Elk Hunting 2011: Blog Your Progress

by Dave, Elk Hunting Tips.Net
(Garrison, MT)

Report your elk hunting progress, or "close encounters of the herd kind" in 2011. Give us reports of how it's going for your season. Start one of your own by simply clicking here , or add yours as a "comment" below. Keep us updated.

Successful elk hunting starts with close encounters. We want to hear about yours. What have you seen and heard on your elk hunts?

Those "close encounters", without kills, provide a wealth of learning experience. Please share it. Is there anything you would have done differently?

If you kill one tell the whole, detailed story, or just tell us what you harvested and whether it was rifle or archery. Don't forget the pictures.

Any elk kill is a success story. There are many areas that are encouraging the hunting of cow elk because of large herd numbers. Tell us about antlerless elk success, as well.

What did you do right that lead to your hunting success? What did you learn and what could you have done better?

Comments for Elk Hunting 2011: Blog Your Progress

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Nov 27, 2011
Last Day of Elk Hunting
by: Dave, Elk Hunting Tips (MT)

When I saw your truck there, Steve, I was wishing I could talk to you. I wasn't going back for the one or two day old sign I saw, but was wondering if there was anything fresh in that area where your footprints told me you went.

We went Christmas shopping instead.

Archery season will be here soon enough. I've got a marathon to train for and compete in now. No rest for the weary!

We should consider checking out Spotted Dog next year during archery. Looks like a long walk to get in there, too.

Nov 27, 2011
Always next year, can't wait
by: Anonymous/Steve

I called it quits after Saturday too. I found very fresh track, probably 5-6 animals, but by that time, I was pooped from dealing with the crusty and sometimes deep snow, had just enough energy to get back to the truck. The tracks led into thick christmasy tree stuff and I don't think there was any way to get close with the crunch. Thought about going today, but came to the realization that I should have hunted more in September. I'll see you out there next September. Already have new ideas and plans for next year, can't wait.

Nov 27, 2011
End of season 2011
by: Dave, Elk Hunting Tips (MT)

OK. I quit! I guess one elk in the freezer is enough for me. I've never had two elk tags to fill before this year. I went out yesterday and covered over 7 miles in crummy, crusty snow starting out at 8 degrees. Saw some elk tracks that were a day or two old, but no hide and hair.

Only nine months until archery season opens again! In the meantime, it's time to start writing again. Let me know if you have any elk hunting tips to share.

Nov 12, 2011
Multiple Shots
by: Dave, Elk Hunting Tips (MT)

I worked TOO hard, because I made too many mistakes during archery! Yeah, you probably heard several shots. I shot the cow in the neck (butt to me looking back at me), but missed the vertebrae. She didn't run far, but just stood there bleeding out the mouth. I got tired of waiting and I was freezing, so I positioned for another shot.

She just kept standing there while I shot holes through both lungs. I guess she finally bled out and fell dead. I believe in taking insurance shots, as long as they present themselves and no loss of meat occurs. Besides, I couldn't wait to get my cold hands in those warm guts! Hauled her downhill to the truck whole in the Lo-boy cart without difficulty.

I was going to go out with my bull tag this morning, but it was so windy I stayed in bed. We got all the meat wrapped and in the freezer about an hour ago. Maybe I'll see you out there some time soon. (I'm drawing a blank on your name, but I know who this is!)

Nov 12, 2011
Heard shots
by: Anonymous

Congratulations Dave: I know you worked hard for that elk. I was in the area Thursday morning and heard you shoot. Hoped you might push something my way, but saw nothing, not even a fresh track. Good luck with the rest of the season. I've got to get busy and spend more time in the woods, but that darn work keeps getting in the way.

Nov 10, 2011
Elk in the Freezer
by: Dave, Elk Hunting Tips (MT)

Just put an elk in the freezer and still have a bull elk tag to fill! Just finished a good meal of corned elk to celebrate the harvest.

