So you’re a couple weeks into your archery season and no matter how hard you try you can’t even find an elk to hunt! Don’t get discouraged, we’ve all been there.
Let’s start with the basics and for me that means pulling in some Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data. Sounds high-tech right? Well for the folks bringing all that data together it is but for us lucky users of the information it’s really pretty simple and truly is a great resource.
Colorado has a an outstanding GIS system – Colorado Interactive Mapping
Many other states do as well and if they don’t you can be sure they’re working on it. Another great resources for GIS mapping data is provided by the folks at Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
For this example let’s take a look at Game Management Unit (GMU) or Unit 55, using the Colorado system above.
The first thing you’re going to want to do is look for the Map Layers & Legend menu on the left hand side of the screen. Once you’ve found this menu, notice the Visibility tab and check the boxes which are of interest to you. For archery seasons I’m looking for Elk Summer Concentration Areas and Elk Summer Ranges. Clicking the Legend tab next to the Visibility tab explains what the different patterns shown on the map represent.
Now with the Summer Concentration Areas identified you’ve just eliminated 60-70% of the unit. Note, elk are obviously scattered throughout the unit but I’m going to focus my efforts on the “Concentration” areas first.
So now with maps in hand it’s time to go hunting. Obviously, these “concentration” maps have greatly narrowed down our search but there is still plenty of country to be explored. But before you go rushing into the area and looking under every tree and bush, let’s contemplate your options. First, if glassing lends itself well to the area you’re hunting, look for a good vantage point and pull up a comfortable seat. Many of our spots are not ideally suited for glassing so we’ll often hit the trail, or better yet get off the trail and start heading cross country. This time of year the bulls should already be bugling on their own, and if they’re not there’s nothing wrong with coaxing them with a simple contact/location bugle every ¼- ½ mile. Don’t know what a contact/location bugle is? Then a couple sources I’d recommend are Roe Hunting Resources or Elknut Outdoor Productions to help understand those vocalizations. And you really do need to understand these basic sounds if you want to be successful in the elk woods.
If you’ve used the GIS maps to make sure you’re in decent elk country to begin with and you have a good idea of where to look or how to encourage those bulls to give away their positions, then you really should be “getting into elk” and that’s a big battle for some. I know it took us quiet a bit of trial and error over multiple seasons just to figure out the basics of “where are those elk!”