Elk Hunting Mistakes
Will Happen

Elk hunting mistakes will happen. We simply need to limit the number of them. You've dreamed, planned, prepared, spent the money, but will the big moment arrive finding you unprepared to take advantage of it after all that? It happens to the best of us.

Elk are like ghosts sometimes. Showing up when you are sure there are no elk anywhere around. Other times elk rumble through like four- wheelers, giving you only seconds of warning!

Not being prepared and not aggressively reacting in time can cause your one good opportunity to vanish, just as suddenly as it appears!




Recent Articles

  1. ASAT Camo Accessories

    ASAT camo accessories and gift certificates

    Read More

Pursue Realistic Goals Relentlessly!

I've been successful at killing elk each year for quite a string of years. Every fall I hope I won’t make the elk hunting mistake that will cause that success string to be broken! I hunt hard and I hunt a lot. I’m relentless! One elk hunting mistake is, well, not hunting!  

I’m also willing to kill a cow or a rag horn. I put effort into getting way back when I hunt. The elk hunting mistake made most often is hunting too close to the road. I’m willing to de-bone and pack an elk out on my back, if necessary.

I often hunt alone, because I hunt hard and often go to work in the afternoons. It's a greater challenge when you hunt alone, but no matter how you hunt, it's easy to miss the opportunity that you worked so hard for.

Elk Hunting Mistakes are Lessons Learned

I could tell you countless stories about elk hunting mistakes I’ve made. Some I've learned from, forgotten and relearned! For instance, if you hear a bull coming, don't just focus on where he is. There may well be cows coming in ahead of him. Watch for them, or they’ll bust you, and you'll never see the bull.

Many years ago, I heard a bull bugling up through the trees. Back then, I didn't know a "round up" bugle from a challenge bugle. If I had, I would have known he was pushing cows. (The best resource to learn elk communication is ElkNut’s products.)

Between bugles I could hear squirrels announcing the elk, giving me a travel line. I lined up for an ambush in very tight jack pines. I was ready for that bull! I could see his horns above the short trees moving toward me. I had a few seconds before I needed to draw my bow.

I was inexperienced and didn’t realize how far ahead the cows would be. Bulls usually stay well behind the cows. Suddenly, to my shock, a cow almost ran into me. I accidentally touched my release and the arrow fell on the ground as I jumped out of the way. Opportunity: vanished! Remember, cows often precede bulls, but you often only see horns, or hear the bull.

Missing the opportunity can happen with a bow or a rifle. I was stalking elk by following tracks in the snow with my son when he was quite young. When a cow finally stood broadside at 50 yards I whispered, "shoot!" He responded, "I can't. I just scooped my rifle barrel full of snow." She bolted by the end of the sentence. He made the right call. I’ve done the same thing, by not being careful in deep snow. Opportunity: vanished!

He soon got another opportunity and made it happen.

Take Care of Your Gear

Since I own Elk Tips Outdoor Gear (a sporting goods with an archery pro shop), people often want minor repairs made to their bows. Sometimes all they want is a bow tuned with a rusty old drop away rest and fuzzy strings on it. Bow strings can break and worn out drop away rests can fail. That can end your hunt, or worse!

My first elk kill back in the 80s went like this. After watching bedded elk way up high all day, they finally started moving down before sunset after a quick, fierce storm. I crawled through the snow on my belly, hands and knees to get to a little rise where I could get a shot.

When I finally squeezed the trigger from a prone position- click! I very slowly bolted the misfired round onto the snow and carefully closed the bolt on another one. I was only 75 yards away and the noise was making them nervous.

Squeeze- click! This scenario repeated itself until all my rounds were laying in the snow and the elk were all staring up my way. I dried one of the rounds off the best I could, prayed and reloaded. Boom! My first elk was down, despite my first big elk hunting mistake.

That could have resulted in a vanished opportunity. All because the excessive gun grease in my rifle had frozen up in the very cold weather.

Take Aim Often

I’ve learned from many elk hunting mistakes to react instantly, even if drawing my bow might spook an elk. Don't wait for a better opportunity. I once arrowed a cow elk after it busted me. I had to nock an arrow and step to one side to clear the path for my arrow. She watched as I did all that and took an arrow through both lungs. If I had frozen instead of reacting aggressively, the opportunity would’ve vanished.

If you're cross hairs or sight pin isn't on an elk, you might miss an opportunity. Don’t take unethical shots. Just get ready, and then decide. Know you're limitations, but don't limit your options by not taking aim when you can. It's good practice to take aim, regardless. It soon becomes automatic. Another elk hunting mistake can result, without your weapon up and aimed.

Consider the current opportunity the only one you will get! It just might be. A friend of mine, who also kills elk every year, killed a cow elk one year on opening morning. He said, "I've learned never to turn down something the first day of the season that you would be glad to kill on the last day." He's right.