Oct 31, 2011
First two weekends
by: Missoula, MT Matt

Dave, sorry your opening weekend was a rain delay. Look forward to your next posts. I finally have something to post after reading this forum all summer and fall. First of all, thanks to all who post.

After my first fall of serious bowhunting for elk I was encouraged by a few sightings and bugling conversations. Hunted the rifle opener in the Flint Creek range. On Sat. on the hike back in the evening we encountered a bull not more than 30 yards off the trail. Unfortunately, he saw us through the timber at the same time we saw him and he was off like a racehorse. The lesson from that encounter: trust your eyes. I had seen a sliver of light brown between the trees and thought to myself that it could be an elk. But I didn't say anything to my hunting partner or prepare for the possibility that it was an elk. I just decided to keep my eye on it. And, of course, it was an elk. Had I trusted my self and prepared for a shot I'd be posting differently right now.

Sunday was another long day of hiking with no sightings. But, watching a park at twilight my partner took a shot at a bull from 200 yards and missed. We combed that park and woods for an hour looking for blood; nothing.

This weekend was spent in the John Longs and seeing nothing but wolf tracks.

Hope the rest of ya are having a good hunt. I've got a cow tag for HD210 if anyone has any advice.


Oct 23, 2011
Opening Day of General Season in MT
by: Dave, Elk Hunting Tips (MT)

Opening day threatened rain, but bulls were bugling in one area before and around daylight. Pressure from below pushed them out of the block managed property at daybreak. I covered 12 miles on foot, since I couldn't ride my mountain bike in.

This morning (second day) it was raining heavily when I got to the gate. Took a short nap in the truck and headed back home. Planned to hunt deer at daybreak on a small private piece near home that has always allowed hunting. After years of harvesting a deer or two there most years I found barriers forbidding access.

So, how was your weekend of hunting?

Oct 09, 2011
Arizona Elk Down
by: Dave, Elk Hunting Tips (MT)

Check out Dan's 6 X 6 taken in Arizona.

Oct 09, 2011
Quiet Morning in Elk Country
by: Dave, Elk Hunting Tips (MT)

It was a cold, quiet morning and a wolf was seen in the area. We saw some elk, but didn't hear them advertising their presence.

Oct 06, 2011
Elk Hunting in the Rain?
by: Dave, Elk Hunting Tips (MT)

I ain't burning vacation leave to hunt in the rain and wind! Anyone ever kill one in the rain?

Oct 03, 2011
Temporary Setback
by: Dave, Elk Hunting Tips (MT)

I love that attitude! It's "not failure, it's a temporary setback". I also posted your comment on the Arizona Elk Hunting page. Maybe you'll get some advice.

Oct 03, 2011
Going after elk-again
by: Skip Shephard

One thing I don't do easily is quit trying. At 66 I am still determined to go after and harvest either a cow or bull this season. My next attempt will be an over-the-counter elk hunt up near Holbroke and Winslow, AZ. Units 4a and 5a I believe the north parts of those units. I have never been up there. The game and fish reports some elk in the Chevron Lake basin area. Anyone ever hunted that spot? I am taking my 300 Win.Mag with me this time. Fish and Game also mentions Red Hill? I was not able to find it while searching Google Maps. I am hoping the bulls will still be bugleing in Mid.October. Good hunting to all and God bless.

Oct 03, 2011
Elk Rut Weekend
by: Dave, MT (ElkHuntingTips.Net)

Your experience sounds like mine, Steve, except I didn't nearly get run over by a 6 point bull while I was napping. (Just a cow.) Would you have had a chance to draw your bow?

People used to protect their meat without refrigeration by salting it and hanging it. I guess that's an option in the heat, if it's going to take a while to get it out. But who wants to take that salt in? I think just hanging it in small portions in light game bags would would keep what you couldn't get out until overnight.

