Skip to main content

How Important Is Pre-Season Elk Scouting?

All you elk hunters out there are no doubt rearing to go, spending every spare moment and weekend investing in preseason scouting. But is what you learn well ahead of season really that valuable?

If the object is to better understand new country, find out where trails or logging roads lead, walk out desolate ridges never explored, assess water or feed in an area, see where cattle are being pastured, the answer's definitely yes. Knowing your elk country and how current conditions might influence movement is always a boon. Remember, too, just because elk were found in a particular area last year's no guarantee they'll be there this year.

Knowing there's a saddle over yonder can help you cut off traveling elk you're circling to accommodate wind. Knowing a waterhole's dried up allows you to spend time elsewhere once the season begins. Discovering an ATV trail previously unknown to you can help get you into a piece of country and the action faster. You can never know the lay of the land well enough when running-and-gunning elk — and poring over maps seldom gives you the complete picture.


The problem with hanging hopes on scouting conducted well before season — even a week before opener — is elk are highly mobile and things generally change in a hurry once festivities begin. This is especially true of bulls discovered before season — particularly in places where they're easily observed by others (meadows, farm fields and clear-cuts). Hunting pressure's mostly responsible. A group of bachelor bulls observed regularly during summer months on a lush meadow might seem a bonanza, but the smallest amount of hunting pressure will certainly scatter them to the winds.


Even in an area where hunting pressure's light — wilderness areas, private ground or sites otherwise proving difficult to access — remember most archery-elk season openers (September 1 nearly universal, give or take a week) also coincide with natural transition periods. Even without hunting pressure, bulls observed during late summer months soon disperse as the breeding urge grows stronger.

Ideally (especially when confident hunting pressure won't alter a situation), concentrate on locating large cow groups while scouting. Seeing big bulls is awesome, but rest assured they won't stick around long. Where there are undisturbed cows, bulls will soon follow when rutting activities kick off.

This is sound even in harder-hunted areas, locating cow concentrations, but then using your knowledge of surrounding countryside to form educated guesses as to where hunting pressure will shove them. Anticipating how hunting pressure — where it will arrive from most of all — is savvy elk hunting. A piece of ground completely vacant one weekend can transform into a hotspot as hunting pressure redistributes elk about a landscape — another reason preseason scouting sometimes proves deceiving, coaxing you to ignore otherwise productive ground.

If an area's completely new to you, preseason scouting's highly important for reasons already stated. If you're well acquainted with your elk ground, you might just be better off saving your energy for season opener€¦


GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Springtime Turkey Hunt

Springtime Turkey Hunt

Kevin Steele and the boys are bowhunting turkeys with the help of some well-placed decoys.

Ravin Broadheads – 3 New Mechanicals

Ravin Broadheads – 3 New Mechanicals

Designed exclusively for their crossbows, Ravin has announced three new mechanical broadheads to maximize penetration and overall performance.

Ravin R29X Crossbow – New for 2020

Ravin R29X Crossbow – New for 2020

The new Ravin R29X Crossbow includes everything you need for blistering speed (450 FPS!) and deadly downrange accuracy (3-inch group at 100 yards).

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Bill Winke explains the benefits of both shooting techniques. Shooting Your Bow With One Eye Versus Two How-To

Shooting Your Bow With One Eye Versus Two

Bill Winke

Bill Winke explains the benefits of both shooting techniques.

Follow these 4 steps to early-season success.How to Pattern Bucks in the Early Season Whitetail

How to Pattern Bucks in the Early Season

Clint Casper

Follow these 4 steps to early-season success.

These are the archery shots you should and shouldn't take on whitetails. Where to Shoot a Deer: Bowhunting Shot Placement How-To

Where to Shoot a Deer: Bowhunting Shot Placement

Christian Berg

These are the archery shots you should and shouldn't take on whitetails.

The system offers ease of use, versatility, affordability and ever-expanding functionality.Moultrie Mobile: A Complete Scouting Solution Scouting Tools

Moultrie Mobile: A Complete Scouting Solution

Christian Berg - October 01, 2020

The system offers ease of use, versatility, affordability and ever-expanding functionality.

See More Trending Articles

More Big Game

We headed out before sunrise with the hopes of spotting a big buck to stalk within bow range.Spot-and-Stalk Success on Prairie Mule Deer Bucks Big Game

Spot-and-Stalk Success on Prairie Mule Deer Bucks

Brad Fenson - November 06, 2017

We headed out before sunrise with the hopes of spotting a big buck to stalk within bow range.

 The author stalked this bear for nearly a mile before settling in for a 40-yard shot.

My4 Keys to a Successful Spot-and-Stalk Bear Hunt Big Game

4 Keys to a Successful Spot-and-Stalk Bear Hunt

John Dudley - March 30, 2016

The author stalked this bear for nearly a mile before settling in for a 40-yard shot. My

John Dudley shares what his many years of bowhunting bulls have taught him.Lessons Learned from 15-Years of Successful Elk Hunting Big Game

Lessons Learned from 15-Years of Successful Elk Hunting

John Dudley

John Dudley shares what his many years of bowhunting bulls have taught him.

Crawling through waist-deep barley after the fresh rain only helped our efforts to close theMule Deer Maiden Voyage Big Game

Mule Deer Maiden Voyage

Jim Kinsey - June 15, 2012

Crawling through waist-deep barley after the fresh rain only helped our efforts to close the

See More Big Game

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Petersen's Bowhunting App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Petersen's Bowhunting subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now