Contributors to this thread:
How Well do You Know Your Area?
There's alot to be said for knowing your area that's for sure. But is it necessary? Contrary to popular belief, I say no. Sort of. Since I've been hunting elk every year from 2008 until now, I've probably hunted as many units as I have years hunted. Elk in a limited draw unit act the same as the elk in a heavily pressured OTC unit. And yet I am able to get into and or kill elk most years while climbing into the 10% club.
There are a couple units I know like the back of my hand, and the others I will only know from looking at maps until I'm able to hunt them because of distance. But still I'm finding elk. And I do love hunting different areas/units and seeing new country.
So what's the big deal about hunting the same piece of ground over and over and over? Don't you guys ever get bored with that?
When I first elk hunted in 1977 we drove 12 hours into Idaho based on a tip. An old cowboy told us of an area that he wrangled cattle in the 1950’s. He said the elk were big as elephants and in every draw. We unloaded the horses packed in over two days and set out looking for elk. Over the next two weeks we found them and the old cowboy was right. We also found an UN believable mule deer area. We didn’t have anything but old stories and maps back then. No Hunting magazines and tv shows to give up clues, no internet and every hunter back then was tight lipped even if you were blood related. 90% is the adventure and figuring an area out , seeing new country.
I'm probably the outlier. I've been hunting the same hard-hunted general area since 1985, and I've just never been able to force myself to look elsewhere. I know where elk will be, and I know where they'll go once the hordes descend. I've always preferred hunting elk, as opposed to hunting for elk. Whether hunting, or other aspects of life, I've always preferred staying in my comfort zone...doesn't matter if it's a comfortable pair of old shoes or jeans, a faithful dog, or a hunting area.
As far as getting bored with the same ole, same ole? I never get bored with killing elk!
I’m with that guy ^^^^
Been hunting my areas for 30 years. Bored? Nah. I like killing elk.
“ Elk in a limited draw unit act the same as the elk in a heavily pressured OTC unit.”
I’m calling BS on this. No effin way do elk act the same
^^^^ missed that one. I second the BS, no effin way! That sounds like something Primos would say after they just called in the 10th 6x6 of the day! lol!
You can call bs all you want. I've seen it time and again. The trick is finding them where they feel safe. Once they feel safe, they are no different than elk in a draw unit. Callable and killable.....
No, everyone should hunt in the same place every year.....
Recognition of a honey hole is a foundation skill of a "good" hunter. When to move on to several new ones and have options is a foundational skill of a great one.
In Colorado I’ve hunted units 10, 61 and 49. Definitely a big difference between them and OTC units.
You need some more ‘times and agains’.
Agree with wyo and cnelk. Elk are elk, sure. When they are spooked and called to every day they behave differently than where they aren't continually pressured. Also has a lot to do with the elk density. In a low density area it's important to learn what the elk do in specific pockets they frequent. Also depends on how selective you are. If you are happy with just "any elk", then its different as well.
Ok I've hunted 49, 80-81, 42-421, 561, 511, and 37 in CO. Most of those units I've gone in blind other than looking at maps. A few of those OTC units are very heavily pressured. In NM I've hunted 34, 53 and the Gila. Those are all draw. To give an example, I hunted 421 in '17. I was working in GJ. I was only able to hunt weekends and got to hunt 7 days total. Anyone who has ever hunted 421, knows it is heavy pressure. I found by looking at maps, an area I figured they would be, and called in 16 bulls hunting weekend warrior style without ever stepping foot in that unit previously. The "pocket" I was hunting was a place the elk felt safe. There were hunters below me and above me and I had that "zone" all to myself and had an awesome hunt! Those elk didn't act any different than the elk I've hunted in draw units in CO and NM. So being the experts that you are, please explain that to me. I've had those same types of experiences in 80-81 and 37. Either I'm lucky or I'm on to something. My money says I could walk in to y'all's OTC units and be into elk pretty quick too. It's not rocket science, and it's not as difficult as some of you are making it out to be. And to answer Jaqs comment, yes I am an equal opportunity killer. I kill cows too ;)
never hunted elk but I hunted the same hill country in n-w va for over 20 years & based on the weather conditions I could be 90% certain of where I'd find some deer. & now iv lived on the coast of VA for 20 years & based on the wind direction I'm pretty good at figuring which fields to hunt. it's been my experience that some hunters are just better at figuring animals than others. some just head to the woods hunting & others put more thought into it pretty simple really if you were the animal your persueing based on the current or upcoming weather conditions where would you be ....BUT to be able to predict animal movement based on the weather one must know the lay of the land
Who the hell said anything about making it more difficult than it is? All we’re saying is someone that intimately knows the area they’re hunting has a better chance to consistently get into elk than someone that doesn’t know the area. Does that mean someone that knows what they’re doing can’t go into a new area and find elk? Of course not. However, I do know who has the best odds of finding more elk, more often.
