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Old 08-11-2020, 07:30 PM   #1 (permalink)
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I had to change strategies this year with big game hunting. In the past I've always focused my time hunting spike elk on multi-day hunts in the Boulders. I was largely successful getting into herds but rarely skilled enough to find the satellite bulls.

This year I'm limited to short spells of hunting near home. I know that means I'll probably see more pressure on the animals and also limit my odds of success. But it's the only option I have and at a minimum it still gets me into the field and learning.

Does anyone have any insight into strategy they employ in day hunting spike units? Definitely not interested in honey holes; more interested in how people use the limited time, how you chunk out landscape to focus on without days to glass, etc.

It could be several years before I can disappear for multiday backpack hunts so I'm curious how people strategize.

I know I can multitask a bit during upland game hunts, in September and early October, and scout for sign and little pockets of ideal habitat. I'm a dork whose always mapped water sources and sign on such hikes anyways.

Thanks in advance for any help pf getting me out of my multiday mindset.
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Old 08-11-2020, 07:49 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I wouldn't hunt it any different than I would if I was camping on the hunting spot. You are still going to need to find the elk and cross your fingers that there is a spike in the group that you are hunting.

A number of areas that I spike hunted you could of done on day trips, it would be very long drive from home but we could of done it. One advantage of camping is that we just didn't have as far to drive in the mornings to get to our hiking in spot. But in the end you still need to be in a area where the elk are at to find one.

It's been 30 years since I hiked into a area and slept with the elk so to speak to be with them first thing in the morning and while that proved very effective I have decided that I am getting too old for a cold camp, cold dinner, cold breakfast, and cold coffee out of the thermos the next morning. But every time that I did that it worked out quite well.
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Old 08-11-2020, 08:07 PM   #3 (permalink)
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2 parts.

1. Sit water. Sit. Water. Why go to the elk, when the elk come to you?

2. Be patient. It might take 20 minutes. It could take 20 hours. But it WILL happen, if you sit. Water.

It’s crazy to me to see and hear about all these guys who want to kill and elk, yet spend all their time chasing them, when the skills are honestly sub par when it comes to stalking. If guys sat water and were patient, there wouldn’t be an unlimited quota for OTC archery elk tags for much longer. It’s kinda like pronghorn. Sure, SOME guys are skilled enough to stalk them in open terrain and be successful. But most arent. But anyone can put up a blind and kill one over water if they wait long enough. Same applies with elk. Elk are harder to get close to and are much less tolerant of humans than just about any other big game species in Utah. And if you aren’t very experienced in stalking animals and getting close, it can be almost impossible for many people to find success. But if you let them come to you, it gets much easier. It does take a little work on your part to find a well used water source and put up a treestand. But that is pretty much the hardest part in archery elk hunting cows and spikes. I understand that it might not be what some guys are looking for in a hunt. Which I totally get. However if you are time limited and putting meat on the table is a priority for you, it makes sense to use the time you have wisely and use a proven tactic that works and has worked since the beginning of bowhunting.

The majority of the archery elk I’ve killed have been after a full days work. I determined roughly what time the elk were coming in, and got there 45 minutes before then and waited. Rarely have I spend all day out hunting them and I never camp over. I hunt the unit I live in, and sleep in my own bed during the hunt. I might have to get up a little earlier than I would if I camped on the mountain, but I get more points with the wife if I’m home every night, even if I’m walking in the door at 10:30, than I would if I camped out somewhere. Pick a place you can get to in a reasonable amount of time and put in the effort to find good places. You don’t have to be 5 miles deep to get into elk. The one stand I hunt for elk that is very productive, I can hear people talking, laughing, dogs barking, car alarms going off, kids screaming, etc... in the distance. I’ve shot 4 elk in 3 years out of it. I really think those elk are more tolerant of human scent, noises than the remote elk, and because of this, I can get away with a lot more in the stand because of it. This actually happened to me in 2018. I was sitting in the stand mid morning, waiting until 11, because that’s about as late in the morning as they usually come in. It was 9:50, I was bored and started watching Netflix. I caught some movement up on the hill, realized it was elk and in the process of trying to get ready and grab my bow, I dropped my **** phone out of the stand, 30 feet below me. I instantly thought “well chit, I just ducked myself”. But they were far enough out when that happened, they didn’t hear or see my phone drop to the ground.. My ear buds were still connected so it kept playing. I was watching the new season of walking dead, so the volume was fairly loud. the lead cow walks right under my stand, is standing directly over my phone and stops. I could not see my phone, she was right on top of it. I could tell she could hear something, I know it was my phone, but she wasn’t on full alert. She tried to smell me for a quick second, and once she thought whatever people she heard was a ways off, she went back to a more relaxed posture and I shot her about 2 minutes later as she stepped forward to take a drink from the spring. Anyways, my point is just cuz you are close to a road or where people are, doesn’t mean elk won’t be there.
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Old 08-11-2020, 08:11 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Thanks Moosemeat, that's the sort of mental shift I'm looking for. The unit I've backpacked into has gorgeous big bulls I've successfully stalled 2 of 3 times but never spike.

