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I’ll be on my first elk hunt the opening week of rifle season between 5000-6000 feet for non-migrating elk. If there is snow, do

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  • I’ll be on my first elk hunt the opening week of rifle season between 5000-6000 feet for non-migrating elk. If there is snow, do

    I’ll be on my first elk hunt the opening week of rifle season between 5000-6000 feet for non-migrating elk. If there is snow, do you think it is worthwhile tracking what appears to be a relatively fresh bull track? Or do you think that is a lost cause?

  • #2
    That was always my PREFERRED method of hunting elk. They are a sociable animal and will often wait and see what is coming even if they can hear you. If you look in my profile album you'll see a HUGE 6x6 bull in the back of my old stock truck. That thing threw a track the size of a spike bull and not back on his dew claws a bit. Strangest thing I ever ran across. He might have been pushing a thousand pounds on the hoof. Biggest elk I've yet seen. So don't try to read antlers in the tracks. If you get on a fresh track, stick with it even if you don't think it's a bull. Remember, I said they are a social animal. As often as not one track will take you to more elk and more elk equals greater probability of one of them having a rack on its head.

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    • #3
      I know guys that track them just like OHH; however, they are all in very, very good shape.

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      • #4
        I used to track all day the entire season until I got my elk or ran out of season. It is hard to say what is the best way to go. Elk will cover a dozen miles or so from bed to feed to water daily. When I had ample cartilage in my knees, tracking was my number one tactic.. Elk will traverse some nasty terrain like nobody's business in a hurry. Tough on boots, hide, and rifles. If you can pattern elk movements, sometimes it works out to sit and watch if you know the area and where the elk move. At times you might tromp about all week and never get a whiff of elk. Anymore I usually walk in to a stand area and sit most of he day. Sometimes watching an area that has ample elk sign that goes both ways will pay off. Go to Colorado Parks & Wildlife website and browse the Elk University 101 pages. Get one of Laubach and Hinckle's elk hunting books. Great info there.

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        • #5
          Thanks guys! Sounds like it is worth doing but I will have to pace myself. I'd like nothing more than tracking an elk all day. However, with two titanium knees I might be better off to do like WAM suggested. I know I can track 10-15 miles a day on relatively flat land but suspect that elk will show me things I never imagined. I might try it one day and see how it goes. Ontario, those are some massive bulls... you guys inspire me. Thanks for the reading advice WAM... I'll get those and book up. I really appreciate hearing from you guys... so far what I've read is quite contradictory... blow call, don't blow call; track elk, don't track elk. I just have to understand more about where and when each technique works. I'll be hunting the first week of the rifle season so hope I find a dumb one before the weather turns nasty.

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          • #6
            I jump on every hot elk track I come across during elk season. Of course we hunt in a large party with plenty of the older guys sitting in meadows so the odds are good that I can at least push the animal towards one of them. The only other piece of advice I can give you is to get a cow call, even though Montana's rifle season falls after the rut, it is still possible to call bulls in. My brother called my 6x5 and 3 spikes out of the timber and down to us, a distance of well over a mile. Any other questions just ask.

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            • #7
              To call or not to call is always a dilemma. Sometimes bulls bugle on into the October rifle season, but don't expect bulls to come running in. A cow call is indispensable in stopping a bull or mule deer. I keep two around my neck on all elk hunts.

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              • #8
                If it is a rut hunt call but if it isn't then where you are hunting matters in my opinion. If it is more open country I climb to the best lookout point and glass until I find a bull I can chase or my pants ware through. (another reason a mulie tag may be a good idea if the elk are not moving deer are the next best option) If it is thick country I try to find where elk are moving through on a regular basis, still hunt, sit water or track. I have seen people follow a bull in new snow for more than a mile just to find a broken up 2/3 on a "trophy" hunt because they where not willing to glass more. Also elk are more visual and sent oriented than sound because they regularly move in groups that make lots of noise. So a decoy may help even if you are not calling. I used a montana cow decoy last summer to walk straight in on a group of feeding elk to take pictures within 25 yards. By staying down wind and skirting the elk slowly angling closer you can cut the distance or move through open cover.

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                • #9
                  Tracking elk or deer in a fresh snow is awesome.
                  A crusty snow could make it difficult and easy for big game to hear you.
                  Months before I go out west I walk at least four miles a day. I also walk up and down steps at the high school football field bleachers to build up my legs. Those Rocky Mountains and that thin air is a killer is you’re a flatlander from the east coast.
                  Good Luck!

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                  • #10
                    Another piece of advice on tracking: avoid tracking downhill or be extremely slow and cautious if you do. Though they are sociable and will often stand and look at what's coming (sometimes I knew they could smell me), they WILL NOT hang around if they hear something coming down from above them. I tracked hundreds of elk (at least hundreds) and I do not recall ever having any of them but one small bunch that didn't just flat book off if they heard me above them. And that bunch didn't hear me I'm pretty sure (I got the drop on them totally and nailed a spike). I believe this is because cougars attack from above - or else they really don't have much of a chance catching an elk in that kind of country.

                    Dakota, I don't know how those knee replacements went but I suspect you should be cautious. Don't go messing yourself up trying to do something that's not in your reach. It is what it is. You'll get something even if it isn't a big bull. Hell, I shot a lot of forked horn muleys and does when elk hunting and many times even settled for a day pack full of blue grouse. Which reminds me, get your bird license and put a .22 pistol revolver loaded with longs in your pack (not on your hip!). Don't worry too much about the noise. I once shot four big blues, loaded them into the pack, walked around the corner and made a very long shot on a spike (that I subsequently wished I had missed!). And don't take more than three of those big birds unless you have some pretty good shoulder straps on your day pack! Gees, I wish I was going with you. Oh, and don't bother shooting the fool hens (spruce grouse). They taste like turpentine.

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                    • #11
                      OH- I wish I was going with you both, reading your advice painted a picture that I wish to live someday. Thank you for that!!

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                      • #12
                        Another piece of advice, I have hunted the Montana elk opener when its been 80 degrees and I have hunted the opener and had it be -15 degrees, bring a wide selection of clothing. A few pairs of good walking boots that are well broke in are a must as well. Take your time, drink plenty of water, and most importantly enjoy yourself. I work the whole year to enjoy a week or two of elk camp on the mountain.

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                        • #13
                          You guys are giving me an adrenalin rush four months before the season! I really appreciate the advice from you all. I'll work hard at getting in shape and hope to at least try tracking one if I get a chance. If the knees don't hold up, it won't be because I didn't try. I hunt South Dakota in those same time frames and am familiar with sunburn, drizzle and snow all happening on the same day. I suspect it will be even more pronounced in the beautiful Rockies but to me that is part of the excitement.

                          I wish you guys were coming with me too. You all sound like you would make any hunt a good one, elk or no elk!

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                          • #14
                            OH, thanks for the advice on bringing the pistol + all the other info. I will keep one in my pack. I'll plan to limit my take on blues to only what I can carry. I'll post another question about carrying a bigger pistol too.

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                            • #15
                              DM,
                              My cut on big handguns is don't if you are humping long distances and armed with any rifle. I only pack a handgun when out and about without a rifle.

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