Forage, Cover, and Water!
Sounds pretty simple, but you would be surprised how often these three essentials to elk survival are overlooked by hunters in the field. These are the three things elk need to survive during a hunting season. The trick is finding areas within your GMU where all three of these features are located within close proximity to one another. Another thing to keep in mind is that while you may be hunting for elk, what you should actually be “hunting” for is quality elk habitat. Find quality elk habitat, and you are guaranteed to find more elk. ElkTracker™ Maps show you where to locate all three of these essentials that elk depend on for survival. When using Elk Tracker maps in the field, it is essential that you know the characteristics of the features on the map.
The light red shaded areas in the map are security habitat. These are the areas elk use to bed down in and as escape cover and consist of a dense cover of fairly mature growth. As the hunting pressure and vehicle noise increases, elk retreat further and further into these areas and will bed down during the day. If you hunt the north facing slopes and ridges within the security habitat, you are likely to kick some elk up out of their beds. Also, try to find water sources within these areas and walk parallel to streams or towards springs. By doing so, you will have a chance to run into an active wallow which means a bull is somewhere nearby.
The bright green areas represent prime elk forage areas. These are areas that consist of an abundance of high quality grasses and forbs. They are generally open meadows and are good places to hunt when you want to sit down and relax for a while. Hunting these areas in the early morning or evening can provide good results. Do not overlook these areas, especially if you find one that is tucked in between some security habitat. Elk are likely to be in the dark timber surrounding these areas.
The secondary forage areas are the dark brown hatched areas and consist of high quality shrubs such as young aspen that the elk may turn to when the grasses and forbs are covered by snow. These areas are generally moderately to densely covered with growth and can be difficult to walk through, especially when a fair amount of snow is on the ground. Sitting in the open near the edges of one of these areas can produce results in the morning or evening. Also, if the vegetation is dense enough, elk may even use them to bed down during the day.
The bright red areas are the elk hunting hot spots. These are the areas you would want to try to hunt first because they contain the best elk habitat in the area. These areas are located far enough away from roads which means the majority of hunters will not even know they exist. Within each of these areas you will find high quality primary elk forage surrounded by security habitat. Most of these are open meadows, so they would be good to hunt early and late during the day.
The last type of cover is fairly rare, so if you notice one of these on your map, you would want to be sure to check it out several times over the course of your hunt. These are areas where there is security habitat that overlaps primary forage habitat. What this means to the elk is that they could stay in this area the entire hunting season and never be seen by hunters. What this means to you is you have the map that shows you where these areas are located. Plus, if you happen to find one of these areas with a water source, you have hit the jackpot. What more could an elk need?