intermittent pauses. Mimic the forest animals, in how they walk. They walk, and they pause and listen, trying to detect danger. 6. Older big bucks got that way by being smart. They notice a “change” in their environment, they notice the hunters driving in to camp, and driving around the woods as hunting season starts. They switch over to nearly full nocturnal mode and you will only see them a few minutes after sun up, and a few minutes before the sun goes down. elk Range When you find a good sized Elk, your hunting plan should be a quiet, delicate, walk and stalk pursuit. elk Diet elk like to eat elk Lifespan elk can live up to elk Breeding and Reproduction elk will start their rut in elk Habitat elk can be found in elk Sign The best elk Hunting Opportunities In elk Hunting Methods Spot and stalk hunting is the best method for hunting elk. Find areas with thick timber, underbrush, and overgrown clearcuts. Areas that have burned in previous years, or been logged in prior years, will have increased food growth and will attract deer as well. Once you find an area that has good, recent, deer sign, find yourself a good vantage point where you can look down into areas of mixed timber, and up toward surrounding peaks and slopes with brushy mountain sides, and grassy basins. When you spot a buck you want, take your time to plan your hunt. Take your time, spot and stalk, with long pauses in between. Try to blend in to the landscape so you don’t spook the buck and bust him out of the area. Instead of charging straight toward that buck, head to a secondary vantage point that is downwind from the deer. Once there, plan and take your shot when the opportunity presents itself for a good clean kill shot. If you can’t take the shot, or you lose the deer, be patient. Sometimes it is good to back out of the spot, and plan to come back the next day. If you don’t spook the deer, elk are known to hang around an area for days on end as long as they are not disturbed. If you are hunting in open grasslands and agricultural areas, look for tight brushy draws and timbered slopes. Once you find deer, take it slow and watch for the deer from a distance rather than disturb them by walking through their habitat. Start glassing on the edge and fringe habitats, where feeding areas and bedding areas come together. Glassing Critical glassing times are during the first and last minutes of daylight to catch deer that are heading to or from their bedding areas. During the middle of the day you can use your binoculars to pick apart the slopes used by bedding deer. When it’s freezing cold, deer will stick to slopes that get sun. When it’s warm or hut, deer will head for the shaded slopes. You will want to glass beneath every tree, and into every nook and cranny or open spots that you can see through the forest canopy. Once you find a big buck to hunt, look for shooting spots and positions that you can sneak into range without scaring the deer. Still Hunting If you are in an areas where you can’t glass well, you may want to get into a good spot for still hunting. Some hunters like to still hunt along roads that have a closed gate, old logging roads, or logging skid trails. These roads and trails are relatively silent compared to the dry crackly forest floor. They are also easier to walk with less vegetation and buck brush to walk through. As you approach a nice forest opening, meadow, or clearcut, you want to give the area a good thorough once over with your binoculars before you enter it. You should also glass with your binoculars about every ten to fifteen steps to look for deer so you can see them before they see you. I am typically looking out about 100 yards, but I have had deer pop up within 20 yards of me that I didn’t see and missed my chance as they bust out of there. If you come across a deer trail with fresh sign, you should move slowly and silently along the deer trail to track down where they are headed from, or going to. Use the wind to your advantage by hunting into the wind. Wear soft soled shoes to increase your level of stealth. If you pass through an area where noise is unavoidable, do it quickly and then stop and wait, and watch before you begin moving again. Give it a few minutes for the alert to be forgotten about and then continue on. When you pass through feeding areas such as forest openings, small meadows, walk along the edges of the openings rather than heading right through the middle of them. Stop often in places where the surrounding vegetation works to mask your shape. Keep your eyes peeled, glass everything, keeping it slow and easy is key to a successful hunt. When you are glassing with your binoculars, you will typically be looking for a patch of deer color through the vegetation, or a twich of an ear or a tail, or antlers sticking out of a bush or over the edge of a log. If you find a good vantage point, pause for ten or fifteen minutes to glass it thoroughly. elk Ambush Hunting If you set up a tree stand or a hunting blind, or walk and hunt, near well used deer trails, you might be able to ambush an unsuspecting buck. The best deer trails are the ones that connect the bedding and feeding areas together. If you can’t find any deer trails, or bedding and feeding areas, try looking for trails near primary ridgelines that divide drainages, finger ridges that branch off from primary ridges and drop down into canyons or valleys. You may even find them between rock outcroppings or along the bases of cliff faces. These simple features might be all that it takes to concentrate deer traffic in a predictable way for you to get the opportunity for some ambush hunting. elk Calling Some elk hunters like to use a deer call that makes fawn bleats for calling elk. This technique will attract does year round, but during the November rut, they can be deadly against bucks as well. Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Mendenhall Outdoors team. We highlight products and services that you might find interesting. We frequently receive products free of charge from manufacturers to test. This does not drive our decision as to whether or not a product is featured or recommended. If you click a link on this page, then go on to make a purchase, we might receive a commission – at no extra cost to you, and this does not impact the purchase price of any products that you may purchase.
Elk Hunting
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