Elk Bedding

Elk, Moose, Pronghorn, African Game, ect. Behaviors, Hunting Stories, Pictures, Tactics, Q&A.
fishlips
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Elk Bedding

Unread postby fishlips » Thu Oct 02, 2014 3:02 am

Will be making my first trip out west to hunt for elk and have been looking at topos for a while trying to figure out where to set up. I am trying to pinpoint bedding areas, or areas that I want to check right away to see if they are bedding areas being I won't be able to get on the ground and scout before heading out there. So my question is, for all of you who have been out west, have you noticed that elk bed like deer do? I am having trouble grasping the scale of the area out there and how much ground elk cover, but if you were looking for beds on a topo / aerial, would you focus on those spots off of steep points, kind of like you do for hill country around here?

I have read a number of people key in on water, north facing timber, etc...however, are these spots kind of like the spots that a magazine like Deer and Deer Hunting recommend for deer hunting? Usually those spots are not very helpful for someone hunting higher pressured property.


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hunter_mike
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Re: Elk Bedding

Unread postby hunter_mike » Thu Oct 02, 2014 3:17 am

Not an expert but i did just spend a week in elk country and hunted a few days with my friend who had an elk tag. We snuck up on two different nice bulls. My advice is to start the day out on top of the mountain and as soon as the thermals start to rise, still hunt down into a draw that has water in it. The wind will be in your face the whole time and hunting from above the elk gives you a huge visual and smell advantage (both bulls we smellled before we had a visual).

I think the key is to have as good of a map as possible and skip anything that does not show water, hunt high on the mountain, and skip any spots that are easily accessed within a two or three hour walk from the access points. If its a national forest, be sure to get the motor vehicle use map or you will be angry when guys on atvs drive past after your 3 hour climb up the mountain.

I would focus less on what direction the prevailing wind is and more on what the thermals are doing. The thermals trump prevailing wind in mountain country. Where we were, water was the key and it seemed like the higher the water, the better. You cant have enough maps (detailed maps)
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Re: Elk Bedding

Unread postby hunter_mike » Thu Oct 02, 2014 3:29 am

Also, if i had shown you a map of where we kicked up that big bull that was bedded, it would NOT look like what dan shows for whitetail buck bedding. However, it is still predictable, he was near a little blue water line on the topo, bedded on a mini point in a blowdown overlooking water. He was NOT on the leeward side of the mountain. Like you said the scale is different. It is about X5 the scale of SW WI so the big "points" of the mountain are less significant. The animals out there are on the same scale as the animals here so think more about small points and benches.

The other bull? He was standing in water when we saw him.
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Re: Elk Bedding

Unread postby bowhunter15 » Thu Oct 02, 2014 11:14 am

I will be following this as well. I'm heading out for the first rifle season on Thursday of next week with a couple buddies. I think an important note (that ties in well to what hunter_mike said) is the recent weather and the sourcing of water. Where we will be heading (Flat Tops Wilderness area) it has been unseasonably warm, with temps in the 80s. A coworker who was just out there talked to a bunch of bowhunters. Many reported not hearing bugling at all until this past weekend. They think the mild weather may have delayed the rut. If there's any chance of rutting activity still going on, water sources should be even more critical I would think. Weather during the first rifle season is highs in the 70s, lows in the 30s. I read in a book that once the rut is over with, bulls normally go to hide in the thickest, most remote stuff you can find on North facing slopes and benches, and hang out there until snow pushes them off the mountain. Granted, I have no experience out there yet.
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Re: Elk Bedding

Unread postby fishlips » Thu Oct 02, 2014 11:53 am

Nice to know. I will be out for colorados nd rifle season. Will be interested in what you find.

I have really tried to focus on terrain that looks like it either sucks to get to or us tough to navigate. Guess I don't know what nasty is out there yet.

Wish I could have snuck in a scouting trip

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Re: Elk Bedding

Unread postby BuckyHunter13 » Thu Oct 02, 2014 2:30 pm

I bowhunted the second week, from the 6th-13th. We were hunting in the Routt NF, near Walden. The bulls were bugling pretty heavy already, though they weren't herded up yet and were still chasing cows. We were on elk every day, my buddy missed one and we had an all day stalk on a really nice bull... the last hour and a half was 500 yard silent stalk in to one of two benches where we thought he might have bedded for the afternoon... We went in blind and were hoping to get to a spot on the map (topo/gps on my ipad) and see if we couldn't hear elk moving around. Within ten seconds of getting to the spot, he bugled 60 yards away. He wasn't interested in calling, and in retrospect we should have just tried to sneak in on him silently.

It was an unseasonably cool summer out there that continued into the time we were there. One of the last mornings, it was 19 degrees when we hit the trailhead.

I think the hunting pressure has a lot to do with the bugling slowing down. The muzzleloaders were swarming the day before we left, I can only imagine how the elk have responded to the additional pressure. My guess would be this changes if you get far enough in, and by now they've got to be a little more receptive to calling...

