E-scouting for Elk With Randy Newberg: Episode 10

Your post-rut plan.

Whether the stars didn’t align for your early season hunts, or your tag is only good for post-rut, this video will help you plan everything from finding a camping spot to pinpointing a sanctuary. Follow along to start planning for the hardest time of year to find elk. Your post-rut hunting plan starts and ends here.

Video Transcription:

Hey, folks. Last video, you saw us doing a pre-rut plan in New Mexico unit 16A. Right here, on my onX system, you can see over here is where we did that pre-rut plan. Well, same unit. Here I am, way over in a different part of the unit is where I’m going to do my post-rut plan. There’s some reasons for that. We’ll go through them real quickly, but before we do, go to onxmaps.com/hunt and use promo code RANDY, and they’re going to give you 20% off this app product. So, the reason that we decided to do a pre-rut hunt and a post-rut hunt plan is because we wanted to show you that you’re hunting different areas, significantly different areas, just in the span of six weeks, because the elk have went … The bull elk have went from being in a pre-rut breeding mode to a post-rut sanctuary mode.

This season in New Mexico is only five days long. It’s the last rifle season. They’ve already had two archery seasons. There’s been an early rifle season. There’s been all kinds of activity out on this unit. This is the last rifle season. The elk know the gig. The old, mature bull elk on public land have said, “You know what? I’ve seen how this story ends. I’m going somewhere and I’m just going to hang out.” By the time you get to late October, they may start coming back into their bachelor groups. So, don’t think you’re going to be looking for big herds of elk in a post-rut period. Yeah, the cows and stuff might be in bigger herds. Your bulls are going to be singles. Maybe there’ll be two, maybe there’ll be three, but they won’t be in these larger bachelor groups of five, six, seven, eight bulls like you’ll see in November.

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So, what you’re looking for is the places where sanctuary, their primary need, can be satisfied most easily, and then you’re looking for which of those sanctuaries … Because you’re going to look at your map. You’re going to find tons of sanctuaries on onX and you’re going to be like, whoa, which sanctuary is the one I should hunt, or sanctuaries are the ones that I should hunt? Well, then you start taking each of them and you look at all right, what are the secondary needs? Food and water. Which ones have food and water nearby where the elk can leave the sanctuary, go get food, go get water with the least amount of travel, least amount of risk, and least amount of exposure to hunters. If there’s one thing I really want to emphasize, it’s that in a post-rut plan, the elk are in very small areas. You saw in our pre-rut plan we didn’t really worry about spots on the spot or anything else, because elk are … They’re very transient, very mobile. They’re moving across the landscape in September.

So, it’s not like I’m going to get some place and just glass. I’m going to be moving because the elk are moving. Well, now in this post-rut plan, the elk have went into their sanctuaries. They’re only moving a few hundred yards a day if they can possibly get by with it. The less they have to move, the more they like it. So, this is a plan, a strategy that requires a lot of glassing. When you’re looking for sanctuary, think about the roadless layer. onX makes it so easy. I mean, look at that. All of a sudden, there’s purple areas. Purple areas with some white. Well, right here, this green line is my boundary, so I can’t go hunt any of this wilderness stuff down here, but if I didn’t have all these waypoints here, you’d see there’s a bunch of purple here. There’s a bunch of purple here. There’s a bunch of purple here. There’s a bunch of purple up here.

So, the very first thing I’ve done is said where are the areas with the fewest roads, because that is where elk are going to be in a sanctuary situation. I know what my secondary needs are in this season. I’ve identified general areas that are going to have sanctuaries. My secondary needs are water and food, or maybe food and water. It just depends. In a place like New Mexico, sometimes it’s water then food. So, what I did … You see a bunch of these waypoint markers on here. onX, when you go, you just say I’m going to add a waypoint, and it pops up. Here, I’m going to slide it up here so you can see it. It gives you all kinds of different types. There’s one down here that says water source.

If you saw me building this plan to start with, you’d see me going through to every water source that I can find on the map and I marked them all. The thing to think about in just about every western state is that if there’s a road that goes in somewhere and dead ends, just about always, that road was put in there by whoever is the rancher who has the cattle allotment, and they just about always dead end at a water source. Either a natural spring, a dirt tank, or maybe a manmade tank. So, when you’re looking for water sources, you can use all the blue dots that you see on your onX layers. Those will tell you where water sources are. But then you get in a few of these that are a little bit more obscure and you’re like, well, okay, I see there’s this little spur road that dead ends. Does that go up to water? Oh yeah, right there. Big waterhole

So, I’ve already went through this process. I’ve identified every waterhole in these three general sanctuary areas that I’m going to be looking at. So, with that, I’ve got this spot, I’ve got this spot, and I’ve got this spot. Which one of these three areas has the best sanctuary with the best food and water nearby? Now, I’m going to go to my map layers, and again, I’m going turn on another layer, because when I’m looking for food, I’m looking for timber cuts and I’m looking for canopy disruptions caused by fire. When I do that, I see a lot of fire areas, but wow, a lot of this is way out in that heavily roaded stuff, that flat land country. No fires up here. There’s been a little bit of fire up in here. Yeah, that might have some, but man, there’s this main county road going right next to that, and there’s all these other roads going in there.

