by Marc Warnke
Archery Elk Hunting Tips
As a life long hunting bum and a hunting consultant, I have gotten a chance to hunt in some amazing places for some even more amazing animals. Out of all my experiences still the coolest hunt exists right out my back door…archery elk hunting. There are some close seconds, but bow hunting elk in the rut, is my stand alone favorite.
I’ve always enjoyed any hunt that involved “talking animal.” There is just something magical about when a critter in nature responds to your call and does what you want. Mastering the language that bulls speak is just a fun challenge.
When it all comes together and bulls are stomping in ready to fight, it’s the highest charge I’ve experienced in the woods. But if you don’t have bulls out your back door and the time to master it the nuances of hunting them, an outfitter will greatly increase your success curve in quantity and quality.
I will admit that there are better tacticians and callers than myself, but I hold my own. Positioning, playing the wind, approach, not calling, calling aggressive, cow calling, bugling, and on and on…all these are critical when you are chasing love sick bull elk. Tactics are constantly changing and archers must be very adaptive and experienced to be successful. There is no one strategy that will be your magic sword to success. There are a few things that will be in your control, that will make you more successful while elk hunting and it’s my intent to discuss those here.
Bull density and lack of hunter pressure is huge. There are three ways to achieve this–draw an exclusive tag, pay for access through a landowner or elk outfitter, or do your research and get remote by burning some serious boot leather or by getting in a saddle. Drawing tags is about a multi-year strategy mixed with better luck than I have. As far as land access and elk outfitters we at Outdoors International have access to over 7.5 million private acres across the west for elk hunting. We would be glad to help you find a good place to go. You can email me and I will help you find what you are looking for.
Another huge key, is to hunt with someone who is calling for you. Elk hunting alone is much more difficult, and very reliant on being experienced, sneaky and or lucky. Bulls will almost always circle the caller downwind, outside of bow range because they would rather smell the source of the calling and move in, than to just run in on a straight line based on sound alone. The shooter should be positioned from 50-100 yards out front, on the downwind side to pick up that bull on the loop. Also, many times, age class bulls will not come into calling and leave their cows so a hunter needs someone in back keeping him talking and distracted while the shooter sneaks in on the noise. If you don’t have a lot of experience your guide can be your partner and again increase your chance at success. He will also know how the elk move through the country which can help on those days when they just aren’t talking and an ambush or sitting water will be your only chance.
Lastly, one of the things I see that limits many new elk hunters is their lack of physical condition. Elk Hunting in September are often at very high elevations in very steep terrain. Even if the terrain is mellow you still gotta be able to cover country quickly to cut off a moving herd. Elk are rarely lolly-gagging. They are a critter on the move, and you have to keep up or listen to that bull cross the next ridge to be gone for the day. We use Train To Hunt as our workout program.
Long story short… you can be successful on your own but being outfitted is a quicker way to get-r-done and you will learn more quickly. So, find a good hunting consultant (who’s an archer) to make sure you are with the right outfitter. Get in shape and shoot your bow a lot. Be sure to check out our elk hunts here.
Good luck on your next elk hunting trip, I hope you are successful,