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Talk me out of scouting early
I am itching to get down to New Mexico and scout for elk, but my days are limited this year. With an 18 hour drive each way, I will burn 2 days of vacation to scout for two days over a long weekend. I really want to learn the unit, find access points, etc. I know the smart thing to do is head down 2 days before my hunt and use these two days for scouting just before I start hunting. But . . . . . I CAN'T STAND IT!!! Talk me off the cliff and help me hunt smart!!!!
No early scouting is worth 2 days of hunting elk, if you could put those two vacation days towards the hunt instead! There ;^)
extend your hunt instead. get there earlier. you can scout and get more timely info and add days to your hunt.
x2 what Kentuckbowhunter said. I would "scout" during your hunt. Spend the first day or so doing that, if you see what you want to see....obvoiusly start hunting. whatever you find right now may or may not even be in that area in Sept.
Best question asked was what unit?
Elk move. A lot.
The only thing early scouting for elk is good for is to get an understanding of the road systems and access points. If you have a gps and maps of the area, you are good there. Look over the unit on google earth and check against your maps.
Maximize your hunting time.
Scout while you hunt.
Don’t waste vaca days, go early
Ill second the others, no wasted vacation days here. E-scout the best you can and scout while you hunt.
Besides two years ago I pulled up in my unit after dark. I was setting up camp and a young man stopped by to say hello. His party had already filled there tags on the first hunt. He asked you got a map? I pulled it out and he showed me where they had been hearing bulls at. One of the areas I had E-scouted. Killed a bull the next morning.
I’d extend my hunt a couple of days, do a ton of armchair scouting (google earth, topos, etc and be ready to rock opening day. I would not show up early and scout - could end up doing more harm than good - I’d be ready opening morning with bow in hand.
Just my .02,
Ditto what the others said. I wouldn't even bother getting there early. Extend your hunt for two days. Give yourself as much time as you can with your bow in-hand.
eScout for sure. Wear that computer screen out. Spend time calling local State and Federal biologists, FS rangers, etc. Get all your remote work done so you have a concrete plan a, b, c, d, etc. going in for the hunt. Then be flexible to move and change tactics according to what you encounter on the ground.
The only situation where I have found early scouting helpful is 1) assessing my fitness for the terrain and what I need to do in adjustment, or find a new area that fits my lack of fitness (LOL), and 2) confirming access points and difficulty using them, and 3) if the herd is non-migratory which does occur in places if you know where to look. In those cases where they are now is generally where they are all year outside extreme weather or hunting pressure.
I live in the middle of one of my elk units and can scout different spots every week. That said, about 90% of my elk encounters happen in spots other than those I've scouted, which I've figured out on the fly during the hunt based on where other guys are (or aren't) hunting, where I spot them or hear them or find tracks of a herd crossing a road.
What the others said....
Third "what unit"? Some NM elk move quite a bit from early summer to fall. Some not much. Scouting just prior to your hunt will be the most valuable for sure.
Its 100 degrees. Nuff said.
I guess I'll disagree with the others. I love summer scouting. You don't need to tell anyone your unit, because it really makes NO difference. NOW if you want to see elk and assume they will be there come rut, that's entirely different, however you said SCOUTING. 18 hours is a good one way trip. I would fly. It would save you a good chunk of time and ease. Load up your pack with some basics and get there. Rent a car for a few days. Yes likely all around a little more than driving, but less hassle and faster. You do NOT need to see elk right now to have very productive scouting for fall. You should be looking for rut sign, bedding areas, pinch points, water, travel routes, etc. This is ALL available right now. Go for it!!
I won't talk you out of it. Finding a few hidden wallows is gold Jerry, gold!
Scouting now is primarily to get a lay of the land (roads, trails, terrain etc). Where you will see elk now, you may not see in Sept. So much can change in 2 months; wallows dry up, feeding patterns change, hunting pressure etc. Go two days before you plan to hunt, glass the elk, make a plan and go get one.. Last year, both in Colorado and Wyoming, I watched elk for 3 days before I went after them.. success on both hunts.. In Wyoming, I made an early scouting trip in mid July, mainly to get a lay of the land, I did spot some elk, but they were not in the same place when it was time to hunt..
I doubt sharing what unit he is hunting will do him much good on this forum. Early scouting is always good for getting boots on the ground and the lay of the land. Seeing elk would be a plus.
Some of the elk I saw on that trip. At least 14 bulls in this photo.
Some of the elk I saw on that trip. At least 14 bulls in this photo.
About 10 years ago I drew a good tag 17 hours from home and decided to take a trip out there the second week of July. I spent a week there hiking, camping, scouting and trout fishing with my trusty lab.
I saw more elk during that week than I had seen in my previous 10 years of hunting. Yes, the elk move but it verified that there were elk in the area and it helped me find them when I returned in the fall. I was on elk immediately come September.
What I learned on that trip was very valuable and besides that, my dog and I had a great time just hiking around with no pressure to be somewhere or do anything specific.
However, I had extra vacation time and I did not have to shorten my hunt to take my scouting trip.
Thanks for your level headed advice. I know what I “should” do, but obviously I have a pretty serious addiction. My name is Mike, and I am an elk-aholic. BTW, got lucky and pulled a 16b tag. Lots of wilderness to explore.
"You don't need to tell anyone your unit, because it really makes NO difference."
Yeah, it really does. It could mean the difference of taking every advantage you can or not, whether to tack on a couple of extra days (which may not be possible) or not.
This is an extremely dry year and someone may be able to add some helpful advice if they knew where to start...
