5 Elk Scouting Tips to Better Your Chances

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Elk Scouting Tips

There’s no doubt about it: elk hunting is more difficult than it used to be for even some of the most experienced hunters.

They are facing more population pressures in recent years for many reasons. The reintroduction of natural predators in some of their native ecosystems and habitat loss has posed some problems for the elk, which also makes things more challenging for us human hunters.

However, we have some solid elk scouting tips to share with you that will allow you to be at the top of your game regardless of the challenges you face along the way.

1. Lure Out the Herd

Skilled hunters often use herding behavior to their advantage. When a calf is lost, the cows of the herd will pursue it and the bull of the herd will accompany them. The herd will come out of hiding, often in plain sight of the hunter in this case. Elk hunters can mimic the sounds of wounded calves by using double-reed diaphragms. Hunters should have partners that will make the calls at the appropriate time during this part of the hunt. Using this partnership, people can more or less control the movements of the herd.

2. Beat Dawn

Lots of hunters adhere to this sort of hunting schedule, but a lot of bulls specifically are going to enter open areas at dawn. The hunters have to make sure that they have already located the entire herd by this point, or they are going to miss the bulls at the exact moment in which it would be ideal to hunt them. The hunters who have done elk scouting beforehand will be able to sneak up at them at this point, making it that much more likely that they will be able to claim their trophies.

3. Cameras are Difference Makers

Elk tend to cover a lot of ground just over the course of their daily activities, which can make it very difficult to track them. Setting up game cameras at the most strategic locations can give hunters all the information that they need when it comes to coming up with plan for tracking the elk and anticipating their movements. For the latest and greatest in game cameras have a look at this list. Most animals, including elk, are creatures of habit. Hunters can usually count on them sticking to a routine. They just need to be able to follow that routine. Since game cameras are rarely terribly expensive and the animals themselves are not going to notice them, there are few costs associated with using this strategy.

4. Security Box Camera Protection

Since game cams can be such assets to the modern hunter, it becomes that much more important to guard them from the animals and people who may be hunting the cameras themselves. While bears can damage them and elk can kick them, most of these incidents are going to involve the animals accidentally stumbling across the trail cameras in question. Thieves are going to be the primary threats facing trail cameras these days. The thieves are actively looking for them. Hunters are outside and trekking across large areas when they are in the field, so to speak, and there is only so much that they can monitor for themselves. Security boxes can help.

5. Target Bulls Post-Rut

Hunters need to time themselves properly in order to increase their chances of getting their trophy bulls, and the largest bulls are going to be easiest to claim during the post-rut part of the year. Trophy bulls are often heavily wounded during this part of their lives, and they are typically exhausted. To add insult to injury for them, in a way, this makes them better targets for both human and nonhuman predators. Crucially, these large, trophy bulls are often isolated from the rest of the herd, so they do not have the strength in numbers and they cannot use other members of the herd as shields. A good post rut elk call can be the difference maker at this time of year. These large bulls are often found completely alone in the sort of remote areas that are perfect for ambushes. Hunters should keep that in mind when scheduling their hunts.

Rocky Mountain Elk Hunting Tips

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Elk Scouting Tips

Summer is the time to scout for Elk in the Rocky Mountains. The Elk will have moved from their wintering homes, into to their summer feeding locations. This is the Elk hunter’s opportunity to scout potential hunting locations, both old and new.

Previous hunting locations may have changed since last year, and it’s always a good idea to keep in tune with an area by checking new spots. Here are 5 Rocky Mountain Elk hunting tips you can use to find Elk and have the best chance at a successful fall bow or rifle season.

Find the Elevated Vantage Points

If at all possible, find the high ground above the tree line to setup your initial scouting post, which does two things for the hunter. First, getting above the tree line removes you from where the Elk live, and reduces the chances you’ll disturb animals in the area. Second, with a higher vantage point you can have a 360 degree view of the lands below. Use Google Earth to do your pre-planning to find the higher ground. Once you see what exit and entry lanes the Elk are using, then you can find ambush points that you can use later on.

Get to the Scouting Location Early

You should plan on leaving for your scouting position well in advance of the first and last hours of daylight. Elk naturally move the most during these early daylight and twilight hours. They have impressive sight and hearing senses, so you really don’t want to be passing through at those times. I pack my Tenzing TZ1200 day pack with essential gear, food, water, as well as a good headlamp or flashlight.

Put in Your Glass Time

Having high quality optics is critical for scouting, as you’l be scanning the tree lines and hillsides that are several miles away. At minimum you should have 10×42 binoculars, if not 10×50. Bring a small tripod and adapter to keep the view steady. A spotting scope is an added bonus, making the long distances easier to scan, especially in the low light dawn and dusk periods. At Indian River Ranch, we use Leupold Optics, but there are many other good brands out there like Nikon and Vortex to name a few.

Practice Your Elk Calls

Elk calls can be useful to bring in an animal, but they are notoriously difficult to use properly. You don’t need to be the best caller in the country to call in Elk, but by practicing your calls now, you can see what and how you can potentially draw in a bull or cow elk. A cow call is best when used outside of the rut, and a bugle call is best used when in the rut season.

