There are several pieces of hunting gear, various gadgets and equipment that most elk and big game hunters will eventually wish they had. These are some basic things that we “need” (or at least we think we do). Binoculars, knives (I can never have too many), range finders, camouflage clothing, scent control clothing, spotting scopes… The list goes on and on. We will list and briefly review hunting gear that we have found very useful below and add more as we think of it.
In some cases we will link to one of our other pages where we have written thorough reviews of specific pieces of hunting gear.
We will try to provide links to reputable on-line retailers that carry quality, but reasonably priced hunting gear that we can recommend for most big game hunters.
ElkNut's Calling Elk Products
“Elk Nut”, Paul Medel, is THE elk communication expert. Paul has spent over 30 years doing in-the-field research about what elk are saying when they communicate. He has put together some very effective and easy-to-use learning tools (CDs, PlayBook, DVDs, etc.) in order to share with other public land hunters his wealth of knowledge about elk talk and how to call elk.
There is one rifle sling that we recommend. It is the Safari Sling (scroll down for illustration on right side of this page). I don't know why most people still sling their rifle over their shoulders where it takes so much movement to bring it up for a shot.
These Safari Slings allow a hunter to carry a rifle at-the-ready very comfortably. They make great additions to your elk hunting gear list. You may not appreciate these until you use them for the first time. They are the best kept secret in our opinion and an integral part of our elk hunting gear! I also use it to carry my rifle on my back while riding a mountain bike.
Here's a true story from a hunter that decided to make a Safari Sling part of his hunting gear: "We were hiking back to his truck for lunch... We saw a big bull with a huge rack coming out of the woods. Guess where our rifles were? On our shoulders. By the time we got our rifles off our shoulders that bull was back in the woods, lickety split. What a missed opportunity, just because we didn't have our rifles in a ready position. Another hunter we talked to that morning had a big bull come by near him. But guess what? He had put his rifle down on the ground so he could take a p---!"
Safari Sling keeps your rifle secure on your shoulder. But, it automatically drops away as you raise to shoot...without unslinging....making you faster.
Equally important, this patented design lets you carry your rifle hand-free in three different positions:
• Out in front of your body, in the right-side-up position.
• Over your shoulder, in the traditional hiking position.
• Across your back, and out of your way.
The 2" wide webbing is soft and comfortable, yet remarkably rugged. And, it does a superior job of spreading weight evenly which lessens strain and fatigue. (The sling itself only weighs four ounces.)
Safari Sling installs easily on most rifles and shotguns. And, the patented heavy nylon loops fit 1" and 1-1/4" standard swivels.
If you're inclined to cover a lot of ground while hunting, remember that the Safari Sling works great with backpacks.
The over-the-shoulder StringSling® hangs your bow at your side, with the grip level with your bow hand. With a slight wrist movement the bow is ready for action. No need to make all the problematic movements at each end of the bow to remove ordinary bow slings.
The StringSling® also quickly transforms from holding your bow at arm's length, to a very secure back sling that will keep your bow out of the way when you're not hunting. I ride a mountain bike in and out and use a StringSling® in the secured function while I'm peddling.
The bow balances over my backpack secured by the StringSling®. When I reach my hunting area it just takes a few seconds to reconnect the sling ends to the string hook for ready-position carry. I consider it an absolutely essential part of my bow hunting gear.
The StringSling® maker has agreed to make it available to ElkHuntingTips.Net visitors at a reduced price below the video. Watch the video to see how the StringSling® works.
You can add a StringSling® to your hunting gear at a reduced price here, with free shipping. Lifetime Guarantee! Made in USA. ($4 extra to Canada, $9 extra to Australia. Contact Us below for prices to other areas.) Select the discount buttons for more than one StringSling®.
ASAT (All Season All Terrain) is by far our favorite camo. Predator would be a distant second. The designs are made more to fool animals than to impress the human eye. The light background of the ASAT pattern causes the animal to look past the hunter, rather than to think he is part of a tree or bush. With that said, I have killed many elk and deer while wearing cotton big box store camo clothing.
Big game decoys do work. During the rut, elk and deer will be attracted to HD photo based life size decoys. The clear leader in the field of decoys is
Montana Decoy, Inc.
