Find Roosevelt elk fast with a scouting method developed in the Oregon coastal mountain range. Whether a bow hunter is scouting public land or private land, a little bit of knowledge about elk habitat will narrow down the search. These four simple steps will help the bow hunter save time and money before and during the hunting season.
Step #1: Use a topo map to find a large section of road-less timber with a constant water source. A section large enough to hold elk will be approximately one square mile without any roads. In other words, the distance between roads in any direction should be close to one mile. Smaller areas may be acceptable if the hunting pressure is low. The water source can be a creek or spring. Be aware that some drainages can produce water year around but not be depicted on a map.
Step #2: Verify that the timber is mature — meaning at least 40 years old. Do this by looking at Google Maps online of the same area. Mature trees will appear dark green, while immature trees will be a lighter tone of green. Looking at satellite images will not guarantee that a logging operation is not currently cutting the area of interest, so a physical visit will be required.
Step #3: Check the terrain on a topographical map. The new area of interest should have benches or less aggressive terrain than the area around it. Elk like easy terrain as much as humans do. Unless they have been pressured into steep ravines by hunting, they will choose gentle slopes. A north facing slope is not as important as the presence of mature timber and water. A south facing slope is just as likely to hold elk on a hot day as long as they have good thermal cover and water.
Step #4: Drive to the location, or locations, and verify the first three steps. Once the first three steps are validated, probe the area by walking short distances towards the water source from a couple different entry points. If elk are using the area, elk scat and trails will be discovered within a few hundred feet of the road. Stop and return to your vehicle and mark the area for hunting. If only very old elk sign, or, no elk sign is found within a quarter mile hike at any entry point, write the area off for hunting.
Pick out as many of these large blocks of timber in a given area as can be found and use these steps to determine if they hold elk. It is not necessary to see elk on these scouting excursions to know they will be using the area. If the factors presented above exist, they will be using the area. Happy hunting.