Elk are social in nature but like seclusion. To find elk, get deep into the bush for habitat tucked away from well-traveled roads. Look for where elk cows and calves bed and feed, and places bulls scrape trees with their antlers. All are important clues to put you in the right spot at the right time.
Try these tips to seek out your late-season elk:
Find well-used game trails and look for deep impressions of hooves, droppings and shredded trees. Remember, elk have two needs, especially late in the season: food, and more important, security. No matter how hungry they are, if there is a hint of danger elk won't venture out of the bush and into the open for food.
Elk chirp, mew and bugle—and you should too (check out Talking Elk). In fact, think of your calls as a locating tool. “Hey, here I am. Where’s my herd?” Be sure to match any response; don’t get caught up in the entertainment of calling. Too much can cause an elk to shy away. But if the elk continues the chatter and closes the distance, then by all means, add to the conversation.
After calling, be prepared to wait. Hopefully you will soon have a sense of where the elk is (or are—they are social animals and where there’s one, there’s often more). When you do, move slowly and methodically, and take this extra time to formulate a plan. Map out your spot and play out various scenarios. If the light fades, follow your plan the next day. Elk are creatures of habit. There is a good chance they’ll be back.
No matter how hard the hunting or how many days go by without even a glimpse of a cow, calf or bull, don't give up until those final seconds…when it’s truly over. It’s not uncommon to be on late-season elk hunts and see not one in a week's worth of dawn to dusk effort. Easier said than done, but don't let it get you down. Being patient when you see nothing makes you a better hunter, and you appreciate the chance even more when it does come.
Once your elk is down, now the work begins! Check out our How-To Videos for tips on skinning and breaking down your animal in the field.