With Elk season right around the corner, I wanted to share a few tips that have helped the Skousen Bros be more successful elk hunters.  These nuggets of wisdom have been learned and relearned over years of spending a lot of time in the elk woods.  Hopefully you can relate or at least consider some of these tactics for your upcoming season.

Tip 1 - Elk are where you find them, not where you think they are going to be

We all have our honey holes and “go to” locations to hunt elk but don’t get caught in the trap of assuming that they will be in the same exact spot year after year.  Elk behavior is influenced by their environment so on any given year the feed, water, predation, and people pressure might be different.  Keep moving to find elk! Be alert to fresh sign in the form of tracks, pee spots, and droppings. Fresh rubs can be a good sign they have been in the area recently.  If they are close, usually it will be obvious.  Even if you find elk the night before you intend to hunt them, they can easily be a couple canyons away by morning.  Our general rule is to start where we think they are going to be. If we aren’t either seeing them or identifying recent sign that they have been in the area, then we keep moving to find them. 

Tip 2 - Don’t leave elk to find elk

This one seems pretty obvious, but it happens.  We’ve been glassing elk that were in the opposite direction that we were headed, and the thought goes through our mind, we will hunt those elk as a backup plan or let’s go find elk easier to get to. Our general rule of thumb is that when you find huntable elk, go hunt them.  For us, the elk we can see become plan A.  I hate to admit it but a couple years ago, at a Wyoming trailhead, we pulled up and got all our gear packed up to hike in about 3 miles to a large basin we had scouted in the summer.  Just as we were leaving the trucks we saw several cows and a bull feed out onto an open hillside.  Man is this awesome!!  We’ve already seen elk, but we proceeded up the trail.  After not seeing elk in our basin for a few days, we were second guessing our decision to leave those elk by the trailhead.  To be fair, we thought they might have been on private land but still….duh!

Tip 3 - Be flexible, have a back up plan

Always have a plan, but more importantly, always have one or two back up plans.  We call them plan B and plan C options, because we have found that our first well thought out plan doesn’t always play out. We need to be flexible and move to plan B immediately if other hunters, weather, predators, etc., foil our initial plan.  We’ve found that we are more successful and enjoy the hunt more if we have an open mind and are flexible to changing conditions.  You need to be careful here, because you don’t want to be jumping all over your unit wasting energy and productive hunting time but set some guidelines to know when to pull the plug to change areas or hunting strategy.

A successful hunt can be defined a lot of different ways and it doesn’t always include killing an elk.  However, success for us is the whole experience including notching tags and filling the freezer with delicious elk meat.  Hopefully one of these tips will be just the ticket to help you achieve your definition of success this fall. 

- Mark Skousen

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