The archery elk season in Montana is underway. And, for the archery elk hunter who has spent his summer exploring remote stands of timber most hunters only glance at on Google Earth, while hiking countless backcountry miles and prematurely wearing the sole from a pair of hunting boots, congratulations on your effort and good luck on this seasons hunt. For those hunters, however, that haven’t spent as much time in the backcountry this season, or for those hunters that aren’t sure how to effectively scout for the season, here are a few tips to help.
When you are out scouting, the most obvious signs of elk activity are droppings, tracks, and rubs. Elk are transient by nature, so being really excited about evidence of elk may be jumping the gun, so to speak. Pay attention to the freshness of the rubs on the trees, or the prevalence of the tracks, and know that it only means that elk may frequent that area, and there are a few other ways of figuring out more precise locations and patterns for the elk when the rut begins.
If you are scouting and you find a bull before the rut has begun, don’t be too excited. That bull most likely will be somewhere else when the rut actually begins. So, when you are doing your preseason scouting, make sure to pay attention to the cow elk. When those cows go into heat, those bulls wont let them out of sight.
Also, while scouting, look for elk wallows (areas where bull elk may tear up the ground to reach the mud and moisture). When the rut is on, elk will use a wallow every day, most likely in the heat of the afternoon, so knowing where fresh or old wallows are is a big advantage. Those bulls run really hot during the rut, and rely on the mud and moisture from those wallows to cool down. Areas to look for that could be potential wallows are in meadows – pay close attention to the edges of the meadows where moisture may run off and collect. Also, look for bright green patches of grasses on densely timbered slopes. Near creeks and lake are obvious choices, and also near beaver dams.