How to Find Your Elk and Get Him in Close

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If a moose or elk seems threatened when you are watching it, remain calm. Slowly back away and talk loudly in order to make your presence known. If an elk or moose charges you, run to the nearest solid object, such as a car or tree, and hide behind it. The animal is more likely than not just trying to scare you off, not actually attack you.

Put as much distance between you and it as possible. If you get knocked to the ground by an elk or moose charge, stay down and curl up in a ball.

How to Find Your Elk & Get Him in Close by John E. Phillips

Protect your neck and head with your arms. Remain on the ground until the animal has left the area, it may charge again if it feels threatened. A visit to Rocky Mountain National Park gives people the opportunity to enter into the wild and partake in its beauty. Help preserve the park by respecting the rules about wildlife, so future generations can have the privilege of visiting it, too.

A moose claims a campsite for its own in Rocky Mountain National Park. Traveling in herds across open tundra and low-lying valleys, Elk are routinely considered the main wildlife attraction. At its peak from mid-September to mid-October, the elk rut is a time when male elk, or bulls, vie for the hearts of their female harems. Where to see elk, when to see them, where to park, and elk watching etiquette at Rocky Mountain National Park.

Spotting moose is not that difficult. They are so large it's hard to miss them grazing in the low-lying valleys and wet areas near lakes. As you walk through the park, you may notice a rock or two moving in the underbrush. Fear not, it's just a close encounter of the bird kind. Since Rocky Mountain National Park's creation in , species of birds have been spotted throughout the park and surrounding regions. Home to thousands of elk, mule deer, marmots, bighorns, and the occasional black bear.

Spend some time with a ranger to get more in-depth information about your beautiful surroundings. With four main species of fish, more than 40 fishable lakes, and 25 alpine streams, casting a line is almost sacrilegious. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Elk act in a similar way. Avoiding confrontation when a bugling elk or hunter is approaching is his strategy to make sure that happens. Most of the time, bugling your way in results in chasing or shadowing a herd. The elk are faster than we are and it is obvious they are going somewhere predetermined. In my experience, it is difficult to kill a bull you are shadowing.

Instead, I try to quietly get in front of them or, if the pressure is low in the area, wait in order to try to get in front of them the next day. It is important to resist the urge to bugle once you have located a bull. Make your best guess to his location, check the wind and try to get within of yards of where you think he is. Ideally, he will continue to bugle as you are moving in, which allows you to pinpoint his location. You have spent countless hours dissecting Google Earth.

You have picked the perfect spot to set up the wall tent, found the perfect spike out locations and the drainage where you are going to kill your bull — all before the season has even arrived. The only problem is when you get to your selected spot, you cannot turn up an elk. Maybe the same spot the year before was loaded with elk and now there is nothing! Many hunters do not like change. They like the comforts of an area they know and they do not like the hassle of having to find a new location.

The only problem with this plan is that you cannot force elk to be where they do not want to be. Elk are where they are and it is our job to find them. Finding elk may be as simple as a change in elevation within the same drainage or it may be as involved as moving camp and heading to the other side of the unit. Regardless if there are not any elk in the area, I move after a day or so to find an area that is currently holding elk.


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By staying mobile and lightweight, we are never tied to one area and can easily move to an area that is currently holding elk. Do not get fixated on hunting a specific area. It seems simple enough. Find a spot with south facing slopes or meadows for food, creeks or springs for water and a couple of timbered or brushy benches for bedding areas and you should have a perfect recipe for elk. Unfortunately, just because it looks like it could attract elk, it does not mean it is going to. You must also read the available sign rubs, tracks, scat, bugles and any other information you can uncover to figure out where the elk are and determine their routine.

Every year, I hear of hunters planning their hunt around the moon phase and cutting their own opportunity. The rut is triggered by the declining photoperiod so it will typically be at the same time every year regardless of what the moon phase is. While understanding how the moon phase affects elk behavior, do not let it solely determine how many days you hunt. I only have so many days available and I am going to be hunting as many as possible. The moon will change elk behavior.

There are no shortcuts. The best way to learn is to get out in the field as much as possible. Develop and try tactics to see what the outcome is: live and learn it. There are some ways to expedite the learning process. One of the best ways is to listen to successful elk hunters. Listen to as many as possible in order to get an idea of their strategy and tactics. This will enable you to pick out the similarities and common tactics used in order to incorporate them into your own style.

Read elk hunting articles and books.

