Animal Hunting Tips: Tracking Big Game Animals like Deer and Elk

Animal Hunting Tips: Tracking Big Game Animals like Deer and Elk

If you are an avid hunter, one of the most exciting challenges is tracking big game animals like deer and elk. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced hunter, mastering the art of tracking is essential for a successful hunt. In this article, we will provide you with valuable tips and techniques to enhance your tracking skills and increase your chances of bagging that trophy animal. From understanding animal behavior to reading tracks and signs, we will cover everything you need to know to become a successful big game tracker. So, grab your gear and get ready to embark on an exhilarating hunting adventure!

Understanding the Behavior and Habits of Big Game Animals

Hunting big game animals like deer and elk requires a deep understanding of their behavior and habits. By familiarizing yourself with their feeding patterns, recognizing their bedding areas, and understanding their movement patterns, you can greatly increase your chances of a successful hunt.

Identifying feeding patterns

One of the key aspects of hunting big game animals is identifying their feeding patterns. These animals have specific times and locations where they feed, and by understanding these patterns, you can position yourself in the right place at the right time.

To identify their feeding patterns, it is important to observe their behavior during different times of the day. Big game animals often feed early in the morning and late in the afternoon or evening. Look for signs such as fresh tracks, droppings, or browse lines where they have been feeding on vegetation. By scouting the area and identifying their preferred food sources, you can narrow down potential feeding locations.

Recognizing bedding areas

Big game animals spend a significant amount of time resting and bedding down, especially during the heat of the day. Recognizing their bedding areas is crucial for hunting success.

Look for areas with thick vegetation, such as dense brush or tall grass, where these animals can find cover and feel secure. Bedding areas are often located in close proximity to their feeding areas, as they prefer to rest nearby after feeding. Pay attention to signs such as flattened grass or leaves, as well as the presence of droppings or tracks, which indicate recent activity.

Understanding movement patterns

Understanding the movement patterns of big game animals is essential for effectively tracking and hunting them. These animals have specific routes and trails they follow, which can provide valuable insights into their behavior.

To understand their movement patterns, study the terrain and the natural features of the area. Look for natural funnels, such as narrow valleys or pinch points, where these animals are likely to pass through. Additionally, consider the influence of factors like water sources or seasonal changes on their movement.

By setting up trail cameras or spending time scouting the area, you can gather valuable information about their movement patterns. This knowledge will enable you to strategically position yourself along their routes and increase your chances of encountering them during your hunt.

Remember, understanding the behavior and habits of big game animals takes time and patience. By investing effort into studying their feeding patterns, recognizing their bedding areas, and understanding their movement patterns, you can become a more effective and successful hunter.

Choosing the Right Hunting Equipment

When it comes to tracking big game animals like deer and elk, having the right hunting equipment is crucial for a successful hunt. Here are some important factors to consider when selecting your hunting gear:

Selecting the right firearm or bow

The choice between a firearm or a bow largely depends on your personal preference and skill level. Both options have their own advantages, so it’s important to choose the one that you feel comfortable and proficient with. If you opt for a firearm, consider factors such as caliber, action type, and overall weight. On the other hand, if you prefer a bow, factors like draw weight, axle-to-axle length, and let-off should be taken into account.

Optimal ammunition and arrows

Once you’ve chosen your weapon of choice, it’s essential to select the right ammunition or arrows to maximize your chances of a successful hunt. For firearms, consider the specific characteristics of the game animal you’re targeting, such as its size and typical range. This will help determine the appropriate caliber and bullet type for optimal accuracy and stopping power. When it comes to bows, choosing the right arrows is equally important. Factors like arrow length, spine consistency, and broadhead type should be considered to ensure proper penetration and an ethical kill.

Essential hunting gear

In addition to your weapon and ammunition/arrows, there are several other essential pieces of hunting gear that you should have with you in the field. These include:

  • Camo clothing: Wearing camouflage clothing that matches the natural surroundings can help you blend in, making it easier to get closer to your target animal without being detected.

  • Proper footwear: Opt for sturdy and comfortable boots that provide good ankle support. This is especially important when traversing rough and uneven terrains during your pursuit.

