When many hunters think of elk hunting, it often comes with thoughts of loud bugles and aggressive bulls. But outside those few weeks in September and early October, calling isn’t the most productive tactic – in fact even during the rut, other tactics can sometimes be more deadly.
So when the elk aren’t bugling, how do we hunt them? Post-rut elk behave differently. But this change in behavior actually brings about some incredible opportunities. Here at LOH Outfitters, our highest success rates come during the October and November post-rut firearm hunts. When calling is not an option, finding elk sometimes requires a little more legwork. But hunting these post-rut bulls can be a ton of fun!
Late Season Behavior
After the rut, bulls go into recovery mode. They’ll separate themselves from the cows and we will often see them alone or in small bachelor groups. Their modus operandi during this timeframe is to rest up and put on weight before winter.
Post-rut bulls will often form predictable patterns if they aren’t pressured or bumped. This creates fun opportunities for glassing and spot-and-stalk tactics. A big bull might go find a nasty canyon where he has cover, food and water and he may not stray very far. Find these little pockets, and the stalk is on!
Early and Late
Bulls love to bed down in thick cover during the day or in hard-to-reach places where they have the upper hand. If you’re not hunting first and last light, you are missing the best times to locate bulls when they’re up on their feet.
If you’re leaving camp at dawn, you might be too late. Hiking to a scouting point in the early morning darkness is often necessary so your glass hits the hillsides at first light. If you catch a bull on the move before they bed down, you now have a great stalking opportunity. If you see them at last light, at least you know where the elk are moving to feed and you can revisit that zone the next day.
Glass, Glass and Glass
Late season elk hunting means spending time behind the glass. When you’re looking for bulls that are alone or in twos or threes, using optics allows you to cover a lot more ground. Expect to glass, glass and glass some more.
Your binoculars and spotting scope are your best friends when hunting quiet elk. Put your binos on a tripod and carry a butt pad or packable stool while picking apart the landscape with your glass. You may be sitting stationary like this for long periods, so bring along extra layers for glassing and some snacks for the long sits.
Pick Apart the Cover
When you’re glassing, slow down. These post-rut hunts can require some patience. Pick apart the thick cover on north-facing slopes. You might be amazed what you can find in your binoculars if you really slow down. You’ll begin to notice game trails along benches. If there’s snow on the ground, look for tracks. Take your time to divide the area into different sections and scan each section thoroughly.
Take this opportunity to learn from your guide and ask questions. Our guides live and breathe elk hunting. In addition to finding that bull of a lifetime, we hope you have fun, learn about elk and begin to fall in love with this incredible country as much as we have!
To learn more about our guided New Mexico elk hunting, please take a moment to review the information on our elk hunts page and throughout the website. If you’d like to speak with us or ask questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out!