Elk Hunting Gear Checklist – Be Sure and Remember This!
When looking over your Elk hunting gear checklist, make sure you don’t overlook a small, but very important item, a first aid kit for your rifle! Believe me, there will come a time that you’ll need some items to make adjustments and repairs to your hunting rifle. Most of us want to pack as light as we can for our Elk hunting trip but don’t let that keep you from including a few items that can literally save your trip.
The Elk hunting environment, especially in the Rocky Mountains, is a rough and unpredictable place. Factors such as steep terrain, rain, snow fog, and horses can all take its toll on a hunting rifle. I have always suggested that a hunter bring an extra rifle to base camp as a backup. A first aid kit for rifles can also save the day.
A few years ago I was guiding a group of hunters in Colorado when I learned firsthand the value of such a kit. We had stopped along the trail to let our horses and mules catch their breath. As we visited with each other, I felt a strange vibration and herd a crunching sound from behind me. When I turned around, to my horror, I saw a mule chewing on the stock of my brand new Elk rifle!
When we got to camp, I was trying to figure out how I could smooth out the damaged stock with just a hunting knife. I jokingly asked the other hunters if anybody had some sand paper and one of them said he did in his rifle first aid kit. Needless to say, this fellow saved the day for me. I was able to smooth out the stock and went on to harvest my Elk with it that season.
A rifle first aid kit should definitely be on your Elk hunting gear list. This little kit doesn’t take up a lot of room and could be worth its weight in gold by saving your hunt.
Leupold Rifle Scopes – From the Beginning, The Evolution of a Masterpiece
The rifle scope is obviously a great invention, and like most inventions it was born out of necessity. Most great inventions evolve from someone finding a need for something and figuring out how to make it work. The evolution of the rifle scope began when people started attaching telescopes to rifles to maximize viewing capabilities. This idea was of course very primitive and did not provide the desired effect. The first verifiable use of a telescopic sight on a pistol dates back to 1834,but attempts to create a workable rifle scope were unsuccessful until 1880 when August Fielder managed to build the first telescopic sight that really actually worked.
This was the predecessor of all modern day rifle scopes. In 1907 a German immigrant named Fred Leupold set up a small shop in Portland Oregon repairing survey equipment. Several years later when he met inventor John Stevens, the marvelous company named Leupold and Stevens was born and still exists today. It was around 1930 after a failed hunting trip, that Leupold began making his first rifle scopes. The small company survived World War I and the great depression but it was the Second World War that changed the company forever. Working with the US Army and Navy, the engineers at Leupold learned the secrets of waterproofing and durable construction that would change the world of optics forever. The engineers learned that by introducing nitrogen gases within the scope that the optics would remain clear, waterproof and fogproof… for a lifetime.
Today Leupold and Stevens is a family owned American company with 100 years of experience. Their modern day state of the art facility employs over 600 employees in Beaverton Oregon. The Leupold engineers design, machine, assemble and test all of their optics within this facility. Only the finest material known to man are used for production of their optics especially the lenses and they are of the highest grade quality that is demanded by Leupold engineers. In addition to rifle scopes Leupold also offers a fine line of binoculars and spotting scopes as well.The products produced are made to last more than a lifetime and they are all backed by the famous Leupold Lifetime Warranty. They set all the standards that other optics manufacturers strive to achieve. Leupold optics are world renowned for their ruggedness, absolute waterproof integrity and their superior optical quality. Leupold offers a vast line of rifle scopes with both fixed and variable powers and many types of reticles. They have many different lines to chose from, sure to please any rifleman. The name Leupold is one of the most trusted, respected, and known names in the outdoor and hunting arenas worldwide.
Leupold has recently issued a counterfeit warning to its customers cautioning them to be on the lookout for counterfeit Leupold scopes that are illegally being imported from China. These fake reproductions bear many of the marks of the a genuine Leupold, making them very difficult to distinguish externally from authentic Leupold products. Recently many rifle scopes have begun to arrive at the Leupold headquarters for service. Obviously these products were not manufactured by Leupold and are not covered by the Leupold lifetime warranty. Leupold uses serial numbers on all of their optics so if one finds a suspect they can simply contact Leupold at 1-800-LEUPOLD to verify the authenticity.
To me I feel that a Leupold scope is the best scope for the money and I have many of them. I own 9 hunting rifles and they are ALL equipped with Leupolds. I personally thank Leupold for my grizzly bear and dall sheep from Alaska, my mountain lion and elk from Arizona, my black bear and mule deer from Colorado, and the 13 trophy whitetail deer from right here in Pennsylvania. Through many conditions, from rain and snow, to blizzards and fog, to tripping down mountains, and banging around on horseback, my Leupolds have NEVER let me down under any circumstances. Thanks again Leupold for a lifetime of memories!
Hunting Mule Deer in Evergreens
Evergreen forests grow everywhere in the West. They might be ponderosa pine forests, thick lodgepole pine forests, or high-country forests of fir and spruce. In most cases, food is scarce and deer must leave the safety of the forest to browse outside.
Access to the high country is often limited, depending on the amount of logging or mining in the area. National forests in every Western state have a network of road systems throughout, so it’s usually not a problem getting into reasonably good deer country.
The biggest chore in evergreen forests is finding mule deer concentrations. Expansive timber stands often cover several mountain ranges, making it difficult to locate places being used by deer. There are two spots to look in these forests: logged-over areas and old burns. Both offer the same ingredient-areas rich in forage, due to the removal of timber and subsequent growth of brush, and succulent plants preferred by muleys.
