What Do Elk Do When It Rains?


Fact checked by Steven Lines, lifelong Hunter, and Outdoorsman.

To be a successful hunter, you will need to operate in a range of weather conditions. Part of this is being able to predict how your prey will respond when the conditions change. So, what do elk do when it is raining?

In a light rain, the elk won’t be affected. In mild rain, they can become more active, particularly in the summer months. In heavy rain, though, they will bed down until it passes. After bedding down, they will be keen to head out and feed.

If you know how to approach the situation, you should have success hunting elk in the rain. Keep reading to learn more about how they respond to wet weather and how you can use this to your advantage.

How Elk Respond to the Rain

As the rain starts to come down, you will need to know how the elk will react. Typically, this will depend on how heavy the rain will be. Some of the possibilities include:

  • Mist/very light rain. This often won’t have any impact on their behavior.
  • Mild rain. In warmer months, this will cool the elk down. As a result, they might become more active. These are excellent conditions for hunting.
  • Heavy rain. Typically, they will want to take shelter. They will bed down until the worst of the storm passes. It’s unusual to see them moving too much at this time.

During this time, it can be challenging to find and hunt the elk. They won’t be moving around too much and will be deep in the woods. This can make it tough to track them. It’s best to wait until the rain is over and they head to feed. This will give you a better chance to land a shot.

It should be noted that the elk might be sensitive to changes in barometric pressure. Because of this, they will be able to detect when rain is coming before it arrives. As a result, they will often seek cover before the downpour begins. You can monitor changes in the barometric pressure when you are hunting. This will give you advanced notice of incoming rain.

What Elk Do After the Rain

The hunting will get better once the rain has eased. As the heavy rain stops, the elk will come out of the woods. They will be hungry and want to feed. Because of this, many hunters report that this is an ideal time to hunt elk. You should be able to get a great shot.

How Elk React to Snow

The elk will react to snow similarly to the way they respond to heavy rain. They will head into an area that offers some protection from the elements during heavy snow or blizzard. Once there, they will bed down. After the snowfall has subsided, the elk will be hungry. As a result, they will head out into open fields, trying to get food. If you can find where they are grazing, you will be able to get several good shots.

Tips For Hunting Elk in the Rain

When the rain is coming down, it can be a great time to get hunting. The rain can help conceal your scent, giving you less chance of being detected. Plus, fewer people will be around, so it’s less likely that another hunter will accidentally scare away the elk. Let’s look at some of the ways we can use this knowledge to our advantage.

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Finding Elk in the Rain

As the rain is coming down, it can limit visibility. But that doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to find elk during a downpour. The first thing to look for is signs of an active population. This can include:

  • Rubs on trees
  • Scat
  • Tracks
  • Signs of recent bedding activity

When trying to find where the elk are, it’s always a good idea to talk to more seasoned hunters. Alternatively, you can make some scouting trips before the hunt. Walk around the area and look for some signs of activity. It can pay to move off the beaten track. Elk will often avoid areas that have a strong human presence.

You should also use your ears to locate the elk population. Listen for bugling calls. This can give you a good idea of how far away the elk are. You can try imitating these calls to attract them to the area, though don’t expect much movement during heavy rain.

Once you have found an elk, you’ll need to stalk it a little to get into position to take a shot. In this case, the rain can be a good advantage. The noise of the rain hitting the leaves will help block the sensitive hearing of the elk. This can let you get closer than you normally would.

But you’ll still need to remember the basics of stalking. Move slowly. Use the trees for cover. Try to avoid breaking any sticks, which could give away your position. Even though the rain can help mask your scent, it’s still a good idea to try to stay downwind.

Identifying Feeding Areas

It’s often best to get into position around a feed area while it’s raining. During this time, the elk will be bedded down. But once the rain starts to clear, they will be hungry and want to move into a feed area. There are a few elements that make a feeding area attractive to elk, these are:

  • Large, open fields. This will make them feel comfortable, as they can see any predators coming.
  • Small trees. In particular, they are attracted to aspen and oak trees.
  • Close to a water source.

If you are looking at a map of the area, you’ll likely see a range of potential candidate sites. If you know where the elk population is, you’ll be able to find which feed site will be the most popular. There are a few signs that the elk are in the area. You can try looking for droppings and tracks.

It’s often easier to look at the trees. Many older elk will rub against them, leaving antler marks, particularly if they are in the rut. They do this as a way to attract a cow. They can also use this as a way to show their dominance over other elk.

Once you have found a good feeding area, you can get set up. Though it can be inconvenient, it’s best to do this while it’s still raining. This will let you wash away your tracks, making them harder to detect. When the elk come out to feed, you will be able to get a good shot.

As you are waiting for the elk to arrive, you should look at the feed area. Check out the corridors. This will let you know where they are coming from, so you can stay downwind. You can use this information to decide where you will stand, giving you the best chance of getting a shot.

