Hunting High Pressured Bulls

Chad Schearer

“Elk are where you find them,” was the advice a veteran elk outfitter gave a young rookie guide one day during a pre-season scouting trip. The twenty-one year young guide thought to himself, sarcastically, “That’s real brilliant advice.”  The outfitter then pointed out areas that he felt would hold bulls as soon as they received pressure in other areas. He pointed to an isolated patch of timber and said, look up there, elk won’t be in there right now but give it a few weeks and that is where the elk will be moving to. Sure enough as soon as the season opened and they elk received a little pressure they headed right to that isolated piece of timber he had pointed out.


Archery & Early Muzzleloader Seasons

Elk live by their own set of rules and as soon as they get pressured the rules change. Hunting pressure can come in several different forms, from having too many hunters in a small area, hunters overcalling, off road vehicles, or hunters not giving elk security in their bedding areas. Not that I appose mid-day hunting of bulls, this can be productive, I personally object to pressuring bulls in their bedding areas. Hunting pressure can take place on private as well as public land. So where do elk go when they receive too much pressure? They find areas to get away from the crowds or an area that provides them with vantage points with a good escape route.


Do I really want to hunt up in that stuff

If it looks steep, nasty and full of deadfall that is the first place to start looking for pressured bulls. If there are shale slides with benches that are timbered on the north facing slopes this will also hold high pressured elk. When bulls are pressured from hunters coming from below they will tend to bed higher towards the top of the ridge. Their is a twofold advantage to this, they can spot anything coming from below and during the morning hours the wind thermals are generally moving upwardly so they can smell any hunters coming towards them. Try a different approach. Take the long way around and drop in above the elk where they aren’t expecting you to come from.


Go to where the elk are not where you think they should be

Big bulls don’t become big by being visible. However, elk will bed within 300 yards of a highway if they have the security, water and food. Look for fresh elk sign when traveling into your hunting area. Just because you think elk should be there doesn’t mean elk think they should be there. Hunters will spend days in areas that look like prime habitat yet, not find any elk. Many hunters are driving by them on there way to the backcountry.

Avoid pressuring bulls

Wait until the conditions are right before moving in on high pressured bulls. Make sure that the wind is always in your favor. Start into a new area by moving in slowly and cow calling softly every 50 yards to mask your human sound. This will also allow you to move in undetected on bedded elk increasing your odds at high pressured bulls. This season try looking for unusual places to find more elk. Remember elk movements can be altered within twenty-four hours of the season opening.

Today, I look back on the advice I received as a rookie guide and realize just how right that outfitter was, “Elk really are where you find them.”

(Top Photo) Author Chad Schearer with an elk taken while hunting with Van Hale’s Trophy Outfitter.

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