You can find burned areas and timbered places by inquiring at forest offices or you can seek them yourself. Prime spots are those that have had enough time to regenerate forage-five years or more, in most cases.
Rimrock areas above forests are often the domain of very big bucks because few people expend the effort of getting to them. Bucks often live at the fringes of the forest or in the timber itself.
National forests offer public hunting, so you’ll probably have plenty of competition from other hunters. Some roads are closed to vehicular traffic, however, and are perfect access trails to good mule deer country. You might need to walk several miles to get away from crowds, but most human activity will be gone the first half mile from accessible roads.
Muleys in evergreen forests often behave like elk-they leave the protection of the timber to feed in late afternoon and, by sunrise, they’re back in the trees. You need to be alert during those periods, even if it means a walk out of the woods by flashlight or missing a few extra winks in the morning.
Well, that should give you some good tips for hunting muleys in evergreens to mull over. Look for more mule deer hunting tips, and hunting tales and tricks for other game, too, on my website identified in the Resource Box below.
A Motorcycle Journey in Yellowstone National Park
After getting some essentials for our campsite in Yellowstone National Park from the Visitors center, we loaded up the ‘extras’ and saddled up to find our campsite.
We arrived at our site, and it was nearly perfect. We had a fire ring near the center of our site and two perfect spots for the tents. There was also a picnic table toward the back of the site placed neatly between two trees.
We started the unloading of gear, and proceeded to pick out the spots for our tents. Deciding where to pitch a tent is a pretty important part of camping. I had the smaller of the two tents ‘the coffin’, so I took a smaller spot between two trees off to the left side of our camping area. My brother in law took a spot on the right. I think I got the better deal, though, because his spot was on a small incline. It wasn’t a hill exactly, just a small slope while my spot was relatively flat.
Once we had our tents pitched and the fire ring and picnic table surrounded, it was time to start a campfire. We gathered a little wood and soon the fire was born. We happened upon a really big piece that looked like the folks there before us had tried to burn it, so we added it to the fire once it was burning good.
A little chow, and a couple of drinks later, and we were kicked back at the picnic table reminiscing about our journey so far. From the Rocky Mountain National Park, to the Grand Tetons, and now Yellowstone, this had been quite an adventure so far.
Soon, it was lights out (so to speak), so we could plan where we were going to go in the morning. We only had three days planned in Yellowstone and wanted to make them the best we could.
As darkness approached us on our first night at Yellowstone National Park, the signs of rain began to appear. Fist, a light sprinkle, then as it grew closer to sleepy time, the rain began to fall even faster and harder. Not unbearable – no typhoon, just one of those annoying rains. We put all of our food items in the nearby Bear Box as to avoid an uninvited visitor into our site.
It was late enough that we decided not to deal with it the first night, but thought we should pick up a small tarp and some rope at the Store by the visitor center on our way out to explore the following morning.
Into the tents we went, and off to sleepytown.
Morning arrived, and the sun peeked into our tents to awake us. I woke with anticipation of what wonderful things we might experience this day. I was glad that the rain had stopped sometime in the night, and that we were greeted by sunshine this morning. It is going to be a great day, I thought to myself.
We conjured up some breakfast, managed to get ourselves woke up, and gathered what little bit we thought we would need for our ride this wonderful day. We consulted our maps, and picked a route for our day. We decided to ride the south ‘loop’ of Yellowstone National Park.
The park is basically two loops that join into a figure eight of sorts. We decided to ride the south loop the first day, then the north loop the second day. One of the things that we knew that we wanted to see along the south route was Old Faithful, the famous Geyser. We were sure we would enjoy other sights, but really didn’t know what to expect at the time, or how much beauty we would be greeted with that day.
Off we were on our trusty steeds. First stop, gas. We stopped at a station not far from our campsite to gas up for the days travel. It was warm that morning, and we could tell that the sun would be shining and it was going to be a beautiful day.
The first place we decided to go to was the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. We were in the Canyon Campground, which just happened to be very close to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. It was only about a 6 to 8 mile ride, so our motorcycles didn’t even really get the chance to warm up good, and it was time to park. Oh my! the view here was unbelievable!!. There was short trail to ‘Inspiration point’ which overlooks the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. This is where we began our adventure of Yellowstone National Park.
We could hear and in some places see a waterfall not too far away, but it sounded as if it was below us. As we approached the sound, we saw a glimpse of it, and indeed, it WAS below us!! There was a trailhead that said it would take us to the mouth of the falls. The sign said it was only a 3/8 mile hike down to the falls, so we decided to go down.
We passed a guy with his family shortly after getting on the trail headed down, and he was breathing pretty hard. We asked him if it was tough climb back up the trail. His reply was ‘Yes, it may only be 3/8 of a mile down, but it seems like about two miles back up’. With that to look forward to, we headed on down the trail.
After a short time, we approached the mouth of the falls. The climb down itself was not hard, except we had to lean backwards to keep our feet from outrunning us. At the base of the trail, there was a walkway with a rail that led us out to the brink itself. Standing directly over the brink of the falls allows you to really experience the power of these awesome forces. After a few pictures, and a moment of catching our breath, it was time for the climb back up the trail.
The hike back up the 3/8 mile trail was a challenge. It was all switchbacks going up, and the incline was pretty steep. We must have stopped to take a short rest about five of six times before reaching the top. The guy we passed on the way down was right about it seeming like two miles back up!.
Once at the top, we took a short break before hopping back on our motorcycles.
