Elk Tracks – Working the Heavy Timber

When you picture an ideal elk hunt, you might be glassing open parks and watching bulls move in and out of the timber, a few hundred yards away. This happens on some hunts but it may not be an every day occurrence. When they begin feeling hunting pressure during the general season here in Montana, the big bulls have a habit of dropping into heavy timber. You can be remote in the Bob Marshall Wilderness or off an easily accessed logging road and experience the same result when the pressure is put on the elk.  

Find Glassing Points

Glassing is often futile unless you can really find a nice vantage point. This means getting up high and looking back down across a drainage. Even in ideal glassing zones, you will struggle to see much outside small openings. Glass through the timber and look for anything off-color, movement and of course, anything that looks like antlers. You will often see just a small patch of the elk in timber.

Walk, Walk and Walk a Little More

When you can’t glass, start walking. Find a ridge line and walk until you cross tracks, rubs or scat. When you cross good sign, drop into the timber and start seeking out the trails. Move slow, glass the timber every 10 steps and really read the landscape. I have run right into elk while being careless and blowing out a bull is not a good feeling. When you are in heavy timber, be a complete predator and let your senses guide the course. Look for fresh scat, torn up ground and any sign that will point you in the right direction. When you are hunting pressured areas, stalking the steep slopes gets you away from people and is a fun way to hunt.

Dealing with Cows

Hunting after the rut is much different than during the rut. Archery season means cow calling, bugling and working groups of animals. When the rut ends, mature bulls ditch the cows. This is confusing when you are following fresh scat and tracks in an area full of scrapes and bull sign. If you are running into cows, consider moving to a new location because the bulls have moved out. 


Unless you hear a bull calling early in the rifle season, lay off the calls. Post-rut hunting pressure makes silence a best practice strategy. Cow calling may draw a few cows but the bulls are avoiding them at this point. Unless you have a cow tag or don’t mind shooting a legal spike for meat, then pocket your calls and focus on glassing and tracking.  

At Lazy J Bar O Outfitters, we offer high-success wilderness elk hunting adventures in the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area and in the rugged wilderness of southwest Montana. From archery elk, to rifle hunts during the rut, to late season hunts for November bulls, this is some of the best general unit elk hunting anywhere in the Rockies!

For more information, please visit our Hunting Page. You can also give us a call at 406-932-5687 or send us a message