First off, I tend to find locations for ambush set ups to hunt. A heavily used trail on the way to/from bedding and feed/water/social areas. A wallow area....rarely hunt over a wallow but pick spots on the way to/from. I generally like open areas with lots of shooting lanes and sight lanes. I rarely sit in tight cover....I wants shots from 20 out to 50 yards in multiple directions. I focus on first light to about 10'ish then usually break for the day until 4-5 pm then go find an evening spot to sit. I will sit a spot for hours unless the wind shifts or other factors indicate I need to move and pick a new spot.
Rarely do I creep and peek.....but now I'm thinking that might be a mistake. I certainly do on my way to and from spots....but I don't move all day from spot to spot looking for elk. I try to stay out of bedding areas.
So I'm thinking here at the end.....I am happy to stay out all day but should I mix some sneak and peek style hunting into the ambush setups through the mid day....and if so.....where? Bedding areas? Most elk will be down and napping between 10 and 4...right? I suppose I should expect more day time movement with the rut.....
You experiences and preferences are appreciated as I try to expand my quiver of strategies.
I tend to call alot less when sneaking and peeking......probably should do alot more....maybe every 100 yards or so?
If they aren't, do what you do and also glass openings to get a general location for setups. Creep and peek in the patchy areas, but only as a last resort in the thick stuff.
I think if there's no way to locate them then ambushing on a trail or wallow would have to do, but I really prefer being on the move. But that'd also explain why I spook a whole lot of shit.
Bugling is after shooting hours and not too helpful other than a reference for where the elk had been at the night before the hunt. That educates some ideas on set up and approach based on educated guesses of where they are going (to bed) and how they might get there.
I have had very little daytime bugling and that was in response to elk calling/noises I was making during an ambush setup. One came in, another didn't......you never know. I suppose in hindsight I should be more aggressive and not static in my position when I get these responses......rush forward to a new position to where the bull was and hope for the best.
I do some glassing early morning before heading to potential ambush sites. If I see an elk I will change plans and try to intercept it. So far that produced one bull who did not follow my plan and I never intercepted him.
That's not how I hunt nor do I recommend my friends hunt that way.
If you sit and wait for an Elk to walk by or bugle, you might be sitting a long time. If I want things to happen, the majority of the time, I make them happen. I'm not a believer in the Internet Elk Expert theories of "it's too early, it's too hot, or the Moon isn't right". We were bugling multiple Bulls from the 25 of August.
When your heart is pounding and breathing in gasps and you can't wait till tomorrow s hunt... you are doing it right!
I call Elk. If they're there, they'll answer or I move on. I don't go 400 yards without calling no matter where I'm at. I rarely glass for Elk. I'll glass next week in WY but the country lends itself to it and I'm scouting for my 2018 tag. I've snuck up on a few but I called them first and followed them to their beds. I've sat water/wallows a few times and it proved to be a waste of time.
This year was no different; we started calling bulls before season. The other guys I know who had the tag were complaining about the non bugling Elk. I asked how much they called, "sparingly" was the answer. My response was the same as above, "If you sit and wait for an Elk to bugle, you might be sitting a long time". We rode 20 miles avg every morning, 10 in the evening, bugling every 400 yards and were into bugling bulls almost every morning and evening hunt. We bugled over 100 Bulls. Partner tagged out last saturday and that is the last Bull I know of getting tagged in that unit. I'm an aggressive bugler. It's how I learned and it's continued to work for me.
Sneaking into a bedded herd and closing to archery range is not a high success venture for most nimrods, especially for shooting a chosen individual (the herd bull). Can it be done? Yep!! Is it exciting?? Absolutely!!
Learn the country Learn the animals Use your quiver Have fun
Another time we were clomping along - walking way too fast & making way too much noise, so I was literally chucking pine cones at the back of his head to get his attention and slow him down when we walked right up on top of a VERY nice bull and the cow he was following. We froze and the bull circled up-hill of us, stopping behind a thin screen of brush at well under 20 yards. Cow Tag Magic again, but we did learn that 2 guys sound a lot like one Elk. That bull never spooked - he just left. Cow must've been REALLY hot!
Best trick I know, though… You've got to learn to work the thermals. If you hear them talking, you can determine whether they're moving or not and either slip in on them or figure out where you should set up an ambush. My brother sweetens the deal with a cow-butt deke and some cow-calling.
So the big question is... what do you do if they're down-wind? And my answer is: Ride the thermals. If they're uphill from you and the thermals are rising... you're screwed. Except that if you know there is one of those cool, wet patches that surround a little-bitty stream and follow it all the way to the bottom of the valley, you've got an elevator. Thermals in those microclimates run counter to everywhere else - just like a spring-fed stream that's prized by trout-fishers in hot weather and duck-hunters in the cold.
So you can always find a way to keep your scent drifting in the right direction, and if you're fit enough, I suppose you could just about bump a herd by letting your scent drift up to them and then ambush them by racing across the hillside and getting on the right side of them. I never managed to pull that off, but one time I did get seen by a few that were uphill and maybe 100 yards up ahead, so I doubled back to a cool spot, gained some altitude, and was able to loop around and come back down on top of them while they were still expecting a threat from below, I suppose. I stepped out from behind a big Doug Fir and had a big cow feeding about a dozen yards down-hill from me, just as relaxed as could be.
Another time I was working up to a herd from below, moving along the edge of a cool/wet patch - but not right IN IT because of the morning thermals - and a herd bull chased a satellite right across in front of me inside of 20 yards. He wasn't "big", but he was clearly the Boss.
Unfortunately, I was not at all prepared for the shot and then I got pinned down by a cow and laid there on my belly, listening to him kick the satellite's ass from hell to breakfast.... right until the thermals switched and the whole herd blew right out o' there. My better move would've been to belly-crawl back down-hill, out of sight of the herd, and sneak up through the thick stuff while the bulls worked out the Dominance Hierarchy. They sounded pretty distracted.
Anyway, that's what I figured out in about 3 seasons (and probably 50-60 days and several hundred miles of sneaking around) before I met a girl and moved out east. Still have an unchecked box on the bucket list and a Date With Destiny (I hope!), but if out-flanking a herd that's just about to catch wind of you doesn't qualify as a helpful hunting tactic, I don't know what would. And that girl I met still wants me to go hunting, as long as it doesn't prevent us from paying the rest of the bills, so 20 years later I really can't complain.