We took off again, headed southbound to the southern ‘loop’ of Yellowstone National Park. We approached one of the areas where we could get up close and personal with a few of the Geysers. The first thing that hit me was the smell. It was undeniable. To me, it smelled like burnt matches – sulfur. The air was full of that smell. I didn’t really bother me, it was just different.
The pools were bizarre. Just seeing the intensity of the heat boiling up from these things is awesome. It is really interesting the things that nature brings us. I sure wouldn’t want to wade in one of those things, though!
We were headed in the general direction of Old Faithful. We wanted to see the famous Geyser. It’s a must see if you’re in Yellowstone National Park. Along the way, we passed some wild animals. We saw some buffalo. These things were huge! We also were greeted by some Elk who didn’t seem to mind that we were there. We were able to get pretty close to these beautiful animals and take a couple of pictures.
Yes, our next destination was Old Faithful, but we were not in a big hurry, because the journey was fantastic!.
We were headed toward Old Faithful, but we couldn’t resist stopping at some more of the open pools with that amazing thermal energy pent up inside (below?) the water.
There was collection of them on our route, so we just had to stop. They had placed a walkway around the Geysers so that we could walk around them to get a closer view. I sure wouldn’t want to fall off the walkway!
We also saw some Elk along the way. These guys are amazing! One of them was so close to use that we could almost touch him. He didn’t seem to mind that we were there either. He was just hanging out, grazing on some of the lush grasses that are in Yellowstone National Park.
Then we saw it, the sign pointing us in the direction of Old Faithful. We rode on up, and parked beside the little welcome center. We wandered around a bit and picked up a couple of souvenirs. There was a sign there that estimated the time of the next eruption, but the timing has begun to be a little off over the years, the sign explained. I didn’t really understand the reasons – the shifting of the earth, I guessed.
We headed back outside and were greeted with bright sunshine. A perfect day for an explosion! The steam was already fizzing out of the mouth of the Old Faithful Geyser. It spit out a steady steam continuously – something I didn’t know it did.
Sure enough, and time approached the preset prediction that was marked on the sign, it started – slowly at first, the steam begun to get taller and more pronounced. It seemed like only a few minutes later and Old Faithful was spewing in full force. Unbelievable!! The utter power of this thing, and what it is capable of is truly amazing.
If there really is a Great Volcano under Yellowstone waiting to happen, I sure hope I am a long way away from it when it happens.
How to Find and Stalk Elk
Elk harvesting has become increasingly popular. It is a fun, exciting and challenging sport. Tracking and harvesting a 1000 animal can be, well, exhilarating. New hunters often use bugle calls to attract elk. However, more and more, older bulls are not coming to bugle calls but instead are running away from them. As a result, experienced hunters are foregoing using bugle calls. A very good alternative is to spot and stalk the elk.
Elk typically eat at night and go to lie down and sleep in the mid-morning. Towards the end of the afternoon they begin to start feeding again and will head over to their drinking and feeding sources. Hunters who can stay quiet and discover the elk herd’s routine, should be able to spot and stalk them successfully.
Some hunters will place themselves and stalk the elk in between where it sleeps and eats. Typically, in the morning, when an elk is going to their bedding area, the hunter is already waiting and is in prime position to make a kill.
Besides the bedding area, the feeding area is another great place to station one self. In the afternoon and the evening hours elk often spend time grazing in large meadows. Search around for meadows and wait and see if elks regularly congregate there. If you can find one, hang around. If it is a meadow that is used by elk, you should be able to get in plenty of action.
Some hunters would rather not hunt elk close to where they bed. Others do not mind at all. In fact, some hunters will harvest elk while they are lying down in their bedding. When possible, if you choose to hunt bulls in their bedding areas, come at the bull from above. This is because cows, which are often with a large bull, may be able to spot the elk hunter even if the bull does not. Hunting near an elk’s bedding can also be risky. This is because if the elk sees you and gets away, they may not come back to that area.
A watering hole is another really great place to find elk. Elks will go to water a couple of times a day. This is especially true when the weather is hot. Elk will need to drink water and also love to wallow in it. Look for a watering hole that looks like it is getting a lot of visitors and then hang around.
If you are having trouble figuring out if a water hole is being used, look for droppings, tracks and disturbed mud. If you don’t have a lot to wait in one place, set up a scouting camera. A camera will capture who is visiting the area. It will also record the time for you so you know the best time to visit the area and hunt.
If you choose to hunt at a watering hole, then consider using a tree stand. Elk don’t often look up when traveling which makes it really effective to hunt elk from above. If you can find a tree near a waterhole, you should have no problem harvesting an elk.
Western Elk Hunting (Research)
Drawing an Elk tag east of the Mississippi is a real long shot. In the sport of archery elk hunting you need to take every advantage possible to getting the license that is required. In my state of Michigan, and in many other states such as; Arkansas, Kentucky and Pennsylvania your chances of drawing a tag are very slim, so why not go west and increase your chances of bagging a big bull elk. I’ve done some research to get you in the right direction and possibly make it easier to claim your license for your archery elk hunt.
Elk PopulationAndLicense Fee
1. Arizona: Herd Population…35,000—-License Nonresident…$400Check out the website (gf.state.az.us/h_f/hunting_units.shtml) for Arizona Game and Fish.
2. Colorado: Herd Population…270,000—License Nonresident…$490.25Check out the website (wildlife.state.co.us) or (wildlife.state.co.us/swa).
