Harry Collins

Preparing for Elk Hunting: 6 Ways to Ensure You're Ready for Elk Hunting Season

If you've secured an elk tag for the fall, here's what you should be checking off the list.

The decision to start preparing for elk hunting is no joke. Take it seriously, and ensure you're addressing these six things.

Because all elk hunters want a successful harvest, but it doesn't just automatically happen.

1. Get in Elk Shape

Elk hunting isn't for the faint of heart. Whether you're heading to Oregon, Colorado, or Montana, you'll be facing steep terrain, high altitude, and lots of miles logged in the chase. Then if and when you tag a bull, the real work begins—packing out elk quarters through the backcountry.

You'll want to ensure your physical fitness is on par for a successful hunt during the offseason, not right before the fall. To prepare for for elk country, kick off the cardio training now and add in some incline work. Move up to rucking as well as some strength training—particularly for your legs—as the season approaches.

2. Put in Your Practice Reps

No matter your chosen tackle, it's important to take plenty of practice shots before the real deal. But this is especially important if you'll be bowhunting. Archery hunters should make sure their draw weight is appropriate for this level of big game and their broadheads are put through the paces ahead of time. It's the only way to know your shot will be dead-on. For rifle hunters anticipating long-distance shots, head to the range and practice beyond the maximum you plant to shoot at live game.

3. Start Scouting

Even if you'll be hunting out of state, you can still do some virtual scouting via onX and topographical maps ahead of time. If you plan to DIY it nearby, get some boots on the ground now to locate wallows, water sources and feeding areas. Do some glassing and keep an eye out for any elk sign.

If you're using an outfitter or guide service, you can at least ask about the terrain and landscape of the hunting areas you'll be covering, and the likelihood of shots from tough angles or differing elevations. If you can safely mimic conditions at home while practicing, that's a wise move.

4. Break in Your Hunting Boots

When putting on miles through the high country, your feet will be the first to fail. Be sure to invest in a good pair of boots with enough time to break them in before your first elk hunt of the season. Failure to do so could result in blisters and broken dreams.

For a solid boot with insulated options, check out Danner's Pronghorn line. And women hunters will love LaCrosse's new-for-2021 Lodestar.

5. Perfect Your Bugle

If you plan to mimic the sounds of a bull elk in rut, make sure you've mastered the call well in advance. Otherwise, leave it to your hunting buddies or a guide.

6. Gather Your Gear

Whether you're setting up spike camp or heading back to a cushy lodge every night, you'll still need plenty of elk hunting gear.

  • Lightweight layers: You could be sweating it in 80-degree humidity or freezing through snowstorms, so pack for every possible scenario. Start with breathable base layers like KUIU's Ultra Merino 145 Zip-T and add on packable rain gear like Sitka's Dew Point System.
  • Optics: Binos, spotting scope, rangefinder; you may need one or all of these, depending on where and how you're hunting. You'll also want to keep them at the ready, so a lightweight bino harness like Stone Glacier's Skyline is a great investment.
  • Pack: You'll be wearing this hours on end, so make sure it's comfortable. Nothing tops the well-crafted, custom-fit options from Mystery Ranch. Whether you need a lightweight daypack or a backpacking meat hauler, Mystery Ranch has got one with plenty of compartments for your gear. They've also got a women's harness system for select hunting packs.
  • Basecamp essentials: For a lightweight backcountry setup, pair Stone Glacier's Skyscraper 2P with a Chilkoot series sleeping bag. Keep basecamp to a minimum and pack only the essentials.

Some other items to pack include a high-quality knife, first aid kit, flashlight, and game bags.

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