E-scouting for Elk With Randy Newberg: Episode 6

Boundaries: a different kind of sanctuary.

As hunters, we usually try and stay clear of most boundaries. We prefer not to worry about keeping track of imaginary property lines, or accidentally stepping onto the wrong piece of land, but elk will find sanctuary in these areas for that exact reason. In this week’s episode of E-Scouting for Elk with Randy Newberg, Randy goes through why you should rethink targeting boundaries and what kind of boundaries you should think about. Follow along and learn more about why you should look to the edges of your favorite hunting units.

Private and public land boundaries
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Video Transcription:

Hey, folks. Thanks for tuning in to another video in this E-Scouting for Elk series with the whole idea that, when we’re all done, we’re going to show you how we’ve put together our plan to go and hunt an area we’ve never been to. In these videos, we’ve been talking about all kinds of important things. We’ve given you the overview. We’ve talked about burns, we’ve talked about sanctuaries, canopy disruptions and edges, hunting pressure.

Well, in this one we’re going to talk about boundaries. Boundaries, as weird as this sounds, is really another form of sanctuary. Some of the videos that we’re doing in this series are really intensive in our use of the onX system. This one about boundaries is going to be one of those videos that is absolutely imperative that you have the onX system.

The good part is, for people who are viewing this, onX has a promo code to give you a really good deal. If you go to onxmaps.com/hunt and you use the promo code Randy, R-A-N-D-Y, they’re going to give you 20% off a purchase of what you see me using right here. With that, let’s get into a discussion of boundaries. It’s a discussion I almost don’t want to have, because it is one of the best arrows in my quiver.

You heard me say that boundaries are kind of like a sanctuary. Why are boundaries like a sanctuary? Hunters try to avoid boundaries, right? “Well, I don’t want to hunt right up near a public, private boundary, because if I shoot an elk and he jumps the fence, I got a problem” or “I’m not quite sure if the fence line is accurate” or blah, blah, blah.

Well, if you have your onX system, you know exactly where that boundary is, but there’s a lot of reasons why people don’t want to hunt boundaries. I hunt boundaries. There’s four types of boundaries that I hunt. There’s the normal what we think of as a public, private boundary. Private on the onX system, on every surface map you’ll ever see, private is just about always white. Then, the public lands that we can hunt are usually yellow, BLM, green, forest service. In most states, the light powder blue colored state lands might be some of these in rural private lands. Montana has Block Management program, Wyoming has Hunter Management Areas. Kansas has walk-in hunting.

When I say public, private boundaries, what I’m talking about are places that are open to public hunting and places that are probably not open to public hunting or have very limited hunting pressure. Public, private, they’re really easy to identify on your onX system. There’s a couple things that make this public, private boundary really, really good. One, is most public hunters don’t want to mess with it. They just want to go some place where there’s big vast tracks of public land and, if they see an elk, they can go after it.

If this is the boundary right here over on this public side, there’s not a lot of pressure in this part of it. Then, over on the private side, say it’s outfitted, say it’s hunted carefully, those people are going to say, “Hey, don’t hunt right up next to that boundary. If you bump those elk, they’re going to go onto the public and they’re likely to get shot.”

Well, guess what? That kind of moves those elk to some place closer to the boundary. The private landowners, those private hunters, they treat that as a sanctuary area also. For some distance, it varies. It might be a half-mile on each side of the boundary. It might be a mile on each side of the boundary. Those elk feel unpressured. Because they don’t have the onX system like we do, they’re moving back and forth. Today, they’re over slightly on the public. Tomorrow, they’re way over into the private.

Hunting pressure or lack thereof is what creates a sanctuary, even though the topography, the distance, whatever may not create a traditional sanctuary, boundaries create sanctuaries. The other important boundary that I look at are unit boundaries. These could be places where the entire state is all unlimited entry. New Mexico, right? Everybody knows Unit 16s in the Gila are great elk units. There’s no secret I’m giving away there.

If you got right where the boundary of 16C and 16A come together, there’s little bands where people really aren’t hunting, because, “Well, I’ve got a tag that’s only good for 16C. I don’t want to glass elk over in 16A that I can’t go after” or “I don’t want to shoot one in 16C and he runs over to 16A.” As a general rule, hunting pressure is at the lowest in these boundary areas.