3. Idaho: Herd Population…125,000—License Nonresident…$338.50Check out the website (fishandgame.idaho.gov)
4. Montana: Herd Population…138,000—License Nonresident…$640.25Check out the website (fwp.stae.mt.us/hunting/hunteraccess/public.html#montana)
5. New Mexico: Herd Population…70,000—License Nonresident…$481Check out the website (wildlife.state.nm.us) or phone 505-476-8000.
6. Utah: Herd Population…60,000—License Nonresident…$795Download a free book (wildlife.utah.gov/publications) Wildlife Lands in Utah.
7. Wyoming: Herd Population…100,000—License Nonresident…$400Check out the website (gf.state.wy.us/wildlife/applications/index) Or call 307-777-4600.
Research Done On2004-2005
The herd population estimates were courtesy of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation … (rmef.org)
I hope that these suggestions for your archery elk hunting expedition will be helpful to your success. Don’t forget to take the proper equipment for your elk hunt, which will more than likely take you into the mountains. Special equipment may include: good binoculars or spotting scope, hiking boots, warm clothing, camouflage, back pack, elk calls, heavier arrows or broadheads. These are just a few suggestions of the many items that should be on your list for that special bowhunting elk trip. GOOD LUCK and don’t forget to shop the internet for your special needs.
Grand Teton National Park – Top 5 Reasons To Visit In May
Often times our vacations to national parks or forests are dictated by the date the kids are out of school or when the weather is hot. This may not be the best time to visit Grand Teton National Park.
Here are the top 5 reasons to visit the park in May. If you have time off or if you are looking for a unique park experience, the month of May offers some special attractions.
THE ELK ARE PLENTIFUL
If you are interested in viewing elk close up and personal, May beats all the other months. The thousands of elk that winter in the National Elk Refuge just north of the town of Jackson are driven out of the refuge as soon as the snow is gone in the lower elevations. They migrate in all directions but mostly north along US 89 which is the main road extending north through the park. Temporary signs are posted at regular intervals along the highway with instructions to “”slow down”” so you will not hit the migrating wildlife. Many days you can see hundreds of elk migrating north into the forest and the wilderness areas of the park.
BUFFALO CALVES ARE ORANGE
Unless you have visited the park in April or May, you have never seen orange buffalo calves. Newborn buffalo look much like a Heifer with a really big head. Buffalo roam mostly on Antelope Flats and prefer to stay at a distance from you with their young. Calves are easy prey for wolves, coyote or bears if they become separated from the herd. The contrast to the dark brown or black color of the older buffalo makes for a spectacular sight!
It is too early in the season for the mosquitoes to breed. The nights are still too cold for the larvae to survive. It will be June before the mosquitoes become a nuisance.
From glacier-fed waterfalls to Snake River tributaries, the waters are flowing at near peak rates. Rivers and streams that otherwise would be dry (or only a trickle) are flowing at capacity. While flooding is usually only along the Snake River, the contributing waters support wildlife throughout the park. It is not uncommon to get water, wildlife, mountain and sunset in the same picture.
For those looking for the greatest experience in the park without standing in line, May is the month! Most schools are still in session, summer has not yet officially begun, the seasonal rates have not yet been raised and the crowds will not slow you down. It will be the middle of June before you are gridlocked on the park roads.
Overall, May is a pretty good month to visit Grand Teton National Park. The earth is beginning to wake with the renewal of green leaves and lush vegetation and the wildlife put on their best show just before the heat of the summer.
If you are planning a visit to Grand Teton National Park this year, May is a good time to come!
A Motorcycle and Camping Trip in Yellowstone National Park
We left the bench of the spot of Old Faithful. The eruption had now calmed to a mere fizzle once again. It was hard to imagine that this eruption happened like clockwork every single day! Off we went, headed around the East side of the Lower Loop of Yellowstone National Park. The curves of the road and the scenery were fantastic! We actually arrived at a place where people could go swimming in a deep part of the river, warmed by the thermal energy of the surrounding Geysers. I sure wished we would have brought our swimming gear, but it was back at the campsite. We passed another waterfall along the way and had to stop to get a better look. Some of the other scenery was just too good to put into words.
After a day of riding through Yellowstone, and a little picture taking, we were ready to head back to camp. We stopped at the store near our campsite for a few more supplies and a couple of souvenirs. We wanted to send a couple of souvenirs home, because we know we wouldn’t have room to carry them on the motorcycles, so we stopped by the small post office that was just around the corner from the store. We mailed our goods, and then rode back to camp.
We woke again to welcome sunshine. Grabbed a bite to eat for breakfast, and saddled up for the days ride. Today, were going to ride the north loop of Yellowstone National Park. We had seen several animals so far, from Deer, to Elk, but what we really wanted to see were Grizzly Bear. The scenery was certainly different riding the north loop than it was on the southern loop. There were not near as many Geysers visible near the road. The elevation was higher, and the curves and hills more pronounced. We followed along the river for quite a ways. The river was very beautiful – especially when it was so far below us!
We noticed a sign pointing us toward a petrified tree. Neither of us had ever seen a petrified tree. I am sure that there are plenty of them in the Painted Desert, but that was a long way away, so we decided to go check it out. We arrived, and were able to get up pretty close to the Petrified tree. It was amazing!. Looking at the map, we noticed that there was a backroad that made a small loop ‘behind’ the main road. We though it looked like an interesting ride for the motorcycles (maybe not like Fall River road in the Rocky Mountain National Park), but interesting none the less.