Those of us who are successful at killing elk yearly, aren't trophy hunters. We can't spend thousands of dollars on several trips all over elk country. Be ready for that one opportunity. Making just one less elk hunting mistake can result in elk meat at home.

Expect An Opportunity and
See it In You Mind

Another thing I have learned the hard way through the years is this. I will get at least one good opportunity to kill a bull elk with a bow. A bull of some kind will be standing in front of me, eventually (unless I kill a cow first). A big elk hunting mistake often made is not reacting aggressively when that opportunity arrives.

In 2015 I had a herd bull walking across in front of me. It was perfect. The direction he was walking was obvious. I quickly ranged the distance to a tree he would soon pass by. "50 yards". I drew when his eyes went behind some brush. When he reached the tree I had ranged, I stopped him with a grunt. I put my 50 yard pin on him and thought, “Looks closer than 50”. I released the arrow well over his back. Opportunity: Vanished!

After watching him run away, I checked the distance to the tree again. "35 yards". In my haste, I had not carefully made sure the laser bounced off the right tree, but I only had seconds to draw at the right moment. Putting everything together is something we can practice in our minds. See scenarios in your mind. "See it before it happens".

If possible, range check the base of the tree, not the trunk. Get a second laser range, if time allows. Go with your inner voice, if it’s yelling at you!

I’ve had opportunities vanish because my rifle was slung over my back. Many years ago I stopped doing that when I started using a ready-carry rifle sling, like the Safari Sling. I never have to fumble with my ready-carry bow sling, either, like the String Sling. Change habits or equipment that might cause an elk hunting mistake, an opportunity to vanish

Don't Ask, If You Aren't
Ready for an Answer

Never call elk without an arrow nocked, or gun at the ready. In 2012, I decided to stop and eat lunch at a nice little spring around noon. I sat down on a log and got lunch out. I gave a little cow chirp and stuffed something in my mouth. Within seconds I heard a crunch behind me. I turned and was face to face with an elk 20 yards away. An opportunity I never expected- Vanished! Another elk hunting mistake.

Several years ago, I sent a cow call across a fence to a herd bull that was screaming. Before I could even nock an arrow and look up, the bull was heading straight for me, 20 yards away. He walked up to my kneeling position and breathed steam on me from his nostrils. He turned quickly and walked straight back to the fence. I hate to admit it, but that kind of scenario has happened a few times to me. If you call, be ready. If an elk is coming, expect an opportunity and be decisive.

Big Elk Hunting Mistake:
Not Expecting the Unexpected

Don’t assume you know where the elk you’re expecting will show up. Let’s say you’ve set up so that the wind is in your favor. Assume the bull will correct that and turn it into an elk hunting mistake for you! Bulls will usually circle around behind the caller speaking elk to him. He wants to smell elk to verify. You can try elk scents. I do. But, rest assured, they can smell both you and the elk scent and they are not confused into ignoring the human smell!

A calling partner will need to expect this move and set the shooter up for that inevitable downwind move. If you’re alone, as I usually am, move downwind a little after calling, if possible. Or, move into the wind toward the animal to a spot where he won’t expect you to be before he begins his downwind circle.

Another elk hunting mistake I have made is not watching for the silent bulls coming into my call. Often I will be working an incoming bull and another bull will end up standing right next to me all of a sudden, staring at me!

It’s easy to get discouraged, and bored, in silent woods. Eventually that will result in the elk hunting mistake of assuming there are no elk, only to have a silent bull show up when you least expect it.

Focused Determination!

In 2013 I was determined to be ready when the opportunity arrived. Very early one morning I heard a bull doing a locator call while walking across in front of me in the dark minutes before legal shooting light. I had to wait those agonizing minutes before I could call during first light. 

When I did, the bull immediately headed my way. I told myself, "I am NOT going to blow this opportunity!" On my knees I drew my bow before he came into view and held it (something I practice).

The bull walked straight toward me and to my left a bit. I had to wait for the shooting angle to open up a bit. When he was five yards to my left, he stopped and I released. I was focused on doing it right and it paid off. Even that could have turned into another elk hunting mistake. I shoot left-handed. The bull was to my left. Being on my knees kept me from turning easily. However, standing at five yards away might not have gone unnoticed. (Although, a HECS Stealthscreen makes a huge difference!)

Be Stealthily Aggressive

Early one recent season I was stalking out ahead of a cow-pushing, bugling bull. I could tell by his "round-up" bugling that he had cows that he was moving. He was pushing them right down a heavy trail. I stalked in and almost bumped his cows out ahead of him.