I know some people are like, “Well, I never really thought about that.” Yeah. It’s not a public, private boundary. It’s a public, public boundary, but it’s a unit that your tag is good for versus a unit your tag is not good for. This is a little secret in places I hunt where some is general hunting and some is limited-entry hunting, like Wyoming, Montana. There’s some of these units where it’s, “Alright, this is all limited-entry hunting.”

Well, a lot of the guys right here who don’t have the limited-entry tag, have just the general tag, man, they’re hammering that boundary, right? Well, I’m going to use that boundary factor as, “I’m not going to go hunt there.” The guy who didn’t draw the Elkhorn tag in Montana or the guy who didn’t draw the Missouri Breaks tag or the Eastern Montana tag, he might be hunting right up to that boundary on his general tag. I take that into account in my plan.

Most often, it’s the first example I talked about, where your tag is only good for unit whatever, so you don’t hunt near the boundary of the next unit or the unit to the north or to whatever. Those places along those boundaries create sanctuaries. Sanctuaries are the places where hunting pressure is low, so elk feel safe.

Another place where there are, quote/unquote, “boundary sanctuaries” are state boundaries. I know some people are going to kick me for saying this, but there’s places, if you hunt the Montana, Wyoming boundary, Montana, Idaho boundary, the Idaho and Nevada boundary, Colorado, New Mexico boundary, the Colorado, Wyoming boundary, there’s not a lot of hunting pressure right on those boundaries where the states meet.

You might only have a Colorado permit. You don’t want to see an elk over in Wyoming or the other way around. Trust me, these state boundaries are very much like these unit boundaries. There’s a band there that people avoid, therefore the hunting pressure’s lower and the elk densities are higher. The last of these four boundary areas that I’m going to talk about have to do with closed areas.

Now, closed areas, like right here, I’ve got my onX pulled up to Wyoming, well, what’s a really big closed area in Wyoming? Yellowstone National Park. There’s a lot of other closed areas. Think about Arizona, right? We did this on a hunt in Arizona, it’s completely acceptable. There’s this place in Arizona called the White Mountain Apache Indian Reservation, great elk hunting. Unbelievable elk hunting. Guess what? If you got the right tag, you can go and hunt right up next to that tribal boundary.

A lot of people don’t, because it’s like, “Man, I don’t want to have to deal with the headache of, if I shoot an elk, it goes over on the reservation.” I get that. That doesn’t mean to completely avoid it. Same with national parks. Same with other places that are closed to hunting. Those boundary areas become sanctuaries. Those elk don’t have the benefit of having the onX system that we have. They occasionally stroll off the reservation or they stroll out of the park or they leave this closed area.

The odds are you’re going to be one of the few hunters who have this tool that’s right here on your smartphone. You’re looking up and you’re like, “Well, that bull just came over onto public. I think I’m going to go shoot that bull.” You have no competition, because a lot of people don’t want to deal with that kind of tenuous situation. They don’t want to deal with the frustration of glassing over here and saying, “Oh, that elk is in a closed area. Darn it,” blah, blah, blah.

I accept the fact that maybe four out of five encounters I have, the elk’s going to be in the closed area, but that one time that the elk’s in the area I can hunt, that’s the opportunity I’m looking for. Finding these boundaries with all of the layers that the onX system has is so easy. Once you have your tag, don’t overlook boundary areas, whether they’re public, private boundaries, whether they’re unit boundaries, whether it’s boundaries between states or boundaries between the area you can hunt and closed area such as tribal lands, parks, other closed areas.

There you have it, folks. Boundaries are another form of sanctuary. I hunt boundaries all the time. It’s part of why I apply for places that have difficult access, because I have my onX tool to help me navigate that. Now I get to hunt these places with low hunting pressure that occur along these boundary areas. You really can’t employ that strategy unless you have the onX system. For those of you who are watching these videos, onX has a promo code to save you some money. Go to onxmaps.com/hunt. Use promo code Randy and this system right here will be yours for 20% off. Thanks for watching. Never overlook a boundary.

Written by Cavan Williams