We took the backroad loop, and I am sure glad that we did. Even though the road was narrow and a little rough in some places, the trip was worth it. We actually got the chance to see a wolf walking right beside us along the road!. We confirmed it was a wolf with one of the rangers back at the store near our campsite later that night. At first, I thought it was a Coyote, but he said it couldn’t be because it was marked, and they don’t mark the Coyotes, only the Wolves. We made it back out onto the main road and continued our journey of the north loop.
Back onto the main road we spilled with our trusty rides. We had accumulated a little dust on our detour, but seeing the Wolf out there in the wilderness of Yellowstone National Park was worth the little bit of dust. We saw another waterfall – there were so many of them here! Up around the curves we rode – taking in all of the beauty of this awesome place. One of the roads was literally ‘built’ along the side of one of the mountains. You sure wouldn’t want to ride off the edge of that one!!.
Coming around another curve, we noticed a few vehicles stopped along the road. Something must be there, we thought. We pulled the bikes over to the side of the road, grabbed the camera, and went over to see what people were stopping for. There they were, up along the hillside – some female Moose!! Wow, now we had seen Elk, Buffalo, a Wolf and Moose too. We didn’t see any with antlers, but I was just happy to get the chance to see them in the wild.
In order to complete the north loop and make our way toward our campsite, we actually rode back out the West Entrance are of the park. I am so glad we decided to take that route! As we rode back eastbound to finish off the rest of the Northern loop, a small Grizzly bear strolled across the road just ahead of us! We both slammed on the brakes as quickly and safely as possible. We edged over to the side of the road and parked the motorcycles. I am sure glad they are not any wider than they are, or we would have been blocking traffic for sure. I fished for the camera, trying to get it out of its pouch quickly, get the bike turned off and make sure the kickstand was down. He was already across the road and heading into a small patch of woods. My adrenaline was rushing in so quickly that it was hard to get the camera out, get the bike parked and get off of it. I wanted to get as close as possible and get a few pictures.
We finally got the motorcycles stopped along the side of the road, got the kickstands down, and I was even able to get the camera out of its bag and ready to take a few shots. The Grizzly had already made it across the road and was moving into some trees. Luckily, there was a path leading toward a small rock quarry that we were able to follow in an attempt to catch up with the bear. I missed him on the first couple of shots, but finally captured him as he was passing between a couple of trees. By the time we were able to get the picture, there were a whole bunch of other people around us all trying to get pictures as well.
The bear crossed into the Quarry area, and dipped over a small hill on the other side and finally out of view. Unbelievable! To be able to get that close to a Grizzly bear and even get a few pictures of it! The excitement was overwhelming. We walked back toward the motorcycles along with several other people all making their way back to their vehicles. Once back to the bikes, we though to ourselves “”what if momma was around””? Of course it probably would have been smarter to have thought about that before we decided to ‘chase’ down a small Grizzly Bear! If momma HAD been in the area, I am sure that she would not be happy about us getting that close to her baby.
We left the area and headed onward to see some more of Yellowstone National Park. We passed by a stream that was very beautiful. The water formed a small cascade that rippled downward to a small ledge in the stream and fell off as if it was diving into the welcoming water below. We circled around some more, and up ahead there were a number of vehicles stopped along the roadway. The Park Rangers were also stopped there. Cameras were everywhere. The Rangers were directing traffic. Something was definitely going on, but we didn’t have any idea what.
We pulled out motorcycle over to the side along with several other vehicles. We couldn’t see anything yet, but put down the kickstand, got off the bikes and grabbed the camera just in case. A park ranger was not far away, and began to walk over toward us and our motorcycles. We didn’t know if he wanted to talk to us or someone else in the crowd. He approached us and said “”You guys are going to have to go on up ahead – you can’t park your motorcycles here.”” We started to ask why, but then we suddenly saw the reason. There was a large Grizzly bear just a little way down into the valley – along with two baby Grizzly cubs, and they were coming toward the road we were parked on, up the hill out of the valley.
He didn’t have to tell us twice! We mounted the bikes, cranked them up and rolled slowly down the road just a bit an around another curve. There were several other people stopped here too, so with cameras with huge zoom lenses. We parked again and got our own camera in order to get a couple of shots of the Grizzlies. We were able to get a couple, but the zoom on my camera didn’t reach very far. I Got one fairly good one as she was just about to go over the hill on the other side of the road we were just on.
What an unbelievable day! We had seen many of the animals we had hoped for on this journey. It was getting late, so we decided to head back to camp. We had spent three wonderful days in Yellowstone National Park, and tomorrow, we planned to take of headed eastward. I had not reserved a camp site along the northern part of Wyoming, so we were going to have to play it by ear. Our main destination was to stop at the Devils Tower on our way to the Bike Rally at Sturgis South Dakota.
Four Essentials of Elk Antler Shed Hunting
Every spring thousands of outdoor enthusiasts head into the mountains in search of bull elk antler sheds. Most folks pick up 2 or 3 every season after spending hours combing the forest and mountains for sheds. I have lived in the eastern White Mountains of Arizona since the early 1990’s and have been hunting antler sheds every spring. I generally pick up 30-50 sheds a season and average one about every 2 1/2 hours. Here are some tips on how you can increase your odds of finding bull elk antler sheds.
