As most of us count down the days toward deer hunting season, other hunters in the Great Plains states, throughout the western United States and into Canada, are laying the groundwork for their annual elk hunting trips. Even for veteran deer hunters, there is nothing quite like bagging your first full-sized elk, and hunting the beautiful kings of the forest presents its own challenges and sacred tactics. We've collected some of our favorite tips and hunting gear suggestions below:
Tip: Take advantage of weather forecasts and fresh snowfalls to help you increase your odds of landing a prize elk. If it starts snowing and you don't have any other obligations, hit the field and start searching for tracks. In all likelihood, the fresh snow will give you a path to follow, and that path may take you to your prize.
Gear: A topographical map can do a lot to clue you in on where elk bedding areas might be. Since elk typically nest on north facing hills, a topographical map might be the best way for you to outline a potential scouting or attack plan.
Tip: With that in mind, don't ever hunt elk bedding areas. Ever. With deer, the debate over hunting bedding spots has raged for ages, with valuable points on both sides of the argument. When it comes to hunting elk, however, there is no gray area. If you spook a herd of elk in their bedding spots, you will not see them again for a long time.
Heck, if you are hunting public land, you may never see them again, as they will retreat to private land where fewer hunters tread and quickly find that they like it better there. Use your topographical map to find potential bedding areas, but then locate nearby feeding spots and draw potential travel paths between them to outline your golden ambush area.
Gear: Most elk hunters swear by a bugle call for tracking and baiting the beasts. As with all hunting calls, there are two ways you can cover this gear tip: either learn proper calling methods with your mouth, diaphragm, and vocal cords - look for videos on YouTube, or purchase an instructional DVD if you need help with this - or search around for a well-reviewed bugle call apparatus.
Either way, make sure the sound of your call is genuine: nothing will alert elk to human presence quite like an inauthentic bugle.
A Primos Hoss Elk Bugle like this one could make or break an elk hunt
Tip: More than possibly any other big game animal, cows and bulls in the elk species like darkness, so hunters in pursuit of a big bull had better be prepared to either hit the trail early, stay out late, or both. The daylight hours are for scouting; it's the half light hours of dawn and dusk that will earn you kills.
Tip: Hot and dry conditions can be an absolute chore to hunt in, especially if the elk aren't responding to your bugle call. Still, if the weather gets warm, giving up for the day is absolutely not an option. Take the hot weather as an opportunity, because if you've done your scouting, you know precisely where the elk are going to be: the nearest watering hole. Set up camp nearby, and pick off the biggest bull that comes your way.