Mark Your Map for Hunt Planning

It is important to mark your topo maps while scouting. Chances are good that you will forget all the details of your scouting trips during the weeks and months between then and the actual hunt. Use your maps to mark exit and entry lanes along the trees and hillsides. Then use your topo map to mark these locations as well as potential ambush spots to use during the hunt. You can also mark the map with good potential camp sites, as well as routes for bringing out an elk if you are successful. Be sure to mark water sources and other points of reference.

By following these scouting tips, you will increase your chances of successfully taking a trophy Rocky Mountain Elk. If this all sounds like a lot of work – it is. Many people prefer to leave this demanding job to outfitters like the Indian River Ranch. Feel free to contact us about a guided trip for your next elk hunt.

photo credit: USFWS Mountain Prairie

Trophy Mountain Caribou Hunts

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Alaskan CaribouThe Mountain Caribou is one of the most popular and requested animals to hunt in the Indian River region. This is a magnificent animal and you will have to work very hard to have the honor and opportunity to kill one.

The current Boone & Crockett record caribou comes in at a score of 452. The caribou in the vicinity of the IRR have been found to be in the range of 325-400 B&C range.

The Mountain Caribou is a close relative of the Woodland and Barren ground caribou, and can be found living across the southern Yukon, British Columbia, and even parts of the Northwest Territory. They can weigh up to 600 pounds, and stand 49 inches tall at the shoulders. These caribou can live to be 15 years old or more, and survive on a diet of lichen, shrubs, and grass that is so plentiful in this area.

Due to the geography and habitat of the caribou, you can expect to go on a fly-in hunt. The time frame for this kind of hunt is from the middle of August to the end of September. It is a very short window of opportunity, but we always recommend you consider combining a caribou hunt with mountain goat and moose. This way you’ll have the best chance at a successful hunt.

Mountain Stone Sheep Hunting

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Dall Stone SheepThe Stone Sheep is considered a thin horn species, under the scientific name Ovis Dalli. The stone sheep in the Indian River area average 35 – 39 inches in horn length with an average of 14 inch bases.

The sheep you will see in the Cassiar Mountains have a wide variety of colors, from white, grey, brown, to nearly black. Stone Sheep (and Mountain Goat) season runs from August 1st to the middle of September.

Stone sheep are known for their raspy bleating. They range across northern British Columbia and southern Yukon Territory, living on a diet of forbs and grasses. Stone sheep typically live up to 12 years old, with a shoulder height of 38 inches, and weighing up to 225 pounds. The Boone & Crockett record stone sheep was taken in 1936, scoring in at 196 6/8.

Much like when hunting other species in this mountain terrain, you need to bring your patience on a sheep hunt. Top quality hunting optics are critical. Make sure you bring with a good pair of binoculars or spotting scope, as you’ll be spending hours scanning the mountains.

You should be in excellent physical shape to go on stone sheep hunts. While you will use horses to do most of the hard work, it’s a guarantee that you’ll be doing some walking yourself through the rocky terrain.

Trophy Mountain Goat Hunting

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Mountain GoatThe Cassiar Mountains of northern British Columbia feature one of the largest populations of mountain goats in Canada. Approximately 90% of the Canada’s goat population resides in the mountainous areas of British Columbia and Yukon.

Mountain goat hunting season runs from August 1st to early October. Guided hunting for mountain goats occur are the same times as moose, caribou, stone sheep, black bear, and grizzly bear hunting seasons. There is truly an opportunity for multiple species at the same time as your mountain goat hunting trip.

Typical mountain goat hunting takes place on horseback or backpacking. Horse trips will obviously reduce the amount of work required to harvest a goat. Despite that, you must be in top condition for long hours of walking and hiking with heavy backpacks, and across rugged terrain on your quest for a trophy.

More About the Mountain Goat

Mountain goats have specially developed hooves for steep climbing. The outer edges are hard, and they have softer central pads to provide grip on steep rocky terrain. Their diet consists mainly of grass, brouse, and forbs.

The average mountain goat in this region has horn lengths of 9.5 inches, plus or minus an inch. A mountain goat will use a soft grunt to call out, can live up to a typical age of 11 years old.

A full grown adult can stand 38 inches high at the shoulders, and weigh up to 270 pounds. The Boone & Crockett record mountain goat comes in at a 56 6/8.

Canadian Moose Hunting

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Bull Canadian MooseThe Canadian Moose makes up for its poor vision with an acute sense of smell.  So long as a hunter can remain stationary and downwind, the Moose will not feel danger.

Hunters can expect success in taking a 50 inch spread moose 9 out of 10 times.  The average Moose in the Indian River area have been measuring an antler spread of over 52 inches, and a Boone and Crockett score of 195 minimum.  However, you have the distinct possibility of seeing and bagging a moose with a spread approaching, or surpassing 60 inches.

To maintain this level of high quality Canadian moose hunting, we only harvest 4 or 5 animals each year, and as a result have to limit the amount of hunters we take on a Moose trip.  Without this, we would not be able to maintain this level of opportunity for Canadian Moose.

The Canadian Moose hunting season is usually from August 20th to November 15th, and are usually fly-in only.  The camps and lodges will be your home base for the hunts, and on budget hunts, you will be expected to help with camp chores like cooking, chopping firewood.

As an added bonus, the moose hunting season in the upper B.C. is also a prime time for a combination hunt targeting mountain goats, bear, mountain caribou, and even wolves.