OUTERWEARMountain weather can be inclimate and change with very little notice. You will need to prepare yourself in advance by wearing the proper outerwear. First off, you need to be wearing a really good pair of boots. The terrain is steep and the footing is loose. Hiking shoes just won’t do the job. Hiking boots are better, but your best bet is a good leather Gore-Tex hunting boot. I prefer Danner Boots, they are comfortable and sturdy. Next is a regular pair of denim blue jeans. You are constantly going through brush, butt sliding, kneeling and occasionally slipping and falling. Nylon pants get tore up pretty fast. For a top layer, a wick dry tee-shirt along with a technical nylon or fleece top will work very well. You want to stay warm, but allow the sweat to be wicked away. It’s also a good idea to wear a bright color on top especially if you’re shed hunting with a partner, you need to be able to see each other from a distance. Camo is generally not a good idea. A good baseball style hat is also essential to keep the sun out of your eyes. I wear a long bill hat from my wife’s fly fishing guide business. This is mainly because you will not be wearing sunglasses, sunglasses tint the natural surrounding and you will not see the antlers laying on the ground unless they’re old white chalks. Sunglasses also make it difficult to use binoculars effectively.
EQUIPMENTThere are three essential items that you should carry with you at all times when you’re shed hunting. The first is a good pair of binoculars. I use a pair of 12×50’s that can be purchased for around $100-150. You also want to purchase the over the shoulder straps for the bino’s ($15). These will hold the glasses close to your chest and keep them from banging on rocks and hanging up in the brush. Next is a sidearm, if allowed in your state. You will be hiking into prime mountain lion country. I carry a.45 titanium revolver and it has saved my life twice by firing warning shots above charging lions. I have never killed one. (Perhaps a future story?) I simply will not go deep into the mountains without a sidearm and will not allow hunting companions to do so either. Finally you will need a 2000-3000 cu.in. backpack with straps that will clip and unclip the antlers onto the back of the pack. Preferably, also a bladder reservoir with a bite tube for hydration.
Remember, the points always are packed away from you and depending on the size of the antler, the button may point up or down….try not to let the points dig into your butt, or bang against your head. I can carry (3-4) antlers in this manner, then one in each hand if I find a real honey hole. Your pack should include: extra hardshell, in case of inclimate weather, radios, if traveling with more than one person (essential), headlamp, matches, map, GPS (optional) first aid kit, utility tool like a Leatherman, sunscreen, toilet paper, extra liter of water and your lunch. In some areas, such as the Blue Wilderness, I carry a lightweight climbing harness, a couple of carabiners, rappel device and a 100′ length of static rappelling rope for getting myself out of tricky situations.
RESEARCH THE FOUR ESSENTIALSNow that you’ve assembled all of your outerwear and gear, it’s almost time to go elk antler shed hunting. However, to prevent you from wandering from mountain to canyon without purpose, you will need a good map of the area. The best are USGS topo maps available online – we like to laminate ours. I also like to utilize Google Maps and Google Earth. National Forest maps are also handy for finding roads for access into remote areas, but most the side roads are unmarked. The main thing is to have a “”search plan”” and stick with the plan. Your plan should reflect the four essentials mentioned below. Always let someone else know where you’re going and when you’ll be back. A note on the kitchen counter to my wife usually works for me. You also may want to carry a GPS and mark the location of your vehicle before you go trotting into a remote area.
As you plan your elk antler shed hunting adventure you should be thinking about four essential items: Security, Access, Conditions and Terrain. Any successful shed hunting trip will require all four of these items to be present. If only one essential element is missing, you will have very little luck finding sheds and likely be skunked. All we are doing is increasing the probability of finding an elk antler shed in a given area.
SECURITYI believe that elk antlers are painful before they fall off. There is no scientific evidence that I am aware of to support my belief, but nonetheless I firmly believe this to be a true fact. The level of pain may be different for each bull elk, from a minor toothache to an abscessed tooth. The level of pain may also vary with age. So, take a minute and consider how you personally feel when you’re sick with a toothache, say maybe a root canal. Generally, you want to relax as much as possible, stay warm and comfortable, very little social contact, have water and food close-by, maybe sleep a little more than usual. Most of all, you really don’t want to be bothered. You just want to get this over with and get on with your life. My contention is that is exactly how a bull elk feels when those big antlers start to loosen up. They want to be safe and secure.
So, where would a bull elk feel safe and secure? The question is probably better asked where they wouldn’t feel safe and secure. Well, to be honest, definitely not around their girl friends, the cow elk. If I see loads and loads of fresh cow elk scat, I’m probably not in a good area for finding sheds. The bulls sometimes gather into smaller groups of 4-8 when they are about to drop, but most of the time this is a solitary event when it actually happens. They also do not want to be cold, they generally like to be as warm and comfortable as possible. I generally do not find elk sheds on north facing slopes unless I’m working a large mountain with deep backbone type ridges…even then, odds are far greater on the sunny sided slopes. This next one is very important, they also tend to avoid deep thick brushy areas, which are prevalent on north facing mountains. Remember, if you buy into my belief, these antlers hurt. They do not want them to be knocking against trees and bushes…kinda like stubbing a toe that you’ve already stubbed. However, the areas may be short and brushy, like a live oak forest with the height of the oak around 5′. This allows them to move around and carry the antlers above the brush, but have the ability to lie down in between them to seek protection.
