For my first scouting trip of the season, my goal was to investigate the 3 areas I had previously identified, set trail cameras, establish mineral sites, and start learning as much as I can about these areas to try to identify potential hunting hot spots. With it getting light at 5:30am, and a two-hour walk ahead of me, I left the trailhead at home at 3:00am to get me on the mountain early and to give me plenty of time to soak it all in.
Because we are allowed to use attractants for deer and elk in Utah, attractants at trail camera sites are a great scouting tool. Early in the year, Elk will often spend hours each day at a day good mineral site and if you are in prime-elk areas, this makes for more and better pictures of the elk and helps to size up and concentrate the quality and quantity of the elk herd in the area.
While there are lots of good mineral products available, what is most important during this time of the year is that you use one with a high sodium content and one that is rich in all of the trace minerals that elk need to help with bull antler growth as well as for cow milk production for their calves. The Elk will use a good mineral site almost daily in the spring and early summer and a regularly maintained mineral site will continue to produce exceptional results until the antlers have stopped growing in the bulls or until milk production ceases in cows. After that, mineral site visits will become less frequent but Elk will still visit them if they are consistently refreshed. Because this transition usually happens around the start of our hunting season, it is very important to keep the sites regularly stocked with mineral to encourage their continued use. I will be refreshing my mineral sites every 2 weeks or so (usually at the same time I return to check my cameras) up to the start of the hunt.
I prefer the granular attractants vs. blocks for a few reasons:
1. Granular attractants are often available in easy-to-carry bags, making them easy for packing into the backcountry.
2. Granular attractants, once applied, are invisible to other hunters. This helps to keep competitive hunting pressure down from established areas.
3. I believe that granular attractants are more natural, they quickly get into the soil, more resembling what animals find in nature.
This year, I will be trying an attractant called Antler Builder by Nutra Deer. Nutra Deer is a premium deer attractant that is rich in sodium and all of the natural trace minerals that Elk are craving during this time of the year. These attractants have all been independently tested and have received the Dr. Deer Gold Seal of Approval by Dr. James Kroll, one of the most respected experts in the field of Forest Wildlife Management.
In picking a trail camera, I like to use cameras that are compact, lightweight, and have a quick sensor time. This year, we are excited to use the Stealth Cam GX Wireless, with 3G cellular connectivity. In areas with a decent 3G cellular signal, this camera will send me regular photos as they happen, saving me from having to return as frequently to check the camera. With my trail cameras, I insist on using only lithium batteries in my cameras. Alkaline batteries quit working below freezing, are heavy, and drain quickly in trail cameras. Lithium Batteries work great in both hot and freezing temperatures, last much longer, and weigh a fraction of what their alkaline counterparts do. Even though Lithium batteries cost significantly more than alkaline, I would rather pay a small premium to ensure that my cameras deliver as expected.
As I arrived at the locations I previously identified on the maps, initially I wasn’t finding the sign I was looking for. After a few hours of wandering through the area, I was able to find concentrations of tracks and sign, along with the fresh smell of elk along a couple well-worn game trails. It is here that I will put up my cameras and create a mineral site.
Now that the sites are established, and cameras set, the waiting game begins to see what success we have on the cameras. As I check the cameras, I will post photos and provide updates as to what materializes.