Randy Newberg is the host and producer of Federal Premium’s Fresh Tracks with Randy Newberg,
making him the voice of self-guided public land hunters in America; where he shows the common hunter uncommon experiences available on our western public lands. You can catch his show on Thursday nights, only on Sportsman Channel and you can get more details about his hunts on his forum www.HuntTalk.com
Public land elk hunting; some think orange masses crammed into the one small area. Well, if you follow the crowds, that’s pretty much what you’ll find. For the enterprising hunter, crowds can be your friend. Here’s how it works for elk; and most any species.
Hunters are human; we’re programmed to look for the easiest path to the greatest reward. That’s why so many hunters stay near roads and trailheads; why the woods are busy on weekends, especially in mild weather. Some call it lazy. To me, it’s just a function of human behavior.
Elk understand human tendencies and react accordingly. Hunters who consistently tag public land bulls account for elk response to those human tendencies; adjusting their hunting styles and locations to find elk.
I always scour my maps for terrain, roads, trails, and other landscape objects that funnel hunters to predictable locations. Locations that attract lots of hunters attract few elk. That’s not a political statement on motorized access, just a fact of elk hunting and elk behavior.
Ask any experienced elk hunter and they will tell you; “Where hunters are abundant, elk are not.” Adjust your plans to find the lonely places on the mountain. And, if possible, plan your schedule to hunt the days following heavy pressure.
Elk havens don’t always require hours of hiking, though distance does increase your odds. Often, it’s how much/little effort the topography extracts that creates higher/lower elk densities. Here’s an example.
I hunt the same place in Colorado, almost every year, on an over-the-counter tag. Locals tell me I’m crazy, given how many people are driving those roads. There are a lot of hunters, but also a lot of elk; though elk are in places hunters are not.
From the public trailhead I hike for about a mile, then divert from the crowd by crawling up a nasty face of vertical to where the terrain benches out; about twenty minutes of tough going. I’m rewarded with two miles of easy terrain, stinking of elk. That
incline sorts out other hunters, except one old boy I bump into with frequency.
Even though I’m within earshot of whining two strokes and truck doors slamming, there are always bulls on these benches. Elk know it’s safe here. Years of escaping hunters has taught them where these places are. Elk who don’t figure it out don’t last long.
I was not told of this spot. I found it while scouting from my computer, 800 miles away. Thick topo lines told me that few hunters would travel there. Segments of tightly stacked topo lines are the “Stairway to Elk Heaven.” Flight survey data told me elk abounded in these districts. They had to be somewhere. Somewhere happens to be an hour hike from the road. Hunting pressure puts them here.