Stalk Bulls in dark tim­ber

Pres­sured elk slip into cover. You should too

Outdoor Life - - WILD AMERICA - By Ben Long

To­day’s hard-hunted elk herds aren’t the same plains game as their an­ces­tors. They’ve learned to take cover in the dark tim­ber, and if there’s ad­e­quate browse and wa­ter,

elk are quite happy to never leave their stand of lodge­pole pines dur­ing day­light hours. Your best op­tion for hunting pres­sured elk on pub­lic land is to get in the woods with them.

Pick the Top Tim­ber

First, read the land­scape through an elk’s point of view. Warm weather pushes them to high, shad­owy, north-fac­ing cirques. If it’s bit­ter cold, they’ll be on sunny, south­fac­ing slopes. Elk will feed in tim­ber where enough light fil­ters through the trees to sup­port grass and shrubs. Bulls like to bed on flat benches with quick ac­cess to dense woods on a steep slope. Move quickly through forests where there’s no elk sign, then slow to a creep when clues in­di­cate elk are nearby. Oc­ca­sion­ally mew on a cow call to mask any clumsy foot­falls. If the tim­ber is dry and crispy, stalk­ing into range is tough. In­stead, set up an am­bush along a trail to wa­ter or on a sad­dle that acts as a nat­u­ral fun­nel.

Beat a Bull’s De­fenses

Of his three de­fen­sive senses—sight, smell, and hear­ing—a bull trusts his nose the most. Carry a puff bot­tle and use it ob­ses­sively to keep the wind in your face. Plan your day around the ris­ing and fall­ing of ther­mals— they blow up­hill dur­ing the day when the sun heats the moun­tain and down­hill early in the morn­ing and in the evening when the sun sinks low. Glass dili­gently, even in close quar­ters. Keep your hat off your ears, and keep your nose to the wind. You’ll of­ten hear or smell elk be­fore you spot them. And carry your ri­fle in the ready po­si­tion, so you’ll be ready to make a snap shot.

A flash of antler or the flick of an ear can give away an elk’s po­si­tion in heavy cover.

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