The astute shed hunter would probably say, “”Yea okay, but I’ve found a few sheds in wide open meadows””. My answer would be, “”Sure, they are traveling to and from their water source and feeding area from a secure area””. Elk do not get delivered pizza when they are sick. In addition, you will typically find only one side in a meadow…they’ve already dropped the other one in their secure area. Finally, there is one last important point to be made about security – mountain lions. When a bull elk beds down, it’s usually not in a place where it can be easily attacked. They like to have good field of vision, which means quite often they like it higher up on the mountain. Overhanging rock ledges that they can tuck under are also places that always need to be searched. Think about when you were young and about to go to bed, but you have a tooth coming lose, you can’t sleep. Your parents would come into your bedroom and pull the loose tooth out – I always howled after the doorknob and the string trick! If a bull elk is bedding down and those antlers are hurting just enough that they cannot sleep, they will knock both of them off where they are bedding down. A matched bull elk antler set is almost the best possible find…next to a winterkill.
Good examples of secure areas are drainages and just below ridgelines. Please keep in mind, these areas can be quite large, sometimes a square mile.
CONDITIONSThis is the easiest of the essential elements and the one in which I see the most mistakes. Environmental conditions have a tremendous effect on where a bull elk may drop an antler shed. The main condition is weather and the other is the time of the year. I am going to make another bold assumption that is not based on scientific fact, but I know this to be true. A bull elk will not drop antlers in snow. However, they actually like being close to snow, specifically the snow line on a mountain. If you can determine where the snow line is on a mountain at the time of year when the antler dropped, you have saved yourself a tremendous amount of hunting in the wrong places (most common error). Typically, when I find a fresh brown antler shed the first thing I look at is my wristwatch altimeter and determine the elevation in which I picked up the shed. (A good reason to carry a GPS as well) Most of the time, there is no snow where I picked up the shed. I am attempting to determine the snow line on the mountain at the time of the drop. From that point forward, the highest probability of finding another shed is either 150′ above or below where you found the first shed. This means you are zig-zagging up and down the mountain. However, when you find your second shed on the same mountain, you are now adding to your database of knowledge to further refine your elevation search area. In the eastern White Mountains of Arizona and west Central New Mexico almost all of my sheds are found between 8300-9500.’ You will need to determine the average in your area in accordance with the snow line.
The other half of the equation is time of year. Bull elk generally drop their antlers over a 6-8 week period. In our region this is early March to late April. However, there is always a 10 day or so period when the majority drop their antlers. Large elk drop their antlers first. I consider a large elk anything over a 50″” main beam – usually a 6X. The medium-sized ones are next, around 36″” main beam and then the small 3X are last. Many shed hunters make the mistake of going out too early. Our area is packed with shed hunters early in the season, few are found. My early season adventures are usually on a sunny ridge line with 12×50 binoculars and a lunch. I’m watching the migration patterns and by the way, picking out the biggest racks.
Try to limit your search to areas a couple hundred feet below the snowline, using a zig-zag pattern during the time of year when they are actually shedding their antlers.
ACCESSI have to include access as an essential element since this is a somewhat competitive adventure. If there are a lot of folks in the area in which you intend to hunt for sheds, you will likely not be successful. This is a major violation of the essential security element. However, it is important enough to warrant it’s own category. You may see bull elk in areas populated by humans, but they really do not like to shed antlers their unless they are traveling to and from a secure area. Think about it this way…if an ATV can get into your area, it’s not a good place to hunt for sheds. Bull elk do not like roaring ATV engines or diesel trucks for that matter. They like it secure, comfortable and quiet.
I sometimes utilize an ATV to get close to an area that I’ll be hunting sheds. But that ATV is typically parked at least a mile away from my target area. You do not want to spook them away if they haven’t dropped yet. You really do need to go in on foot, disturb as little of the area as possible and leave with your bounty. I have witnessed prime areas ruined by careless individuals.
This is a competitive adventure. If there are a lot of folks going into your area. It may be picked clean every year. If the access is easy, the masses will show up to hunt antlers. If the access is difficult, you probably have your own private hunting ground. Here’s another general rule of thumb, if a rancher is grazing cattle in your area, it’s probably not a good place to hunt sheds. Cowboys ride fence lines every spring once the snow is gone, they know their cattle allotment section like the back of their hand. Basically, you’ve had experts in your area for years picking up sheds.
The more remote and inaccessible by any type of vehicle including horses, the higher the probability of finding elk antler sheds.
TERRAINElk can drop their antlers almost anywhere, we are only interested in the areas in which their is the highest probability of a “”drop zone””. Quite often, this is where a bull elk will bed down. It also may be where they travel too and from a secure area. However, it is always an area in which they are familiar. When I go into a new area to “”develop”” I am looking for a specific type of terrain to match my other essential elements. I’m also looking for bull elk scat and tree rubs. Hey, wait a minute!! Bull elk rub the velvet off their antlers well after they shed. I agree, but they also tend to gravitate towards areas of familiarity. So, as I look at the ground and the rubbings on the trees, I’m also scanning the horizons with my binoculars…because I’m always looking for a specific type of terrain.
The best possible terrain is directional and prioritized in this order, south, southwest, west, southeast and east facing slopes. North facing slopes as mentioned earlier are almost always a no go, unless it is a large mountain with steep ridgelines that have sun-washed side canyons. As yet another general rule of thumb, grassy slopes are better than rocky slopes. If the slope is all rock, it’s probably not a good area. It has to have some grass with the rock…all grass with a few rocks is best.
Some of my friends kid me about have legs like a T-Rex. This is probably due to the fact that most of the sheds that I find are located on slopes between 30 and 50 degrees. If you’re unfamiliar with degrees of slope angle, a 12/12 pitch roof is 45 degrees. A lot of churches have steep roof lines similar to the terrain in which elk antler sheds are found. Obviously it takes a lot of determination to work your way up a steep slope hunting an antler shed. However, this is generally a secure area, with lots of visibility and often near a water source below in a canyon. The good news is, you get to stop every 50′ or so, take a break and scan the area with your binoculars.
