How to Find Elk

If you’re sitting at home, watching TV or reading a magazine and think you want to go elk hunting, but you don’t have a clue about where to start or what to do, the first thing you should do is decide on the state where you want to hunt. You can search the Internet for elk information and very-quickly learn the states that home elk. Once you choose the state where you want to hunt, contact that state’s fish and game department to learn where the most elk are concentrated in that state.

After you have that information, obtain the phone number of the wildlife biologist for that area. Call him to find out what the bull/ cow ratio is for the region you want to hunt. You’ll have a choice between hunting trophy lands or other places where you can take cows and lesser bulls. You even may be able to locate some spots with leftover tags you can buy over the counter or on the Internet.

In Colorado, you can buy a tag over the counter. However, to increase your chances at a better hunt for a quality bull, look at the trophy-elk sections, and try to draw a tag in one of those. In many of those regions, drawing an archery-season tag is more likely than drawing a gun-season tag. If you’re an archery hunter, you usually won’t have to apply as many times to hunt that trophy section as a gun hunter will. In these trophy areas, you’ll find that the habitat for elk and the bull-to-cow ratios are better. These regions generally hold large quantities of elk, but are limited-draw places. Your chances for a great hunt and more elk encounters are much higher in a trophy site than in a general-permit section. Once you’ve chosen the place you want to hunt, and you’ve drawn or purchased a tag, obtain a copy of the topographical or aerial map of the area. Once you decide where you want to hunt, for instance, the Wisdom Peak area, then you can visit the U.S. Geological Survey ( and other mapping websites, type in the place you want to hunt, get a map of that spot and print it out.

I prefer to purchase National Geographic maps ( maps) and have them mailed to me, because that group will send you a waterproof copy that won’t rip. Although this map is the most-important one I’ll get of the region, I’ll also buy a USDA Forest Service ( map or a Bureau of Land Management ( wo/ st/ en.html) map. The more maps you have of the same region, and the more detail on the maps, the more chances you’ll have of locating elk and learning where to start when you reach your hunting site. I like the National Geographic map, because it highlights the topographical information and names all the trails. You can see the flat spots where elk may bed or feed and the watering spots.

Once you have all your maps and become familiar with the region, call the wildlife biologist for that particular district. State biologists are generally proud that they have huntable sizes of elk in the regions they manage. These biologists are the best resources you can use to help find elk in places you’re unfamiliar with and/ or never have hunted previously. Also ask the biologist if he knows hunters who regularly hunt that area who may share some information with you. There are also plenty of Internet chatrooms about elk hunting. Sometimes you can get some pretty-good information by visiting a chatroom, mentioning the region you’ve hunted or are planning to hunt and asking if any other hunters have hunted there and have any suggestions that may help you.

How to Find Your Own Luck

Once you’ve chosen the place you want to hunt and/ or have hunted for 1 or 2 days there, if you find a logger, a cowboy or a sheepherder working in that section, make friends with him. He may share with you everything he knows about that section of land. Loggers, cowboys and sheepherders who work on some of these public lands daily will know more about where elk are located, especially big bulls, than anyone else on the property, with the exception of the wildlife biologist. I was on a hunt a few years ago and met a cowboy bringing cattle out of the high country, since a storm was moving into the region. He named some of the drainages where he’d heard some big bulls bugling and places where he’d seen trophy mule deer, which was tremendously-important information. Anytime you can find anyone who’s living and working in the area you want to hunt, they will have the best information about where the most bulls are concentrated and tell you where they’ve seen big bulls. Generally, the forest ranger for that section will know who runs the cattle and logs the area. This forest ranger, who manages this region, can point you to the people or the individual working on the part of the land you want to hunt. If you combine the information you get from the forester, the wildlife biologist, the cowboys, the loggers and/ or the surveyors in the region with what you’ve learned from the National Geographic Map. Then you’ll save hundreds of hours of scouting and quickly find some good-size elk.


How to Close-In On Elk

Taking all the information you’ve gathered, when you pinpoint a herd of elk, the next trick is to get close-enough to get a shot with a bow or a rifle. If I spot a big bull I want to get close to and take a shot at with my bow, I don’t race after the bull. I watch him for awhile to determine into which stand of timber he’ll move. If I don’t see him come out of that stand of timber, I start looking for the route I can take to reach him.

