Elk Security Habitat
Elk security habitat can be described as the places elk seek out once they feel pressure during the hunting season. It can generally be described as any large, intact stand of forest that is away from roads, has an adequate amount of forage and water nearby, and offers a view of the landscape as well as escape corridors. Security habitat is the area where elk will bed down to escape hunting pressure during the day. Primary forage areas are the areas that offer above average grazing opportunities and generally consist of grasses and forbs. Using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and data layers obtained from Federal and State agencies, I was able to identify these areas as well as over 6,000 “Elk Hot Spots” for the entire state of Colorado west of I-25.
From Chad R. Bishop PhD. in an article posted on the Colorado Parks and Wildlife page:
It is well-documented that elk alter their movement patterns in response to human-related disturbance. For example, a number of studies have demonstrated that elk tend to avoid roads and that their survival declines as density of roads increases because of increasing vulnerability. During hunting season, elk will often seek out refuge on private lands or national parks where there is little or no hunting. In the White River National Forest in northwest Colorado, the opening day of archery season caused elk to move from public to private land. Similarly, in the San Luis Valley in south-central Colorado, elk moved into Great Sand Dunes National Park in response to the opening of archery season. Opening of rifle seasons are thought to cause additional shifts by elk away from public land to secure areas. Generally speaking, elk are adept at seeking out refuges to escape hunting pressure and will move many miles to do so.
He further adds:
Is there ample forage and security cover? Are you far enough away from potential refuge areas (e.g., large blocks of private land, National Parks) such that elk will likely remain on public land even when pressured by hunters? If so, where are elk likely to go when pressured? What are the relative road densities across the landscape? Are there “holes” that you can access? When you factor in all these considerations, it should be possible to assess a large landscape and identify specific spots to hunt. In summary, areas to select are those that provide abundant forage, ample security cover, fewer roads, and do not have obvious refuges.
Using the definitions and guidance above, I have developed maps for each GMU that show you areas that are the most likely to contain elk during the hunting seasons. Let me know how this works out for you during your next hunt, because I am open to suggestions and would appreciate any feedback you may have for ways to improve what I have created.