  • Binoculars: A high-quality pair of binoculars is essential for spotting game animals from a distance. Look for models with good magnification and lens clarity to ensure clear and detailed views.

  • Hunting knife: A sharp and reliable hunting knife is a must-have tool for field dressing and processing game animals after a successful hunt.

  • Backpack: Choose a durable and spacious backpack to carry all your hunting essentials, including water, snacks, first aid kit, and any additional gear you may need.

Remember, selecting the right hunting equipment is not only important for your success as a hunter but also for the ethical and responsible pursuit of big game animals. Take your time to research and invest in quality gear that meets your specific needs and enhances your overall hunting experience.

Mastering Tracking Techniques

Hunting big game animals like deer and elk requires mastering tracking techniques to increase your chances of a successful hunt. By understanding how to read animal tracks, scout for signs of recent activity, and effectively use trail cameras, you can become a skilled tracker and significantly improve your hunting skills.

Reading Animal Tracks

One of the essential skills in tracking big game animals is the ability to read their tracks. Animal tracks can provide valuable information about the size, species, and behavior of the animal you are pursuing. Here are some key tips for reading animal tracks:

  • Identify the animal: Different animals leave distinct tracks, so it’s crucial to learn how to differentiate between deer, elk, and other game species. Study their footprints’ characteristics, such as the shape, size, and number of toes, to identify the animal accurately.

  • Analyze the gait pattern: Understanding the gait pattern of the animal can give you insights into its behavior and speed. Pay attention to the spacing between tracks, stride length, and the depth of the imprints to determine if the animal was walking, running, or grazing.

  • Observe track freshness: Fresh tracks indicate recent activity, increasing your chances of finding the animal nearby. Look for signs of disturbance in the tracks, such as debris or leaves covering them, to determine how recently the animal passed through the area.

Scouting for Signs of Recent Activity

Apart from analyzing animal tracks, scouting for signs of recent activity is another crucial aspect of tracking big game animals. Here are some tips to help you scout effectively:

  • Look for rubs and scrapes: Deer and elk often mark their territory by rubbing their antlers against trees or making scrapes on the ground. These signs indicate the presence of animals and can guide you to potential hunting spots.

  • Search for droppings: Animal droppings are an excellent indicator of their recent activity. Fresh droppings suggest that the animal is nearby, while older ones may indicate a regular feeding or bedding area.

  • Pay attention to feeding areas: Big game animals typically have preferred feeding areas, such as open fields or patches of vegetation. Look for signs of grazing, trampled vegetation, or browse lines to identify these locations and increase the likelihood of spotting the animals.

Using Trail Cameras Effectively

Trail cameras are valuable tools for tracking big game animals as they allow you to monitor their movements and behavior without disturbing them. Here are some tips for using trail cameras effectively:

  • Choose strategic locations: Set up your trail cameras in areas where you have observed tracks, signs of recent activity, or near feeding and bedding areas. Placing them along game trails or near water sources can also yield promising results.

  • Ensure proper positioning: Position your trail cameras correctly to capture the best footage. Mount them at the appropriate height and angle, ensuring they are not obstructed by vegetation. Adjust the camera’s sensitivity and trigger speed according to the animal’s size and speed to avoid missing any crucial moments.

  • Regularly check and analyze footage: Make it a habit to check your trail cameras regularly and analyze the footage. Look for patterns in the animals’ movements, feeding times, or preferred routes. This information can help you plan your hunting strategy more effectively.

By mastering these tracking techniques, including reading animal tracks, scouting for signs of recent activity, and using trail cameras effectively, you can greatly enhance your hunting skills and increase your chances of a successful big game hunt.

Planning a Successful Hunt

Identifying suitable hunting locations

When it comes to tracking big game animals like deer and elk, one of the key factors to consider is the location of your hunt. It’s important to identify suitable hunting locations that are known to have a high population of these animals. Start by researching popular hunting areas or speaking with local hunters who are familiar with the area. Look for areas with a diverse range of habitats, such as forests, meadows, and water sources, as these are likely to attract deer and elk.