Good luck!!
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Re: Elk Bedding

Unread postby BuckyHunter13 » Thu Oct 02, 2014 2:35 pm

As to the OP's bedding question... we heard this bull bugling all the way back to his bed. I cow called a few times and this got him bugling long enough we could guesstimate which benches he was likely bedding on. We got down wind, settled in well below and downwind of him, and waited 4 hours for the thermals to switch to our favor. We were trapped with the wind direction/thermal combination. Couldn't come at him from above without the wind busting us, so we waited until things were to our advantage. There were two adjacent benches, one facing NE and the other facing SE. He was bedded on the NE bed over a VERY steep draw, about 50 yards above his active wallow. After we lost him (he never spooked, just walked the other way when we called), we walked through his area and found his primary bed and what appeared to be his tracks up the draw from that morning.

I highly recommend you check out elknutforums.com if you haven't been there. TONS of good, real world information, much like this site is to deer hunting.
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Re: Elk Bedding

Unread postby JoeRE » Tue Oct 14, 2014 2:44 pm

Here are my observations based on my pretty limited experience, just two DIY trips, although I was successful on both. Both were late september bowhunts, high pressure public land. Our plan was to get into the hard to reach/overlooked dark timber. Elk are very pressure sensitive, they get disturbed a couple times they just move a couple miles somewhere else. Basically we targeted the stuff more than 2000 feet up or down from the road and/or more than three miles in to get away from hunting pressure. It worked. As far as bedding, yes I think elk act very similarly to deer. They bed on points and benches on the black timber slopes with good short range visibility (which is mostly north slopes). Bedding does not seem to be wind specific cuz the thermals are either blowing up or down or its just swirling all around. Bedding elevation seems to be part way down slopes, just not at the top or bottom. Most of the points and benches we found elk bedding were not visible on the scale topo we were using though.

The problem with elk is the density is way below whitetail deer. There might be only an elk or two bedded every mile out there, you can blind call all day and not an elk will hear you....you have to rely on fresh sign to see where they are coming from and going to and then scout through those areas. Walk, walk, walk then walk some more. Walk 10 times as far as you are used to scouting for deer and you will eventually find elk. Another thing you can use to your advantage is smell...elk stink, we cut high along slopes when thermals were rising and low along them when they were falling smelling for elk, then when we smelled them we moved in, tried to get in close to spot them or call them in, it worked quite well. Elk seem to respond very well to calls at close range. Elk are not as wary as whitetails. Though they can certainly smell a human, elk do not detect movement as well as deer, you can get away with small movements at close range and they might walk right up to you if you are motionless. They struck me as more cow-like than deer-like, just a personal observation and maybe not a fair one. The big hurdle is the country they live in and their low density.
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Re: Elk Bedding

Unread postby fishlips » Wed Oct 15, 2014 5:35 am

Thanks for the input JoeRE. I think that I might consider changing my approach a little bit. I have been highlighting what I think are potential bedding areas on my topo, so now I think I will then focus on the highest concentration of bedding areas so I can spot check as many as possible in a day and hopefully get into the elk that way. I have found a few spots where there are points that jet out and overlook a drainage area and are a little ways back off the trails. These seem like really good spots to start.

One other theme I seem to have picked up out there is that finding water is better than finding food. Contrary to where I hunt where there is water pretty readily available and the deer have to travel a bit for food, it sounds like out there it can be the opposite where they have food more readily available, but water can be hard to come by. I would assume that finding terrain that looks like good bedding area + it has water should be a good place to check.

I'll be sure to circle back and post what I find when I am out there. I have a feeling I have a lot to learn.
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Re: Elk Bedding

Unread postby hunter_mike » Wed Oct 15, 2014 5:43 am

This thread makes me want to head back out to the mountains real bad. Good luck fishlips, can't wait to hear what you find and observe. Sounds like you have a solid plan, i hope your legs carry you well out there.
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Re: Elk Bedding

Unread postby JoeRE » Mon Oct 20, 2014 12:16 am

One other thing that might help you narrow down potential bedding spots in places with quite a bit of pressure is "look for elk exactly where you never want to pack one out." Everyone has probably heard that before but everything I have seen makes it seem like its true. The elk go into the drainages hardest to get to and protected by the steepest slopes above and below to get away from hunters. Thats a big thing we used to narrow down our search with topos and aerials. Have to get away from horse trails too, they make for easy access for other hunters...I am sure its a lot easier to get into elk in low pressure areas.
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Re: Elk Bedding

Unread postby fishlips » Thu Nov 13, 2014 6:43 am

Thanks for all the insight everyone provided. Just to close the loop on this one. I was not successful out there, but I did learn a lot.

I think I ran into issues with not being aggressive enough and waiting for the elk to come to me, rather than diving in and chasing them down. Weather was warm for the time of year (late October) and the elk that I did see were only moving early and late. I think I had a hard time getting past the preconception that they are just big deer...they are definitely not. There are some similarities, but I think I would have had a better chance if I hunted them more with a run and gun approach rather than sitting back and waiting in "elky looking" areas.

Bedding was like you guys had mentioned. Dark timber had tons of sign in it. Figuring out where they were going to exit it though to feed was the hard part. The scale out there is amazing. One of the areas that I hunted was a large meadow and it was easily a mile all the way across.

Next time I do it, I am going to find my morning and evening spots to sit, and then spend the middle of the day diving in and scouting / hunting.


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