First off I’d like to congratulate all those who were successful in the draw. For some this is a time of uncertainty. That what do I do with my hands moment if you will. Well believe it or not your not alone, and fear not I’m here to help. These tips will without a doubt help you get off on the right foot. Speaking of getting off on the right foot that leads us to.
1. Know where you stand.
Learn the states rules and regulations and scout and learn your unit boundaries use state wildlife department site resources, animal kill stats, tags issued vs tags filled, total hunt-able acreage. Public land access points, trail heads, and dead end roads that can get you just that much further from civilization.
2. Put boots on ground as soon as possible/ set camera
Ever have the perfect route laid out on paper and in your head only to then put boots on ground to find that it’s a marsh, that small blue squiggle is actually a huge stream with a sweeping current, or have that steep set of topo lines aren’t just gonna be the hardest portion of you climb but rather come face to face with a sheer cliff face. Setbacks like that can cost you a day during season. which is why preseason scouting is such a huge factor in success.
With the advancements in technology these things are far less frequent use this time to Identify bedding, solid food sources, wallows, and water sources both for you and the animals. If you find you need to pack water in plan on going up a few days early with just your pack to set caches along your way. Hide them well and take extra time to insure an accurate pin on your map app.
If your planning on setting cameras set them away from the main target points and above or below normal eye level. a good rule of thumb is below 4ft and above 6ft. You’ll have a much easier time retaining your cameras from potential wrongdoers, if you set them up in transition routes off the main 3 sources water, food and cover/bedding rather then directly on them.
One thing most people don’t talk about is hunting the deficit. out of those three things. which is the least abundant. Convenience is everything not out of laziness but survival, the closer the big 3 are to one another, the more likely they are to be a honeyhole.
There in lies the trick of hunting the PNW jungle there is no deficit, plenty of food water and shelter whats lacking is warming ambient sunlight, and visibility if its raining or foggy. Which is why reprod is such a great asset to PNW hunters.
If your hunting the first few days of early season, hunting the border where public meets private/protected is always good practice, elk aren’t stupid they will sense the increased pressure on public, this will push them to a less pressured areas ie, private and protected lands for safety.
Look for past transaction points, these are also great places to set up trail cameras to see if animals are already utilizing one of the big 3 on private. Setting up between the trailhead and private as hunting pressure increases can put the odds of a push through in your favor.
Ask around contacting the local game warden and asking him for his lay of the land can be a huge asset. To the point where I’ve had them take me to several sweet honey holes where you’d least expect them, they also have a great relationship with landowners, if your also a bear, cougar, wolf or coyote hunter, a predator hunt may turn into a future elk hunting opportunity. Simply ask them if they’ve had any land owners complaining of a predator problem.
This also works for elk and deer, the last thing a farmer, or vineyard owner wants is a herd of elk having a late afternoon snack on their money crop. This brings me to another point if the big 3 are abundant look for something that gives a particular area an edge, SNACKS just as you and I love a nice succulent goody so do elk, which is why you’ll often find them in vineyards and farms, elk love apples, berries, nuts, fungus, corn, beans clover, alfalfa, and root vegetables. They absolutely adore salt and mineral. Any place that has naturally mineral dense soil you can bet the elk are near. Elk will essentially eat just about anything you can think about feeding horses and cattle.
3.Combine ALL the data & Build your plan of action
Now that you somewhat have the lay of the land. And understand what we are looking for Let begin to combine all the data and build our plan of action. Several elements that are critical to maximize our effectiveness. Is estimating thier pattern, this is critical prerut. Generally the first 5 to 10 days of the season. Once the we’ve established this 14 to 21 day cycle. Which is done by examining your camera dates and locations name each one uniquely and mark thier location with thier names on your map. You can then begin to recognize the same bull elk hitting different cameras. You then connect the dots on your map and its that simple. Putting it to good use by.
Determining what day of the pattern the first day of season will fall on, then based on how traversable the terrain was to initially access that camera. You can then determination which location is best to stake in and how early youll have to leave to access it. When you do this keep in mind how close are the water sources, are there closer or alternate access points. How far apart are our honey holes from one another, bulls aren’t to much worried about eating as much as the testosterone hits. cows on the other hand are coming into estrus, and those snacks are pivotal in preparing thier bodies for calve bearing. And everyone knows if there’s ladies the boys are sure to follow. Find a spiking point that allows you to maximize a hunting area ie 15 to 20 square miles that you can hunt for 3 to 5 days, after that much time if youve followed all the steps in this article you’ll have either tagged out or pressured the elk and its time to move camp, to maximize our efdecrs on another area. Obviously if your ass deep in elk and hearing bugles at minimum 3 times everyday don’t move.
4. PRACTICE, PRACTICE PRACTICE!!!!
Practice shooting and conforming your physical training to mimic your hunting area. This is a great opportunity to test your gear, putting it through the rigors of the hunt while you can still pull back if you have issues arise without the mishap costing you the hunt. Realizing your socks give your boots hot spots before your blistered up on the mountain, Learning how to move more quietly and efficiently through the brush with all your gear, attempting stalks on any game is valuable, you may see yourself a fool for sneaking up on small game, but these are invaluable lessons, you don’t have to kill and eat them but rather, get in as close as possible. If you like to switch footwear on your stalks, practice it without spooking them, moving from one form of cover to another, low crawling, high crawling, duck walking, on all fours, traversing over deadfall with a pack and weapon, the constant ups, downs, side-hilling. removing an arrow from your quiver, drawing your bow then letting down without any unnecessary movement, moving from your stomach to a knee to standing with your bow in hand. All these things build your efficiency and train your mind and body how you want it to function during those high intensity stalks. Doing these movements 100s of times will allow your mind to put them into autopilot, giving it more room to focus on other elements of the stalk, is the animal alert, whats the wind doing, am i upwind, the winds wrong whats the best route out without spooking the animal or being busted. You can do all this while not risking and pressuring large game.
So much of what it takes to be successful is how much you want it, not just mentally. But how much are action are you willing to take. Are you willing to put in the early mornings and late nights. Are you willing to take the looks of passerbys who are looking at you like a fool, for carrying a heavy pack through the park sweating profusely, are you willing to do up down drills in an empty field, low crawling 200 yards in the hopes, that maybe someday you’ll be able to do so stealthily on a big game animal. Success is your mission and hell is your playground, Wallow in it or forever feel the sting of defeat.