Ready to embrace hunting post-rut? Here are some late-season elk hunting tips and tactics to help you during your hunt.
Be Aware of Weather
In Southwest Colorado, you can safely assume the weather will be cold, but more likely unpredictable. Weather is one of the major drivers of most everything that happens during the late seasons. It determines what and how much clothing you wear, where the animals are, when the animals bed down or move, how much food the animals can access, and many other things.
When it comes to your clothing, you’re not going to want to wing it in the late season. You will be faced with cold, wet, and at times, straight-up brutal weather conditions. Having the correct gear with you can drastically reduce the time you spend wishing you were home. The most important things you need are sweat-wicking base layers, a waterproof outer layer, and quality warm gear for your extremities. This means carrying and bringing more clothing than an early season hunt, but at some point, you’ll probably use it all.
You also need to be aware of the weather to know where the elk will be. In this instance, when we say weather, we specifically mean wind and precipitation. Even if you’re freezing your butt off, don’t assume the elk are too, as it takes prolonged temperatures well below -20 degrees to affect their behavior. But precipitation, like snow, does have an effect. If it snows several inches, elk, especially those in herds, will typically drop in elevation to go to where food is more accessible. If the snow is measuring in feet, that’s typically when large bulls make their move.
Because the rut is over, you won’t hear much bugling during the late season. You might hear some, but likely not much. So your best bet is to use cow calling instead.
If you’re hearing bugling, it might be worth it to see if he’s interested in checking out your cow call. At this time, bull elk are likely beat up and hiding to recover from the rut season, but odds are a bull will get into a loving mood if he hears a loving cow. Cow calling can also help to calm and take your shot if the moment allows. If the bull you’re after gets spooked, a quick series of cow calls can calm and stop him in his tracks, allowing you to take your shot.
Glass the Right Way
If you’re going to be successful during a late-season hunt, the single biggest factor is the amount of time you spend behind quality glass. So your optics will likely be one of the most important gear choices for your hunt. Having good glass will not only help you spot more game in deep shadows and behind cover but also save you from headaches due to eye strain.
When glassing, you’ll want to pick a good vantage point and stay there. Don’t be jumping around as you’ll waste a bunch of time in transition that could’ve been spent glassing. As grazers, elk will eat a grass diet for as long as possible before moving to browse food. Pocket meadows and windswept ridgelines are great places to glass during the beginning and end of daylight. Watching over large, prominent saddles can also be good places to catch elk. To catch mature bulls, pay close attention to tree lines as they like to hang close for cover.
Truly the biggest piece tip for late-season elk hunting would be to stay committed to your success. These hunts are not easy, so having a strong mental game is key. You will need to be ready for the cold, lots of hiking, and likely some miserable moments. The simple fact is to stay steadfast to your goals and embrace the process, even if it’s long and difficult. The hours of hard work and sweat will only make the story that much sweeter.
Let’s Go Elk Hunting
Late-season elk hinting will test you to the core, but the reward can be something like no other. If you’re looking to elk hunt with a guide in the Colorado mountains (late season or not), we’ve got you. At Soap Mesa Outfitters, we provide the best guided hunts in Southwestern Colorado and we’ll be happy to show you what you’ve been missing.