The success rate for DIY elk hunters is very low, sitting around the 10% mark. Every year a lot of ambitious hunters hit the timber with the idea that they'll kill a trophy class bull, however, few are able to actually make it happen. Broadening your idea of success to include cows and spikes, not just monster bulls, can increase your chances of success tremendously. When it comes to locating early season bulls, Laramy says water sources, especially wallows, are a smart bet for targeting elk. Right now there aren't going to be a lot of cows in estrus yet, so bulls are waiting for them to signal they are ready to breed. Until then, bulls will check wallows daily for scent. Laramy says cows will use these wallows to cool down on hot days and coat themselves with mud. While there, cows will leave plenty of scent behind and when they finally come into estrus, a bull will be able to track them down like a bloodhound from that wallow. For this reason, Laramy says the early season is often one of the best times to kill big bulls - they are by themselves, not herded up yet and are actively searching for open cows. Outside of water sources, Laramy says north facing canyons should be on your radar. It's these north facing canyons that will have the most lush feed and the most cover, and likely where most bulls will be staging for the majority of the summer. These northern exposures will almost always have a water source of some kind and plenty of shade. During periods of drought, like the west is experiencing now, these areas can be hotspots for elk activity.
The early season is also a great time to do some bugling, he says. Bulls are working out a pecking order right now, determining who is king and who isn't. With this type of dominance struggle, calls can be very effective. While you likely won't hear a lot of bugling from bulls themselves, when they hear your bugles they'll react to those calls almost every time and come in, if you're close enough. It's important to remember that elk aren't like deer, Laramy says, and for that reason elk hunting is less forgiving than deer hunting. When a whitetail or mule deer are bumped, they'll often run a big circle and eventually make their way back. However, elk respond to pressure by covering a lot of country, putting a serious amount of distance between them and the source of pressure. Laramy says it's not uncommon to see a bull in a canyon one day, and after being bumped have it move 10-15 miles away by the next day. Elk hunters have to hunt smart to avoid overpressuring and pushing elk out of their reach.
Laramy also talks about the wildfires raging in the west right now and the impact that has on the wildlife. Plus, he'll reveal his favorite state to hunt elk in and discuss the increasing interest people have in learning survival and primitive skills.
Watch "Last of a Breed" on Sportsman Channel, Sundays at 9:30 p.m. ET. You can also catch previous seasons and episodes with the MyOutdoorTV app.