October 26, 2017
1,000 Draws
October 26, 2017

Sleeping with Elk

If I am bivy hunting for elk, where should I sleep? That question comes up quite frequently from bivy hunters that find themselves in close proximity to elk when darkness falls. Should you sleep in the bottom of the canyon or on the top of the ridge?

In my experience elk are usually lower on the hill in the evening, feeding on the lush forbes and grasses of the creek meadows. This is also where they can obtain water with relative ease. When dawn breaks, they usually start moving higher on the hill to bed about 1/3 of the way down from the top of the ridge, wherever they can find a bench and some timber.

As we know, it is common for the thermals to be going down in the early morning. So the elk are moving up the hill with the wind in their face. This is the problem with sleeping higher than the elk on the hill. Yes, they will be moving in your direction, but they will probably catch your wind. When the tops of the hills catch the first rays of sunlight, the air begins to warm up and therefore, it rises. That rising warm air is replaced by colder air, creating an upward thermal around 8:30 a.m.

You might think with the beginning downward thermals, you would need to sleep in the bottoms with the elk and then follow them as they go up and stay out of their wind. The problem is, the elk move way faster than a human up the mountain and by the time you catch them in their staging area, the thermals have usually switched. Now you have hiked all that way, just to get winded on your final approach.

Thermals normally travel up and down a mountain, they usually do not sidehill. Because of this, I sleep way off to the side of the elk. I sleep just below that upper third. I let the elk come to my level and then I come in from the side. It seems to be much easier to call bulls in when you are on their level. The cows usually feed before going to bed for the day. This is a very vulnerable time for the herd bull. He usually does round up bugles all the way up the mountain, so you can stay with the level of the herd. When those round up bugles change to tending bugles or bull calling cow bugles, you will know they have reached their bedding area and the herd bull is trying to put his ladies to bed with him for the day. That is when you move in from the side and get as close as you can to the cows. When you are within 50 to 100 yards of the cows, its time for you to speak inappropriately to the ladies. Give him one Bull Calling Cows bugle and be ready for him to hunt you.

Stay on the sidelines until the situation is right. Come in at the elk’s level from the side and you will find more bulls in your face. To hear more on elk strategies, visit my website,

Decide to Succeed,

Joel Turner

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