Two weeks ago I suggested tips to determine which state to hunt elk. The real work begins as you narrow down to a certain unit then specific ridgelines. Here are a few considerations to keep you on track during the process.
As I have mentioned in earlier blogs, identify several regional game officers and contact them about the pros and cons of their unit. Describe your physical fitness and your priorities (trophy size, solitude, solo hunting, bivy hunting), so that they can let you know about any deal breakers. Next, use the state’s online database to examine the breakdown of public/private land ownership as well as the number of hunters. Once you determine which region best fits your needs, use either google maps or the hunt planner to find remote areas.
Google Maps allows you to switch between three viewing options: traffic, terrain, and satellite. I begin with traffic to find areas that have limited road access as well as water drainages. Next, I use the terrain map to look at the topography and locate ridges with smaller finger slopes breaking off. If the fingers run east and west I know that the elk will hold on the north slopes on warm September days. However, my top priority is water in the drainage and that it looks complex or rugged with multiple drainages in close proximity. Lastly, I use satellite images to identify the tree line or if something like a fire or a mine has made this area unhuntable.
Know Your Limits
Personally, I hate being around other hunters. It bugs me that people will spend $600 and a weeks vacation on a hunt but not spend a few hours to read a book on elk hunting. And when they don’t it affects everyone else’s hunt. So, I hike as far as I can to get away from other hunters. If you aren’t super fit you may want to look for old forest service roads or trails that follow the top of a ridge. You can then use those paths for easy access and drop into the valley when you hear a bugle. That being said there will likely be other people using the same method.
Back Up Plans
Have a couple back up plans. Who knows what a spot will look like in September. There may be a flood of hunters or just one other group that really annoys the piss out of you. If it your first year hunting the unit, the elk numbers might end up much worse than you hoped. So, make sure you take the time to identify your second and third options. For some tips on how to effectively scout the unit on foot read this blog.