Sitka Gear
What’s your main tactic for finding elk?
Elk
Contributors to this thread:
Mike Ukrainetz 27-Jan-21
FORESTBOWS 27-Jan-21
Mike Ukrainetz 27-Jan-21
TrapperKayak 27-Jan-21
bowhunt 28-Jan-21
Dikndirt 28-Jan-21
BULELK1 28-Jan-21
jax2009r 28-Jan-21
huntdoc 28-Jan-21
Bowboy 28-Jan-21
Scrappy 28-Jan-21
320 bull 28-Jan-21
Empty Freezer 28-Jan-21
DonVathome 28-Jan-21
trophyhill 28-Jan-21
elkmtngear 28-Jan-21
Brotsky 28-Jan-21
Norseman 28-Jan-21
Z Barebow 28-Jan-21
BOHNTR 28-Jan-21
Lost Arra 28-Jan-21
WV Mountaineer 28-Jan-21
bowhunt 28-Jan-21
Glunt@work 28-Jan-21
Dale06 28-Jan-21
FORESTBOWS 28-Jan-21
Hank_S 28-Jan-21
Rock 28-Jan-21
Mike Ukrainetz 28-Jan-21
South Farm 28-Jan-21
Inshart 28-Jan-21
Missouribreaks 28-Jan-21
Z Barebow 28-Jan-21
JohnMC 28-Jan-21
Empty Freezer 28-Jan-21
Rocky D 28-Jan-21
Wayjames 28-Jan-21
wyobullshooter 28-Jan-21
Mt. man 28-Jan-21
Jaquomo 28-Jan-21
Willieboat 28-Jan-21
WYelkhunter 28-Jan-21
deserthunter 28-Jan-21
Royboy 29-Jan-21
bigdog21 29-Jan-21
steve 30-Jan-21
Thornton 30-Jan-21
Birdman 30-Jan-21
Jaquomo 30-Jan-21
Birdman 30-Jan-21
TEmbry 30-Jan-21
WV Mountaineer 30-Jan-21
HUNT MAN 31-Jan-21
Jaquomo 31-Jan-21
Mike Ukrainetz 31-Jan-21
DanaC 31-Jan-21
welka 31-Jan-21
welka 31-Jan-21
ElkNut1 31-Jan-21
Cheesehead Mike 31-Jan-21
P&Y400 31-Jan-21
Mike Ukrainetz 31-Jan-21
Mike Ukrainetz 31-Jan-21
ElkNut1 01-Feb-21
llamapacker 01-Feb-21
trophyhill 02-Feb-21
c3 02-Feb-21
Cheesehead Mike 02-Feb-21
Willieboat 03-Feb-21
llamapacker 03-Feb-21
wyobullshooter 03-Feb-21
Scoot 03-Feb-21
ElkNut1 03-Feb-21
Rocky D 03-Feb-21
bowhunt 03-Feb-21
>>>---WW----> 03-Feb-21
Mike Ukrainetz 03-Feb-21
llamapacker 04-Feb-21
welka 04-Feb-21
27-Jan-21
What is your main tactic for finding elk during an archery rut elk hunt in thick timber in a public land area? Do you hike as many miles as possible ripping off bugles? Do you only cow call as you hike? Do you look for good sign before you do any calling? If you find sign do you set up and call from one location for an hour or just 10 minutes? What have you found to be the most successful method?

27-Jan-21
Put on miles

27-Jan-21
Doing what forestbows?

From: TrapperKayak
27-Jan-21
Finding an elk bugling when no one else is arund to blow it- not easy these days. Then silently moving in on them to a distance to where I can cow call them in for the final approach.

From: bowhunt
28-Jan-21
My preferred method during the rut(when bulls should be talking somewhere) is to get high and cover lots of ground calling. Every time I hit another draw I usually cow call a little and see if anything answers, or if I hear a bull sneaking in. If nothing happens after cow calling I bugle as loud as I can with no bulges or chuckles to try to locate a bull that didn’t hear or answer the cow calls. I will cover 8-10 miles per day doing this if I feel I should be getting bulls to respond. I also look for small benches on my gps on thick north face slopes. I will set up for 20-30 minutes 200-300 yards above those cow calling,Kicking rocks, breaking sticks, raking trees, and doing random quiet small bull sounding bugles every once in a while.

This produces bulls for me and my hunting partner every year on OTC Elk hunts.

