Mark Livesay is a Missoulian from Missouri who came to Montana to do even additional of what he loves most—DIY elk hunting. Final year he hunted every single day but two of September (with a single 21-day stint in there), and only missed a single week of October. “I’ll break these records this year,” he says. (He is getting into his 30th year of elk hunting.)
Livesay utilizes llamas to pack in and out—“They’re fantastic, calm, and sturdy animals,” he says—and spent 108 nights in a tent more than the entire year. “I’ve been elk hunting considering that my 20s, but I lived in Missouri. That meant traveling—a lot. I spent my initially 26 years of elk hunting driving back and forth out to New Mexico, Wyoming, Colorado, these front-variety western states.”
Like any other hunter not from elk nation and coming west, there had been a lot of articles to study about obtaining the appropriate state, ratcheting down to a unit, drawing the tag, and all that,” he says. “But it all ended there. Practically nothing about scouting or obtaining the precise spots—and spots inside the spots—to hunt.”
So Livesay created and honed an elk-scouting procedure that has blossomed, top to the founding of a firm known as Treeline Pursuits. Now he specializes in digital scouting and other elk-hunting ideas with instructional Youtube videos that combine old-college maps and supplies (nonetheless useful) with new-age digital tools and possibilities. So, get prepared. Here’s a deep-dive into Livesay’s six-step digital elk-scouting procedure.
The Purpose: A Written Hunt Program
“Coming from east to west, I had to truly maximize my hunting time,” says Livesay. “I nonetheless want to do that when traveling to hunt inside the West. That is why I began the approach of establishing a written Hunt Program.
“That’s crucial to my approach. Not just marking or creating notes on map margins,” he explains. “I’m speaking about a written program that outlines various hunt locations, tends to make backup plans, and identifies campsite solutions. Every little thing I do functions toward building a master written Hunt Program.”
It is not overkill if you want to kill an elk. “The private stress is on, and all the things adds up when you are on an elk hunt,” says Livesay. When you are away from property, at elevation, low on calories, and pushing oneself tougher than in your coaching, you can only go on like that for so quite a few days.
“I’ve noticed so quite a few guys start out to crumble and crack below that mental fatigue and physical strain,” says Livesay. “Your Written Hunt Program saves you. Pull it out, study it in the tent at evening, get some solutions, and re-energize. It is empowerment.”
Step 1: Recognize three to five Diverse Hunt Regions
“The crucial and core of the procedure is establishing 3 to 5 ‘Hunt Areas’—geographical, targeted locations in which I could conduct my whole hunt if necessary,” says Livesay. “You do this—pick out distinct hunt location options—because you just never know. You could choose out a spot that appears wonderful, and you get there, and there are a dozen trucks at the trailhead. Or cattle or sheep everywhere, or roads washed out, and you cannot even get there.”
Or perhaps there just are not any elk. “Having separate, distinct hunt locations to go to is important. At least a single or two of your 5 locations must be at radically distinctive elevations,” he advises, citing a mid-September Wyoming hunt exactly where 18 inches of snow moved the elk and shut the hunting down, but he had no decrease-elevation locations incorporated into his program.
“You happen to be crazy if you happen to be not employing onX Hunt and/or Gaia GPS to program,” says Livesay. “onX Hunt has fantastic private land layers, and I enjoy their colour coding and marking. Gaia GPS is additional complex but has additional layers, and quite a few critically beneficial ones.” Assume of hunt locations as macro-locations in which you will later ratchet down to precise elk options and hunting spots (Methods three and four).
Step two: Download Hunt Location Maps
“No way are you going to get constant-sufficient cell telephone service to use digital mapping tools reside in the field,” says Livesay. “So download and preload maps of all your Hunt Regions.” You will total the following Methods three, four, and five for every Hunt Location. (Appears like a lot of perform, but do you want to kill an elk or have a good autumn nature hike?)
Step three: Establish Zones of Stress
Subsequent, Livesay utilizes paper National Forest Service Maps simply because of their broad scope and trusted road and trail markings to establish ‘Zones of Stress.’
