The first thing to plan is where to hunt. This involves two details: the best states and the hottest areas within them. Three of our favorite spots for public land elk are Oregon, Colorado and Idaho. These states offer sprawling acreage and over-the-counter hunting permits that make the season more convenient for you. For more information on public land elk hunting in these states, take a look at this recent article we wrote.
No matter what state you choose to hunt in, be sure to follow these tips once you get there.
Get Far From Roads
Public land elk are much more skittish than those living on private land due to the amount of pressure they face during the hunting season. That heavy traffic will push herds into more secluded areas. For us, that means being willing to work for meat.
Exude Patience and a Will to Work
Because of the high hunting pressure, you’re probably going to have to travel much farther than you normally would when hunting private property. You also have to be willing to wait and be more patient than other hunters, meaning that when others start to head home, you’re setting up camp.
When you’re not hiking out to the farthest possible point, there are three things you should be doing: glassing, glassing and glassing some more. You want to know as much as you can about that habitat, and glassing during hiking breaks is one of the best ways to achieve that. Also carry a good plat or topo map.
Calling and Decoying Public Land Elk
Hunting pressure helps educate elk to false calls since so many hunters are using them at once. This will continue to push them farther. Instead of bugling and cow calling away, try to listen to the animals’ intermittent communication.
The herd will become much more reliant on what they see. This opens up the perfect opportunity to use a Montana Elk Decoy. Decoys evoke a sense of comfort and an elk decoy in the right spot can convince an old bull that a feeding area is safe. Plus, since Montana Decoys are so lightweight and portable, you’re guaranteed at least one piece of equipment that won’t weigh you down.
Be Smart with Safety
Hunting on public land – especially with a decoy – requires an added level of safety and awareness. You have to continually remind yourself that you may not be the only hunter in that area; even if you think you’re miles away from anyone else. Here are a few tips to keep you safe and successful on your hunt.
Don’t Move With an Open Decoy
If you change locations, don’t just pick up the decoy and move without folding it up. This is a good way to get shot by another hunter. Our decoys are made to be as realistic as possible, which means even another hunter could be fooled by them. So take literally a few seconds and fold down your decoy before moving to another area.
Never Get Behind a Decoy
Similar to the above suggestion, be sure that you are never waiting directly behind your decoy. This, again, can make you an accidental target. Additionally, if a bull approaches your decoy from any angle other than the front, it might catch a glimpse of you and derail the day’s hunt. Instead, move about 15 yards away from your decoy under the cover of trees or bushes while maintaining good visibility.
DO NOT USE DURING RIFLE SEASON
Because of the above warnings, we do not recommend using our decoys during rifle season. No matter how careful you are. During the archery season they can be the perfect public land companion.
Public land hunts are some of the most challenging and exciting hunts. With the right location and safety precautions, it might even turn into one of your most successful yet. Hunt smart, hunt safe and good luck.