But I've always walked with the animals, never let them come to me. Thx for the perspective.
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Old 08-12-2020, 07:24 AM   #5 (permalink)
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backcountry -- you didn't say: are you still hunting the Boulder unit, just not on a multi-day trip?


I get the "sit water" theory. The problem with some areas, like the Boulder, is the abundance of water. Sure, sitting water is going to work, but it might take 4 days for the elk to hit the water you're sitting on.

You know the area. You know the places you've run into elk in the past. Why change? If you told me that I had only 1 day to hunt elk on the Boulder this year, I wouldn't change anything. I'd head to the same area that find elk every year, and I'd cross my fingers that I find them on my 1 day.

Some years we pull into camp and have an elk on the ground within hours. Other years it takes a few days before we find them. We know they are in that area -- it's just a flip of the coin on which day we run into them.
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Old 08-12-2020, 07:30 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Moose pretty well answered your question. So many young hunters fall into this "shoe leather crowd" I like to call them that think some how if they just walk enough miles they become some kind of super hunter. Most young hunters walk way to much. Being 5 miles from the road is no miracle answer to the location of game. Just walking around and hoping you'll stumble onto elk, and then make a successful stalk is probably the most inefficient hunting method there is. Slow down, sit more, and ask the question where are those elk going to be. As Moose says, water is the one constant for all animals. Elk( and nearly all other animals) travel to water on a daily bases. You can sometimes intercept them on their journey to the water but that can be tough because they seldom take the exact same route(within bow range). Sitting over water is a classic, time proven method. Patience will pay off much more often than shoe leather.
Think "crepuscular".

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Old 08-12-2020, 09:16 AM   #7 (permalink)
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PBH,

No Boulders this year, too far. I really can't be much more than 1.5-2 hours from Cedar at this point. Ideally closer but that is my limit.

Others,

Luckily I've always backpacked in and then scouted water sources. As PBH said there are just quite a few in that unit so it required exploring them for sign. That unit spoiled me though as finding the elk herds wasn't hard thus far. I learned to stalk into big trophy elk and cows but have yet to see a unicorn. Still much to learn.

Cedar Mt is quite dry this year so I'm guessing if I can find a decent source than I can sit with more confidence. My grouse hunting puts a lot of miles on my boots and I've stumbled into a few solid areas that I've marked.
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Old 08-12-2020, 10:01 AM   #8 (permalink)
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If you need to be that close to Cedar I would spend my time in the Mitchell Sawmill area and the Red Desert area and both sides of Hwy 143 between Hwy 14 and the park, but you won't be alone.
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Old 08-12-2020, 10:18 AM   #9 (permalink)
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back -- like bowgy, i'd recommend the Red Desert. Hancock Peak. Those areas. Forget sitting on water - there won't be room for another lawn chair to fit.
There are quite a few areas that would be good for morning or evening hikes: north side of Navajo, Marathon trail from Navajo to Deer Valley, Potato Hollow, numerous side canyons near Woods Ranch, Webster's Flat and Deep Creek, SUU land, Tippets, Dry Camp...


It wasn't very long ago that I ran up to Hancock on a Labor Day Sunday afternoon. It was dry, busy, and hot. I pulled off the road with 3 vehicles behind me, grabbed my bow, walked 100 yards into the trees, and shot a spike. I could still see my truck, and I was watching vehicles drive up the road...

I think you just need to go out and go for some hikes. You just never know when you'll walk right up on an elk, and then the hunt will be over.
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Last edited by PBH; 08-12-2020 at 10:36 AM.
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Old 08-12-2020, 11:01 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Thanks guys, didn't expect people to share areas. That's very generous. Some of those were on my short list but not all. And I'm definitely preparing for much more crowding, especially since I'm most often solo weekdays on my boulder backpack hunts.

Will be interesting to see what's going on during the late September portion of my grouse hunting.
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