You know what, as I’m looking at this, instantly, what it tells me is I’ve got a 2007 fire back here in this spot. This was the core area of my roadless part. I’ve got the best food around through this burn, even though this burn is now over 10 years old. When you look at the whole landscape, it’s still going to have the best food. Look at all my water sources around here. That’s looking really good. So, I’m probably going to treat this as area A. Then, over here, I’ve kind of got to decide between this area and this area. Which is going to be area B? I told you they got that county road that runs right here, and there’s all kinds of little spur roads going up in there. That doesn’t excite me very much. It’s okay, but dang. But over here, look at this spot. This is a pretty big chunk of roadless area. Neither of them are real close to a burn or anything, but this spot right here, look at that. Got a lot of water nearby.

Even though there aren’t any recent burns there, they’re going to find a place to make a living during this tough hunting pressure period of the post-rut. This spot’s probably going to be my, what I call area B. If things go snare wire, all right, I’m going to go up here and do some planning in area C, but this is kind of my fallback area. I know there’s all these roads coming from the south, coming from the north. There’s a county road that comes this way. Even though there’s some sanctuary there, this area’s probably going to get the most hunting pressure. Area A, area B, area C. I’m sure some of you are wondering, well, Randy, how did you identify these as sanctuaries? Well, as strictly topo lines and distance, right. I used the roadless layer, I marked where the trail heads are. So, I know I want to be away from these trail heads.

Sanctuaries are going to be defined by these topo lines, or maybe burns with a bunch of blow down. Just kind of terrain and habitat that people don’t want to walk through or walk up and down. So, you’ll see most of these places I’m looking have some canyons, have some steep faces. Those are what are going to create sanctuaries, which gets you to the next question of, well, how far form a sanctuary will you set up to glass? That depends. Right here, my scale tells me that if I go to this sanctuary or this glassing spot, which is my number one spot, and I’m going to glass over here and I’m going to glass out in here. I might be glassing as far as a mile away. Usually, in places when I’ve got it dialed in this tight, I’m trying to cover three sanctuaries within under a mile. If I can have none of them more than a half mile, that’s even better yet.

So, now what I’m going to do that I have kind of my general area A, area B, and area C, I’m going to go to each of those three areas and I’m really going to drill in. I’m going to start doing some serious planning. I’m going to get all that done, then I’m going to move to area B, get all that done, move to area C, get all that done. So, for the sake of this video of just being quick, I’m going to show you how I do it in area A. One of the very first considerations I have to take into account is where I’m going to camp. Am I going to bivy camp? Am I going to base camp? What am I going to do? Well, when I have areas that are pretty far apart of a general area A and a general area B and C, I want to camp some place where I can hedge my bet and be to either of them within 20, 30-minute drive.

So, what I’ve done is I’ve decided I’m going to camp right here. Again, these waypoints with onX … You can see this one is a tent. I’m going to camp right, probably, a little bit closer to area A, but not too far from area B. So, that way, in my plan of how I’m going to execute it that I talk about in the next video, I’m pretty close. I’m not going to have to drive a long ways in either situation, and the reason I know that I’m going to camp here is one, there’s a little spur road that dead ends there, and I’ve camped there before. So, I know it’s a good camp spot. But when I picked it before, the reason I picked it was I knew there’s a dead end spur road there. When I put my topo lines on there, it was like, wow, this is a really flat area. So, I wasn’t having to deal with all the other stuff.

If I’m going to do a bigger base camp setting, I want a flatter spot. So, I’m camping there, and the reason I’m camping there is because it’s in close proximity to my two best areas. With that taken care of, with my camp selection already made, my two top areas, I told you I’m going to go to area A, and I’m going to start building my spots on the spot. So, for me, the very first thing I do in this process, after I marked all the water, before I put these other waypoints in here, you’ll see that there are four vehicle markers right here. It says truck. That’s what this waypoint stands for with the vehicle. I know that someone can probably drive to there, I know someone can probably drive to there. I’m just doing this based on open roads, all right. Someone can probably drive to there and come in here. So, I got one, two, three, four.

That tells me the greatest amount of hunting pressure is probably going to come from these spots in here. If I know the hunting pressure is going to most likely come from here, or here, or here, or here, that tells me that if the hunting pressure is in this arc, the elk are going to have a tendency to move this way in response to that hunting pressure. These elk know where the sanctuaries are. Remember when I say that sanctuaries are a function of topography and distance? So, the distance part of it says all right, all things being equal, what’s the furthest place in my area from these four spots? Well, it’s somewhere over in here, most likely, all right. What’s the topography like? Wow, look, this is some extreme country. When you see topo lines stacked that tight, those are sanctuary locations.