The weekend, especially Sunday, for me was the most raucous of the entire rut. Today they were much more subdued, but Sunday they must have had some hot cows in estrus. That only lasts for a few hours per cow. Anyway, many bulls were all piled up together vying for those ready cows. I let the majority of them move on after daylight while I worked on a bull that wasn't quite part of the crowd. I set up good shooting lanes everywhere but on my back trail, down wind. I could shoot all other directions.

Then I saw the bull sneaking up my back trail and grimaced as he approached my scent stream behind some brush 35 yards behind me. He blew out of there like something kicked him.

Later, I lined up between two bugling bulls. One of them came walking up right past me alongside a cow and calf, headed to the herd bull to do battle, or whatever. It was going to be a perfect line up. He would be broadside at 35 yards. Then suddenly the cow and calf turned straight toward me and were withing 8 yards of me in seconds. I couldn't draw without being seen.

She dithered back and forth trying to figure out which way to go around me (although she just saw me as an object in the way). I really think ASAT camo does the trick. I'm setting up more in the open now and getting away with it! I decided to just try and kill her, but no way to draw without spooking her. She bolted and so did the bull. Stopped him at 65 yards, too far for me to feel comfortable.

I followed herds around for hours, but they meandered away from me faster than I could quietly keep up. I could hear them walking and talking, but too much brush. They were feeding upwind, which made it possible for me to stay close behind, but impossible to go around and set up an ambush for them (even if I could have moved fast enough). I guess they meander into the wind once the lead cows get "educated" a bit each season.

Too bad today wasn't a repeat of Sunday.

I'm going back to work for two days to rest!

Oct 02, 2011
Excessive calling
by: Idaho Steve

On my final day, last of the season, I came in from the same direction (east to west, headed into the wind) as I had all season. The other mornings I'd been out, the bugles were frequent. I'd hear at least a dozen or so between 8:30 and 11. Maybe three or four different bulls. This morning it was silent. And the elk I did see seemed more alert than the other mornings. I thought maybe they were catching on to me, but I'd been out only four other times. Anyway, at around 10:30 or so after spooking a few cows and one bull, I finally picked up another bugle and began working my way towards him. As I got close, maybe 100 yards, I started hearing a lot of cow talk. A LOT. More than I'd heard all season. And the bugles as I got closer sounded like they were coming from a freaking hose. And they were so clean and perfect and the same every time. No other bull sounded like that. I made a few cow calls and immediately got a bugle response and two different sounding cow calls. OK, those aren't elk. I knew it. But I still snuck in. I watched two hunters for about 10 minutes crawling around in the brush in their beautiful brand new forest green camo (they might as well have been wearing flashing lights). They sounded like an elk symphony. Ridiculous. So unnatural. I mean if I knew they were hunters, there had to be no doubt the elk did too. They never saw me but got so excited by my cow calls. I later saw their tracks and could tell they came in from the west, hiking east, with the wind at their backs carrying their scent right into everything they were hunting. I felt like telling them they should stop watching those bs trophy bull DVDs and actually learn something by reading elk-hunting-tips.net. Kinda funny but also frustrating. They seemed to spook everything that day, and it was the last day of the season. Oh well.

Oct 02, 2011
Recap (long)
by: Idaho Steve

How did your season turn out?

I came up empty handed. Had many close calls but couldn't close it. I did pass up a shot and I think I'll be kicking myself for it the entire year. I had been following a herd all morning second to last day of the season. Very vocal and aggressive bull. Large harem, maybe 30-40 cows. They didn't bed until about 12:30, i think cus the cows knew I was on them and kept hopping off beds to move to another. I never would have found them if not for that bull, who kept bugling heavy until 1. Even then he sporadically bugled through the bedding hours, about every 15 minutes until 3:45, when the cows started moving again. Anyway, I got within about 50-60 yards of their beds by the time they were settled. I was laying down to take a nap when I heard some movement coming towards me, from the other direction the herd was bedded. It was slightly downhill from me.

