Q&A with Chance Robbins: “God’s Country For Our Heroes” founder talks about pre-season elk scouting
By M.D. Johnson
It’s not every day I have the pleasure of speaking to someone like Chance Robbins. He’s a dedicated family man, a quality that’s obvious when he talks of his boys — the youngest just three; the eldest, now seven.
Robbins is a native of New Mexico, now living near Trinidad, Colorado, and working at Alce Toro Ranch. He and his hunting partner, Sean Barry, Jr., started God’s Country for Our Heroes in 2022, a non-profit organization focused on sharing outdoor experiences and providing hunting opportunities, free-of-charge, to active-duty military, veterans, first responders and young people under the age of 18 with physical and/or mental disabilities. A good cause? An exceptional and heartfelt cause.
During the course of our conversation, it became clear that Robbins knows people. Fact is, the 29-year-old big game outfitter knows quite a few things, including that which he knows best of all: elk. It’s not surprising when you learn the young man has more than two decades of elk hunting experience under his belt.
Recently, Slayer Calls had a chance — no pun intended! — to sit a spell with Robbins, and talk about a subject he’s quite well-versed in: pre-season scouting for hard-to-hunt bulls.
Slayer Calls (SC): There’s scouting, and then there’s in-depth scouting. What’s the difference?
Chance Robbins: In-depth scouting [requires] more footwork [in the field]. More ‘homework,’ too, on the internet. Primarily, it’s work in the field; looking for rubs, wallows, trails, tracks — everything that tells you the elk are there. You’re putting cameras up, if the state regulations allow. As for your regular, everyday scouting, you’re calling around. Talking to a buddy. Light homework, but you’re going in [about] half-blind.
SC: You mentioned the internet. What role does technology play in scouting in this modern age?
Robbins: Back in the day, it was [hard copy] maps and coordinates. Finding bedding areas, timber and things like that. Now, you use onX or BaseMap to zoom into specific areas. Look at the terrain. Look at the slope or pitch. Also back in the day, and in terms of cameras, you had to physically go out and pull cards. Today, there are wireless cameras where, [as long as] you have service, you’ll know as soon as someone walks by or an animal walks by, or that target bull you’re looking for walks by.
SC: Speaking of cameras, how important are trail cameras in August as you’re preparing for the season?
Robbins: They’re very important; in fact, cameras are my ‘key thing’ in August. I check cameras twice a week in August, and then again right before the season opens. That way I’m not putting a lot of scent in the area. A lot of people will get overly ambitious and check them once a week, but I like to leave minimal scent.
SC: Let’s take cameras a step further, Chance. I’m dealing with thousands of acres here where I am in southwest Washington. How do I even begin to decide where to hang a camera?
Robbins: To start, you can use onX or BaseMap to determine features like saddles, bedding areas and waterholes. Once you have boots on the ground, you’re being specific; again, waterholes, wallows, active trails, parks or meadows where the elk are in the mornings or evenings. [Look for] pinch points, like where two major canyons come together. Find those features, then position a camera [correctly] so as to provide a wide-angle view; not just ‘across’ the trail, but ‘down’ the trail.
SC: What’s the No. 1 mistake hunters make when scouting in August?
Robbins: Number one would be going in and busting out the elk in certain areas. Guys find signs and want to keep pushing [while scouting]. They didn’t do their homework, and they don’t realize that this north-facing slope is a bedding area. They push instead of going around those bedding areas or saddles or benches. They walk through the middle of those places, scattering human scent everywhere, and before you know it, there aren’t any elk there.
SC: So, Chance, how do you put this all together for opening day?
Robbins: Take [a good look at] all your information and data. Pull up something like onX. I have my cameras ‘pinned’ on my maps, and I can actually add any photographs I want to those pins on onX. This way, I can click on a pin, look at the pictures, and say, ‘This is the area with the best sign. It’s got the best activity and the highest quality animals. This is a key area I want to focus on.’
Then, I can determine things like slope direction, terrain, and thermal direction in the morning and evening. I can tell where I need to be [at a specific time] and how to get into a certain area. [I’ll know when elk] are going to be moving ‘this way’ at ‘that time.’ It’s a matter of sitting down and evaluating all the information on a larger scale. And trying to think like an elk at that point.
Check out Chance Robbins’ Instagram profile at @chancerobbins07 to see some epic hunting adventures and big game.