Tips for Stalking Elk in Dark Timber
If You Hear A Pop, Stop And Drop For 5!
Hearing a stick pop or any foreign sound for that matter should alert the hunter to immediately go into “Stealth Mode”. Deer and elk alike cannot help to make the occasional loud noises while traversing over the terrain. With this being said, stop immediately and try to pinpoint the direction the sound came from. I instantly pull out my wind checker to eliminate the downwind direction, I listen intently, and search for other clues. I have had countless deer and elk come slipping by my location after hearing the slightest abnormal noise from the timber. A good rule of thumb is to give the sound 5 minutes to either reveal itself or possibly turn out to be the canopy dropping a twig or stick to the forest floor.
Squirrels Barking, Slow the Stalking!
Listen to the little critter sounds around you. A great indication for a hunter to tell if he/she is moving too quickly through the timber is the sound of alarm barks/calls, either a squirrel bark, crow squaw, or chipmunk chirping. These are all sounds a hunter should pay close attention to.These same animals who are trying to give up your presence every step of the way will also in return help you locate the animals you are chasing. If you throttle down the stalk and keep a steady pace while glassing benches and uphill sides of Douglas Firs, you will be amazed at the number of animals you can sneak in on.
Having Trouble Standing Up, You’re Walking The Right Contour!
In the ideal hunting environment without predators and hunting pressure, most of the game would bed in easy to access areas within a close distance to food and water. Their movements would not be based solely on survival but the most efficient way of living or the path of least resistance. Most of us hunters do not have permission to hunt these fairytale landscapes. The game we chase are constantly trying to elude mountain lions, black bears, and those bipedal creatures who roam each fall. This constant pressure pushes these animals away from easy to access basins and ridgetops. Deer and elk will seek out the steepest terrain and thickest forest to protect themselves from predators. If you can find an area where the contours are almost touching with a small spur coming out to create a semi level area, this would be a location worth checking out for signs of a bedding area. Hunters will walk tops and bottoms of mountains and the animals know this, that is why you can find most of the game 2/3 the way up the mountains out of sight.
Make The Wind Work For You!
Walking with the wind in your face is always the best option. If hunting elk, this will allow you to smell the animal before he smells you. Sometimes the wind will not cooperate and you will have to side hill a mountain with the wind blowing either up or down hill but never with the wind hitting you in the back. By scouting the area, you can predict where the animals like to bed and can take extreme caution in wind direction before entering these areas. A lot of times if you have the wind in your favor the animal will be bedded with his sights on the direction of your advance. Keep a sharp lookout and your nose in the air.
Take What's Necessary, Nothing Else!
Hiking with an extremely heavy pack will cause the hunter to take the easy routes and take more breaks. Our bodies will wear down sooner than if we had a much lighter pack. Try and purchase gear that is lightweight and has multiple uses. Just remember it only takes a bow and arrow to harvest a trophy, not all the gadgets.
If you are blessed to be chasing elk during the month of September or early October these bulls will reveal their locations with bugles weeding out the guessing game of where the elk are located within a drainage. Try location bugling from game trails and not ATV trails or hiking trails. Elk know where elk typically hangout and are more responsive to elk sounds coming from “elky” areas. Once you have located a bull you are ready to put the stalking skills to the test.
Zigzag Tracks, Be Ready To Attack!
Snow can be a hunter’s best weapon if he or she knows how to use the tracks presented to their advantage. The best situation while hunting in the snow is to stumble upon a set of fresh solo tracks slipping up a basin. More than likely the elk is on a mission to a bedding area. The tracks won’t be meandering a ton and will keep a general direction of travel. Once you see the tracks start to zigzag, stop immediately and get out the binoculars. This bull has started to search for a bed and is most of the time found within 100 yards of where you discovered the change in track direction. The best course of action is to take a step, glass, take a step, glass, repeat.