“Use a piece of cardboard to reduce out a circle that equates to two miles across,” instructs Livesay. “Lay that template more than the map and center it on every single trailhead, established campground, dead-finish road, or access point. Then highlight the associated circle. Each and every circle is a ‘Zone of Stress.’” It is uncomplicated-to-access stuff that most hunters will be in. “Elk can nonetheless be killed in the stress zones,” says Livesay. “But your odds are just so a great deal greater outdoors of them.”
“In a equivalent style, highlight lines a mile on either side of trails, roads, and other marked corridors of travel,” adds Livesay.
Now you know the zones and corridors that get the most hunting stress. These pockets outdoors of the highlighted circles and corridors—or the spaces that are left more than soon after you highlight everything—are the ones to concentrate on in Step four. These locations are exactly where you will come across actual spots to verify out and hunt.
Step four: Recognize Attributes on the Landscape for Locating Elk
Now your search will have to go deeper. Significantly deeper. “Food, water, and safety are what elk want,” says Livesay. “Look for these fundamentals beyond the stress zones. North slopes are naturals in common. But other elements will hold elk as well.” It is about obtaining as quite a few of the Elk Landscape Attributes (listed beneath) into play and inside elk traveling distance. Note that elk can and will move miles among meals, water, and cover.
Utilizing a mixture of tools (paper maps, onX Hunt, Gaia GPS, and Google Earth) Livesay focuses on the following eight options to property in on actual locations (which he calls ‘Points of Interest’) to hunt.
Function 1: Canyons, Creeks, and Drainages
According to Livesay, all canyons are not produced equal. He appears for options like these:
- <p><strong>North Slopes:</sturdy> “All-natural locations to hold elk, with shade and cover,” he says. “East-to-west operating canyons or drainages are prime simply because they will have the most north-facing terrain.”</p>
- <p><strong>The Correct Steepness:</sturdy> Livesay utilizes Google Maps with tilt, and layers in Gaia GPS, to appear for what he calls “gold zone” slopes of 20 to 30 degrees—just the appropriate steepness elk prefer—not to small slope, not as well a great deal.</p>
- <p><strong>Benches:</sturdy> “Benches are important,” says Livesay. “Benches are exactly where elk travel, bed, and socialize. Benches half to 3-quarters to the top rated of a slope are most effective.”</p>
- <p><strong>Flat Bottoms:</sturdy> Canyons with flat bottoms are additional probably to have water and pocket meadows than V-contoured drainages. But stay away from trail-invaded bottoms. “Use Google Earth to see if there are discernible pathways—hiking trails and otherwise—that would bring hunting stress,” advises Livesay.</p>
- <p><strong>Heads of North-Facing Canyons:</sturdy> Appear to these spots in canyons that never run east-west.</p>
Function two: Burns and Fire Zones
“Burns are elk magnets, but not all are produced equal,” says Livesay. “Feed is the attraction. But burns also attract hunters.” He advises seeking for burns with fragmented, ragged edges and lots of transition zones—places exactly where elk can usually be close to cover. Often take into account whether or not a burn is in a Zone of Stress or not.
Function three: Logged Out Regions
Livesay does not like clear-cuts as a great deal as he does burns, but logged locations can nonetheless be productive. “Logging frequently implies roads and uncomplicated access for every person,” he says. “That’s my key beef. But massive tracts way back with lots of funnels, irregularities, and pinch points can be excellent. Water will have to be readily available.”
Function four: Steep Nation
Livesay says Gaia GPS gives a slope function layer with colour codes that can assist you appear for these 20- to 30-degree slopes elk favor. One more tool is caltopo.com. Go to these steep locations and come across the benches. “The trick is appropriate there—steep nation and these benches,” says Livesay. Steep nation also weeds out significantly less committed hunters.
Function five: Water Sources
“No water, no elk,” says Livesay. “It’s that easy. Creeks, canyon bottoms, and basins are all locations to appear. Drop water-points on your map. Elk will travel miles everyday for water, but it has to be there.”
Function six: Meadows and Feeding Regions
Meadows are prime as crucial as elk-feeding zones. Livesay has two guidelines about them:
Meadows will have to be additional than two miles from an access point or road. (Closer meadows may perhaps serve elk, but ordinarily only completely nocturnally.)
Go modest. “I appear for small chains of pocket meadows higher up on a ridge,” he says.
1 additional tip: Use Google Earth’s historical bar to appear back at previous year’s pictures and see how green your meadow was in, say, July. Greener equals greater feed then and in fall.
