This week Steve joins us to talk elk hunting. In many areas, right now the rut is in full swing and winding down. Rut timing is different every year and varies by location, but in general by mid-October it’s over. However, Steve says that he has seen an exception to this rule. He notes that as elk populations grow, rutting behavior is prolonged in areas with higher densities of elk. Northwest Colorado, Northern Utah, and Chama, New Mexico, are elite locales with high densities of elk where Steve says this extended rut is evident and can run well into November. The rut is a highly sought-after time frame for hunters, they want to take advantage of the increased activity in the woods and hopefully they can turn the rut frenzy into success. However, Steve says that there is a misconception about hunting the rut, one that leaves some people thinking all you have to do is go out, bugle, and a bull will charge in. In truth, hunting during the rut can be difficult and Steve notes it’s probably the most physically demanding time of the season. The elk are in small groups, they cover a lot of ground, the bulls are experiencing pressure from satellite bulls, they are trying to keep their cows together and they are constantly on the move. If a hunter isn’t in decent physical shape, it can be difficult to keep up with the elk, let alone get in front of them to shoot.
Knowing where to focus your search is important if you want to punch that tag. Steve says it doesn’t matter what part of the season you are hunting – before, during or after the rut – hunters need to have a basic understanding of where food, water and bedding areas are located and also be able to read the behavior of the elk. Utilizing “smart scouting” Steve says that today’s modern trail cameras have allowed him to pattern animals and understand their behavior better, without stepping foot into those areas. Trail cameras that can remotely upload photos to an online platform or app make it possible to monitor water holes, trails, meadows and more. Analyzing this information can give hunters a good advantage when they finally set out to hunt. Early in the season, Steve says he seeks out bedding areas and food sources and tries to locate them on the bugle and waits for the elk to talk and reveal their location in order to better decipher where they are going and then try to get in front of them. Steve notes that water sources are a great place to watch but says this can be tricky because large open pools of water aren’t necessary for a good drink. Discrete areas you may not realize are holding small quantities of water might be just enough for elk and more ideal than other water sources where they feel more vulnerable and exposed. Focusing on bedding can be a solid strategy rather than trying to watch every water hole. Identifying a good Northern facing slope with dark timber, grass and bedding areas and then getting between that location and their food source could be the recipe for success.
If you are firearm hunting, then you need to put some time and consideration into the caliber you’ll be using. Steve says that his favored choice is the 300 Winchester Magnum as it’s a proven effective all-around caliber. However, he has hunted elk with a variety of different calibers, the smallest being 6.5 Creedmoor that he used to down an elk last year, up to a 338 Winchester Magnum. Steve says it really doesn’t matter what caliber you are hunting with, if you can’t shoot it. He says that he would rather guide a hunter that can hit their mark every time with accuracy using a 270, 30-06 or 308, in combination with good a bullet, rather than a hunter that shows up with a hefty choice like a 300 Ultra Magnum but lacks the ability to control it and shoot it accurately. It doesn’t do any good to have a big caliber if you can’t put the bullet where it needs to be, says Steve.
Tune in as Steve talks elk hunting, calling, scent control, scouting, locating, calibers and much more. Be sure to catch Steve’s Outdoor Adventures on Outdoor Channel, Sundays 6:00 PM ET.
Happy hunting friends,