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Short version - I moved to the PNW from the East in 2017. This is the first year I haven't moved since we moved here, so it's the first time I'm able to hunt the same land two years in a row. I've put in a LOT of hours and miles scouting and found a spot last fall I thought had potential. I've had trail cams up in there since last fall and have seen three or four blacktail bucks, a couple does, and one nice bull:

STC_0015.JPG

This is up around 3000 feet. Last year, there was a lot of sign when I found this spot but I couldn't get in there and hunt until blacktail rifle and it looked like most of the game had moved out by then. I see a TON of sign in there, and I think there are more animals in there than I catch on my cameras. There are large elk tracks, lots of elk scat, and tons of deer sign. When I got in there last fall for the first time, there were areas where sign was so thick I couldn't take a step without stepping into tracks or scat or a bed.

I'm going to post a few questions in the next few posts so people can replay easier to a specific question rather than quote/cut/paste.
 
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I have only caught him on camera twice, once in early June and two consecutive days in mid-July. Is it more likely that he roams through once in a while, or that this is his main territory and I'm just not catching him very often?
 
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With all the sign I see in there, is it more likely that he's flying solo, or that there are other elk around and I'm just not catching them on my trail cams?
 
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If I nab this guy, and bone him out in the field, how much weight am I gonna have to pack out of there? This is about a 1.5 mile hike in, and it's a bit rough and overgrown and I don't know if I have it in me to haul meat out of there more than two trips. I could probably do three. I have two different friends who might be able to come in there and hunt with me. One might be able to come help me if I get him but it would take him three hours to get to me. I've not taken an elk before, and would honestly prefer a smaller one for a pack-out hunt. I'm not gonna take him even if I see him if I can't get him back to the truck quick enough to avoid scavengers and spoilage. I'd rather leave him for next year and make sure I had someone available to help me.

I realize there a ton of variables and unknowns, but I don't have too many people around who can teach me on some of this stuff. I've hunted most of my life but only white-tails and smaller game. Trying to bag my first bull but will only do it responsibly.
 

Xaevian

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Animal patterns and behavior also change significantly based on the season and weather. Elk, especially. What you see in the late spring during calving will be different during the summer. It will change again based on snow levels, available cover, and temps in the late fall/winter. They are more similar to mule deer in this regard than the black/whitetail you are used to.
 

bbbass

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Elk are browsers like mule deer are browsers, elk were plains animals originally, but they move around more than deer... a LOT more. They are rarely where they have been seen in the spring or summer. However, with that much sign you never know. I would scout it just before the season starts, maybe two weeks. But consider your first few hunts there to be a learning opportunity. Any success will be great luck!!!

In the Winter, spring and early summer, males hang out in bull groups. Then closer to rut, they split up into solitary bulls with some younger hanger-ons. The bulls chase females in estrus and round them up. They will try to keep their harems intact and chase females back into the group. The young bulls challenge and are run off. Sometimes the dominant bull will be challenged by another full grown bull and a fight ensues. The winner of the fight keeps the harem. This is during archery season in Oregon. I'm not familiar with WA seasons, but here the rut is over by rifle season, but the males are still not in bull groups and generally stay with the herds. You see a lot of spikes with the herds.
 
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Deer stay in a given area - maybe 5 miles from one end to the other, depending on terrain, weather, food and water sources. I see the same deer on my property that I see a mile or so away, and sometimes see them lower down on the mountain, but usually not much further.

Elk, one hour they are in one place, the next hour miles away, the next day, a county away. They really travel around.

The bulls tend to gather a harem and keep the harem with them under their control, but they still travel. Once the breeding season passes they go back to being solitary. The younger bulls that are not with a harem, may or may not hang around together or with the herd when it isn't breeding season.
 

bbbass

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The bulls tend to gather a harem and keep the harem with them under their control, but they still travel. Once the breeding season passes they go back to being solitary. The younger bulls that are not with a harem, may or may not hang around together or with the herd when it isn't breeding season.

Huh??? These are two conflicting statements. They cannot be solitary and also hanging together or with the herd.

We observe herds year round here where I live. What I stated in my previous post is what I have personally observed for over 40 years of living near elk herds. Males of all ages hang out in groups, and females do too. During the rut, the males become more isolated generally. However, at all times bulls can be solitary, or not. But there is a myth that big bulls always hang out by themselves when not chasing cows, and it is a myth.
 
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bbbass

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Elk are social animals and live in groups called herds. Herds are often quite large, with 200 or more members, according to the Smithsonian. Some herds have over 400 members. The herd is often segregated by gender, with males staying in one group and females in another. Though segregated, herds are matriarchal, which means it is run by a single female.


Harems of elk are common during mating season. A dominant male will have a herd of around six females and their yearlings. The male will defend his territory around the females until mating season is over.