Know the Limits

The very best way to take years off the learning curve is to hunt with someone who is successful and willing to mentor you. This gives you the ability to see everything from how they move through the woods, look at the sign, call, move on elk, etc. When you are tired or burnt out, are you the guy that talks yourself out of an opportunity? The mental part of the hunt is as real as the physical. Are you the guy asking questions, like what time is it?

How far away are we from the truck? How bad is this pack out going to be? I wonder if there is a closer bull? If you constantly ask these types of questions, then understand that they will keep you from an opportunity. In our hunting party, we have made it a point to no longer ask these questions — no matter what. Of course, this means that you need a bulletproof and mentally tough elk hunting partner. Any partner that is able to breed doubt will almost always be able to talk you out of going up or down the mountain after a bull.

Because of this, we try to be the hunting partner that will never let you pass up on an opportunity on a bugling bull or a bull that we have located with optics. Make sure that everything you do is for the benefit of your success. Use the afternoon downtime to explore new basins or different levels and elevations in the basin that you are hunting. Of course, this means that you need a bulletproof and mentally tough elk hunting partner. Any partner that is able to breed doubt will almost always be able to talk you out of going up or down the mountain after a bull.

Because of this, we try to be the hunting partner that will never let you pass up on an opportunity on a bugling bull or a bull that we have located with optics.


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Make sure that everything you do is for the benefit of your success. Use the afternoon downtime to explore new basins or different levels and elevations in the basin that you are hunting. You should always try to do everything you can do toward notching that tag.

What Kind of Wild Are You Looking For?

The bulls that you are trying to kill are thinking about two things: cows and fighting. The herd bull is focused on breeding as many cows as possible and keeping all the other bulls away. The satellite bulls are trying to steal as many cows away as he can and not get whipped in the process. That is the bottom line of elk. It is straightforward and simple. You should try and feed off of those emotions that will get those bulls fired up and into archery range.

Without hunters interrupting nature, the bulls will typically advertise themselves and cows will go to them. If we use cow calls alone we are trying to reverse nature and call the bull to us. This can work with satellite bulls as they have nothing to lose. That bull risks potentially losing his herd to another bull in the process.

Instead, when trying to kill a herd bull, bugling is a great tool to lure that herd bull into range. We need to feed on that aggressive side of the herd bull and paint the picture that we are a bull inside the red zone and challenging him for his cows. Bugling can also work on satellite bulls as they are attracted to the action. From to , I spent countless hours just watching elk during the rut and taking notes. I wanted to know what the herd bull was doing when there were other satellites around and I wanted to see what a herd bull was doing when no other bulls were around as well as what the group of feeding satellite bulls were up to.

My strategy is simple and requires very little thought: Get in tight enough to make yourself one of his cows. Make an estrus whine to let the bull know you are there. I want to go into the woods and sound like the biggest bull I can. I want to pose a real threat to the herd bull and make him believe I have the ability to take over his herd. It is important to understand the dynamics of an elk herd in the wild. The herd bull has already established dominance. He spends his time checking on cows and warding off other satellite bulls intruding on his harem.

He spends more time and effort on the mature bulls as they pose a serious threat or risk to his group of cows. Calling like a herd bull will also give you opportunities at satellite bulls. Smaller bulls are curious and are looking for a piece of the action any way they can get it. This is why it makes sense that they would also be attracted to a large bull bugle mixed in with cow sounds.

It is the same reason that the satellite bulls hang around the real herd bulls. The other reason to call loud is due to the loss of volume. The brush, timber and wide open spaces will swallow the projection no matter how much volume we produce out of the calls. We have done extensive testing on calling from and yards away and there is no comparison to the volume a real bull produces.

A real bull at 50 yards bugling in your direction is tangibly loud and can almost be felt in your body. This is something that cannot be replicated. When trying to locate bulls using location bugles from either a ridgetop or from inside a canyon, I want to be able to reach as many bulls as possible.

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This helps ensure that we are not walking by bulls that are already in the area. For instance, my hunting partner, Charlie , an amazing elk caller can bugle into a big drainage or canyon and not get a response, but I can follow him up and can sometimes get a response from a bull that is further away.

The only difference is that I can produce more volume than he does. Fortunately for both of us, we have been able to take advantage of some of these opportunities.

If you want to continue this series, check out part two here. Log in or register to post comments. Thanks for giving us a such great useful knowledge about hunting. It is great to read your article. Thanks for sharing with us such information. This article was really good with a ton of good info. I learned a ton from it and Jason is clearly an accomplished elk killer. It like spin the wheel of elk strategy. My brain hurts. Interesting read.