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Late Season Elk Hunting

Tactics & Tips for Filling Your Tag

By Steve Chappell

Few animals can test a hunter’s will and fortitude like late season bull elk.  Succeeding on a post rut elk hunt on public land means overcoming the odds and is an incredible accomplishment.  Tagging a mature bull on this type of hunt is most often the exception and not the rule.  How we hunt can play a major role in success or failure.

Why are late season elk hunts tough?  There are several reasons why hunting bulls in November/December is difficult.  First, in most states there are more tags issued for this season.  The Game & Fish Departments know that success rates are low for the late hunt so you must compete with hundreds of other hunters in the field in the name of hunter opportunity.

Tracking through the fresh snow produced this mature late season bull for the author and his hunter.

Second, bulls are no longer bugling so their location is not being given away.  Third, since the bulls are no longer rutting, they become reclusive and hard to find.  Fourth, the bulls are typically in rougher, harder to access country during the late season.

Where to find Late Season Bulls:

Knowing where to look for mature bulls during the late season and utilizing the proper tactics are the keys to success.  Hunting bulls after the rut involves seeking out and hunting more remote, rough areas.   Bulls move to these secluded areas to avoid pressure and because their diet has changed from grasses to mostly browse which is typically found in rougher, steeper country.  Browse such as Mountain Mahogany, Serviceberry, and Cliff Rose occurs more frequently in canyons and on mountains and hillsides so this is where to find them late in the year.

This is my rule of thumb.  If I can glass an area without hiking in approximately a mile or more, usually mature bulls won’t be there.  I seek out areas that can’t be driven directly to.  Mature bulls will over the years learn to survive by avoiding areas with vehicle activity and hunting pressure.  If you can glass an area from your truck, you are probably not going to see a mature six point bull.

Bulls are also not nearly as dependent on water during this time of year.  I believe that if they sense pressure, bulls can go for several days without watering and when they do, it will be under cover of darkness.  The key element is pressure.  If a bull detects no pressure he may water more frequently and possibly during shooting light.  Don’t count on this during late rifle hunts in Arizona!

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Elk Hunting - Problems and Solutions


How To Find And Harvest Elk In Todays Woods

By Aram von Benedikt

I sat at the edge of one of my favorite high-country elk meadows, watching the rising sun of opening day touch the aspen and fir trees with golden light. It was a beautiful morning, in a spectacular place, but my day turned bitter in a hurry. I’d hunted this meadow for years and found my share of elk there, but this opening day all I found were other hunters. In an hour I watched no less than ten hunters stumble, bumble, or sneak their way through my meadow.

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Kayla Schoppmann finds victory in a big bull!


The day I received the news for elk hunting in Indian Peaks was such a great experience. I remember it clearly; I had received an envelope and email telling me that I was successful for the hunt. I couldn’t believe that I was going to have the chance to FINALLY go elk hunting, and out of all the places, Indian Peaks. That night I went to dinner with my parents and surprised my dad with the big news. He was so surprised to hear the news and couldn’t believe what I was telling him. He honestly thought I was joking around, until I showed him the proof. We were all so excited by this news that we started planning our hunt right away. September couldn’t come soon enough.

We had done some scouting beforehand to make sure we knew what we were in for, and also to be prepared to find that HUGE elk we wanted to get. My dad had talked to some local guys who knew the area well, and had asked for their opinions and help on how to go about this hunt. This information helped us out greatly. I had also done a lot of practice shooting beforehand to make sure I would be able to take this massive animal down. My dad had showed me where I needed to aim on the elk and to be able to be prepared for what was to come. I had practiced shooting a lot, from 100-300 yard distances. This was getting me even more excited for my hunt. As September approached, we all were so excited for this journey and opportunity—to hunt in one of the best areas for elk.

I started packing the day before we had to leave and it started to really sink in. I was getting a bit anxious and very excited for what was to come. I was still in shock that I was going elk hunting and able to have this amazing opportunity in my lap. My younger sister, Bailee, had told me she was coming along with us, and that made me more excited. I was so happy that she was coming and sharing this journey along with me. It’s always great to have your family there supporting you. I think both my dad and I didn’t get much sleep the night before!
We had our trailer and bags packed; we left early the next day—ready to get this hunt started. Luckily the drive wasn’t too long and were able to get everything set up before dark. My sister and my dad’s friend met us out there shortly after. We had a pow-wow that night planning the hunt for the next day, and how to go about it. We knew we had to be up bright and early, so we headed to bed early that night.

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