Pre-Scouting: Tips and Tricks for Scouting Your Hunt

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My house is full of love, people, animals, and mounts. Oh yes the mounts. We have four adults who all hunt living in this home and the beautiful reminders of the memories, work, and food supplied during those trips all over our home. Since this blog is also about our hunting adventures (and mine have been few and far between since my marathon 4 years of making, birthing, and keeping babies alive) I recruited my husband to help others who may be new to this on the best way to scout for a hunt. These tips are based on his Elk hunting in Colorado, but many of the principles hold for what ever you may be scouting for. Enjoy!

Pre-Scouting: Tips and Tricks for Scouting your Hunt


When I was new to elk hunting Colorado back in 2011 I didn’t know where to start, I had never hunted elk before, I was new to the state so I didn’t know good areas and I didn’t know anyone to talk to about where to go or what to do. Since then our group has learned parts of the land, grown out knowledge, and expanded our network in the hunting community. I am an average hunter and fairly new hunter and conservationist who wants to share some lessons that I have learned over the last 6 years of elk hunting Colorado and provide you with some tips you can use.



I started in the off season by studying everything I could about Elk. I read books, articles, message boards and discussion forums daily to learn about their habits, movement patterns, migration routes and types of terrain that they prefer to habitat. Once I had a good idea of what to look for I started using topo maps and Google Earth to look for areas that fit the criteria of where I thought I would find elk.

I looked for steep terrain features which would make access more difficult, bowls, valleys and ridges with dark timber and aspens that would provide security, forage and ease of travel for herds of elk. I also looked-for water sources, mud holes and shaded wet areas where the elk would be able to cool off on the warmer days of the summer and fall. Along with the terrain features be sure to look for migration routes, average herd sizes, number of elk taken in specific units and ease of access for hunters.


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 Before You Get Out There

The more information you can gather about specific locations the easier it will be for you to pick an area to start scouting. Before moving onto scouting I want to be sure to hit on one of the most important but forgotten factors, ease of access; choose areas that DO NOT  have easy access by vehicle or by foot if possible, and prepare yourself to do some work. Weren’t expecting that were you?

This doesn’t always have to be your approach, but I’ve found it makes a huge difference. You don’t just have to know what the elk are doing but also what the other hunters are going to be doing, this plays a huge part in public land hunting. Most of the hunters that I have come to know over the last few years will pass on a promising hunting area because they don’t want to put the work into harvesting an elk, use this to your advantage and hunt downhill from your camp or your truck, work for it.

After spending an ample amount of time searching and becoming familiar with the areas you think there may be elk, it’s time to pick the areas you will be scouting. How many areas you scout each year is going to vary based on each hunter’s availability throughout the year, but I recommend trying to spend a few days scouting at least three separate areas.

Once you have selected a spot to scout there will be a few things of note that you will want to pay attention to.


3 Key Tips

#1. Pick your camping spot: it’s not a bad idea to camp where you might camp during hunting season, if you only get one chance to go scout the area you’ll be hunting then make it a trial run for your elk hunt.

#2. Look for a few good over-looks that you can glass from. Which reminds me if you invest in any equipment invest in good binoculars, you’ll be spending a lot of time glassing. You’re going to want to have either a GPS that you can mark Points of Interest with or a TOPO map that you can write on, I recommend marking your over looks on either one of these, preferably both, while planning your scouting trip.

#3. Mark areas of interest that you would like to hike into to check for fresh sign, bedding areas and hidden water sources. You’ll spend your afternoons getting some exercise and learning the area you’ll be hunting, you will want to cover a good amount of ground during the afternoons while the elk are bedded so plan your days accordingly. Again, mark these areas on your GPS and or TOPO map while planning your scouting trip. Lastly, you’ll want to mark water sources in your planning process. I prefer to label them based on the reliability of the water supply, I look at them as primary, secondary and tertiary water supplies. Majority of the time you’ll find primary and secondary water on your maps and GPS’s, tertiary sources are usually not labeled. Year around streams, rivers or springs will be a primary source, seasonal streams that rely on run off and snow melt will fall into your secondary source. What I consider tertiary water sources would be small run offs, water that is gathered after good rain or small springs that aren’t labeled on maps, these are not usually sufficient to rely on for a good water source but will work well as a backup. I mark tertiary sources while I’m on my scouting trip not in my planning process.


This just about sums up the prep work needed to properly prepare for your scouting trip. The next step will be equipment selection, gear prep and packing. In further posts we will dive into equipment recommendations, uses and how to prepare for the worst-case scenarios while still packing light. Enjoy your week and happy hunting.






Also, if you are in Colorado and want an amazing Taxidermist check out Elk Ridge Taxidermy. He did the work on this elk.



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  1. Irina | 13th Jan 18

    This is such an interesting post! Happy weekend:)

    • admin | 14th Jan 18

      Thank you! Have a great weekend as well!

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