There are 3 rules when hunting elk.
Rule #1 is to Find the elk!
Rule #2 Is to shoot the elk
Rule #3 go back to Rule #1
It sounds so simple. Jump in your truck, wheeler, or horse and head to the high country. At some point, you will bump into the elk. A century ago, when Lewis and Clark trekked across Montana, elk were plentiful and everywhere. A buffet of other critters were also in abundance. There were no hunting seasons. Critters were in season when it was time to eat.
Lately, many hunters are having trouble following Rule #1. Elk patterns are changing. The weather, hunting pressure, access, and predators have made finding elk tougher. Throw in some forest fires, development, and loss of access and things get tougher.
Hunters have only a few months to harvest a critter. Wolves, bears, and lions need to eat daily. Their impact is being felt. Fewer critters are to be found and their behavior has changed to survive. Herds tend to stay in more protected areas, lower in the watersheds, and on private land.
From a high vantage point, you can find elk and other critters, but if they are not on public land, you are screwed.
Be persistent and patient. As the fall arrives and weather changes, critters must move. Scan the maps and look for wintering areas. Find the pathways that lead to these spots and look for elk on these routes. Bigger groups are more common, and they tend to move quickly. Use spotting scopes and optics to scan for their presence.
Explore areas and look for fresh sign. Scat, rubs, tracks, and trails will lead you to the herds. Often you can smell them if hunting into the wind. Calling used to work much better but the vocal bulls and cows have been eaten.
“Gittin Yer Elk” needs to be an honest and sporting venture. Sadly, some “hunters” do whatever it takes to tag out. This means trespass, extreme long shots, baiting, or using illegal technology or techniques. The meat never tastes as good as when you hunt ethically, honestly, and as a true sportsman.
Hunt hard, and hunt more often!
For more Montana Grant, hunt him up at www.montanagrantfishing.com.