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How Does Rain Affect Your Scent?

One of the biggest benefits of hunting in the rain is the ability to conceal your scent. On a warm summer day, your scent will waft through the air. The elk have a keen sense of smell. If they think that a hunter is coming, they will often run out of the area. However, when it is raining, the scent trail will condense, sinking to the ground.

However, it’s still important to take a few precautions. The scent trail that you do leave will be localized, but it will be more powerful. Because of this, you might want to spray yourself with a scent-eliminating spray before you leave the camp.

Preparing to Hunt in the Rain

The key to hunting in the rain is being prepared. Often, it will be best to try to eliminate excess gear. You don’t want to be slugging through the wet undergrowth with a heavy bag. Eliminate any electronic items that aren’t waterproof. If you do need to take them, put them into a Ziploc bag.

Next, you’ll want to make sure that you are wearing the right clothes. Waterproof jackets can often get heavy. So, it’s important to make sure that you wear something light and breathable beneath it. This will stop you from sweating too much. Make sure to wear waterproof boots. These will stop your feet from getting wet, which can cause blisters.

If you have been wet and cold, there is a chance of hypothermia. There are a few things that you should do once you get back to camp to avoid this. These are:

  • Change into warm clothes. If possible, take a warm shower.
  • Have a warm drink
  • Stay in a warm shelter for the night.

Tracking in the Rain

One of the biggest downsides of hunting for elk in the rain is the need to get a clean shot. Usually, the best place to aim will be the heart. If you hit the target area, it will be fatal. If you miss, there is a good chance that you have done enough damage to leave a big blood trail. Avoid taking any long-range shots. In the rain, it’s best to be a little patient, waiting to line up your shots properly.

If you don’t, you will need to try and track them in the rain. But the water will wash away the blood trail. If you have a tracking dog, this won’t be a problem. The rain will often help them, giving them a stronger scent trail that they can follow.

If you don’t have a dog, you’ll need to rely on your senses. If the ground is muddy, there should be a good set of tracks that you can follow. You might also need to rely on things like broken branches to see where they went. You should also rely on your ears, listening for the sound of the elk running through the underbrush.

You might also want to use a blood trail light. This is designed to light up the blood trail, making it easier to follow. Though these are often designed to work at night, they work just as well on a cloudy day.

Other Elements That Affect Elk Behavior

The humidity isn’t the only element that will determine the way that elk are behaving. Their movements will also be influenced by the temperature and the time of day it is. Let’s take a closer look at these factors and how you can use them to your advantage when hunting.

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How Do Elk React to Changes in Temperature?

Elk tend to be less active during the summer months. However, as the colder weather begins to move in, they will be more mobile. This is when activities like breeding and bugling will be most common. Because of this, most hunters will prefer to hunt during the cooler months.

The way that elk will act is determined by temperature. Because they are bigger animals, moving around during the hotter weather can make them feel uncomfortable. Instead, they will prefer to bed down in a shady area. Typically, they won’t move over a long distance during the summer months, opting to stay where it is cool. There are a few places where they tend to stay during the warmer months; these are:

  • Northern slopes. Once the sun has been up for a while, these areas will be in shadow. This makes them a lot cooler than the surrounding zones. You will be able to identify potential locations to look for elk by looking at a topographical map.
  • Eastern slopes. In the morning, these areas will still be in shadow. This can make them an attractive prospect for elk.
  • Watering holes.
  • Thickly wooded areas. These tend to have the most shade.

On the other hand, as the temperature begins to fall, the elk will get more active. They will often be prepared to move over wider areas. Also, the elk will tend to seek out cows during this period. This will lead to an increase in the amount of bugling they are making. As a result, they will be more susceptible to calls made by hunters, making it easier to attract elk to the area.

Best Time to Hunt For Elk

The time of day will determine the way that the elk are behaving. Often, the elk will be most active during the mornings and early evenings. Generally, during the middle of the day, they won’t move around at night. At night, they will bed down. Because of this, most hunters will have the most success early in the morning.

Elk are most active during the rut. In this case, the bulls will keep the herd moving. This is designed to stop other bulls from stealing their cows. During this time, the best way to find them is by listening for calls.

Final Thoughts

Last update on 2023-11-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Hunting for elk in the rain can be potentially lucrative. The rain will reduce your scent and make it harder for them to hear you coming. This can allow you to get closer before you take your shot, giving you the best chance of getting a kill. The key is knowing how the elk will react to the conditions. This will let you know the area where they will be. Once you know where to look, you’ll be able to find plenty of opportunities when hunting in the rain.

Steven Lines is a hunter and outdoorsman from Safford, Arizona, USA. Since he was a child, he has been hunting and fishing and has over 20 years of outdoor experience. Steven works as a hunting guide in Arizona during his spare time and runs a Youtube channel dedicated to sharing his outdoor adventures with others.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>