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Do-It-Yourself Elk Hunting with Kelly Hicks

Kelly Hicks Scouts from His Easy Chair for Elk on Property He's Never Hunted


Editor’s Note: Fifty-five year old Kelly Hicks from Mountain Green, Utah, just outside of Morgan, has been hunting elk since he was 17. He’s been a member of the Mossy Oak Pro Staff for 3 years. Like many western hunters, Mossy Oak Treestand is Hicks’ favorite camo pattern, but he is quick to say, “I'm looking forward to hunting in the new Mossy Oak Mountain Country.” Hicks never has hunted private land for elk and has taken nine bulls on public lands. Hicks only has hunted Utah, but this year (2016) he's hunting in Wyoming with a friend, John Spears, to try and take a bull in a unit he's never hunted before. Mossy Oak has asked Hicks to tell us how he's preparing for a do-it-yourself elk hunt in a state and a unit he's never hunted previously. 

Hicks_day1My Wyoming hunt will be a backpack do-it-yourself type hunt. I've learned that the more you know about elk, the more likely you are to find them in new territory. The first thing that my friend, John Spears, and I will look for is a unit that’s easy to drive to but doesn’t have many access roads. We like to backpack about 4 miles from any access road to get to a place we want to hunt, which will put us out of the range of most hunters. Next we’ll search for a place that meets all the habitat requirements for an elk – providing food, shelter and water. Since elk like grass, we’ll look for high mountain meadows with grass in them. Then, we’ll search for water that’s close to the surface and close to the grass, in a place with dark timber where the elk can hang out and bed down during the day. We’ll also get on Google Earth to look for areas with water. In the West, water is pretty easy to find, because of the deep canyons there. We’ll search for a ridge that’s 8,000 to 10,000 feet high, find a canyon coming off that ridge and scroll down that canyon until we start seeing a lot of green. If you see an almost fluorescent green in the bottom of a canyon, you’ll almost always find water there. The water may not be standing, but the water will be seeping out of the ground. Elk love that type of seepage, because that water coming out of the ground creates a muddy bog. The elk can go to those bogs and wallow, which are effective places to find elk during the rut. When the elk are traveling a lot and chasing cows, they often will take breaks to roll in those wallows. 

After we find the water, we’ll zoom out from Google Earth to see a satellite view of all the region around the wallows and the meadows that are often close to the water. You also can change the look of Google Earth to see how the sun hits those meadows at different times of the day and identify where the dark timber is after 10:00 am. Too, you can pinpoint the north-facing slopes where you want to hunt, since the south-facing slopes will be hotter. So, I do my scouting long before I leave home to find one or two places where elk have to be in the unit I'm hunting. 

Tomorrow: Kelly Hicks Hikes 4 Miles Before Hunting Elk and Explains His Equipment


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