Tips for Hunting Elk on Public Land

We asked our Facebook fans “When it comes to finding elk on public land, what is one tip that you would give to a new elk hunter?” Overall, the top 3 public land elk hunting tips were:

  1. Locate and hunt backcountry areas far from roads, trails and hunting pressure.
  2. Scout.
  3. Be patient, be persistent and be willing to work for it.

Here’s what we heard from fellow boots-on-the-ground, public land elk hunters on our Facebook Page. Have a public land elk hunting tip that you would like to share? Pass it along using the comments section below.

  • Scout before the hunt. #1 rule!!!!
  • Non-motorized access!
  • Get away from the roads
  • Study as much about elk and the area your hunting
  • Research, research, research.
  • Get as far from the roads as possible!
  • Glass, glass then glass some more
  • Your feet will hurt.
  • Yep...public lands with no roads. Big game need big country.
  • Wait.
  • Get as far as you can from the road in the dark for first light. They're down at night and at the top in the day of hills that is.
  • Go deep
  • Scout, scout, scout.
  • When they are bugling drive around at night and listen. Go back next morning where you heard them the night before.
  • Make it your second job.
  • Look for the spot you would least like to pack an elk out of and hunt it.
  • Look for elk sign like this (see picture).
  • If the elk aren't there, move!!
  • Canyons!!
  • Walk, walk and walk some more.
  • Scout every chance you get.
  • 20 feet from your truck, you are hunting, pay attention. You may be miles from camp, but it pays to call and listen on your way in.
  • Go as often as you can.
  • Cover a lot of ground, till you find good sign
  • Start scouting now, and don't stop. So that in Sept. you know every draw and wallow.
  • Road hunt! There are no elk beyond 1/4-mile of the road!
  • Don't overlook any spots cause they ate too close to the road.
  • Go where no else does, because a lot of people hunt general areas.
  • Hunt the late season...and hope for snow...deep snow!
  • Get the heck away from the roads!!!!
  • Do your homework. Scout as often as possible. Pull up topo’s and use Google Earth of the area you're hunting. Get off the beaten path. Prepare to go steep and deep. Be in good shape. Always remember a successful trip is a safe trip! Have fun enjoy God's green earth!
  • Boots on ground all summer long!
  • Put on some miles! And hunt the rut if possible...
  • Get out and walk. Farther from roads is usually better. But then again the only bull elk I bumped into this archery season was on a shelf 200 yards off a trail and I could hear 4 wheelers we were so close to a road when I bumped him and it happened to be his bedroom with rubs and beds all over. So they are unpredictable with where you will find them.
  • Hunt from the moment you get out of the truck. This season was a great example for me. Although a campground was 1500ft away and a road not much further I found a lot of sign, fresh rubs and heard elk nearby. Be ready from the start. Also start high and work into benches. Put in the miles and find sign. If they aren't there, they aren't there. Don't be afraid to move and find another area. You never know when you will cross their path and be in them. Especially if you’re in a general season area and other hunters have them on the move or pushed into deep canyon benches.
  • Not there, find some private land...
  • Get off the roads.
  • Buy a beef.
  • Start high – 8,000 feet or higher.
  • When you hear them....move in their direction...don't wait and hope that they walk by your location. Oh, and don't hesitate to run after can catch them!!!
  • Find the nastiest, most remote area. Get up high above where you think they might be bedded. Glass and listen. This keeps the wind in your favor longer. Most of the time it’s better to ambush 'em than to call to 'em on high pressured public land. Watch 'em when they come out and try to ease in on them, or if wind is good, get in front of them. You can ease in on him if he's bedded, if conditions are right. Be aggressive but be smart about it. Good luck.
  • Go boldly....where no one has gone before...
  • Elk are only where you find them.
  • Patience….measured in years.
  • Go deep!!!!!!
  • Get off the roads. Be in shape. Use the quads God gave you!!!!!! Use enough gun!
  • Elk are only where they find you.
  • Persistence.
  • Pick an area large enough to contain the seasonal movements of the resident elk and preferably an area without motorhead access. Early, mid- and late season elk have different haunts depending on hunting pressure, weather, and snow depth. Learn the area's topography and features (water, feed, and travel routes) like the back of your hand and be prepared to hunt when and where other folks don't. Get up early and stay out late. Have a good attitude. Any elk on public land is a trophy.
  • Keep hunting and stay away from the roads.
  • Scout, scout, and more scout! Be patient!
  • Hit the national forests just on the northside of yellowstone national park during the late fall. Tom Miner basin is prime elk hunting country you just have to be careful of the grizzlies. Bring a 4-wheeler or buddies to quarter and pack out. Hillsides with large pastures are the best in late fall.
  • Scout.
  • Keep hiking until you don’t see another hunter. Glass a lot. Hunt in crappy weather. Remember why you are there.
  • Work ridges for the high ground, move slow, and use quality optics.
  • You always find sign, and therefore elk, 3/4 of the way up a mountain. Also look for water.
  • And don't forget to take it all in. Don't take it for granted, there are guys and gals that would kill to get to do what we do for fun.
  • Park your truck or ATV and go for a nice long hike...
  • I would say do lots of scouting and talk to the local older hunters in the area because they may have lots of great tips for you.
  • Get away from the road, other hunters, and ATVs.

Share your top public land elk hunting tip using the comments section below.

Photos courtesy of Nick Brewer and JR Young.


About Timothy Brass

State Policy Manager for @Backcountry_H_A. Hunter, Angler, Conservationist, Husband.

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