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How To/Pro-Tips

Protecting Your Elk Hunting Investment

Elk are second only to deer in popularity among big game hunters. This fact is not lost on many folks who live in elk country and make some portion of their living supporting elk hunters.

Unfortunately not all of them are honest or able to provide a quality experience. Bad experiences are guaranteed from actual crooks and cheats. However, sometimes an individual who provided good service in the past falls on hard times and lets things slide.

Your best protection is in client references. Beware any operator - drop-camp, outfitter or guide - who will not provide you with a list of recently satisfied and widespread clients. "Recently" speaks for itself, but why widespread? Some shady operators create a great but bogus reference list. The best reference possible is someone you know who has hunted with a specific outfit.
As for ranches, contact local game wardens, Forest Service employees or Bureau of Land Management (BLM) agents to get a true feel for the quality of that piece of private land.

Horsing Around

A friend of mind went to a seminar where part of the socializing involved a horseback trail ride and a cookout. He was a very occasional horse rider, usually as part of his annual elk hunts. His comment immediately after the seminar was "Thank goodness I wasn't on an elk hunt. After that trail ride I was so sore that I could barely get around for two days."

Every elk outfitter or guide in the business who uses horses can tell you dozens of similar stories. Every year, many hopeful elk hunters see their hunts diminished or ruined by becoming saddle sore.

Horseback riding stresses muscles and abrades body parts that everyday life seldom challenges. If your elk hunt will involve horses, go to a local stable and tune up your riding skills beforehand. It's all part of being in shape for the season.

A tip: Wearing pantyhose or Lycra exercise pants under your hunting pants really cuts down the wear and tear on your backside.

Late-Season Bonus

With the whitetail deer population exploding nationwide and with the whitetail's particular ability to live close to human habitation, the public perception of "Bambi" is changing. Ask any non-hunting suburbanite who has had a few thousand dollars of landscaping chewed up by hungry deer. Increasingly, deer are being seen as pests.

More and more people and communities also are realizing what hunters have long known. Hunting helps control out-of-control deer herds. In many areas, special deer-population control hunts are being conducted in areas where hunting was previously not allowed.

Because of noise, range and safety considerations, bowhunting is favored in many suburban areas. These control hunts often occur toward the end of the regular deer season and often, deer taken on these hunts do not count against the overall state limit Be aware of any special deer control hunts in your area.

Also, because these areas have not been hunted for some time, they can produce some very nice trophy bucks. It's a late-season bonus.

The Guided Hunt

The best way to get into elk hunting, particularly for the novice going alone, is to book a guided hunt. This is more expensive than the drop camp but more service is offered.
A guided hunt means you have a full-time guide and also wranglers and a cook. You spend more time elk hunting, not doing camp chores. Included in the cost is all equipment (except your personal gear) and food.
The typical mid-priced guided hunt will take you way back into the wilderness but still be on public land. An outfitter may have an "exclusive" for that area, but that only applies to other outfitters. Intrepid individuals who ride or hike in are also free to hunt there.
A guided hunt enhances your chances for success and also is a great learning experience. An experienced elk guide, in actual elk country, can teach you a lot and it also gives you a practical sense of what all that stuff you read in outdoor magazines really means.

Scouting Savvy

Pre-season scouting isn't rocket science but you've got to pay attention. If your hunting area has large fields and openings, driving around early and late in the day can help you locate bucks. By glassing large open areas, you can check out the local bucks and sort of work backward from there, as in, "How did he get here through the area I can hunt?"

Prime food sources are early autumn's main draw and many of them hold through the first part of bow season. Learn what's hot now and also what's next on the menu and where it can be found. When the currently favored food source dries up, you'll know where to go next.

Locate trails and concentrate on those leading to or connecting feeding areas. The influences of rut won't alter deer travel until later in the season. The early part of bow season offers deer a great variety of prime foods and the deer take advantage of it.

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