The covering lots of ground and bugling part works best in low hunting pressure areas.

From: Dikndirt
28-Jan-21
I like to work ridges at night, especially right after dark. I will use loud locator bugles to entice a response, once located I will then be there at daylight and will usually hear bugles without bugling myself. Working in silently so as not to give up my location.

From: BULELK1
28-Jan-21
Spot-n-stalk, leave O-dark-30 and listen for locator bugles, glass when it's open country, still hunt thru the dark timber........Repeat the next day.

Good luck, Robb

From: jax2009r
28-Jan-21
Good glass and spotting scope. Glass glass and more glassing

From: huntdoc
28-Jan-21
I am curious as well, especially when people say they cow call or bugle and wait for a response. The time involved in waiting is where I am uncertain. 30 minutes, or 30 seconds like in most videos on youtube?

From: Bowboy
28-Jan-21
Put on miles, hunt all day.

From: Scrappy
28-Jan-21
I love threads like this. Good info guys, I'm taking notes.

From: 320 bull
28-Jan-21
I walk away from the road until I find the first group of sitka warriors. Then I turn around and go half way back

28-Jan-21
It seems a lot of you are very aggressive with covering ground and yet glassing with spot and stalk tactics. Seems and awful lot like mule deer huntin. I am learnin boys so keep it comin. May be trampsin around the CO woods on my this year. I'll be the guy that's lost and getting raped by spike bull....

From: DonVathome
28-Jan-21
Cover a lot of ground until you find fresh sign then slow down. I bugle occasionally - it cant hurt if you are moving on anyway. Cow calling could cause a bull to charge in your are really lucky so I get quickly setup just in case. I really try to find glassing spots.

28-Jan-21
A locate sound for sure. Simply because your sound travels and at times elk cannot resist answering back. A lot of times I do a locate sound from camp before sunup or I know ahead of time where I want to get to to make that first call from. If nothing answers after a reasonable amount of time listening to the mountain, I’m on the move and immediately start looking for sign, listen for sounds and using my nose as I’m going. Having somewhat of a plan ahead of time helps keep me from just wondering aimlessly. Typically I will have marked my maps accordingly on what I feel will be good spots to call from. More locate sounds from these areas or spots if I’m not seeing, smelling or hearing animals.

If I get into an area abundant with fresh sign, I have to be ready for fast encounters and adjust accordingly to what I’m seeing, smelling or hearing.

From: elkmtngear
28-Jan-21
Elk seem to be most vocal at pre-dawn, and dusk, especially when there is hunting pressure. After pre-scouting (I spend a lot of time looking at Satellite Maps)...I try to be close to where I think I might find them, at those times.

From: Brotsky
28-Jan-21
Pro tip: Check all the trailheads for the ones with the most trucks that have Hush stickers on them. Then hunt within a mile of the trailhead. You'll have the entire area to yourself, and all the elk. :)

From: Norseman
28-Jan-21
Check honey hole #1, if only piscutters and dinks then check honey hole #2....etc, etc. Another tactic is to find a crowded area circle it on your map, then hunt the 2-3 mile radius around that crowded area. Edit: yeah Ive had luck with Brotskys idea as well. Especially 4-5 days into the hunt.

From: Z Barebow
28-Jan-21
Depending upon the country.

Steep country. Find good glassing points on opposite side of canyon of where you expect to see elk. Once you find them, set up on their travel routes. Find those pinch points in the terrain and where the thermals are semi predictable. Make it happen at first opportunity because pressure will change where they hang out.

Flatter country. Location bugle if they aren’t making noise. Cover miles until you find FRESH sign. Smelling them should slow you down.

From: BOHNTR
28-Jan-21
I wander around aimlessly until one gets stupid and walks in front of me.

From: Lost Arra
28-Jan-21
I'm with Bohuntr except I start hunting where I found them last season and prefer elk that are nasally congested in addition to being stupid. There aren't many of them so it will take some work.

28-Jan-21
I put on miles. Playing it by ear and feel. I blind call some. If I find good sign, I call more. I do a lot of setting and waiting once I find sign. Trying to let one tell me where he’s at. If that doesn’t work? I try to entice him to do so. If that doesn’t work, I’ve been known to set after dark for several hours waiting too.

I don’t get near enough time to hunt elk the way I’d like. So, I do whatever I can to make those days count. Killing one after you find them ain’t near as hard as finding one to kill. That’s been my limited experience.

