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October 29, 2013
Late-Season Elk Hunting: How to Save Your Season Right Now - 0
by Mark Kayser
Opening day is a distant memory. It’s now the fourth quarter, and the ref just signaled the two-minute warning. How do you rescue your elk season? Map it.
Your mapping skills can play a critical role during late-season hunts. In the majority of Western habitats, elk have one thing on their mind as daylight hours decrease. They’re looking for greener pastures, and that means migration. Some elk don’t migrate because they’re in habitat that’s hospitable year-round. But for most, deep snow is the trigger to vacate the high country for lowland oases.
Now locate these areas on your map. Elk habitually return to them year after year. Although elk may not be using traditional winter range during your hunt, you can use the information you gather to locate possible routes they will use to eventually get to the winter habitat. High-country saddles, passes, vast parks, and canyons that extend from the high country directly to the winter range below all offer ambush opportunities.
If finding elk in these spots still proves to be a challenge, take a step beyond roadless areas and look on topo maps for terrain few hunters would navigate. Steep, vertical slopes and rocky canyons intimidate flatlanders and out-of-shape hunters alike, but elk don’t mind the mountaineering challenge as long as they can find conifer stands and south-facing slopes nearby. These rocky retreats may hold elk well into December if their winter range is just a day or so away and snow depths remain manageable.
Of course, all of this goes out the window if Mother Nature decides an early winter is in order. Deep snow will push masses of elk low early, and close high-country access for hunters. Elk still may not romp across open slopes on winter ranges if this occurs, but expect to find them much closer to their winter grounds, taking advantage of reduced snow depths under tree canopies.
Maps aren’t guaranteed to plant you on a late-season herd, but they do have the ability to put you in the neighborhood.