As far as your belief that elk, as a rule, act the same in a hard-hunted OTC area, with an unlimited number of clowns running through the woods blowing their calls every 15 sec, as opposed to elk that live where human activity is greatly reduced, we’ll just agree to disagree.
It’s all a crap shoot for me depending on draws...All about E-scouting and contacts! Then I always give myself a few extra days before if I can, for boots on the ground...
I've often thought of trying to learn some new areas, and probably will some day, but like previously mentioned I like killing elk. I know my area very well, but even then it's not always a slam dunk. However, my best odds, year in and year out, are in my regular spots. I believe I have the skills to go to other places and kill elk as well, but I like my areas and I like knowing what to expect. I guess it all depends on what a guy is looking for. A big part of it for me is time. It takes time to learn a new spot with some trial and error involved. At the present point I'm at in life with a younger family, I don't have the desire to spend time learning a new spot when I can go to my regular ones and kill bulls. Which brings up another point. I have killed and had even more opportunities to kill well above average bulls in my area. The idea of going somewhere new and killing a rag just doesn't appeal to me. The older I get the less I may care about filling tags, but I'm not at that stage yet, and have no problem admitting it.
“Elk in a limited draw unit act the same as elk in a heavily pressured OTC unit.” Lol! Maybe if you can find some unpressured elk in a heavily pressured unit.. it’s possible but very rare!!
I have my FAV unit in each state I still hunt/apply with in.
I've always been an experience/knowledge is so beneficial type guy.
Good luck, Robb
“Elk in a limited draw unit act the same as the elk in a heavily pressured OTC unit.” You need to add quite a few qualifiers to that statement to make it correct.
Biggest difference I can think of has been stated already. On heavy pressured OTC you must find them in certain pockets where they feel safe. Even then, they have been pushed there so they are not the same. Doesn’t mean they aren’t callable just means they aren’t the same. Not going to argue semantics here. Just saying your blanket statement in your original post is far too broad.
I've hunted high pressure OTC a lot and low pressure limited public and private ranches a little. The difference is dramatic in my experience.
I'm always back to square one when hunting a new area. Learning access, water holes, bedding areas, glassing spots....the list goes on. Some of that can be figured out on maps and talking to others with experience but generally it takes time to learn all this in new locations. It's always great to draw a limited tag with possibly less hunting pressure and possibly more...and larger bucks, bulls, rams, etc but takes time to figure out from scratch. That's likely why deep pocketed hunters that draw limited tags and don't have time to scout sometimes hire guides. It's also why super secret spots are "mum" to those that have put in time and boot leather to find them!
Ok guys. Some of You are looking at this all wrong. If you blow elk out of their beds in a limited draw unit, it's no different than blowing them out of their beds in a heavily pressured OTC unit. You aren't likely to see them again. I can give examples of that too if you like ;)
I’m with the big difference crew as well.
"Ok guys. Some of You are looking at this all wrong."
I'd argue it's the other way around. You're the one that said elk in an OTC area act no different than those in a limited draw area. Obviously, if you spook them, they aren't going to stick around, whether it's OTC, limited quota, or Yellowstone Nat'l Park. You also said that "Once they feel safe, they are no different than elk in a draw unit. Callable and killable.....". Pretty obvious once again...if they feel safe, they certainly can be callable and killable. What many are trying to get across is it's much more likely to find those places in limited draw areas, since there's significantly less pressure on elk than a heavily-hunted OTC area. And...if you're intimately familiar with the area, you already know where those places are, as opposed to hunting a new area and having to find those places. I can be into elk by shooting light of opening day, where it may take someone new to the area anywhere from a few, to several days, just to find elk. By that time, my elk's already hanging in camp. Maybe it's just me, but I consider that a pretty significant advantage.
The heavy pressured-area elk I've hunted definitly don't have the same behavior as unpressured ones no matter what unit they are in. What they do is travel from areas of high pressure to areas of low pressure, just like wind, and just as fast and far. Period.
I never hunted elk, and have heard some people against, but does anyone agree with: “ Elk in a limited draw unit act the same as the elk in a heavily pressured OTC unit.”
