How to Prepare for an Elk Hunt
Before you even get to your destination, you need to prepare for your elk hunt. Scott Hatch from Three Forks Ranch in Colorado advises first-time elk hunters to get in shape. You need to get physically fit well in advance of your hunt. Once you get there, you will need to get acclimated to the altitude, so don’t overdo your climb even if you are physically ready. And always drink plenty of water before, during and after the hunt.
How To Age An Elk
Scott Hatch has been chasing elk for years, and he ages elk by their antlers, body size and shape, and head position. The bigger and heavier the antlers, the more mature the bull elk. Mature bulls also have a swayback in the lower neck, a bigger hump and a lower head. If it looks like a big yellow bus, it’s a mature elk. Some say you can hear it in the bugle, but that shouldn’t be used to determine age. Only laying eyes on the elk can give you a good idea of its age.
Elk Calling Tips | Early Season vs. The Rut
How do you decide when to bugle and when to cow call? Early season, start with cow chirps and cow calling subtly. If there isn’t much response, move to a locate bugle. During the rut, it’s more of a conversation. You want to interact with the bull but not over-call and sound desperate. Cow elk have a variety of sounds that you can interact with, but once they back off, you should too.
Bow Hunting vs. Rifle Hunting for Elk
A bow cannot cover as much ground as a rifle. Therefore, bowhunting requires the hunter to get in close. When you set up to bowhunt elk, put the hunter between the elk and the caller. Rifle hunting for elk allows you to hang back and glass a mountain to find the elk and then move in a little closer to make the shot. Check with your outfitter before the elk hunt to determine whether you can bowhunt, rifle hunt or both.
Morning vs. Afternoon Elk Hunting
It’s a matter of preference, typically, but there are things to consider when choosing a time of day to hunt elk. Morning hunts give you more time to get the elk packed out, take pictures with your trophy and just enjoy the moment. Evening hunts feel more rushed, because you want to get back to camp before the temperatures drop. To have success elk hunting, you have to know wind direction. Elk usually go up and want to get where the winds are changing so they can smell. They cover a lot of ground, and you want to get even with them or above them.
Afternoon Elk Hunting Tips
Early season elk hunting can be hot in the afternoon and early evening. Look for water because that’s where elk will be headed. It gets dark quickly, so don’t be afraid to move. Head to water, pay attention to the wind, call, move if necessary, be aware of losing light, and rely on previous experience, which is a lot of what hunting is about. If it’s your first evening elk hunt, even if you end up empty-handed, there’s always something to learn.