A sanctuary is an area on a ranch with everything an animal needs: cover, water, feed, protection, etc. This area is an area where you know elk will be during hunting season. This is also an area that should be left largely undisturbed throughout the year and where human traffic should be limited. The term sanctuary is more common in the south when talking with whitetail deer hunting enthusiasts. While whitetail typically move less than elk and will stay in an area year-round, we believe that elk sanctuaries are a big key to keeping elk on your ranch during hunting season.
We define elk sanctuaries as areas where elk return during hunting season year after year. We are archery hunters, so we look for areas where the elk are in September and define them as our sanctuaries. We locate these sanctuaries by looking for rubs, documenting tracks and sign, setting up trail cams, and identifying routines and patterns. Once we identify an area as a sanctuary, we limit traffic through the area to foot, set up tree stands on heavily traveled game trails, install trail cams, and try to only hunt the fringes leaving the heart of the sanctuary undisturbed.
As whitetail hunters have realized, sanctuaries are a valuable way to keep quality game on your ranch during hunting season no matter the species.