After last year, I won't even hunt elk anymore unless I draw a LE tag. After seeing how they behave in a LE unit, I just feel that the OTC units are sort of an unnatural hunt. We've killed off 90% of the males and it's basically a bunch of 14 year old boys running the show.
FWIW to the OP, I've killed multiple 6x6 bulls in general/OTC units. I just don't agree that they behave the same way. In some ways, yes, but in others, no. In 2017, I called in 4 mature bulls in under 5 minutes for my hunting partner in a LE unit. And they came out into the open and hung around...
I’ve never personally hunted anything but OTC units in Colorado for elk so can’t really say one way or the other. I have killed 14 elk now at age 40. Definitely no expert but elk hunting is my passion and I do however know that elk don’t to much care for people or pressure. It only makes sense to me that elk habitat will hold more elk if less people are entruding on that said habitat. As far as quality of animals, generally speaking, it makes sense to me that more coveted units will generally hold a larger number of mature animals based on the limited amount of tag allocation. One would think that less tag allocation equates to less pressure. Less pressure means that the elk can go on about being elk naturally without constant stress. Stress and pressure affect how animals behave in my experience.
I mostly hunt the same units year after year because it takes time to learn a unit, what elk do, where they go when pressured, where they go when there’s draught, where they like to rut and wallow and be elk. I also hunt those units because I love those places and they hold special places in my heart. I’m not saying that a good elk hunter can’t go to a new unit and have success but I do believe that the majority of guys would find a higher success rate killing elk by taking the time to truly learn an area or unit, which takes more than one year. Hell I’m still learning my areas and I’ve been hunting them since I was 13 years old.
However, I’m a little in between on this matter however because I really do like to go to new places and see new things. In fact I hunted a unit for deer this year that I had previously never stepped foot in. Picked the tag up in the leftover draw, scouted it as much as I could ( via google earth, maps, bowsite members suggestions and my feet) and I was fortunate enough to have killed a great muley. I learned a lot, found some new (to me),incredible ground to hunt deer,elk and bear. Definitely plan to go back.
Went with some friends several times in 49. Called in several good bulls and have witnessed them have good success on elk. Same to be said about friends in 76. I would generally say that you could have a more quality elk hunt in 49 and 76 than most OTC units but again I’m not knocking OTC because they have always been my bread and butter. I write this thinking except my OTC units but that may be from the knowledge I’ve gained over the years about those areas. There are some very quality animals that are in my OTC units. Maybe the next guy could perhaps hunt the unit all month and never find an elk. One would think that an area with low pressure and a high elk density would result in a higher hunter success rate though.
Many of the locations in Colo I've spent time that are OTC....the elk know exactly where the private land fences and boundaries are located. With hunting pressure from August through late cow seasons they tend to spend little time on public once pressured. Elk hunters on public land continually pressure elk back onto private. Most limited elk units I've hunted the elk tend to wander back and forth from public to private to public because there isn't near the hunting pressure.
The big difference between OTC and limited units is the intensity of hunting pressure. The elk tend to be a lot more relaxed in limited units....especially on public land. Elk on public OTC land usually don't have much time to relax until they are safely across a fence on private land.
If I blow elk out of a limited unit I usually don't have a problem finding them again! They usually don't go far. If I blow elk out of an OTC unit they'll likely head to private where I may or may never see them again (on public). There is no comparison in public land hunting pressure in OTC vs limited units....not even close to a fair comparison! Obviously experienced hunters in both OTC and limited units will find elk and do well....but that's hunter knowledge and ability rather than elk behavior. Those that think elk are similar in OTC vs limited units need their heads examined!
"So what's the big deal about hunting the same piece of ground over and over and over? Don't you guys ever get bored with that?"
I'll address that part of his post. Unless you're talking about a 40 acre "piece of ground", it will take decades to completely explore, and figure out an entire wilderness area, or hunting unit. Until you've been in every part of the unit, in all conditions, there is always something new to find.
If you are in a new area you are essentially a rookie to that place. So regardless of how the elk behave you will not be as successful as a hunter who is experienced in that area. It’s amazing how you can hunt the same place year after year and still learn something new every season. I love it and by no means do I get bored with learning it better and better and killing bulls there.
So I don’t care if 50 guys stare at maps and internet crap all year long they will never hunt with the confidence I do or be as consistently successful as I am with the boots on the ground knowledge I have of my area. Knowing your area is a big deal.
Jumping around from place to place and hunting them based on what you’ve seen online must be like internet dating! Good luck with that!