I caught sight of a rack moving diagonally uphill towards me. Dude was a 6x6. He walked right past me, came within about 16-18 yards. He was kicking up huge clouds of dust. I passed it up. It was 1 p.m., and close to 80 degrees. I had about 10 seconds to make a decision and decided it was too warm to take something that size. In retrospect, I should have taken the shot. It seemed meant to be. But I'd regret it even more if I'd arrowed him slightly off target and he ran a quarter mile in that heat. At least that's what I'm telling myself. Sure hope that's not the only opportunity I'll ever have on a bull that size. He had broken branches on his rack (from fights????)

The interesting thing is he was totally silent. The herd bull was still vocal, and another bull in the herd would echo his bugles whenever he let loose. This 6x6 came in quiet. I watched him as he passed me and headed toward the beds. He never bugled. The herd bull approached him and the 6x6 just seemed to ignore him. He kept calmly walking uphill right past him. Seemed he couldn't care less. He just kept going calmly and disappeared into the trees. It was like he was just done, defeated, or exhausted. I'm curious about that. I find myself much more fascinated by the science and behavior of these animals.

Sep 28, 2011
hot weather =closed lands
by: Phil

Western WA archery elk was somewhat a bust. 80 degree for the first four days and the timber companies closed their lands. Long drives to unfamiliar areas didn't help either. Saw elk one day-the day the land was closed. Late season should be better since its after Thanksgiving.

Sep 26, 2011
Bull sneaking in
by: Dave, Elk Hunting Tips (MT)

They absolutely do sneak in quietly. Once the second week or so gets started, or once they start catching hunters sounding like cows, they start sneaking. That's why I love the first week or two. It's hot and people don't think they should hunt in the heat. The bulls are looking for their first "date" of the year. No harems yet.

Absolutely try raking a tree with a stick. Stomp around and bugle, etc. That might work on the "big boss", but it might scare the heck out of the satellite bulls. Depends on what you're trying to accomplish. Use some serious growls and grunts as close to the herd as you can, if you're working on that herd bull.

When one is expected to come in, set up in front of the trees when calling. Kneel, if you can to look less like a human.

Sep 26, 2011
Tip-toeing Bulls
by: Steve

I was in the same boat as you today. Hot and heavy bugling until about 10. Had that close encounter with the nice bull at about 8:30-9. Then those other bulls became vocal and worked them from 11:45 to noon.

That by the way was kinda interesting. At first I spotted a young bull, almost like a spike but with a branch. Then a few minutes later, a bigger bull, maybe a 4x4. Never saw the younger dude again. Did he get bumped by the older dude? Anyway, after noon it became dead quiet except for movement in the trees/brush. Was gonna hang and take a nap but ran out of my 3 liters and with no water anywhere close, decided to call it a day with plans to hit them every morning through Friday.

Funny you bring that up about the bulls becoming wary of your pressure and calls. I have a feeling that will also happen to me as that drainage is loaded with elk and I plan to hit it every day. I did hear one bull raking a tree at one point. Would a large dead stick give off the same effect? But would I then need to use bugle calls in addition?

I made a lot of rookie mistakes today. Is setting up behind a tree a bad idea cus it limits your shot window, or because it helps the bull pinpoint your location? Or both? I do not have good camo. In fact just camo pants and a light brown polypro top. Good camo just didn't fit in the budget this year with a new bow, arrows, targets, etc. ASAT is on the list for next year.

That first nice bull just outplayed me today. He came in hot and heavy, making a lot of noise. He moved to my left initially with the tree blocking me from his view. Then it went quiet. I peeked out to the right, expecting to see his ass, and he was staring straight at me. He had very silently doubled back on me. It was like he freakin tip toed or hovered 40 feet back to the right. Crazy. How can a several-hundred-pound animal make no noise in the woods? Amazing.

