Trails, crossings, funnels and bottlenecks — these are all important to the whitetail hunter’s “read” of his hunting territory. They also should be part of the elk hunter’s scouting and hunting strategy.
Elk sign is generally similar to deer sign and laid out in similar patterns. However, it is usually on a larger scale and over a wider swath of countryside.
Deer and elk both have to walk somewhere. Given a choice that doesn’t put them in danger, they’ll walk the easiest route possible. In elk country, “easy” is a very relative term. However, by its sheer ruggedness, elk habitat tends to bottleneck and funnel travel lanes to an even greater extent than in most deer habitat.
You can find some really well-beaten elk trails simply because they offer the only reasonable way to get from point A to point B. Smaller trails into and around the most rugged cover in the area are likely an old bull’s secret avenues to a favorite hideout.
Out Of The Way Elk
Sometimes you can’t avoid high-pressure hunting situations. Maybe you can’t beat ’em, but you don’t have to join ’em. These are the times for long-shot options.
Look for some really ugly and uninviting segment of that hunting country. If it has some decent cover and a little water, it could be an elk hotspot — at least right then. After all, the elk are trying to get away from the crowd as well. Maybe this “bad” area isn’t holding a lot of animals, but how many bulls do you need to tag out?
Another play is to hunt in ridiculously easy areas — right along roads and in little brushy draws located in open and accessible areas. Most elk hunters want to “climb the highest mountain.” The elk just want to be left alone and are tired of mountain climbers.
Elk may not be as good as whitetails at occupying tiny little niches of odd-spot cover, but under enough pressure, they’ll give it a try.
Michael Waddell is producer of the “Realtree Outdoors” television show, which airs nationally on The Nashville Network. As an accomplished outdoorsman and archer, Michael also finds himself in front of the camera occasionally, and has taken a number of trophy animals for the Realtree cameras. Michael is also a successful competition turkey caller, with numerous titles.