By Mike Willis
September is a sacred time here for Idaho Panhandlers. While a little smoke in the air may be alarming to some, the wonderful fragrance of these wildfires marks a much-anticipated time of year here.
For those of us who have spent the entire year dreaming of the season opening back up, we are flocking to the woods with the eagerness and excitement only comparable to the boyhood joy that surrounded Christmas.
With all of this anticipation, it can be easy to move in too quickly on these unsuspecting elk. September is an incredible time to encounter these beast-like timber dwellers because they are in the most natural state. The cows talk without fear. The bulls pridefully sound off as is they didn’t have a care in the world.
As the seasoned elk hunters are well aware, the deeper into the season that we get, the more these elk change their ways. Loud and boisterous elk no longer crash through the timber recklessly. Calls get quieter and timid.
As with any species, the rut causes the bulls to act against their better judgment. However, the cows are not risking anything during this time. When the cows flee to a timber haven untouched by humans, the bulls will inevitably follow.
There is nothing worse than finding a perfect spot, full of elk, and watching that spot become abandoned in a day. This is exactly what will happen to you if you do not take your time and work the elk.
To avoid having to identify a new hunting area days into your season, focus intently on not pressuring the elk as you move in on them.
Elk hunting is a process, and successful elk hunters know not to move in unless everything is right. Those who lack patience and try to move in too soon, find themselves chasing the elusive elk late into the winter. It may take several days for everything to be just right, but it is much less time than you will spend chasing elk if you blow them out of their favorite drainage.
Calling can be a great tool but should not be the first one used in an elk encounter. Too often people educate elk early on about the horrible reality that the two-legged creatures lurking in the woods can make elk sounds. You can imagine how terrifying this realization would be for them to discover.
This season make sure that the wind is right and consistent. Mid-day stalks can be very risky. When the wind is swirling, you risk being busted before you ever have a chance to set eyes on the herd. Mornings and evenings produce the most consistent and predictable conditions resulting in better opportunities.
Make sure that the elk are relaxed during your pursuit. If you can tell that the herd is wandering away from the sound of you approaching, you know that something is wrong. Don’t confirm their suspicions by pressing in further.
If you lightly bump the herd, but they don’t know what caused them to startle, you can still back out and have another opportunity tomorrow before sounding the alarm. Once you completely blow them out of their area, it is game over for you.
Ensure your cover is sufficient. Multiple elk mean many eyes are watching for anything that could be a threat to the herd. Having adequate cover and not walking through the middle of open areas will aid you in your effort to close in on them.
Don’t make the wrong sounds! Elk are incredibly tolerant of you making sounds as you move through the woods. After all, their entire herd is making noise all around them routinely. However, the elk will not tolerate unnatural noises that resemble something different than a neighboring cow wandering nearby.
By taking these precautions, you will save yourself from having to chase the elk into the most miserable of locations to access for the remainder of your season. Take your time and good luck!