I slowly backed out and did a “clover leaf” out ahead of them again. I was sneaking rather than running. I was not aggressive enough. I made it to 70 yards away from the trail they were walking on, just in time to watch that huge herd bull and his cows walk by. Opportunity- vanished! I wasn’t quite aggressive enough and was late to the meeting. Being aggressive means taking risks. You just might get away with it. Sometimes you might have to run to make it happen!

Actually, I blew TWO bull opportunities with a bow that year. A partner and I saw a bull pushing a cow hard and fast. No chance for a shot early that morning. We expected the elk to stay in that area and the rut was on, so we circled way around and hunted through the same area a couple hours later. It was nearly noon when the bull slowly following the not-yet-receptive cow across the two track road in front of us. We were caught in the open. We knelt as he stared at us from 40 yards away.

My partner drew quickly. Something was blocking my range finder as we argued about the distance. Therefore, my partner hesitated a little too long and the opportunity vanished! Be ready and be decisively aggressive.

We Need to Get it Right Once!

Elk hunting mistakes are going to happen. That's elk hunting! It's the most frustrating fun ever. Right?

Always be prepared and don't be afraid to be aggressive! Don't do "nothing", in order not to scare off an elk, or to wait for a perfect opportunity. Expect an opportunity, and then react appropriately and decisively. (You can always change your mind.) Otherwise, opportunity: vanished! We will make a lot of elk hunting mistakes, but we only have to be right once for every elk tag we carry!

If you want to read a short elk hunting story with a couple terrible mistakes that ended up in success, read this Quick Elk Hunting Tips & Updates newsletter

Search This Site Here:

Shop Elk Tips
Outdoor Gear

Elk Tips Outdoor Gear Logo


Hunting Gear Reviews

ASAT Camo
ElkNut Outdoor Productions
Bugling Bull Game Calls
HECS Stealthscreen
Montana Decoy
StringSling Bow Sling
Skull Hookers
Safari Sling Rifle Sling
Clip-Shot Mini Camera Mount

ASAT Camo

Free U.S. Shipping On ASAT Camo


Bugling Bull
Game Calls


ElkNut Productions

Free Shipping on
ElkNut Products Here


HECS Stealthscreen:
A New Type of Concealment!

HECS Stealthscreen

$149.99-$199.99,
Including U.S. Shipping


Montana Decoy Elk/Deer
Available Here!

Montana Decoy

$59-$109.99 Free Shipping!


The StringSling:
Best Bow Sling Design!

String Sling Bow Sling

$28.95, Including U.S. Shipping


Clip-Shot: 1 oz. Camera Mount

$21.85 Free U.S. Shipping


Skull Hookers

Skull hooker

$34.99 & 59.99 Free U.S. Shipping!


The Safari Sling:
Best Rifle Sling Design!

Safari Sling Best Rifle Sling Available

$27.99 Free US Shipping


Share your elk hunting pictures and stories on our Facebook Page!

Go to Forums


Forum Topic Discussions:


How often should I use my cow call?, I am new to the sport of bow hunting elk and my question is how often should I use my cow calls?

295 yard kill with a Kimber Montana 325 WSM, by Don from Dallas: My ELk did not even twitch once. He was dead when he hit the ground.

325 WSM is worth considering, Palmer Lake,CO: I believe that the .325 WSM is the ultimate elk caliber...

30-30 for Elk? : I have a 30 30 with 170 grain round nose bullet. Will this work to shoot an elk ?

(More comments about Best Elk Rifle below)

Submissions

2013 elk bow hunt around Pagosa Springs: by Bobby (Little Rock , Arkansas), looking for someone to join my DIY hunt!...

Unique Elk Talk by Idaho Steve (Hailey, Id ), In the middle of the night, a herd of elk came traveling through the drainage and right past my tent...

Smelly Elk Areas? by Jimmy (New Mexico), I've come across many areas that just stink of elk, literally. I have heard two somewhat contradictory stories...

DIY Gear List Must Have's! by Craig (Florida) "Here are some of the items I use on my DIY hunts in the CO backcountry..."

Elk and Deer Hunting and Mountain Bikes, by Skip Shepherd (Tucson, AZ)~ At 67 I am thinking a lot about investing in a mountain bike to get back into remote areas...


Solo archery hunting -- tips for calling/set up?, by Idaho Steve (Hailey, ID )~ I hunt by myself a lot...I'd love to hear your thoughts on strategic set-ups when solo hunting and calling.

Non- Lead Bullets for Elk?, by Dave, Elk Hunting Tips.Net (Garrison, MT)~ What do you ballistics guys think about the use of non-lead bullets for elk? According to this story...

Rage Broadheads by Chris, ...my buddy gave me a rage practice tip and when I shot it you could not pick out the broadhead from the field points. I was sold...

Recent Submissions:

Finally filled the freezer..., Colorado Rockies~ "I was bummed when I got to the property and no elk, nor any hoof prints in the snow. ...I pulled each of the elk into shade then started gutting..."