From: bowhunt
28-Jan-21
The original poster asked about tactics for hunting elk in thick timber on public land.

Are all of you that responded that you glass for elk using that tactic in thick timber?

Just curious. I hunted the Oregon cascades for black tail deer still hunting thick timber, and even if I could only see 50 yards I used my Bono’s non stop glassing to catch a price of a deer or movement through the thick brush.

Curious if you guys are using a similar tactic on elk, or missed the thick timber part of the original question.

Calling is so effective for elk, I’ve never used the still hunting tactics that work very well for me on deer in thick timber.

From: Glunt@work
28-Jan-21
All of the above with wandering around aimlessly working about as good as most other tactics.

From: Dale06
28-Jan-21
Get away from other hunters, and hunt private land, which generally gets away from other hunters.

28-Jan-21
Here in Colorado water is big. Sign, green grass and water. Ill have alot of bulls come in and never make a noise

From: Hank_S
28-Jan-21
Lots of great info above!

I only have to add...never call without nocking an arrow and being in position to shoot. Never!

From: Rock
28-Jan-21
Hunt high Timberline or other open areas where I can see a lot of country then glass for them, try to cut them off and ambush them when they move into the timber.

28-Jan-21
Thanks bowhunt for the repeat of THICK TIMBER, PUBLIC LAND. No places to glass, I guess I would also add, no destination food source, lots of water.

From: South Farm
28-Jan-21
Even in thick timber there are pockets where you can glass...or get up higher and glass down into the openings...unless we've been doing it wrong all these years. Finding and sitting wallows has also worked well for us over the years. We hardly cold call anymore, end up playing bugle tag with other hunters and wasting precious time, at least on public anyway.

From: Inshart
28-Jan-21
My tactics are pretty much the other end of the spectrum then (mostly) posted here. I have always gone for the opening day. The shortest hunt period was 5 days, the longest was 21 days.

Chasing bugles, run & gun, can't do it. I can't hear worth a darn (bugles - if further than 100 yards or so, I just don't hear em. Cow calls, 30 yards or less) so my tactic is to locate fresh sign (golden droppings - slimy) trails with fresh tracks, well used wallows and travel corridors to feeding areas and wallows. I set up using the wind - ALWAYS, moving as necessary. Shifting winds - get out of there.

I started in '93 and I would say that using this method, my shot opportunities over the past 15 years are about 95% under 30 yards (not a trophy hunter so that means any legal elk). My issue is when I get an elk in front of me I go to jello, full on elk fever. I've screwed up a LOT of easy shots, not proud of it, but that's just the way it is.

28-Jan-21
Depends a lot on the terrain. In the mountains I walk downhill until noon, uphill until dark. All searching and listening for elk. In open country, lots of glassing.

From: Z Barebow
28-Jan-21

Z Barebow's embedded Photo
Z Barebow's embedded Photo
Thick timber in canyon country. I stick by my tactic above. If you are hunting thick timber with no openings/parks, you are likely not hunting where the elk are. Elk are grazers by nature. Get across the canyon and watch where they come out to/leave from/cross openings. (Small openings) Pressured Elk seem to avoid the largest openings. (As they are more likely to be chased/harassed by hunters) EX This is an area I have hunted 3 different times. The pic is near where I glass from. The line across the canyon is ~ 3/4 mi as the crow flies. It is steep! (~ 900 drop and ~700' climb to the line) I typically do not see elk in the far left opening (After opener) But I will see them cross the other parks to the right of the large one. If I glass elk crossing those gaps in the AM, I circle around and drop in from the top for PM hunt. If I glass PM, I will come in from the bottom for a following day AM hunt. I may see the same elk, but likely they are different elk. Whatever draws one elk to those areas draws other elk to the same areas. (Until someone allows themselves to get winded. This will send them running out of that canyon)

From: JohnMC
28-Jan-21
I figure out the guys that are alway on elk and then hide a gps tracker in their packs.

28-Jan-21
So which one of you elk killin machines needs an extrs meat packer this year?? Don't be shy :)

From: Rocky D
28-Jan-21
Mike, this is much like hunting big woods whitetails. I would really be looking at the topography and focusing on contour and terrain features like benches, saddles, and where ridges come together. If I find trails then they will lead me to the areas that hold elk. If the area is dry, then find water. I would focus my calling around these areas and probably do the same tactics that I use for turkey’s when they go silent. I really like some of Elknut’s cold calling tactics.

I called a bull in Arizona this way after three hours of calling one afternoon with very infrequent cow calls and maybe three bugles. He only bugled twice and took about an hour after his first bugle coming in the rest of the way silent.

From: Wayjames
28-Jan-21
BOHNTR +1

28-Jan-21
I've hunted my area, which happens to be public and heavily timbered, for over 35yrs so I have several places where I know I'll typically find elk somewhere in the general area. In the morning, if the elk aren't talking on their own, I'll hit a few location bugles for the first 20 minutes or so. I don't bugle any longer than that since I have no desire to call in other hunters. If I hear a bugle(s), once I get his location pretty well pin-pointed, I don't make another peep. I get as close as I dare, as quickly as I dare, then go into my routine to get him pissed. If I don't hear any bugles, I'll slowly start moving through the timber, giving a few mews every 50 yards or so. If I make contact with elk, either by sight or sound, then I'll let the elk let me know how aggressive I need to get. Although I know it can be productive at times, I rarely cold call. The only exceptions are if I catch a whiff of elk, or come upon a wallow that's been recently used. I'm not the most patient person, so even in those cases I only cold call for 15-30 minutes. As someone previously stated, all this is dependent on the wind. If it's favorable, then it's game on. If not, then I'll back out and wait for another day when the odds are more in my favor.

In the evenings, due to extremely unpredictable afternoon/early evening winds, I sit in the same tree I've had my treestand in for nearly 25 years. I give out a short series of mews every 5-10 minutes and turn the tables on the elk...I let them come find me. If you have your stand in the wrong place, this can be an exercise in futility. If it's in the right place, it's a proverbial gold mine.

From: Mt. man
28-Jan-21
Know your area and don't just put on miles because your gps or google earth looks good at a certain spot. I have put 17 bulls in the freezer over the years during archery and zero, nadda, none of them have been more than 2 miles from a road. Too many chest thumping back country bushwackers going steep and deep anymore because someone told them it was the cool thing to do on a video or tour. I'm betting they walk past more elk than they ever find. Just speaking from freezer full experience!

From: Jaquomo
28-Jan-21
Where I hunt in CO it's very thick timber with feed everywhere and no shortage of water. Deadfall beetle kill makes many areas very tough to travel through. Bulls bugle after dark and RARELY in daylight, but sometimes they will answer a locator bugle. When they come in, it can take a half hour for one to sneak in, and almost always silently. The herds tend to cycle around, but will often drop way down into meadows to feed after dark, then by first light they are stepping over the deadfall on their way back up to the steep benches to bed.

I drive at night listening and throwing out locator bugles wherever there is a suitable road. Otherwise I check known travel routes and saddles until I find fresh sign, figure out where they are likely bedding, then figure out a plan to ambush or do a calling/decoy setup. Since I mostly hunt solo, I have to pick my spots to call because too many times they sneak in silently and don't present a shot in the thick timber. I have decoyed them in in thick timber with no calling, just movement to get their attention, and that's how I killed my bull last year.

From: Willieboat
28-Jan-21
Go find somewhere not all timbered up...they don’t all live in the trees

From: WYelkhunter
28-Jan-21
find a spot where they should be. put in the foot work. listen watch. and then with a little luck it all comes together and the real work begins

From: deserthunter
28-Jan-21
You must be talking about North Idaho where we hunt. Thicker than crap. No meadows to speak of. Lots of water. I never found a wallow at all last year. Lots of timber roads to access by atv. OTC tags so this last year with the quarantine = a lot more people hunting. Plus wolf packs= silent elk. Toughest elk hunting I have ever done.

From: Royboy
29-Jan-21
If you’re in thick country I would hunt the line like Z’s picture midday. Looks like bedding areas. We normally have a plan for the days hunt but usually head out well before light and bugle every so often and get ready to chase elk.otherwise we just do our hunt as planned

From: bigdog21
29-Jan-21
find Water hole. with any animal

From: steve
30-Jan-21
A good drainage at least 4/5 miles from road /trailhead that has some good grassy parks= feed, a water source, some really good dark timber= bedding/security and NO WOLVES.

From: Thornton
30-Jan-21
I find a lot of elk on small chunks of BLM next to roads believe it or not. I hunted a herd of 260 animals during late rifle this year that were crossing a small pasture about a quarter mile above a busy highway. Even the outfitter across the road didn't know they were there. I've shot 2 other bulls on a small 80 acre national forest river crossing within sight of a busy bridge. I glass a lot and listen to everyone around me. Enroll even the tightest lipped local in conversation and the more you say, the more info they accidentally spill. I don't get discouraged by other hunters, because if you position yourself right, they will often push animals so that you can see where they go or even push them closer to you.

From: Birdman
30-Jan-21
Here's the whole problem now a days people can't figure shit out themselves , Need mass media sites to do it all for them. Here's a original , opinions are like assholes , everyone has one.

From: Jaquomo
30-Jan-21
Thanks for sharing that insight, Birdman! That little gem is worth every penny of the Bowsite monthly subscription.

From: Birdman
30-Jan-21
Your welcome! i think?

From: TEmbry
30-Jan-21
I love to post complaints on mass media sites about people asking questions/talking on mass media sites. It makes me feel better after a crappy day.

30-Jan-21
Yep. I wander why people even cone to a place like this if we were not here to learn from and, share with others what we’ve learned.

These pages contain some of the deadliest hunters known to exist on earth. For prey animals like deer, moose, bear, goats, sheep, elk, etc... I can’t imagine not checking in daily when I have service, to see if they’ve shared an adventure or piece of solid advice.

I reckon that’s not what some people are here for. But, I hope to be blessed to hunt all these things one day. And, there is no other collection of such experienced people that been there and done like those found on bowsite.

From: HUNT MAN
31-Jan-21
Walking and then walk some more . Then nap. Then walk more. Repeat

From: Jaquomo
31-Jan-21
I only come on here when I can't figure shit out for myself. Like, maybe, some tips about hunting a OIAL elk unit where I've never been but others have hunted and never will again. Or to offer tips about calling and decoying rutting muleys to somebody from, say, Wisconsin, who has done his homework and is sincerely asking for advice. Or maybe investment advice from guys who know a hell of a lot more than I, and can help me make money for adventures. Or to be invited on an amazing DIY Australian bowhunt with some Aussie bowsiters who followed my live mule deer hunts on here.

Then there are the great hunting friends I wouldn't have made if not for the Bowsite. Yeah, some of them are a-holes. Stone -cold killers and really fun a-holes who I wouldn't have met without "mass media".

Good to know there are still some guys in this world who can figure everything out on their own, no help, no guidance, just amazing intuition. I wish I was one of them.

31-Jan-21
Thanks for all the input guys! I was honestly curious to see what everyone else does, see if there are some good tips out there? Even if you think you have it all figured out someone will come up with some gem of advice. Some great stuff!

From: DanaC
31-Jan-21
Surprised no one said "Hire a good guide!" ;-)

From: welka
31-Jan-21
Getting too old to hoof it 10 miles a day and only have 6 days each year to kill one. Took us a couple of years to figure it out, but we get up at 3:30 and go and bugle at multiple spots to see where they are. They don't move much mid day due to the heat, so you can nap then! We have just found that it is not worth burning out your legs and first couple of days trying to find them without the help of darkness. This method works public, private, open, thick, etc if you at least have a ball park idea where they might be.

From: welka
31-Jan-21
Getting too old to hoof it 10 miles a day and only have 6 days each year to kill one. Took us a couple of years to figure it out, but we get up at 3:30 and go and bugle at multiple spots to see where they are. They don't move much mid day due to the heat, so you can nap then! We have just found that it is not worth burning out your legs and first couple of days trying to find them without the help of darkness. This method works public, private, open, thick, etc if you at least have a ball park idea where they might be.

From: ElkNut1
31-Jan-21
Mike, you ask a very good question on how to locate elk! Sounds simple enough right! Thinking outside the box & being creative is most important on OTC DIY Public Land elk hunts in dark timber country. Glassing there just isn't going to produce any real world results for location purposes.

Specifically for dark/thick timber elk hunts I will use a Variety of elk sounds to encourage bulls to respond thus giving away their location. I don't concern myself with Cows to respond as they talk very little in comparison to bulls even though they may be standing right next to him.

#-1- The tried & true Locator Bugle, it will work 80% of the time; again just looking for a direction; not trying to call them to me. When not working I will go to number 2.

#-2- Double & Triple up my Bugle with a single grunt/chuckle between each one & finish off with two/three chuckles! I do this in succession, no breaks. I turn to this when I feel elk are in earshot by fresh sign or I feel I'm near their bedding area. It can really get a Shock Bugle out of a bull at times; all I'm looking for is their location. At times I will repeat inside 30 seconds.

#-3- Cow Bugles! This is awesome for pulling out a bugle from a bull when not much else will work, it's in my arsenal every year! --- For those after 'any-elk' incorporate this Cow Bugle along with your normal cow chatter in a Cold Calling setup, it's next level in selling yourselves you are a Real group of cows without a bull present!

#-4- Lost Cow & Regathering Whines used together on volume needed in the area you're calling into. These Mews & Whines can muster up bugles when not much else will with the above tactics! These cow sounds require assistance or aid from other elk.

#-5- Calling prior to daylight with any of the above sounds. Night Calling is something I rely on when elk just flat aren't being found with our stand by calling tactics as we cover lots of ground on foot in pursuit of the wily wapiti. --- Hope these help!

ElkNut

31-Jan-21
This thread is proof that there are many ways to skin a cat and no matter how positive a thread is there will always be somebody trying to piss in your cornflakes.

I'll throw in my 2 cents worth. I mainly hunt heavier timbered areas, still hunting, calling and sometimes watching wallows. I try to be above them or flanking them in the morning so they are heading my direction rather than me trying to chase them up the mountain. I hunt all day and often rest or nap midday near a high wallow. Often I'll hear a bedded bull bugle and I can move in on him. I stay up high to start the afternoon hunt. By being high I'm closer to the elk when they start moving in the afternoon/evening and I hunt until dark. I usually don't glass very much. I find it's much easier to get within bow range in the timber. It's often very difficult to call bulls across large openings. I feel that I have a better chance of killing a bull and my time is better spent going into the timber after them rather than sitting and glassing them a mile or more away. I do glass at times but I don't always feel that it's the best use of my time.

From: P&Y400
31-Jan-21
Probably the main tactic I’ve found for finding elk is finding places that the humans don’t want to go. Get away from the roads and trails find a high vantage point get your glass out get comfortable and find some elk.

31-Jan-21
Paul, ElkNut. I’m curious on your tactics in that would you use #1 and then #2 from the same spot in what amount of time frame? And then if either one doesn’t work you wouldn’t start doing the cow call stuff would you from the same spot would you? Do I assume you would move to another location to try the cow calls? Or no you would wait a bit then do the cow calls from the same spot?

31-Jan-21

From: ElkNut1
01-Feb-21
Mike, most likely not in that order. My general calling with locator bugles is just that, bugles as I search for a response in areas I'm not sure where they're at! -- If I'm in an area that I really feel should hold elk & am getting no response to my locator bugles I generally will relocate 200-300 yards in same general area & 15 minutes later & hammer away with #-2. I don't give up easily when I feel elk are around. I do not do this in open country.

I'm not above going to Lost Cow Calling & Regathering Whines to that same area but only after I move the same distance but not really getting any further away from where I believe elk are still within earshot. -- Sometime things like this are hard to explain, you sorta get a feel that you should be getting a response so you keep tossing out feelers. No doubt all areas are different but I do this in areas where I just know something is around.

I've been in spots where the Cow Bugle was King! In most cases it's in the heavily hunted areas. In a nutshell, I don't give up if I feel they are there. All I'm looking for is a single response, after that it's up to me to lure them in from what I hear. Feel free to ask further questions!

ElkNut

From: llamapacker
01-Feb-21
Put on the miles and throw your call away. If you are hunting public land the elk have heard many bugles, and don't often respond like the TV shows on private property. Get out in the woods while still dark, hiking through good elk country and listen. No need to advertise your presence. If the elk are around, they will let you know. If not, keep walking. Bill

02-Feb-21
If you throw your calls away, you are limiting yourself and making yourself a 1 dimensional hunter. May as well just sit water in a tree stand. Never limit your potential opportunities! That is just stupid! That doesn’t mean you have to call every 10 seconds but don’t limit yourself. One of the things that has helped me become a killer of elk is versatility. On 1 ridge I might be doing the ole spot n stalk. The next ridge maybe an ambush.the ridge after that maybe a great sounding locate sound. The next ridge maybe I’m thrashing some deadfall with a tree branch. Or slow playing on the ridge after that. You just never know what opportunity is on the horizon. Go ahead and throw those calls away. That’s about the time the elk of a lifetime is going to want you to call him your way, and your calls will be in the trash. Of course it helps to know when and when not to and using the right sounds at the right time. But again, throw your calls in the trash and you ain’t never going to find out ;)

From: c3
02-Feb-21

c3's embedded Photo
c3's embedded Photo
In my 38 years elk hunting Montana, Utah and Wyoming, I'm with llamapacker. Throw your calls away. If you bugle at them they shut up. If you cow call at them they run around the mtn. Just my experience hunting a few of the premium units in the country in the peak of the rut.

You all aren't going to believe this, but walking near elk in the dark will get bulls to bugle at you virtually every time if they don't smell you and you are close enough. I believe they are trying to find out if you are cow elk. Some times they literally go crazy if you don't answer them back. Best calling technique I've ever employed :)

Had this group of a few hundred going off bigger than I've ever heard in the dark as we skirted a knob to get in front of them coming out of these hay fields. If we sat down and didn't move they were all quiet. As soon as we'd start moving they would all light up.

Epic hunting to say the least !!!

Cheers, Pete

02-Feb-21
Calling elk is too much fun, I would never throw my calls away. I've killed a decent number of elk for a guy from Wisconsin and put a few on the wall that came to calls. I doubt that I would have killed some of them without calls. Of the 14 bulls I've killed, one I killed at a wallow, one I killed at a water hole and one I killed while I was watching a trail. The rest were called in. You're most likely never going to be able to call a group of a few hundred elk a mile across an open hay field. Why would they come to one elk calling when they are already with a few hundred? In my experience, the bigger the herd, the harder it is to call a bull away. Calling works best when you have a lone bull out looking for company. If you walked for miles without calling there's no telling how many bulls you might walk by or were within earshot of without ever knowing it. If you do some calling now and then you're going to have a lot better chance of finding out they are there. Different strokes for different folks I guess and if you want to throw your calls away and walk for miles and miles, knock yourself out...

From: Willieboat
03-Feb-21
Gotta have my calls with me at all times, feel like I’m elk hunting naked without them. As you can see here lots of different ways to kill elk.

I have said it here before.......nobody knows more than all of us combined !!

From: llamapacker
03-Feb-21
I know some people like to call - some apparently like to call more than they like to kill elk! I have used calls in the past, and understand the attraction. I have killed far more elk once I threw the calls away. You can really be a far more effective predator when you remain silent. I don't really know how many elk I have killed, but I know it is over 90 and probably a few over 100. I haven't added them up in a few years. It has been about 10 years since I even used a cow call. Occasionally I wish I still had one, but I know I can be effective without the calls. You can stop elk with other subtle, natural sounds if necessary. One bull I killed last year came towards me thinking I was a cow straying from his heard. He heard my footfalls in the bush, and I never made any type of call. I shot him at 7 yards, and while not a monster, he was a solid 290-300 bull I shot on the 3rd day of the season. Most people are far too enamored with their calls, and scare away many elk. For the few that use them sparingly as only one tool in their kit, fine. 90% of hunters would be better off without their calls entirely. Bill

03-Feb-21
“You can really be a far more efficient predator when you remain silent.”

If that’s what works for for you great, but there’s obviously a lot of proven elk killers that adamantly disagree with that opinion. Calling certainly isn’t the end all-be all, but if a person knows how and when to call correctly, it’s deadly...not to mention fun as hell. Personally, I would never consider entering the elk woods without my diaphragm. As has been said, to each their own.

From: Scoot
03-Feb-21
"In my 38 years elk hunting Montana, Utah and Wyoming, I'm with llamapacker. Throw your calls away."

If that works for you guys, I suggest you keep on doing it! I've never hunted UT, but in many years of hunting MT and WY (and NM and CO) almost all of the elk I've killed and kills I've been involved with have been called in. Apparently I was doing it wrong when I killed the ones I did! :) I do love calling elk, but I definitely like killing and eating elk too. I'll do it however I think will work and for me, calling has produced the most punched tags so far.

For those who figure out how to do it effectively without calls- as long as you enjoy it, who cares how others do it? For those who kill them a different way, same deal. With elk hunting, there are lots of ways to skin a cat.

From: ElkNut1
03-Feb-21
Mike U, sorry I missed a couple of other questions you had asked.

"One was do we wait to see fresh sign before calling to locate?"

I do not, fresh sign is a plus but I will generally call from areas I feel I have a good chance in receiving a response, this is especially so if I'm familiar where elk could be in an area. My Calling will reach a fair piece in many areas so it's worth it to me to cast my rod in hopes of a bite.

"Your other question was how long to wait after calling?"

If Bugling, Lost/Separated Cow, Regathering Whines, Cow Bugling, etc. I will generally give several but not wait more than a few minutes, if no response I move on. I will call again when I feel I'm where I couldn't have heard a response from the last spot I called from when covering ground on foot. This is more likely in unfamiliar areas. In areas I've hunted previously I have my spots to call from that have produced in the past.

If I decide to use a Sequence like the Advertising, Slow Play, Breeding Sequence or Cold Calling I will call pretty regularly for 20-30 minutes in as natural a setting as possible & wait 30 minutes more if need be. So close to an hour in all. I choose my spots wisely before I spend that much time there!

When Night Bugling from a rig just prior to daylight I will call 2-3 times inside a minute, no response & I move on to the next spot & repeat until I find them.

ElkNut

From: Rocky D
03-Feb-21
“ I'm with llamapacker. Throw your calls away."

C3, I am a novice elk hunter and I have called multiple bulls in Montana, Wyoming, Arizona, and New Mexico with both bugles and cow calls. I would not want to limit myself by not trying to call in elk.

From: bowhunt
03-Feb-21

bowhunt's embedded Photo
bowhunt's embedded Photo
This post was started asking how people elk hunt dark timber on public ground, without places to glass. He also added lots of food and water in the timber so no specific feeding or watering areas.

In the attached photo I am climbing out of a huge north facing basin that is nearly all dark timber. The basin is around 6 square miles in size. There is tons of feed and water scattered everywhere in the timber of this area. The elk go to this sanctuary and stay there for safety. Without the use of calls you would be hard pressed to be successful in this type of area year in and year out. I have had to pass on shots at 30 and 45 yards because there is no clear shooting lanes. I Shot one bull at about 6 steps. 20-30 yards is about the farthest you may get a shot through a small window in the under brush.

I imagine a scenario like the one above is similar to what the OP is asking about.

I love spot and stalk, spot and ambush hunting, and still hunting.

In this setting it is the wrong tool for the job in my opinion.

03-Feb-21
The best ways I know about finding elk include locator bugles, a whole lot of glassing, and wearing out a lot of shoe leather.

03-Feb-21
Thanks for all the tips guys! A lot of great stuff here. To me being as versatile a hunter as possible is best, and you never know what really useful tidbit of advice you might pick up from a fellow hunter. Sometimes it can be something never even thought of by one guy but a seemingly obvious tactic to another. And they can both be very successful hunters.

Thanks ElkNut for the detailed info from a master of his craft!

From: llamapacker
04-Feb-21
I am perfectly fine with people using calls to "bring in the elk". I have done it in the past myself, and it can work. I should probably encourage every novice to wander through the mountains tooting their calls every 5 minutes. There will be more live elk for me each season! The fact remains, most people call poorly, improperly, and scare the elk away. This is even more true for novices. Heck, there is one forum member here I met in Wyoming sitting on game trails for the entire season much like eastern whitetail hunting. His party is reasonably effective, averaging 1-2 bulls for 4 people every year. I would never advise any new hunter to find a game trail and sit on it, but it can work.

I grew up hunting western Montana, Idaho and Washington in the dark timber. It is not the easiest country to hunt for elk. I have called in a number of bulls over the years. There are, in particular, some great areas and private lands hunts where calls remain effective, but these seem to diminish every few years. Yes, it is fun.

But there are more effective ways of killing elk regularly. Some will be satisfied with their level of success. I say to each his own. But most people I run into in the woods each year complain about their inability to call in elk. Often they are standing on a public road calling at 10:00 am. Good luck with that. The number of call shy elk increases every year.

Many here do not realize how much more effective they would be without using calls on public lands. Fine with me. I know my viewpoint is not popular, particularly with those trying to sell calls. If I have opened some people's eyes to another possibility, fine. This is about giving advice and letting others find what works for them. Many (not all) elk hunters would improve their success if they left the calls at home or threw them away.

Bill

From: welka
04-Feb-21
On night calling, I agree with Paul on the technique. We locate at multiple spots every morning and mix up where we do those calls from. However, after the locator bugle, we move on within 2-3 minutes if we don't get a response You can cover a lot more spots this way and we learned over time that if they don't respond in that time, they likely are not there. We have even ended up in the middle of a rut fest in the dark with bulls bugling everywhere and then they go silent as daylight approaches - hence the benefit of night calling. Good luck

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