Through the entire rut period, elk still need bedding, which provides cover and security, along with food and water. Many post-rut elk have completed their breeding and are worn out. They’re mostly interested in piling on the pounds before winter. That means they continue to move in and out of bedding areas, usually following a variety of trails, so it requires a bit of luck to intercept them.
Start by looking for quality food sources. Usually by this time, there have been many frosts, and most, if not all, crops have been harvested. That’s when alfalfa fields tend to become the preferred feed, and elk will travel for many kilometres during dusk and dawn to find it. Elk also like creek bottoms and drainages, which provide lush food late into the fall, and usually some cover.
Once you’ve determined the elks’ food source, it’s simply a matter of ambushing them on their travel routes. Again, there can be many trails to choose from, so to increase your odds of success, look for ones that lead to a natural funnel in the topography. Then play the wind and set up with some cover between you and the trails.
Placing a treestand along a game trail is also a great tactic. Unlike deer, elk just aren’t programmed to look upward for danger. They also make a lot of noise coming through the bush, and the more elk, the more noise. I’ve found that staying elevated to avoid getting winded is an effective tactic throughout the post-rut period, right into early winter. Even in the most promising spot, however, ambushing requires patience and a willingness to stick around for a few days.
During my years of hunting buglers, I’ve harvested post-rut elk by calling, stalking and ambushing them from the ground, but my favourite tactic is a treestand ambush. If you are hearing and seeing elk, and you’ve located the trails they use, it’s simply a matter of time before a bull cooperates and there’s an opportunity to take him home.