Optimal time of day for hunting

Another crucial aspect of planning a successful hunt is determining the optimal time of day to go out. Deer and elk are most active during the early morning and late evening hours, also known as their feeding times. This is when they are more likely to forage for food and move around, increasing your chances of spotting them. Plan your hunting trips accordingly, making sure to arrive at your chosen hunting location well before sunrise or a few hours before sunset to set up and get into position.

Weather conditions and how they affect hunting

Weather conditions play a significant role in the success of your hunt. Different weather patterns can impact animal behavior and movement. For example, during hot and dry weather, deer and elk may seek shade and water sources, making these areas prime hunting spots. On the other hand, during colder temperatures, they may be more active and move around to keep warm. Pay attention to weather forecasts and plan your hunting trips accordingly. Additionally, consider how wind direction can affect your scent, as animals have a keen sense of smell and can detect human presence. Choose hunting locations that offer favorable wind conditions, such as areas with crosswinds or areas where prevailing winds blow away from your position.

By considering these factors while planning your hunt, you increase your chances of a successful and rewarding experience. Identifying suitable hunting locations, hunting during optimal times of the day, and being mindful of weather conditions will help you track big game animals like deer and elk more effectively.

Using Calls and Scents to Attract Big Game Animals

Hunting big game animals like deer and elk requires not only skill and patience but also the right techniques to attract them. One effective approach is using calls and scents to lure these majestic creatures. By understanding the types of calls and scents available, as well as employing effective strategies, hunters can significantly increase their chances of a successful hunt.

Types of Calls and Their Usage

Calls play a crucial role in attracting big game animals. There are various types of calls available, each imitating different sounds that these animals make. Understanding the purpose and usage of these calls is essential for a successful hunting experience.

  1. Grunt Calls: Grunt calls imitate the vocalizations made by deer and elk during different situations, such as mating or communication with their herd. Hunters can use grunt calls to pique the curiosity of these animals or to lure in dominant males during the rutting season.

  2. Bleat Calls: Bleat calls replicate the high-pitched distress sounds made by female deer or elk. These calls can be particularly useful when trying to attract males during the mating season or when hunting in areas with high populations of these animals.

  3. Bugle Calls: Bugle calls are primarily used for attracting elk. These calls mimic the bugling sound made by male elk to establish dominance and communicate with other elk in the area. Bugle calls can be effective in attracting both bulls and cows during the rutting season.

Choosing the Right Scent Attractants

Alongside calls, scents can be powerful tools for attracting big game animals. The right scent attractants can help hunters create a realistic and enticing environment for their target animals. Consider the following factors when choosing scent attractants:

  1. Natural Scents: Natural scents such as doe urine or buck urine can be highly effective in attracting deer and elk. These scents replicate the natural pheromones emitted by these animals during different stages of their mating cycle. Using natural scents can increase the chances of luring in curious or dominant animals.

  2. Food Scents: Food scents, such as acorn or apple, can be used to create an irresistible allure for big game animals. These scents mimic the aroma of their natural food sources, drawing them into the hunting area. Using food scents strategically can help attract animals that are searching for their next meal.

  3. Cover Scents: Cover scents are used to mask human odor and create a more natural hunting environment. Scents like pine or cedar can help hunters blend into their surroundings and reduce the chances of being detected by sensitive noses. Using cover scents in conjunction with attractant scents can help create a more convincing and enticing hunting setup.

Strategies for Using Calls and Scents Effectively

To maximize the effectiveness of calls and scents, hunters should employ specific strategies tailored to the behavior and preferences of big game animals. Here are a few strategies to consider:

  1. Timing: Understanding the timing of when certain calls or scents are most effective is crucial. For example, during the rutting season, bugle calls and doe urine scents can be highly successful in attracting elk. Matching the timing of your hunting techniques with the natural behavior of the animals can significantly increase your chances of success.

  2. Location: Choosing the right location to use calls and scents is essential. Researching the preferred habitats and travel patterns of the target animals can help hunters identify prime locations for attracting them. Placing scent attractants strategically along game trails or near bedding areas can increase the likelihood of drawing in big game animals.