I always try to move to an elk one or two drainages over from the drainage where the elk is holding. I want to get above the elk with a favorable wind. The time of day I hunt is very important, too. Early in the morning, the thermals (air currents) will be coming down the mountain. So, if I get above the elk in the early morning, I’ll spook him before I see him.

But about 11: 00 am or 12: 00 pm, the thermals should be coming up the mountain. If I’m above the elk then, I’ll start going down the mountain to reach the elk without his smelling me. Navigating down to an elk is much easier than moving up a mountain to an elk. Once I get above the elk with the right wind, I’ll call to the elk to make him bugle. That way, I can better pinpoint his location and make sure he can’t see me as I move around the mountain to get close to him.

When hunting down to an elk, I can take my time, not get winded and be in better physical condition to get off a shot, if I get in close to the bull. I want to position myself as close enough to hear a cow call, a bull whine, a growl or parts of a bugle. Once I’m in position to call a bull, I’ll nock my arrow and use Hunter’s Specialties’ ( calls , including an Estrus Whine, a Fight’n Cow and a Lonesome Cow Call to make the bull bugle. Seven out of 10 times, the bull usually will bugle to the Fight’n Cow or the Estrus Whine Call.

If that bull’s in the right mood, he’ll come trotting to me. I don’t start calling until I’m within 150 or 100 yards of the elk. With the amount of hunting pressure on most public-hunting lands today, I’ve found that long-distance calling isn’t very effective. The closer you can be to the elk before you call him, the better your chances are for taking him. I prefer to hunt in thick vegetation, because that allows me to get really close to the elk. But I don’t want the vegetation so thick that I can’t get off a shot.

When I first started calling elk and wanted to get close to a big bull, I’d bugle my way to the elk, trying to sound like a bull coming into the herd to take his harem. However, I don’t do that anymore. Now, when I try to get up-close and personal to a big bull, I don’t want him to know I’m there, until I’m within 100 to 200 yards of him. If there’s thick vegetation in the area, I use the vegetation to mask my movements.

how to find elk

Which Tools Help You Move-In Closer to Elk

When I try to get close to elk, I use Cow Elk Urine Scent Wafers and wear soft, quiet clothes and boots with thick felt pads over them to muffle sounds. I know that some hunters pull their boots off and move-in close to elk in their stocking feet. However, I’ve never liked getting my feet wet, stepping on sticks or bruising my feet against rocks. I’ve found that Super Sneakers are more effective than socks without the hassle of taking off your boots.

When the wind isn’t blowing in the high country, the mountains can be extremely quiet, and sound seems to travel forever. Elk have super-sensitive hearing as well as a keen sense of smell. If you break a limb, cough, sneeze or thump a rock with your boot, you’ve told the elk you’re coming. The Super Sneakers muffle the sounds you make with your feet, so you don’t have to concentrate on the sounds your feet make while hunting elk. I also prefer wearing quiet clothes not made of nylon or heavy canvas or any kind of clothing that won’t absorb sound. Some hunters wear pants you can hear slap-up against their boots with every step they take. Then, when a limb hits their pants, it makes a slap sound rather then a muffled thud. I prefer to wear fleece and cotton because those fabrics don’t make noises when you hunt. I carry Scent-A-Way spray with me when I elk hunt. You can do everything known to man to eliminate odor, but you’ll still perspire and pick-up different types of odor that spook elk. I bathe in scent-elimination soap, scrub my hair with scent-elimination shampoo, wash my clothes in scent-elimination detergent and carry my clothes into the woods in a scent-elimination storage bag. You’ll still pick-up odors from camp fires, mules, other hunters and perspiration. So, by having scent-elimination spray with you at all times, you can spray yourself down, eliminating odor as much as possible before you get close in on the elk. I let the scent-elimination dry, and then I spray my clothes down with elk urine. I not only want to sound like an elk, I want to smell like an elk.

