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Elevaied: elk take a stand to tag call-shy bulls.

Most elk hunters dream about calling a monster bull in to 30 yards and letting an arrow fly. Over the years, elk hunting has become extremely popular, and as a result, more hunters are trying their hand at bugling. Like turkeys, elk quickly become educated and learn not to come in to a suspicious elk call.

However, there is a backup plan, and that is hunting elk from a treestand. Hunting from a stand may not be as fun as calling in a rutting bull, but elk hunters who consistently hunt this way are just as successful, or in some cases more successful, than hunters who rely on calling as their main tactic.

One of the many reasons elevated elk hunting is so effective is because elk are rarely hunted from treestands. Unlike heavily pressured Eastern whitetails, elk are not wise to treestands and rarely look for predators above ground level. No one knows that better than the guys from Summit Treestands. Keith Jones and colleagues from Summit have hunted elk from treestands several times in Colorado, with more than half of them being successful.

"Hunting elk from a treestand can be very effective," Jones said. "The problem is many elk hunters don't like to sit still long enough. Extra patience is required when hunting elk this way."

Treestand Tactics

There are several tactics that can be utilized when hunting elk from above. One is hunting over a game trail, or what we in the East or Midwest would call a runway. "Hanging a stand on a well-used runway can be great," said Jones. "What we often look for are well-used trails between a bedding area and a feeding area. We hunt many of the same places year in and year out, so we know where to hang our stands. If I was new to an area, it might take a few days to figure everything out, but learning exactly where the elk travel is the key to making this effective. You never know from one year to the next which trails will be good, but typically the elk are in the same general area. If the elk have moved a little, we move our stands a little."

As in whitetail hunting, playing the wind is very important. "We get to our 'stands very early in the morning and we only stay for a few hours," Jones said. "When the thermals start swirling and the wind changes, we head for camp and return in the afternoon for the evening hunt. There is no question we hunt fewer hours per day this way, but we don't want to bump the elk because we are often not very far from the bedding area."

When hunting game trails, you can hunt extremely dose to the bedding area or right on the edge of a feeding area. But, like whitetail hunting, the transition zone is often best. "There is no question cutting the elk off between point A and point B is the best game plan, which is why we like to use climbing stands," Jones said. "We can move our stands quickly and easily several times over the course of a day or two if the elk aren't transitioning where we thought. Eventually, we get it right and end up right over the top of the main travel path."

Clay Hall of Summit loves hunting elk this way and noted that in many years, more than 70 percent of the hunters in the group had shots at elk. "Nothing beats hunting elk from a stand," Hall said.

Waterhole Setups

Wallows and waterholes are two other great places for treestand sets. In fact, early in my elk-hunting career, before I learned how to spot-and-stalk, waterholes were my favorite hunting method. Waterholes and wallows are places where elk typically go to cool off in the late morning hours or early in the afternoon.

An elk wallow is just like a pig wallow; it is a big pile of mud in a wet area. Sometimes elk drink from the edge of 'a wallow or in a pool of water nearby. The key is finding an active wallow with plenty of fresh sign.

Hunting near a wallow is extremely effective during the early season. If you are waiting near a wallow that is regularly used during daylight hours, the odds of success are fairly high. Tom Johnson, a friend of mine, once met several bowhunters in the Colorado back-country who were leaving the woods as he was coming in. All of them had treestands on their backs. "I stopped and chatted with the five guys. They were all from Back Eat, and they said four out of the five tagged out almost every year, which are amazing odds when the archery success rate is typically about 10 percent," Johnson said.

Most bowhunters who are successful on wallows show up well before daylight and sit on the stand until dark. Granted, putting in those kind of hours on stand requires a fair amount of mental fortitude, but the reward is well worth it.

When placing a treestand, just like with any other style of treestand hunting, it is best to hang your stand 20, yards or so off of the trail or waterhole you are hunting so you have a little cover between you and the elk. "Over the years we have used every style of stand available, from climbers to hang-ons and even ladder stands. We have been successful from all types," said Jones. "In many cases, we have two stands hung--one for the hunter and one for the cameraman--and we don't get busted by the eyes of an elk. Sometimes their nose beats us though."

Hunting from the Ground

If you're not the type of hunter who is going to lug a treestand into the woods, especially if you have to walk several miles, keep in mind that these treestand tactics can also be used by ground hunters. The first bull I ever took in Colorado was killed over a waterhole. I sat for hours behind some brush waiting for a bull. On the second to last day of my hunt, I had several bulls walk within shooting range of me while I was hiding.

This tactic can also be used when hunting near a game trail. Not only do elk not look up, they are very bad at picking out the outline of a human. When I am hunting elk on the ground, I always wear a 3-D leafy suit to ensure I don't get busted. I also carry a wind checker. If the wind changes, I move.

Hunting elk from a stand may not be as fun as chasing screaming bulls, but my friends and I have been more successful hunting elk this way than any other method. So, the next time you go, bring a treestand and game camera along. You'll be glad you did.

Although calling is a more popular method of elk hunting, patient bowhunters are often rewarded for sitting in treestands adjacent to well-used game trails and water-holes.

RELATED ARTICLE: Elk Hunting for the Disabled

EIk hunting from a treestand makes dreams come true for hunters who otherwise wouldn't be able to elk hunt. Dennis Jones, son of Keith Jones, lost his ability to walk in an automobile accident many years ago. Now, Dennis hunts with a crossbow and even shot a cow elk while hunting with his dad in a treestand.

"I thought elk hunting was out of the question, but I am able to drag myself into a ladder stand with my arms so I was able to elk hunt," Dennis Jones said. "There is no way I will ever run around the mountains chasing elk. Treestand hunting for them is something I can do and many people with disabilities can do."

RELATED ARTICLE: REMOTE SCOUTING

Whether you have an area you have hunted for years or you are scouting for a new area, Jones suggests studying topographic maps and aerial photographs to quickly identify likely stand locations.

RELATED ARTICLE: USE TRAIL CAMERAS

Another option when hunting game trails or wallows is to hang a few trail cameras a few days before you plan to hunt or even during the hunt, Elk are very habitual animals during the hot spells in early fall. They typically bed, feed and water in the same areas, and they often do the same things at about the same time every day. Hanging a scouting camera can provide you with the exact time a bull visits a certain waterhole so you know when to be there.
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Title Annotation:SPECIAL SECTION
Author:Breen, Tracy
Publication:Petersen's Bowhunting
Date:Sep 1, 2014
Words:1433
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