What did I say? I wanted sanctuary locations with water and food nearby. Well, right here, this burn is a great big burn. So, there’s going to be food there. Well, remember in the burn video I said I liked hunting the fringes and the little pockets and corners? Well, there’s a burn that burnt down this ridge and really made this weird little spot. It also happens to be the furthest from all of these locations, all these parking trail heads. So, over here is really looking good, because all that elk needs to do to get water is drop down here about a mile and a half, or come over here about two miles. He’s got water. There’s tons of steep, ugly, nasty sanctuary stuff in here. There’s food up here in the burn. I think I found my first spot on the spot, and you’ll see here I’ve just marked them as general waypoints there and there and there and there and there.

So, I’ve come up with what I think are five spots on the spot in this area. I want to give myself options based on when, both in terms of which trail head I hike in from and which place I set up to glass from, because I don’t want to walk into someplace, set up to glass, but then have the wind at my back. I’m going to take into account can I glass multiple spots, multiple little sanctuaries from one location? So, if I get to this spot, I’m like, wow, this ridge has burned. I can glass that hole down there. Maybe I only got to walk a little ways and I can glass down in this hole and this ridge, and I can glass these steep faces up above me. From that spot, I can cover three really good sanctuary areas, and they’re all kind of different sanctuary areas. So, this one’s more of a canyon type setting. This one over here is more of another finger ridge with timber setting. This one up here is kind of a burn face.

What I’m doing here is I’m trying to determine what’s my number one spot on the spot. I’ve already taken general areas and decided which is the best. Now, within that general area, what are the best? Well, I’ve said I think that one is the best. What’s number two? Well, number two, I also need to be thinking in some of these spots of where’s the hunting pressure going to come from. Well, I think hunting pressure’s going to push off more this way, so my number two is going to be somewhere over here. I also want to make sure that I have some spots that are morning spots and afternoon spots. We’ll get into that in the next video in more detail, but I want to have spots that I can glass based on the sun at my back in the morning and the sun at my back in the evening, because those are going to be opposite.

I want areas where, if at all possible, I can glass more north, because a lot of people ask me well, how do you pick your glassing spots? Well, I like to glass more north, so that way, whether I’m glassing north and east, northeast, or west, northwest, I got about 120 degree cone here, 150 degree cone, where I pretty much have the sun at my back, whether it’s morning or evening. Now, there’s sometimes you just have to set it up where okay, I got to glass straight west, or straight east, whatever it might be. But for me, I prefer to have spots where I can glass mostly north. That way, if there’s a slope that goes this way and the sun’s coming up, the sun will light up this slope earliest, so I’m going to be glassing that one right at daylight. This slope over here is shaded, so as the sun comes up and lights up this slope, I’ll switch my glassing more over to this slope that is to my northeast, because it’s still in the shade and the animals might stay out a little further.

If possible, each of these sanctuaries that I’m going to be glassing, I hope have a slightly different characteristic. They’re either closer to food or they’re a slightly higher elevation, or they’re a burned ridge, or they’re a timbered ridge, or they’re a canyon, because over the course of my plan in the five days of hunting, I’m going to see certain patterns. Wow, they’re always down in canyons, or all the sign is crossing these burned ridges, or wow, there’s not much hunting pressure. They’re more comfortable up on the edge of these burns. So, I’m trying to look at as many different habitat types in this little area as I can from one location. So, now that I’ve done this in area A, I’m going to go repeat the process over here in area B, and then I’m going to go repeat the process over here in area C. When I’m done, I’m going to have anywhere between … I don’t know.

I got five sanctuary spots marked here. I might have four or five here and another four or five here. I might have 10 to 15 sanctuary spots marked on my planning map before I head to the field. The idea is now I’ve done my homework. I’ve really given myself a good opportunity … Not a guarantee, but a really good opportunity that these places I’m looking will hold elk. Now, when I get out in the field and I start hunting these places, I have to read, I have to adapt, I have to interpret what I’m seeing and modify my plan and my strategies accordingly and still use this plan as sort of my foundation for finding elk. We’re going to do another video about how to execute a post-rut plan.

We didn’t do that with the pre-rut plan, because I covered it mostly in that video, and the pre-rut plan is more of a general move across the landscape because the elk are very mobile, and they’re moving a lot. You don’t want to just plant your stake in the ground and be there, whereas over here in a post-rut plan, they are not moving a lot, so you have to have a little more precise, day by day, morning, afternoon strategy. Next video, we’re going to cover how do you execute this post-rut plan. Thanks for watching.

Written by Cavan Williams