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Ask the Wild Guy

by George Visger, "The Wild Guy"

Over the years I have spoken to many new members while big game hunting. Some were not entirely pleased with the amount of game sighted on the ranches. Even while I was enjoying daily stalks on game, they assured me there were not any animals on the ranch.

I remember my early years in the club, learning the properties. I spent many a day, hitting ranch after ranch and covering as much ground as I possibly could. I expended much more energy, saw less game, and was much less successful than I am today. Am I just luckier? I think not, but I have learned to use my head (what the NFL has left), more than my legs. To consistently be successful hunting big game, take time to study the species you’re pursuing. Below are a few generalized tips on finding those sweet spots while big game hunting. These are universal tips which can be utilized while hunting any property, whether W.U., public, in-state or out of state. They focus on all species needs for survival; Food, Water & Cover. Though the vast majority of my hunts have been archery, these tips will work with any method you choose.

  • Before entering a property, take time to study the maps in the W.U. property booklet. Some maps are very rudimentary hand drawn maps, while other property sheets offer topo maps; all offer important information on where to start your hunt.
  • Animals, including humans, can survive for weeks without food, but only days without water. When hunting big game, especially during the early archery season, find water sources. Higher elevations will generally be moister than lower slopes. Exceptions are drainages, springs or seeps.
  • North and east facing slopes will generally have the best feeding and bedding areas. Due to our latitude, the sun’s path is always south of us. If you are not inclined to carry a compass, your shadow will always originate from your feet on your north side. (Pointing NE, N, NW etc.)
  • Hunt water and feeding areas early and late in the day. If you hunt bedding areas, focus your efforts here during mid-day. I am inclined to stay out of these areas till the very end of the season. Once blown from their protective cover, some species may not return for weeks.
  • I have successfully hunted bedding areas by very slowly stillhunting and glassing for antler tips, twitching ears or listening for the occasional grunt from hogs or mews from elk. If you do bump a vocal animal (ex. hogs, elk), light calling can settle them down immediately. I have successfully killed elk with my bow, that I had bumped in thick bedding cover mid-day, by lightly cow calling them back in.
  • Hunt undisturbed animals. Study your map to find remote areas which have all 3 requirements for a species survival. Get off the road and hike into canyons no one has been to that season.
  • Food sources and species needs change during the seasons. The most nutritious feed will attract the most critters. Antlered animals will feed more during antler growth (velvet) and caloric requirements increase as the weather gets colder (later in the season).
  • During the early part of the season when temperatures are hot, many species lay low till the last few minutes of daylight and then feed well into the night. Take a headlamp and don’t waste the best part of the day hiking back to your truck to beat nightfall.
  • If hunting new areas, study your maps before going out. Get a mental picture of where you are in relationship to camp, truck etc. If you are like me, with short-term memory issues, take a notebook and scratch notes and make drawings. (I realize most of you have GPS units, but I am still old-school, or primitive as my wife calls me).
  • As with any club, area, forest or zone, some areas or properties will historically be better than others. Keep in mind W.U. tracks success per ranch and will not waste lease dollars on non-productive ranches. Take time to study the critter you are pursuing, learn its likes and needs and I guarantee you will see your success rate increase. Good Luck!

Ask the Wild Guy

George Visger aka “The Wild Guy” is an original Wilderness Unlimited member and now also serves as Principal Wildlife and Habitat Coordinator for the Wilderness Unlimited Foundation. The “Ask The Wild Guy” column is based on George’s outdoors experiences, presented in a light manner intending on illustrating the use of strategies to help members with their outdoor success. He has been a Wildlife Biologist for 20 years including several years owning his own environmental consulting firms, Visger & Associates and The Ranchers Group, where he specializes in wildlife management plans, habitat management plans, grazing plans, threatened and endangered species, habitat restoration, water quality and quantity improvements and storm water management.

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