"Obviously, if you spook them, they aren't going to stick around, whether it's OTC, limited quota, or Yellowstone Nat'l Park. "
This has not been my experience, depending on the state I'm in. Here in OR they haul ass when you drive past or bump them hunting. In a good sw state, in a good unit, I've had them mostly just walk off. In NM I've had a whole herd stand in the road with me in the truck 30 feet from them and having to wait while they slowly walk off the road. Utah, AZ, and in WY they don't really care about people. You can bump them and move them around a bit but they're night and day different than OR Elk.
Well said WapitiBob! I agree 100%.
In regard to hunting the same place year after year...I always enjoy returning to my old stomping grounds. Every year is a tad bit different. It's exciting having the opportunity to stalk a buck or bull that I may have messed up on the previous year or a new one that I have missed in previous years. I often make a point of exploring and learning a new chunk of land to add on to the area already known. With that said, it's always challenging and exciting exploring totally new states, units, species, and country....especially if they are known to produce whopper critters!
Elk hunting is just plain fun whether its in an old stomping grounds or exploring a brand new spot. With all the beetle kill falling over now, even old familiar spots are brand new every year.
I must be the dumb ass on here, because even though I too look at google earth of areas on the internet, I have yet to find elk without actually hunting areas. Most areas don’t hold elk, even though they look good .
I've never seen any area that "holds" elk. They pretty much go anywhere and everywhere they want. And that's pretty much the problem with finding them. They CAN be anywhere depending on many factors. But knowing a specific area, can tip the odds in your favor for figuring out where they might be at any given time with greater odds than trying to learn an unfamiliar area.
To Ziek's point: a mountain I know very well has somewhere around 400 elk summering on it. Many know this, so on opening weekend there is an onslaught of hunters from three directions, wind direction be damned. The result is a virtual sweep of the elk onto big adjoining private ranches in the first few days, where they never leave. It can resemble a caribou migration as the elk string across the sagebrush to reach sanctuaries.
A few Bowsiters know this, know where and how to hunt it the first few days, and perennially kill elk there the first few days before they vacate. Trophyhill then arrives the following Friday, knows nothing about it except that most huners are gone, there are rototilled elk trails everywhere, reasonably fresh sign as if there were hundreds of elk there somewhere, can't be far because they don't all leave in the LE units he is used to, and spends five or six days of his seven day hunt trying to find the massive herds of elk that are, by then, miles away.
Nice try Jaq but I'm not interested in hunting your prime 40 acres ;)
Not sure what you're referencing, Trophyhill, since I left that big zoo many years ago and when I went back a few years ago it was depressing. Now I hunt an area that encompasses parts of four units, approximately 600 square miles, from 8K to 11K, and may move my camp 5 times during the season. It's a low elk density, where the elk tend to cycle around in certain places, with large expanses of elkless area that look otherwise really great from the ground and from GE scouting. Has one of the lowest archery success rates in the state but there are some big bulls, which is why I'm dedicated to learning these pockets and how to hunt them.
Very experienced and otherwise successful bowhunters (including some very well known Bowsiters) have come here to hunt because of the big bull whisperings, and totally strike out. Those who have learned a few pockets well, where the elk cycle and how to hunt them consistently, without blowing them out, kill bulls consistently.
Be happy to clue you in to my prime 600 square miles to see if you can just show up and kill a nice bull. ;-)
Ok I'd be happy to come and show you how to hunt your unit then ;)
I'll wait for that open invitation :)
The invitation is open. I'm hunting WY next year so check back with me in March of 2021 before apps are due.
Well I appreciate that! I can't put a pricetag on a free education! Now about that mule deer spot....... :)
With the draws here in NM my first choice is a unit I know fairly well but not like the back of my hand. The second choice is a unit I am familiar with but may need several trips over the summer to become better acquainted with and my third choice is a unit I may know nothing about and have to learn from the get go. There is also the choice of early September and late September so that also factors in. Nothing guarantees the same unit at the same time of year with the draw system here.
There is a good chance I may not get drawn at all for elk hunting. I use that opportunity to have a deer tag in September. It helps to scout at the time the elk hunt happens to learn more about a unit when you might actually be hunting it. Also the pressure may increase where an easy to draw unit with low elk densities now is popular to apply in because of social media and youtube.
As far as E-scouting and Google earth it is good to get a general overview of the land. I find a topo map more useful. There is an area on Google earth that looks like it would be awesome bedding on a north facing slope but the image is old enough that until you get boots on the ground you don't know the trees are gone from a forest fire. Things change like the FS re-blading a road that hadn't been driven on for about 15 years and now you have a super highway that you use to have to walk 1.5 miles to get to a great elk spot. The elk are no longer in that area.