Sep 26, 2011
Vocal Bulls Today!
by: Dave, Elk Hunting Tips (MT)

Very noisy bulls this morning after a dark night/new moon. I am noticing that I don't hear them in the dark of the morning, until well after daylight. Today they kept it up until I had to leave for work at 1:00. That was after I called in two bulls and a cow. The cow was in the lead and she was looking for the estrus whining cow (me). When she couldn't find her, the bulls moved on, not seeing the cow they were looking for.

Then I called another bull in, who was walking toward my decoy. Unfortunately, I didn't see him 30 yards away behind some brush. I did a loud estrus scream and he looked at me and freaked. Ran a complete circle and left. Another mistake by me!

I was complaining about the bulls being educated to my wife and she reminded me about playing around with that second bull called below. She said, "That's what you get for playing with your food!"

Sep 21, 2011
Coon Canyon, Arizona
by: Dave, Elk Hunting Tips (MT)

Skip, I'm sorry you had such a "dry" season. I hope you will not be discouraged. Rethink your strategy and go at it again!

Sep 21, 2011
Quiet Elk Rut
by: Dave, Elk Hunting Tips (MT)


That's so typical of elk hunting. For what it's worth, you probably did the right thing (at the wrong time). Successful elk hunting is doing the wrong thing ten times and the right thing once, hopefully the right thing once every season.

I am "successful" because I spend so much time each season hunting. The more I hunt, the less number of times I fail per season, but I still "fail". I see those failures as "not failures, but temporary set backs". What famous dead guy said that, anyway? I think it was Einstein.

Sep 20, 2011
Skunked in Coons Canyon,AZ
by: Skip Shephard

My hunting partner and I came back empty handed again on a cow elk archery hunt in late August to Sept. 4th. We were in the Coons Canyon area of Unit 1. We did see a few cows, no bulls, and two very nice Mule deer bucks in velvet. We did hear a few bugles at night; i.e. very early a.m. like 1 a.m. ish.

Sep 20, 2011
Slow year
by: Colo Archer- Joel

Sounds like you are having the same type of year that I am having down here in Colorado. The rut started out slow with not as much "elk talk" as normal years. This is the last week of the season here and it is finally picking up. I called in a monster 6x6 last night. He covered about 300 yards in seconds. I had him at 10 yards, but his vitals were behind a little brush. Looking for that perfect lung shot, I made one step at full draw. As I was a second from releasing, he busted me. I had a liver shot, but decided to go for the sure thing. Maybe I should have waited him out, but I just needed that one step for open lungs. Bummer!

I will be out there tonight to see if he wants to play again. Good luck in MT!

Sep 18, 2011
How to Mess Up a Good Elk Calling Set Up
by: Dave, Elk Hunting Tips (MT)

OK. Time for a little screw up confession. Yesterday I spent 2 hours working on a bull. He finally came down to see me after hearing enough estrus whines and young bull bugles (me).

I had some stumps and trees, etc. ranged so I could decide which pin to use if he came in. When he did, I stopped him on a dime right between some brush, with my bow drawn. No time to range exactly, since a bull will look right at you when you stop him with a cow call.

I had plenty of time to make a good shot with excellent form. Good release, etc. He bolted over a rise just behind him. I noticed what time it was and decided to give him an hour, since I didn't see where the arrow went in.

There was another bull interested in my cow talk so I called him in, too. Nice bull walked straight to me and didn't "see" me. In order not to step on whatever he thought I was, he stepped just to my right side, stopped and bugled.

I couldn't shoot again, because I had already stuck another bull, so I took his picture. He was still looking for that cow he heard.

Couldn't find the bull I stuck. One pool of blood and that was it. I ranged where he was standing: 45 yards. I had figured 40 yards and held my 35 yard pin a little high. Not high enough for a lung shot, apparently.

Moral of the story? It's difficult in a weedy, brushy, rolling setting to guess the difference between 5 and 10 yards. My arrow drops fast after 40 yards. I should have held higher. Passed up a good bull at 10 paces because of it!

Second screw up: I was videoing the second bull with my digital camera. So I thought. the video mode was not running! Can't see those dang monitors in bright light.