A typical search pattern on a steep south-facing grassy slope would go something like this…First pass is the ridgeline itself, taking your time to look down into the slope and then back just off the ridgeline. The next pass may be 20-40′ below the ridgeline and usually at least one or two more passes even lower. However, if you’re just going to make one pass, you need to utilize a zig-zag pattern to cover as much area as possible. The whole time, your thinking about security issues for the elk, environmental conditions in the area during the time the snow line was present and access in regards to the remoteness of the area.
LAST WORDSPlease do not get discouraged if you read all of this information and do not immediately find an elk antler shed although all four essential elements are present. This is meant to be a fun guide to increase your chances of finding shed antlers. From the outset, you should consider your mission to develop areas where you know that they will be dropping. I have found hundreds and hundreds of elk sheds, 70% of them come from a dozen areas that took me years to explore and develop. I go into those areas three times each – early, mid and late season.
I do not sell any of my antler sheds. They are either gifts to family and friends or they end up in my workshop becoming lamps, end tables or candle holders. A hundred or so adorn the gateway to our mountain home.
The eastern White Mountains of Arizona include the communities of Alpine, Nutrioso and Greer. A typical drive to and from my real estate office may yield over 100 elk sightings. There really are more elk than people in this beautiful area. For more information, please visit my website at http://www.AlpineNutriosoRealEstate.com
Stay Out of That Old Mine!
It seems like the most adventurous thing in the world. That dark opening in the hillside beckons, tantalizes, excites. What wondrous treasures await discovery inside? What artifacts might remain in this time capsule, mute testimony to an era when grizzled men moved tons of rock in pursuit of their dreams? Such is the poetic, romance-novel appeal that might induce you to take leave of your senses and crawl into an old mine. Thousands of such small openings are scattered throughout the country. Although most common in the historically “”hard rock”” Western mining states, they can also be found in the old lead and copper districts of the Midwest. In reality, multiple dangers lurk beyond the pale ring of light that filters through the adit mouth.
While scoping out a field area for a thesis project, I spent six weeks camping and hiking in the West Elk Mountains, in the Colorado Rockies. My days were spent tramping around the flanks of a majestic 13,000-foot peak, chosen due to tantalizing reports of silver mining activity around 1900. During my ramblings, I came across several old mine workings. Some were simply short adits driven into the hillside, designed to test for the presence of silver, copper, and lead minerals that might be distributed within the contact zone of the porphyry intrusive that defined the mountain peak. Other workings, though small, were relatively more sophisticated and had rail tracks extending from the passageways out onto the progressively extended pile of fine waste rock. I explored each of these, sometimes crawling over piles of rock that had fallen from the roof or ribs, or widening a hole and sliding down the pile of washed-in dirt to reach the adit floor.
This really was the height of folly, as I was alone in the wilderness and had no idea of the potential dangers. I currently work in the field of ground control engineering, and have firsthand knowledge of numerous fatalities that occurred in active mines when rock fell out of the roof without warning. I have also become more familiar with the extensive engineering design work, and variety of support systems, required to develop and maintain a mine opening. The “”old timers”” were often lucky by developing small openings in hard rock, but modern mining engineering indicates that time does not favor stability.
A more insidious danger is represented by a lack of breathable air. In sealed underground openings, the air may have become “”stale”” by not being circulated through the outside. In modern mines, a staff is devoted to designing and maintaining ventilation systems that cycle fresh air through the mine. Some gases displace oxygen, but are colorless and odorless and give no warning of danger until the person suddenly realizes that they feel as though they have been holding their breath for several minutes. This is a condition known to miners as “”black damp”” that can cause loss of consciousness or death. While working in Bolivia, I entered over a dozen small mines in a district that had been developed initially by the Spanish, or perhaps even the Inca, and later by a Polish mining engineer in the early 1900’s. The most modern operation had closed in the 1980’s, when the underground portion of the mine was abandoned as uneconomical, but a small open pit was developed that intersected some of the old workings. As a geologist working to unravel the geological history of this area, I entered the mine to document the relationships between intrusive phases. As I was intently concentrating on the last face of the mine, trying to decide if the rock was rhyodacite or dacite, I suddenly noticed a warm, tingly, numb sensation in my nose and lips. Panicked, I exhaled what little air remained in my lungs and held my breath, while at the same time wheeling and sprinting back up the tunnel. Weird, ghastly shapes of rotten canvas and timbers danced in the shadows thrown by my flashlight. I had little hope of sprinting the nearly 300 yards to the mine mouth, but as gray spots floated before my eyes, I determined to keep my legs pumping to at least get out of what might only be a pocket of bad air. Then I saw a sliver of light where the floor of the open pit had intersected the tunnel. Fresh air! I ran to the cut and gulped in the thin mountain air. Although the air smelled like decaying sulfides, at least the threat of black damp was gone, and so my panic subsided enough to allow me to walk briskly out of the mine.
Crawling into an old mine, in which no miner or engineer has evaluated the condition for decades, is something that I would now consider as pure stupidity. No shiny bauble or rusty artifact is worth it. Take a picture of that beckoning hole, and then leave it alone. Remember that the “”old timers”” have already taken out the rock and dumped it on the ground for you. Satisfy yourself with a little piece of azurite, malachite, chalcopyrite, or pyrite from the dump pile if you must have a souvenir, but stay out of that mine!