Function 7: Glassing Spots
“Use Google Earth with exaggeration level set to 1.five and tilt function turned on to find vantage points and glassing spots,” says Livesay. “I mark all my glassing spots beforehand rather of wandering to search them out.”
Function eight: Hunting Routes
“So you have got canyons, slopes, benches, meadows, water—points of interest that may perhaps hold elk,” says Livesay. “Now you want to program a ‘Hunt Route’ that will take you to them.”
Hunt Routes give you the self-assurance to be out exactly where you must be at prime occasions, on the cusps of the day—not on your way to or from camp, worrying about obtaining your way, prior to the light runs out when you must be hunting. “Remember,” he adds. “The additional you move and hunt off-trail, the greater.”
Step five: Mark Target Campsites
Mark campsite solutions in Google Earth or onX Hunt, says Livesay. It really is greater than stumbling about seeking for a spot in the dark. Possibilities let you move if there are not elk about or if there are as well quite a few hunters. As usually with a campsite, you are seeking for flat, level ground to pitch a tent even so, you will want to steer clear of meadows that could possibly hold elk. That does not imply you never want to be close to your points of interest and hunt locations.
Staying close will permit you to save power and confidently return to camp in the dark. But the significant point to preserve in thoughts when camping close to hunt locations is to keep a extremely quiet camp, preserve the smell down, and be mindful of the wind. You will also want affordable access to water and 360-degree access to hunt locations. Steer clear of campsites with only a single way in and out to a Hunt Location. Lastly, do not get married to a single campsite. Make certain you have solutions so that if the elk are not there, you can go come across them.
Step six: Create Your Hunt Program
“Use your Hunt Program as your guiding force,” says Livesay. “Don’t leave something to possibility. Do all the things you can to tilt the odds in your favor. That implies avoiding stress and obtaining these crucial Elk Attributes.”
Primarily based on the benefits of measures 1 via five, create up your Master Hunt Program. This will take the type of a typed up list and a summary for every single Hunt Location. It will include things like points of interest, hunt routes, camps, notes of crucial elk options, significant elements, and back-up solutions. Print this out so that you can critique it every single evening in your cot. Your written Hunt Program will take some time, but the perform behind it will be your most effective ally for elk hunting results in the field.
Combine your typed Hunt Program with marked-up downloaded maps on your devices to use in the field. That implies you will export waypoints and save folders in Gaia to make all the things readily available for offline use in the field on your smartphone and GPS device.
1 additional point to note about employing technologies in the field. You can not rely on your smartphone to be your sole navigation tool they can break. It really is a excellent notion to carry a Garmin or other GPS device for redundancy. Also, make certain your apps are up to date, retailer all the things offline, and test properly prior to you are in the field. Files can get corrupted, and a dry run will give you peace of thoughts. Pack spare batteries to recharge your devices, and preserve cold temperatures in thoughts when pondering about your battery life. Make certain to bring spare cables as properly. Solar chargers at camp can assist recharge batteries when you are hunting.
Bonus: Some Notes on Hunting (What to do when you get there)
Myriad are the how-to treatises and instructive tales on how to hunt elk. Livesay gives a easy strategy for any elk hunter—archery rut hunter and rifle season hunter alike.
“Most hunters are not in their spot early sufficient or late sufficient,” he says. “It’s that easy. That is why being aware of stress zones to stay away from, elk options to stop by, and hunt routes to travel, are so important.”
Study Subsequent: 10 Points Elk Hunters Should not Leave Property Devoid of
Hunt your way uphill in the morning as the pre-dawn thermals are coming downhill.
Devote midday at elevation, possibly on a bench or flat.
Devote the evening hunting some most effective-bet spots till dark—not on a trail worrying your way to camp.
“Having your route marked is crucial for providing you the self-assurance to be there hunting in prime time.” Says Livesay. “You are not going to shoot an elk on your way to prime nation at the crack of dawn, or on your way back to camp from prime nation at final shooting light.”
Just becoming there–in the appropriate nation at the appropriate time and away from other hunters—is the easy crucial. A written Hunt Program developed from Livesay’s six-step procedure puts you there. To take an even deeper dive into digital scouting, verify out Treeline Pursuits, and Mark Livesay’s Youtube channel.