Now back to the banter I interrupted.
Thanks for chiming in there RS. But you really should consider leaving those deer alone in September and hunting elk somewhere. Even if you have to buy a LO tag ;)
OTC elk take classes from whitetails in the off-season. I've seen it!
There’s no place like home.
"Elk in a limited draw unit act the same as the elk in a heavily pressured OTC unit."
I caught on to what you're saying. Really not that hard if you don't let your emotions get in the way and don't take this hunting nonsense too seriously...
I think I'm ready to find a place, learn it and try to get bored with hunting it over and over! I've done the e-scouting of certain units, poured over maps, made the phone calls, and anything else possible to learn a new area before setting foot on the ground. Too many times humping it back to a great meadow or saddle only to find a camp of guys who are familiar with the unit who hunt the same spot year after year. I guess the fact that they do great and return year after year tells me I'm pretty good at picking out great spots from afar. :^)
As far as LE elk and OTC: I've been fortunate enough to draw and hunt a couple great units, Gila in NM and Table Mtn in NV and they were nothing shy of phenomenal. To wake up at 4:00am to bugling, chase bulls all day and to collapse in your tent at night to the sounds of bulls still screaming at one another is something almost not of this world.
Now, I've also hunted one of the most pounded units in west where every trail and road has a steady stream of ATVs with guys tooting bugles and hootchi mamas from sunup to sundown and stumbled into an area that was every bit as incredible as those LE units. Woke up on the last morning of the hunt at 3:00 to elk close to camp and followed them till sunrise. Just off a dirt road, down a steep canyon into an area that on the map looked like nothing. Spent an entire day working elk with multiple Bulls called in to shooting range. Left without an elk but high as a kite with what I found! The next summer it burned and the roads in have been closed since.
I'd say 99% of OTC is elk running around with their tongues hanging out, but if you can find that 1% they're just like any other elk.
In the in the OTC units I described above, a relatively new phenomenon has developed, and the wildlife managers have no clue how to deal with it. The mountains are almost all NF. Down below in the foothills and flats its all private. At the end of August when the onslaught begins, so begins a rapid mass migration onto private. Not just on the mountain I described.
During the archery and ML season the elk roam the private hay meadows and willow bottoms in giant herds throughout the rut. Herds of over 200, like winter herds, move from place to place. Outfitters on the private complain they can't get their guys shots at bulls in that mess, and despite virtually unlimited Private Land Only rifle cow tags starting in mid-August, the elk don't move back up into the NF.
For bowhunters, it's either feast or famine. You're into a herd of 100 or nothing. I grew up hunting this area since rhe early '70s and this has only been happening since the explosion of OTC bowhunters. I know of no LE units where elk act this way.
Lou, I can see that in an area where there are large tracts of private land below and that sucks. In the area I described there was worse below than above so the elk managed to find sanctuary in an overlooked area. The size of the herd in there was about 40-50 elk total.
Bowfly, you mentioned something there that has been so vital for me finding elk. The overlooked areas. And to me these areas are so obvious I don't know why they are so overlooked.
I would say because they make no sense when comparing them to "great areas" on the map. Everyone hunted the knob that the cows fed on in pre rut. Everyone hunted the finger ridges with easy accessible trails an ATV could cruise. Bulls bugled at night and left all kinds of sign on those ridges and on a few large open saddles. On the map the sanctuary looked like little more than a slightly wide shelf on a ENE facing draw going into a deep canyon. It was nasty steep just off the road until you got there then you felt like you were in Jurassic Park. Water, grass, and elk! From the contour of the draw bugles couldn't be heard from the road and the the spot was high enough up from the floor of the canyon that nobody would think to go there. Just looked like a bunch of hillbilly playground down there. Pretty neat find if I do say so myself.
30 yrs hunting the same unit, I know it very well and never get bored. Why mess with success?? I would hunt other areas (different states) if I didn't draw a tag in my beloved unit. No interest whatsoever in hunting other units in my home state.
Yeah Trophyhill----it sucks to have elk at 2 yards in September and only a deer tag in your pocket. Next time I don't draw I will get one of those LO tags, kill an elk on opening day, and then be happy hunting deer in September with elk that close. ;-)
RS, I was going to suggest OTC CO as an option but I already have enough competition up there from NR's when I don't draw a NM tag ;)
Luckily I put in for crappy units that nobody wants to hunt except for a 3rd choice and cow tags so I have only missed drawing a tag twice in the last 12 years. I would rather be hunting with a slim chance at success than staying home.