Scouting for Elk Hunting


What do you do on a scouting trip?



Scouting for Elk Hunting

Hi, I’m Jimmie Norris with

Today I want to talk to you about scouting for your elk hunting trip. You know, some people look at scouting is just a pre-hunt hunting trip, just not carrying a weapon. 

I don’t look at it that way. I look at it as an information, or data collection trip.  And I’m going to use that information to form a plan, or a strategy for my elk hunt. 


Unless you’re already very familiar with your hunting unit, I recommend that you start your it scouting online.  Some people call it e-scouting.  Pull up an online topo map, and satellite photos, such as Google Earth.   What you’ll be looking for is features that provide the basic needs of the elk.  You’ll be looking for meadows where they can feed. 

What to look for

Looking for thick woods where they can bed down in the day.   You’ll be looking for a cattle tanks and streams where they can water.  Other things you need to look for are the major terrain features in your hunting unit, mountain peaks and deep canyons.  You want to look for road-less areas, because those are the areas that elk are likely to get pushed into when there’s more hunting pressure.  And you’ll want to look for access all way around your unit.  Whether it’s roads or trails, or just places that you could hike in, especially to those road-less areas.  You want to look for places that you can camp while you are hunting. 

Be There

E-scouting will give you a good mental picture of your hunting unit.  But there’s nothing like being there.  So if at all possible, I recommend that you take a trip to your hunting unit and check it out.  And when you go, I recommend that you take a paper topo map with you. Make notes on that map as you compare reality with what’s on the map. 


Drive all the roads in the unit so you know where they are, and you know the status of those roads.  You may find roads that are not passable. Or you may find roads that are open on the map, but closed in reality.  You may find roads that aren’t even on the map.  I recommend that you look for roads that are closed that you can hike on.  Those are often good places that you can access areas there otherwise difficult to access. 

Water Sources

Check out your water sources.  Do they even have water in them?  Or you can you find water sources that aren’t even shown on the map?  Look for good places to camp while you’re elk hunting. 

Elk Sign

And last but not least, look for elk sign.  Is there evidence that elk hang out in that area?  Even if you don’t see them on your scouting trip, they may be there during hunting season.  Or vice versa, just because you see elk during your scouting trip, doesn’t mean they’re going to be there once the hunting pressure is on during hunting season. 

Come Early

I realize that not everybody can come on a scouting trip.  You may live 1000 miles away from your hunting unit.  So if you can’t do that, then I highly recommend that you come several days early, so you can spend that time scouting.  Bottom line is you need to collect all the information you can to form a good plan and a strategy for your hunt, so you’re not scrambling to do that on opening day. 

Enjoy It

One of the things that I really enjoy about scouting trips is that it’s just very relaxing.  There’s usually fewer people out in the woods.  You see more game, and it’s often nicer weather.  My son and I recently went on a scouting trip in our hunting unit.  We captured a little bit of video that I put together for you.  I hope you enjoy it.

[Scouting Video]

I hoped you enjoyed the video of our scouting adventures, and misadventures.  

What about you?

I hope that you found this overall video helpful.  Have you? Do you agree with me?  Do you disagree with me? Either way, scroll on down and leave a comment. I really do appreciate the feedback.


For more tips on elk hunting, go to my website at and check it out.  There’s lots of good stuff there.

Until next time, shoot straight.


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Jimmie is a retired high tech engineer who now spends his time writing about elk hunting, selling Real Estate, and doing DIY projects.

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