Sep 16, 2011
Archery Elk Hunting Progress
by: Dave, Elk Hunting Tips (MT)

The elk rut "seems" to be moving a little slowly where I hunt in MT. I am not hearing a lot of rut talk. Heard coyotes once and estrus talk the same day. Some of us suspect wolves. Coyotes don't howl when wolves are around. Elk shut up, too. the rut WILL go on, regardless.

Called a young satellite bull in last weekend. Was expecting some other satellite bugler that was talking to me. The young bull showed up instantly. I might as well have been dancing a jig naked. He caught me moving to set up for the other bull. I like to move from the spot I last call, so they don't have my location pegged.

Spent 5 hours one day last weekend mostly within 75 yards of a herd of cows and a herd bull. The cows nearest me finally bedded down, so I did too. Took a nap. Got up and got eyeballed by a cow. Played statue for 15 minutes in the hot sun and she finally started grazing. (My camo works!) I took another nap and eventually sneaked out of there in order to avoid busting that herd out of the country. They were there the next morning.

The next morning I was tempted to fill my (additional) cow elk tag, but decided not to spook the herd until I filled my bull tag. Those darn bulls seem to always be on the opposite side of the herd from me! And they aren't doing much talking still.

Went back to bed this morning due to rain. It might have been good hunting, but the elk in my area have been way back past three miles from the parking area. My bike would pick up tons of mud. That's my excuse and I'm sticking with it! Back at it tomorrow, regardless. I've been covering 10 - 11 miles on bike and foot each day. Sometimes at work by noon after that. The extra sleep felt good.

Sep 05, 2011
by: Dave (MI)

...and the big green monster rears its ugly head again...

Some of us must be content (at least this year) to live vicariously. So please, FEED US! The more stories, the better! Especially the new hunters.

Sep 04, 2011
Opening Weekend of Archery
by: Dave, Elk Hunting Tips (MT)

Opening day on Saturday I heard some young bulls talking back and forth as I was riding my bike up the mountain. There were five of them milling around with two cows, right in the direction I needed to go, of course. So I played with them for a while. Even got my new Miss September Montana Decoy out. They were too young to care!

I "fresh-poop trailed" another herd after that. Walked up on a couple dozen cows and at least one bull around 10:00 a.m. None saw me, but they were all on the wrong side of the fence by the time I caught up with them! All I could do was watch. They weren't coming back. None were talking.

Sunday, saw some cows pretty close, but still not much bugling going on. Back at it tomorrow.

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Elk Hunting In Montana

Hunting in Western Montana, by Mike A. (Alabama)

I did not draw a tag for Missouri breaks where I have hunted in the past. Having to start over and try western Montana.

New Mexico Elk Hunting

New Mexico Unit 49, by Silas (Los Alamos, NM)

If anyone has tips on areas to start scouting, I'd really appreciate it.

First Elk Hunt First Elk Hunt, by Big "R" (NM)

I finally got drawn for a late elk hunt in Unit 28, north of Road 506 and south of the boundary line of the Lincoln National Forest...

Elk Hunting Nevada

Cow elk in Nevada's unit 222:

"Any good places known in unit 222?"

Northeast Nevada Early Elk hunt, by John (Carson City,NV)

"Any suggestions on what areas I may see some signs of elk?"

Questions from Novice Hunters

Retired USMC MSgt Needs Advice, by Ken Wing USMCRET (Bealeton, Va)

Big Game Recipes

Popcorn VenisonPopcorn Venison with Maple Syrup?

Elk or Venison Steaks Grilled to Perfection Here's how to turn them into steakhouse steaks!

Spice-Crusted Grilled Venison Roast Recipe This Spice-Crusted, Grilled Venison Roast recipe works great for any red meat roasts, including elk, deer or beef roast...

Corned Elk Recipe You can easily make corned venison and elk, moose or corned beef from these instructions...