STEVE PUPPE ON ELK HUNTING IN THE BITTERROOT MOUNTAINS
Hunting A Fringe Area
NOTE: Steve Puppe of Hamilton, Montana, promotions
director for Knight Rifles and longtime avid hunter, lives on the edge
of the Bitterroot National Forest with its abundant elk, mule deer and
QUESTION: You hunt for elk in the Bitterroot Wilderness
Area in the Bitterroot Mountains of Montana. What guns do you use and
ANSWER: I shoot a .50-caliber Knight Disc Extreme. The .50 caliber is
a real common caliber. It's big enough for big game, like elk. You can
use a smaller caliber, such as a .45, for deer and smaller antelope. I
use a heavier gun for bigger game. I shoot a heavier bullet -- a 250-grain
hollow-point Barnes Red Hot bullet with plenty of knock-down power. My
.50 caliber shoots 2,000 feet per second and when I hit at 100 yards,
the bullet hash well over 1,000 pounds of knock-down power. It has good
knock-down energy for a big-game animal like elk.
How big is the Bitterroot Wilderness Area?
ANSWER: About 743,000 acres.
QUESTION: What is a fringe area, and why do you like
to hunt there?
ANSWER: A fringe area, in my opinion, is where national forestland borders
private land. The elk know they can find sanctuary on the private land.
So if you can access fringe areas behind some of this private property,
you'll probably find good numbers of elk and some decent-size bulls because
they know they are safe in these regions. The land is broken-up into small
20- to 25-acre tracts. The owners don't allow any hunting there and feed
the elk because they like to see them. But the elk are not in a pen, so
they can wander over into the forest. They don't know exactly where that
boundary is, so hunting some of that fringe area can be beneficial and
To hunt the fringe area, how do you access it?
ANSWER: You have to talk to a landowner and ask him if you can access
the fringe area through his property. Or, you may have to come in from
a different access point and walk several miles, maybe along the edges.
You may have to travel through a specific canyon where there is U.S. Forest
Service access and then just travel back along that private property.
Generally, most people don't like to hunt too hard, and they don't walk
very far. They'll take that Forest-Service access road and maybe go in
a mile. If you take that extra step and go two miles or pass through somebody's
land, you'll have success. Most people don't ever think to ask a private
landowner if they can access a hunting location through that private land.
Sometimes it's just as simple as knocking on the door and asking them
if they'll give me permission to pass through their lands.
QUESTION: At what kind of places do you look for the
ANSWER: They need some kind of food source, cover and water. Usually the
elk finding an adequate food source is the problem. Generally, water is
not a problem because most of the drainages have some kind of spring-fed
creek flowing through them.
How do you hunt these places? Do you just get out and walk?
ANSWER: I try to find little open parts or meadows and spend some time
in there glassing. I like to get an elevation advantage on an elk, and
then I can look back into some of the draws and glass to locate them.
Obviously, if the elk are not close enough, then I'll try to put a stalk
on them. If an elk walks away from you, you may as well forget it because
you can't keep up with it. They have bigger sets of lungs, and they can
take much-longer steps. The only other thing you can do if they're traveling
is figure out a way to cut them off and get into a position to ambush
To learn more about Knight Rifles, call (641) 856-2626,
write them at Knight Rifles, Customer Service Dept., 21852 Hwy J46, Centerville,
IA 52544, or visit the Web site www.knightrifles.com.
You can contact Scott Boulanger, a dependable, expert elk guide in this
section of Montana by writing him at P.O. Box 733, Darby, Montana, 59289.
You can call him at (406) 821-0017, E-mail him at email@example.com,
or visit his Web site www.circlekbl.com.
TOMORROW: ROAD HUNTING ELK