Elk are most active during mornings and evenings. During the summer, elk will often migrate to higher, cooler, elevations and migrate to lower elevations in the winter.

Facts About Elk
 

Xaevian

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That has been my observance as well, @bbbass. And I have spent lots of time observing animals in the wild at all times of the year. There are a lot of myths about game animal behavior, most often passed along by hunters based on a single instance or wild guesses and faulty logic. If one ignores all the garbage and focuses only on scientific facts, their hunting success will greatly increase.
 

bbbass

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That has been my observance as well, @bbbass. And I have spent lots of time observing animals in the wild at all times of the year. There are a lot of myths about game animal behavior, most often passed along by hunters based on a single instance or wild guesses and faulty logic. If one ignores all the garbage and focuses only on scientific facts, their hunting success will greatly increase.

Our local FaceBuk friends and those at Elkhorn Media will often post pics of the herds. The ones that hang out near Summerville are almost always male groups. The ones near Cove are sometimes mixed, and the ones near Meacham are usually cows, or sometimes mixed with spikes. During hunting season, which (FYI OP) in Oregon is not during the rut except for archery season, my buddies and I mostly find mixed groups of smaller numbers. Ie, the big bulls and spikes are still hanging with smaller groups of cows. However, up around Big Sheep Creek near Imaha, I have seen hundreds of elk running in a herd during rifle season. Bout got run over buy a cow elk that was just off the clearing on a trail, frinkin thing stepped on my toe!!! That said, sometimes a solitary spike or big bull will be taken, but most generally I think they are just away from the others while they browse or have become spooked away by hunters. The last spike I shot was alone, but only because he ran down the draw with the herd when spooked, and then separated. Not sure if that is a survival strategy or just panic. Have you experienced that?
 
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Xaevian

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Yes, that is pretty normal, especially for spikes or younger cows. That is also what happens when predators hit a herd, and what they are hoping for. The younger ones, being less experienced, end up getting left behind. They will eventually join back up. Not like they can't find them. Even I can smell a good sized elk herd from over a hundred yards off if I am downwind.
 
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If I nab this guy, and bone him out in the field, how much weight am I gonna have to pack out of there? This is about a 1.5 mile hike in, and it's a bit rough and overgrown and I don't know if I have it in me to haul meat out of there more than two trips. I could probably do three. I have two different friends who might be able to come in there and hunt with me. One might be able to come help me if I get him but it would take him three hours to get to me. I've not taken an elk before, and would honestly prefer a smaller one for a pack-out hunt. I'm not gonna take him even if I see him if I can't get him back to the truck quick enough to avoid scavengers and spoilage. I'd rather leave him for next year and make sure I had someone available to help me.

I realize there a ton of variables and unknowns, but I don't have too many people around who can teach me on some of this stuff. I've hunted most of my life but only white-tails and smaller game. Trying to bag my first bull but will only do it responsibly.
These animals are migraters. You have seen them where they fattened up for the coming winter. By the time Elk season comes around, he'll be long gone. Your best chance is to talk to people that hunt Elk near Mt. Rainier and ask them where the herds migrate to. A big bull like this one will always be at least a quarter of a mile from the females and uphill at that.
 

bbbass

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Regarding migration:

For example, the Meacham herd moves around here and there, but MIGRATES southwards of the freeway 84 starting in the fall, moving towards or into the Spring Creek area. By the time winter is set in, they can be in either the Starkey unit, or the Ukiah unit. Many miles from Meacham. One thing this points out is that the patterns are fairly consistent, some variation depending on conditions/weather and changes in the habitat. Once one learns the basic patterns and options, success is better, but that still leaves a lot of land to cover, and they may be bedded down in diff spots every night/morning/day.

Interesting book on big game migration:

“A theme that emerges from the hundreds of maps we created for the atlas is how these animals have perfectly tuned their movements to the landscapes and seasons where they live,” says lead author Matthew Kauffman, a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) researcher based at UW.

First-Ever Atlas of Big-Game Migrations Highlights UW Research | News | University of Wyoming
 
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Regarding migration:

For example, the Meacham herd moves around here and there, but MIGRATES southwards of the freeway 84 starting in the fall, moving towards or into the Spring Creek area. By the time winter is set in, they can be in either the Starkey unit, or the Ukiah unit. Many miles from Meacham. One thing this points out is that the patterns are fairly consistent, some variation depending on conditions/weather and changes in the habitat. Once one learns the basic patterns and options, success is better, but that still leaves a lot of land to cover, and they may be bedded down in diff spots every night/morning/day.

Interesting book on big game migration:



First-Ever Atlas of Big-Game Migrations Highlights UW Research | News | University of Wyoming
I heard the wolves have been destroyed up in Mt. Emily. True? False?
 
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