Why are public land elk so difficult to hunt? They know every inch of their landscape. They live in a territory 24/7 and have the constant threat of predation. They know escape routes and safe zones. They know how to move and where to go when hunting pressure becomes a threat.
As hunters, it’s critical that we understand the landscape too. Find the feeding areas and the funnels. Summer scouting trips are perfect for learning an area. When our guides spend time scouting, these trips are more about learning the lay of the land than finding specific animals. The more time you can spend in your hunt area before the season, the better. Here are a few of our guides’ summer scouting tips.
Find the Food
Elk eat a variety of grasses, plants and they eat bark as well. Look for young trees, especially aspen that have the bark chewed off. Find the meadows that are surrounded by cover and look for old burns where grass, flowers and mushrooms are abundant. Elk are grazers and they must eat, even during the hunting season. When pressure is high, they will utilize the cover of darkness to graze in open areas. You can find these areas and plan a strategy to hunt the nearby timber during the day.
Follow the Signs
Elk are elusive but they leave no shortage of sign. Look for the scat, follow tracks and find bedding areas that are utilized on a regular basis. Look for rubs on trees as well. Some areas will have sign that elk have passed through and others will have heavy sign that means they frequent that area. Take note of the areas with heavy sign, hike to a high vantage point and scout for potential travel routes. You can plan an ambush along these routes.
Look for Water
The elk need water and you will too on a backcountry hunt. Find reliable water sources and look for sign. Elk like to wallow as well. A stagnant mud pool that looks unappealing to you may be an elk’s favorite place to visit. Areas with few water sources increase your chances of finding elk at a single spot.
Funnels and Pinch Points
Use your binoculars to get familiar with the landscape. It’s not all about finding animals while scouting in the summer. Find the drainages that have heavy timber and year-round water sources. Look for the roughest parts of these places to find travel routes. Areas with very steep hillsides and impassable obstacles. These areas will create funnels that force a specific route. You can plan ambushes, set tree stands and focus these narrow corridors during your hunt.
For more information on elk hunting in Montana with us at Lazy J Bar O outfitters, please give us a call at 406-932-5687 or send us a message. For prices and other general information, check out our website at LazyJBarO.com/Hunting.