Bowhunting Elk: Don’t Miss Close-to-Roads Honey-Holes

Not all elk live far from roads. This season, don’t make the mistake of driving right past potential honey-holes.

Bowhunting Elk: Don’t Miss Close-to-Roads Honey-Holes

It’s our fault — a steady flow of magazine articles, digital pieces and outdoor television shows have created a belief that elk dwell in only far-off-the-beaten-path locales. The idea that you need to tote a pack loaded with days of gear and hike miles into a wilderness area to find elk nirvana has been beaten to death.

I don’t disagree. My hunting companions and I have had great elk hunts deep in isolated areas. However, our mindset in recent years has changed drastically. Why? A combination of increased hunt pressure in these off-the-trail areas along with coming to the realization that we were walking right past great elk haunts. This past season, we killed three bulls in 72 hours on public land. The coolest thing, though, was that each bull was harvested no more than one mile off a well-traveled forest road.

This season, before selecting a distant drainage far removed from trails and access roads, take a minute to look over your hunt area. Look for dense forest that requires an immediate vertical or downhill ascent right off the main road. Gnarly drainages and steep terrain that flattens out after a strenuous vertical trek are great options. Mark eight to 10 of these areas on your digital mapping system and spend time bouncing in and out of them.

One major drawback to packing in deep is all your eggs are in one basket. If you venture far and don’t find elk, your search must continue, and that search must be on foot. However, if you spend time accessing close-to-main-road locations, you can go in and out quickly until you find isolated pockets holding elk. Last season, I killed my bull less than a half-mile off a major access road. Spend a few days checking these areas before strapping on a pack loaded with a bivy sack and the like and going walkabout. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you find.

Three great digital apps that allow you to pre-mark areas ahead of time and mark hotspots during the hunt include onX Hunt (www.onxmaps.com), BaseMap (www.basemap.com) and HuntStand (www.huntstand.com).

Remember, just because an area is close to a road shouldn’t make it a no-go. If the area looks “elky,” give it a look.

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