Oftentimes, as you move in close to an elk, the wind will swirl. You have a better chance of not spooking the bull you want to take, if you smell like an elk. I use scent-elimination spray. Way to kill not only human odor, but any-other odors I may have picked-up along the way. Then I use elk urine on my clothes, so if an elk smells me, he thinks I’m an elk and not a hunter.

I perform these eliminating tasks when I’m ready to close the deal on a big bull. If you’ve done everything else right, including found the elk, gotten within 200 yards of the elk without him knowing, cow-called to the elk and received a response, you’ll only have to move-in close enough to get a shot with a bow. All that work was wasted if the elk hears, sees or smells you when you’re within 100 yards of him. These precautions are the ones I take and the products I use to get really close to elk.

Maps to Help You Find Elk

USGS – The U.S. Geologic Survey has topographical and aerial maps of the entire United States. These maps can be purchased from the USGS web site, or you can use their Map Locator to download free topographical maps of specific areas or order these maps through the USGS map store. You also can download the free TerraGo toolbar, which allows the user to maximize their capabilities with GeoPDF files. With TerraGo, you can measure distances between objects on the map, add personal comments to specific regions on the map, view the map in conjunction with Google Maps or integrate them with your GPS to track your position, all for free. Through the USGS map store, you can purchase topographical or aerial state, county, U.S., world, historical, satellite images, national parks and national atlas maps, as well as USDA Forest Service – National Forest and Grassland Maps. http:// b2c_usgs/.

National Geographic – National Geographic Maps offer various products, including their popular Outdoor Recreation Map Software products. Offered in this line of software products is the TOPO! Series, which includes the State Series and the Explorer and the Explorer Deluxe. The State Series comes in 28 individual state and multi-state packages covering the entire United States, and the Explorer is National Geographic’s first software powered by continuously updated set of online maps. Both the Explorer and the Explorer Deluxe come with credits to download 25 SuperQuads (with each SuperQuad containing (6) layers of map information including: USGS 1: 24,000 and 1: 100,000 scale topographic, I-Cubed Aerial Photography with 4-meter resolution, USGS Digital Elevations and Names, and an exclusive HybridQuad that blends Aerial Photography with topographic line work), and the Deluxe package comes with an additional seamless, nationwide, set of USGS 1: 100,000 scale topographic maps. Also available in this line of software products is the Trails Illustrated Series, which includes Trails Illustrated Explorer and National and Single Parks Explorer 3D. With the Trails Illustrated Explorer software, you can create and print your own custom trail maps. The Parks Explorer 3D comes in 11-different parks, including Rocky Mountain, Yosemite, Yellowstone National parks and more. National Geographic Maps also offers traditional maps for purchase.

http:// products.html

Digital Topo Maps – This website offers various products for purchase. The Terrain Navigator Mapping Software provides a regional collection of topographic maps you can browse, customize and print, as well as make topographic profiles, export data, view maps in 3D, plan routes, estimate distances, estimate areas, and exchange waypoint and route data with your GPS. Also available for purchase through this site is the DeLorme Topo North America 9.0, which is an all-in-one topographic mapping software and the National Geographic Topo, which contains all topo maps for an entire state or region at 1: 24,000 and 1: 100,000 scale. You also can purchase access to unlimited USGS topo maps and aerial photos for $ 29.95/ year. http:// – This site contains online topographic maps of the United States and lets you browse down level-by-level to the exact topo map you want. They also have aerial photos and aerial maps available for the most zoomed-in map levels. This site does require membership to access maps. http:// maps.aspx


Specialized Spotting Scopes-Digital Spotting Scopes

Digital spotting scopes are a combination spotting scope with a built-in digital camera. You can take snapshot images or video and the captured image is at the same magnification as seen through the spotting scope on most models.

There are many different features depending on the brand and model. Many have optical zoom as well as a digital zoom to increase the power. It is an easy way to take images when carrying and using your best spotting scope and you do not want to bring your camera along. Digital spotting scopes were a fad during the 2000s with several brands and a large number of models available but today they have virtually disappeared from the market due to their low resolution, smart phones with high-resolution cameras, as well as point and shoot cameras and digital SLRs with increasing resolution and lower costs. A couple of the brands offering these are Bushnell and Zeiss and these are quite good.