Drought has a huge impact on antler growth and integrity. Not only will overall development be hindered, but also the density of the bone is diminished. This means antlers will break more easily when the rut is in full swing.
In drought conditions, I typically see bulls with short tops and normal fronts. This takes what would have been a great scoring bull to something closer to average. When you’re hunting in the fall following a drought stricken summer, it can be very hard to find a solid bull. If you do locate a shooter bull, I suggest harvesting him as soon as possible and not waiting to find another bull. On more than one occasion I’ve found a good shooter bull one day and waited to see what the next day held. I didn’t find a shooter the next day and decided to go back and take the good bull I previously found. When I found him again, he was missing most of his points and part of his main beam. Talk about being disappointed! Had I shot him the previous day, I would have been rewarded with a great bull, instead I came up empty-handed.
One good thing about drought conditions is that it focuses elk activity on the few remaining water sources. This enables you to look over a lot of elk without putting a ton of miles on your boots. If you can find an isolated water source away from other hunters and less pressure, you’ll be sure to find the largest bulls in the area.
Mike Eastman recently revisited his Elk Hunting the West The Eastman Way book and came out with an updated version called Elk Hunting the West Revisited. In this new release, Mike delves into such topics. He explores environmental factors that affect elk behavior and how to use that to your advantage. He gives you tips and tactics on how to hunt effectively in grizzly country and breaks down how to take great field photos of your trophy. Be sure to check out the Eastmans’ 2013 Holiday Gift Guide to get your copy.