  3. Patience and Moderation: Using calls and scents should be done with patience and moderation. Overusing calls or applying excessive amounts of attractant scents can lead to suspicion from the animals or alert them to the presence of hunters. Employing a balanced approach and observing the animals’ reactions can help determine the right timing and frequency for using calls and scents effectively.

By utilizing the right types of calls, selecting appropriate scent attractants, and implementing effective strategies, hunters can significantly enhance their chances of attracting big game animals like deer and elk. Remember, a successful hunt not only requires skill but also an understanding of the animals’ behavior and preferences.

Shot Placement and Ethical Hunting

Understanding vital organs and shot angles

One of the key factors in ethical hunting is understanding the vital organs of the animal you are targeting and the appropriate shot angles to ensure a quick and humane kill. By knowing where the vital organs are located, you can make a clean and efficient shot that minimizes suffering.

For big game animals like deer and elk, the vital organs are primarily located in the chest cavity. The heart and lungs are the main targets for a clean kill. When aiming for the heart, it is crucial to consider the angle of the shot.

Broadside shots, where the animal is standing perpendicular to you, offer the best chance of hitting the heart or lungs. Aim for the center of the chest, just behind the shoulder. This shot angle maximizes the chances of a quick and humane kill, as it targets the vital organs and avoids hitting non-lethal areas.

Avoid taking shots from extreme angles, such as directly facing the animal or shooting from behind. These angles increase the risk of hitting non-vital areas, resulting in a less effective shot and potentially prolonging the animal’s suffering.

Practicing ethical hunting practices

Ethical hunting goes beyond shot placement. It also involves following responsible hunting practices that respect the animal and the environment. Here are some ethical hunting practices to keep in mind:

  1. Know and follow local hunting regulations: Familiarize yourself with the hunting regulations specific to your area. This includes understanding hunting seasons, bag limits, and any special restrictions or requirements.

  2. Respect the animal and its habitat: Treat the animal with respect and gratitude for providing sustenance. Avoid wastefulness by utilizing as much of the animal as possible, including meat, hide, and antlers. Leave the environment as you found it, minimizing disturbances and practicing leave-no-trace principles.

  3. Practice proper firearm safety: Handle firearms responsibly by always keeping the muzzle pointed in a safe direction, keeping your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot, and treating every firearm as if it is loaded. Regularly practice shooting skills to ensure accuracy and proficiency.

  4. Practice ethical tracking: After making a shot, it is crucial to track the wounded animal diligently. Use blood trails, hoof prints, and other signs to follow the animal’s path. This ensures that you make every effort to recover the animal and minimize unnecessary suffering.

Ensuring a quick and humane kill

The ultimate goal of ethical hunting is to ensure a quick and humane kill. By following proper shot placement and ethical hunting practices, you can increase the likelihood of achieving this goal. Here are some additional tips to ensure a quick and humane kill:

  1. Choose appropriate ammunition: Select ammunition designed for big game hunting that delivers sufficient energy and penetration. This helps ensure a clean and effective shot.

  2. Practice marksmanship: Regularly practice shooting at various distances and positions to improve your marksmanship. This will increase your accuracy and confidence when it comes time to take a shot.

  3. Be patient and wait for the right opportunity: Avoid taking rushed or unethical shots. Patience is key in hunting. Wait for the animal to present a broadside shot or a clear and ethical opportunity before taking aim.

By combining knowledge of shot placement, practicing ethical hunting practices, and prioritizing a quick and humane kill, you can become a responsible and ethical hunter, contributing to the conservation and preservation of big game animals like deer and elk.

In conclusion, mastering the art of tracking big game animals like deer and elk is essential for successful animal hunting. By understanding their behaviors, habitats, and tracks, hunters can increase their chances of locating and ultimately harvesting their desired game. It is important to continuously improve tracking skills through practical experience, observation, and research. Furthermore, hunters should always prioritize ethical hunting practices and respect the wildlife and their natural environments. With dedication, patience, and a comprehensive knowledge of animal behavior, hunters can enhance their hunting experiences and contribute to the conservation of these magnificent creatures.