I did a lot of summer scouting to get familiar with the OTC unit I usually hunt. It was very fun to hang out and find lots of velvet bulls. I even patterned some just before the season (for two consecutive years). Unfortunately, the time spent patterning them was pointless because the mountain maggots rolled in just before opening day.
The unit doesn't matter? What are you guys smoking? 16b How many times do you want to go in and out of there with camp on your back?
AGAIN, no the unit doesn't matter for what he is asking. He is NOT asking your advice about a particular unit......He's looking to be talked back from the edge to NOT GO scouting......
He didn't say "Guys I'm looking for advice where to go in XXX, where are the water holes, and good ideas, etc, etc"
Junior, not smoking anything. I'll hike into, out of, and around 16B all day, every day, and not think twice about it. Going scouting is usually a better option than NOT going scouting, IMO.
the best elk hunters I have ever met scout during the season and they don't hunt while they are doing it. The locate.....and then they hunt.
Well buddy the way I read it, is spend my days scouting now or closer to the season? Limited vaca? Help yourself scouting in and out of 16b! Nothing wrong with it if you have the time. Id definitely recommend, again if you had time. Im going right before the hunt!! I may just move my camp closer to the bugles, those extra vacation days before the hunt.
Why not make the most of both and fly there, rent a car, fly back, and not lose two days driving?
"Hey, I drew unit 6B in NM, the Valles Caldera. Should I be concerned with getting a backcountry permit and go look around this summer?"
My response: "nope, you'll find elk no matter where you go. In fact, on opening day, you won't know which bull to go after. "
Yea, Im with you HDE!! I guess having gps coordinates to every tank in a few different units would be no help either? ? Carry on
Thanks again for the advice. Sometimes I forget how much "real world" experience lurks around on this site. If I had the vacation days available, I would scout now and before the hunt. I just hate waiting until the last minute. (Not in my nature) I like the idea of flying and renting to save time! Let's see if I can contain myself find some much needed patience!
I would almost agree that 2 days of scouting isn’t worth 2 days of hunting. But if you’ve never set foot in the area that’s not necessarily true. You could easily blow 2 hunting days just finding your feet. One thing worth accomplishing in advance is making sure you are camped somewhere worthwhile. Moving camp is one way to lose valuable time when you should be hunting. I’m flying out to Wyoming on the 4th of August for a week to make sure I start off in the right direction.
You might consider checking with some local airports and seeing if you can buy a guy some fuel for his flight time to fly the unit.
An hour or two of fly time in a little local plane can probably cover the entire unit and you will see stuff you will never find from the ground.
That would be worth the trip out. Fly to NM for a weekend and rent a car to drive to the local airport, then spend the rest of your time driving around to confirm what you saw from the air.
Oops, I might have tipped the scales too far the wrong way;^)
I love wild hair all night scouting / adventures into the backcountry where I might be hunting. Find a flight mid August and rent an suv you can rally. Make sure to bring some brats or dogs to roast over an open fire as you watch the stars roll by. Take as many side country hikes as your body can take in a few days and count it a blessing you can even think about giving it a go. Seeing in person is worth a thousand hours of e-scouting. If you do the e-scouting make a plan it could be a fantastic weekend.
I like lots of shorter trips. It refreshes the body and mind and gives some space to sort it for the real deal.
Just my $0.02
Here's one of my three day scouting trips a few years ago. Don't count on anything like this, but just maybe you'll hit the motherload and have an idea where to spend your main hunt time.
scouting elk 2015 from pete carney on Vimeo.
If you could do both, of course scout the summer. If not, I’d save the vacation and go down 4-5 days before the hunt. Things can change drastically in that country from now till season, like water sources drying up, fires and so on. You’ll learn the access points and roads from google earth. On a side note, when it comes to calling game wardens, biologists etc, take what they say with the understanding that they give the exact same info to almost everyone. I’ve had a few tell me they can literally get hundreds of calls about a specific unit in a year.
I always feel that knowledge and experience in a Unit is bigtime priority for success come the hunt.
I say come out, even if it is just a 3 day wknd type scouting. You will go home with a Ton of new idea's and how Very different being on the ground vs Escouting really looks.
I have been to Wyo twice already this Spring/Summer, heading down to Az. the end of this month and to Iowa in mid August to get to see the lay of the land and Pre-Scout for my first ever Iowa bow Whitetail buck tag.
At least you will be able to cross reference what you See with your eScouting...…..
Besides everything else said here, for me pre season scouting is as much a part of the hunt as pulling back the string on an animal. Pure fun. Not to be missed. My season would be lacking without it. Sorry, guess that doesn't help you. Lol
I hear you Jordanathome. When it comes down to it, the hunt is hard hard work. It is everything that leads up to it. Researching units, hours and hours on google earth and OnX maps. Shooting in the basement, backyard, 3D. My struggle is making the most out of this tag and not getting caught up in the process. Kinda like scouting muleys in late June. They ALL HAVE POTENTIAL, but only a rare few will tip the scales. Part of what I love about elk hunting is the run and gun, go, go, go style. Just outwork the other hunters. I am really trying to be smart on this one, but it goes against every fiber in me.
Slowingdown-"run and gun, go,go,go, outwork everybody! Oxymoronic, LOL. Hunt smarter, not harder. You will get your bull. Good luck to you.
Closest western elk hunting for me is 1200+ miles. I'm a big fan of maximizing hunting days versus pre-season scouting that which result in reduced hunting days. As has already been said, with current technology, one can learn alot about a unit without ever leaving a boot track. Use the "scouting days" on the front end of the hunt and you gain the absolute latest intel possible.