Smelly Elk Areas?

by Jimmy
(New Mexico)

I've come across many areas that just stink of elk, literally. I have heard two somewhat contradictory stories about these areas.

1) It's simply a bedding area and the smell will last a couple of days. So you have not necessarily spooked them out when you come across these areas.

2) The smell is due to many elk urinating all at once in order to confuse predators. The strong smell makes it difficult to determine in which direction the elk have gone. So when you walk into these areas you have spooked elk very recently.

Any elk experts out there want to shed light as to what these smelly areas represent?


Comments for Smelly Elk Areas?

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Jul 17, 2013
elk smell
by: rick from wyo

elk have a distinct body oder.with experiance you will know the differance betwwen urine/body oder. every time i have gotten into a strong smell of elk i find elk shortly there after. slow down move slower, look longer they are nearby. you can smell them for a while after they leave check for tracks in circular patterns untill you find the exit. i have walked to within feet of elk in swirling winds in the timber several times. move slowly cautiously and look everywhere they are there. my first time doing this i followed some tracks though light snow and dry hard ground, for 45 minutes in what seemed to be circles. first found a cow casully walking down an old over grwen fire road. then 20 minutes later on the same set of tracks a 3x4 bull milling around feeding in a 5 to 7 yard clearing about 35 yards away. offerd the shot to my partner who did not carry a round in the chamber becuase of the safety features on his rifle. he spooked the elk while chambering a round and i counted 11 elk leaving the area post hast. dont know if they smelled or heard something. good luck and keep the area in mind. elk have been there and will retirn

Aug 26, 2012
Smelly Elk Urine and Poop
by: Dave,

I agree with RodeoBrandon, pee smells more like ammonia. Also, the more dehydrated a body is, the stronger it will smell. And cow elk urine in estrus has a smell all its own!

As for asparagus, I've looked into that because I am a registered dietitian and "needed" to know. Asparagus actually has a protein in it that most veggies don't have.) You've probably noticed that it stinks up the whole bathroom with a completely different smell. It's a funny thing. Everyone's urine will smell that way after eating asparagus, but not everyone can actually smell it! OK. Off my dietitian soap box!

Aug 26, 2012
Smelly Elk Comment
by: RodeoBrandon

If you smell the pellets versus the urine, you will smell a huge difference.

Rarely can you smell the pellets as a strong pungent odor, compared to their urine which is very pungent.

I don't believe #1 or #2 are totally accurate. It is just urine, not used to confuse predators. Much like a horse, they will urinate after having been bedded down. Just like you in the morning...

Have you ever smelled how raunchy your own urine smells after eating asparagus (or other green steamy vegetables). I believe this is the same with elk. The feed will make urine more or less pungent.

All that matters is you're in the right place if you're smelling them and there is no mistaking that elk smell.

May 14, 2012
Smelling Elk
by: Dave, Elk Hunting Tips (MT)


Good question. With no knowledge of the science behind it, I am thinking #2 is not true. As for #1, I do not know how long those smells will last. However, it is possible to actually tell the difference in urine and poop, if it's strong enough. Sometimes I have smelled estrus urine, too. I learned that only by spraying that nasty cow-in-estrus urine all over the place.

Elk have smells from other sources than pee and poop, though. They also have a strong body odor. So, I think the answer is quite complicated. A lot of elk will leave more various sources of elk smell around. That smell will last a lot longer than if one or two did their things in an area.

I was taking a nap on the ground once next to an elk trail with fresh sign on it. I woke up thinking, "I smell elk!" I looked all over until I noticed a fairly fresh elk pellet stuck to my shoulder. I wasn't smelling elk. I was smelling elk crap sitting on my shoulder

Elk smell means elk "had been there". The stronger the smell, the more recent or larger in numbers were there.

That said, I have learned that when I smell strong elk smell in the air, elk are usually very close. I often see or hear them soon after I smell them strongly. You get kind of used to the smell of where elk were and elk that are very close. It's just different.

I guess it's the difference in the smell of elk poop and elk bodies. What's the difference in the smell of a lime and a lemon? You can't tell someone, you just have to experience it enough to know, or guess a little more accurately. I need more experience! Can't wait to get some.

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