Shorten the Learning Curve!
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Most elk hunters will share elk hunting information. But they will not tell you exactly where they hunt. They will share elk hunting secrets, but notthat secret! Start by asking lots of questions of hunters who see elk, not just those who kill elk. (After all, those still alive are what you’re looking for.)
Less experienced elk hunters tend to want to tell you everything they’ve seen. Take note when someone shares elk hunting stories about the areas you want to hunt. They don’t have to be successful at killing an elk to steer you to great places to hunt.
From the tighter lipped hunters try to get a general idea of places where those who see elk hunt and what their elk hunting strategy is. Glean as much elk hunting information as you can about the area. Then, study and mark topo maps or aerial photos with any clues you get. Some hunters may steer you to a reasonably good place to hunt elk, but not theirs. That’s OK. You just might end up making that spot “yours”.
When talking to successful elk hunters, memorize clues that you hear about elk hunting strategy and where to hunt. Then write them down as soon as possible. I still have notes from years ago from little location hints people have given while passing on elk hunting information.
Think about joining the elk hunting forum here. Read the posts that sound helpful. Ask more personal questions about their elk hunting strategy and even where to hunt.
Participants often share hot spots for an area, particularly if they do not plan to be able to go back to it. Sometimes forum participants exchange email addresses and discuss it in private. Obtain elk hunting information and wisdom anywhere you can get it!
Read books and magazines (and this site) devoted to elk hunting. Reading and researching helps bridge the long gap between hunting seasons.(Click here for our elk hunting book page.) Petersen’s Hunting orPetersen’s Bow Hunting magazines are great choices. A good elk hunting video or two will add realism to your research.
Once you get a general idea of where you want to hunt elk, talk to some local ranchers and hunters about the best places to hunt. Consider spending a few bucks in a local bar or cafe near where you might hunt, where ranch or hunting rigs are parked outside.
(You’ll recognize the bumper stickers, gun racks, hay, saddles, etc.)
Try to get some elk hunting information from the locals. Ranchers are often glad to tell you how to remove some of those unwelcome hay eaters from their area. But, they might not be so quick to give you a permission slip until they feel like they can trust you.
Actually, most seasoned elk hunters like to help inexperienced hunters or those who are looking for a new place to hunt. They just don’t want to hand someone their favorite spots. Be bold, but polite, “Can you steer me to some good places to hunt, to help me get started on elk hunting around here? I really need some local elk hunting information.”
When looking for elk hunting information, local wildlife biologists are important resident experts. They learn about elk habitat and movement of elk for a living! Most are glad to take time to share what they know. Most are public servants paid for by tax revenue. Take advantage of their knowledge. The same goes for game wardens. Although their focus is law enforcement, some will be willing to help. Start looking for these experts at the state fish and game offices.
Another neglected source of good elk hunting information is the local taxidermists and game meat processors. Think about it. If you go in and ask for local information about elk hunting, are they going to refuse to help you bag an elk? Not if they are savvy businessmen! They want you to come back to them after a successful hunt.
Study the area statisitcs on hunter success and odds of a successful draw for a permit. The State wildlife offices will be able to provide these. Many list draw stats in the back of their hunting regulations.
Study maps of the area to be able to talk to locals and experts with an informed starting point.
Once you are “on site”, sometimes it helps to be respectfully sneaky to find out where successful elk hunters go to hunt. I killed my third elk when I camped near where I knew my neighbor, who was a hunting guide, took his clients. I asked advice of a guy who was camping in the same area as I was. I had heard he was a successful hunter while quizzing other campers. (It helps to carry an extra beer or two in your pocket.)
He told me of a place to hunt for cows for my either sex permit. The next morning I noticed he went some other direction, presumably to his favorite place to hunt for big bulls. The second morning I followed his boot tracks until I lost them, and killed another nice cow that year (my 3rd in four seasons of hunting). The following year I found myself right in the middle of the huge bulls that same guy had steered me away from.
While gaining experience and storing up local elk hunting information, I was harvesting cow elk and thrilled to be doing it! I did hunt archery seasons right from the start, but with equipment that I knew was sub-par. I used archery season mainly for scouting, gaining experience on the ground and getting to know elk. During my fourth season of hunting elk, I explored the area that my adviser's (mentioned above) boot tracks led me to. That year I called a nice bull in for the first time. I was completely ill-prepared for the opportunity, but it was a success to add to my experience none-the-less. I was standing out in the open when he came crashing toward me. I never even got my bow up. I immediately decided I better get more serious about archery hunting!
At this point, success was under way because I was learning from other elk hunters how to find and document good places to hunt elk. Well researched elk habitat, experience and determination are needed to get the snowball rolling. Elk hunting success builds on itself as you gain more and more useful local elk hunting information.
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