Wounded Veteran Elk hunts, by Joshua FL), I am a disabled veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and have always dreamed of hunting elk. I am posting this to see if anyone would know of any elk hunts free to disabled vets....

First Elk with a Bow, by Ryan H. (Colorado), ...Finally after many years of hunting with a bow "I got er did"!

First Elk!, by Tater (Sheridan, Arkansas) I took the advice I received from this website and was successful…I wanted to Thank You and Your Forum and the folks that share on here for the knowledge and information that helped me find an elk I was quite happy with.


Questions

Any success in Unit 14?, by: Dave (MI), "I'm planning on doing a DIY in Unit 14 for 2012..."


Share Elk Hunting Secrets


Bugle in Herd bulls, by Swiltbank (Az) The key to calling in a herd bull is to get into his bedding grounds and threaten his herd. Start off sounding like…


Best Big Game Rifle?

Best Rifle Caliber?, by Buglemup (Superior, MT), "I've been reading what people have been writing about rifle calibers and here is what 16 years of guiding elk has taught me."

7mm Remington Magnum, by Dean (Helena, MT. USA) I use my Liberty Ruger M77, 7mm Rem. Mag. for antelope, deer, elk... Comment: "What do you guys think about the idea of hunting elk with a 270? I also know a guy who kills elk with a 243."


338 Marlin Express, "Light, fast shooting, hard hitting, manageable recoil, and for a lever gun - very accurate."


Guns I like for Elk, by Mountain Walker (Kootenays east B.C. Canada),"I think the gun you shoot Elk with should be one you shoot a lot with... "


.35 Remington, by Bill Smith "...my .35 Rem appears to have dropped a medium deer flawlessly, but I now have serious doubts as to its capability to take an elk."


Arizona Elk Hunting

Where to hunt in Az unit 3B?, by Cliffjumper (Tucson, Az) ~ I got a late bull muzzle loader hunt in Arizona unit 3b. Does anyone know how to hunt bulls in the late season?...

First time elk hunter hunting Arizona unit 6A , by Rob Marchio (Omaha, Ne)~ I'm a first time elk hunter hunting Arizona's unit 6A. I'm planning on staying in the Pine Grove campground...


Elk Hunting Colorado

Help needed for 1st DIY Hunt w/Son, by Patrick (Parker, CO), "I was looking for some advice on my 1st DIY hunt for 2014 in CO with my 13 yr old son. I have countless hrs going over stats, topo maps & Google Earth"

Elk Hunting Colorado in 2013, By William (Midland, TX) "I am planning an elk hunt next year in Colorado and I wanted to know if hunting Gunnison National Forest..."

Unit 60 Elk 4th Rifle Season Nov 13-17 Either Sex 2013, By Chester "...Any general advice about the unit would be appreciated!"


Idaho Elk Hunting


Elk Hunting Idaho Unit 8 8A 11, This is my first year seriously trying to track down some elk. Is there anyone that has hunted in any of these units and can give me some friendly advice? Mitchell, Moscow Idaho

Elk Hunting Pocatello by Cameron (Pocatello) Where is the best place to elk hunt around Pocatello, Idaho? I'm a student at ISU and I'm looking for somewhere around here to hunt next season.

How is the elk hunting in unit 30A in Idaho?, by Terry (Richland Center, WI) Has anyone archery elk hunted in unit 30A in Idaho? What can you tell me about the area?


Elk Hunting In Montana

Hunting in Western Montana, by Mike A. (Alabama)

I did not draw a tag for Missouri breaks where I have hunted in the past. Having to start over and try western Montana.


New Mexico Elk Hunting

New Mexico Unit 49, by Silas (Los Alamos, NM)

If anyone has tips on areas to start scouting, I'd really appreciate it.

First Elk Hunt First Elk Hunt, by Big "R" (NM)

I finally got drawn for a late elk hunt in Unit 28, north of Road 506 and south of the boundary line of the Lincoln National Forest...


Elk Hunting Nevada

Cow elk in Nevada's unit 222:

"Any good places known in unit 222?"

Northeast Nevada Early Elk hunt, by John (Carson City,NV)

"Any suggestions on what areas I may see some signs of elk?"


Questions from Novice Hunters

Retired USMC MSgt Needs Advice, by Ken Wing USMCRET (Bealeton, Va)


Big Game Recipes

Popcorn VenisonPopcorn Venison with Maple Syrup?

Elk or Venison Steaks Grilled to Perfection Here's how to turn them into steakhouse steaks!

Spice-Crusted Grilled Venison Roast Recipe This Spice-Crusted, Grilled Venison Roast recipe works great for any red meat roasts, including elk, deer or beef roast...

Corned Elk Recipe You can easily make corned venison and elk, moose or corned beef from these instructions...


My wife's website: