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