They are lightweight, but well-constructed and look very realistic. The original HD photography used to make them is of actual animals. I always have a Montana Decoy on the back of my backpack with the rest of my hunting gear.
Read about how to use elk decoys here.
Inexpensive Water Bottle Filter
I finally found an inexpensive, lightweight water bottle filter that allows me to drink directly out of any lake, pond, stream or cattle trough. I carry it empty in my backpack as a regular part of my hunting gear.
Now I can carry a minimal amount of fluid in my Camelback reservoir to make it as long as I need to. I got tired of carrying the weight of extra water. If I need more, I take my Clear Creek Bottle Filter out and fill it from creeks, streams, etc.
It effectively reduces more than 99.99% of bacteria and contaminants such as Giardia, E-Coli, Cryptosporidium, lead, heavy metals, chlorine, VOCs, bad taste and odors. It is a rugged, 24 ounce bottle with an impact resistant cover. The easily replaceable filter does up to 160 refills per filter.
This inexpensive water bottle filter is not designed to refill other containers. Buy an expensive pump filter for that. But, if you want a way to take a quick drink from contaminated ground water this works great! You can order them right here:
GoPro video camera
is so high quality and so easy to use, it now makes it possible to easily record HD videos of our own hunts, even solo. I taped my five yard elk kill in 2013 with the small camera on my GoPro head strap. You can see the video on this page. Putting it on the stabilizer results in the camera pointing at the ground after the shot, if you have good follow through.
It still takes some thought to get the camera turned on at the right time, so as not to miss an unexpected scenario. I turn all my beeps and blinking indicators off on my GoPro while hunting. I turned on the "One Button" (on/off) option.
I use a mirror often to make sure it is actually on or off when I expect it to be. It also pays to have two or three extra charged batteries in your pocket and a very high capacity SD card in the camera. I use a 32gb card.
In the video on the page link above, you can see that the very low light of early morning worked out just fine on video, but bright daylight results in great HD quality. The built in mic is quite sensitive. In the video above you can hear the foot steps of the incoming bull, and my heavy breathing after the shot. i consider the GoPro an integral part of my hunting gear.
Do you Crossbow Hunt?
I don't use a crossbow in Montana, although it is legal hunting gear during rifle season here. My brother-in-law deer hunts with one in Indiana. Ready crossbow sling: I got him a X-Bow Buddy and he said it makes all the difference in the world for carrying a crossbow. No more arm fatigue! He killed a nice buck the first season he used it. From the maker of the StringSling (above).
Sling remains clear, sling automatically stays out of the way or shot-on or off shoulder.
Moves the weight of the crossbow from the arms to the shoulder.
Quickly coverts to usual on-the-back sling use your sling or ours (provided).
Fit your 1" sling rings on stock and forearm on crossbow.
I am making the X-Bow Buddy CrossBow Sling available with free shipping right here. Includes free Hogue polymer sling swivel ($5.00 value)
available with orders from this site.
Item #10300 - (All purpose camouflage Only) Fits most Horton, Excalibur, Great Lakes, Ten Point, most Barnett (those with flat metal stirrups - rubber coated or not), Parker, Darton, X Force crossbows and other x-bows with flat, square or hex rod metal stirrups. Also fits plastic coated hex stirrups (such as those found on some Ten Point models).
Item #10340 - Fits Barnett metal shoot-through stirrup-riser combination. (Does not fit Barnett carbon shoot-through stirrup/riser combination.)
to see if XBow Buddy CrossBow Sling fits your crossbow.
Binoculars, Scopes- Optics
are an absolute must for most of us. Here are some bare basics: You have two sets of two decisions to make. Forget “cheap”, they’re never worth buying.
#1. Moderately priced, but reasonably good quality optics. We recommend Nikon binoculars at a very reasonable price and very decent quality. Burris
are other also good choices. RedHead is a popular brand, as well. Bushnell
has some good optics, if you avoid the low end.
#2. High priced, excellent quality. You will get very high quality lenses and construction with Carl Zeiss
, if you can afford them.
The next set of two questions involves factors available for both price ranges.
#1. Compact (reduced field of vision, but lighter) Or:
#2. Full size (full field of vision, but more bulky). Many hunters prefer the compact models to save weight and bulkiness.
The next decision is power. 7, 8, or 10 power are the most useful for big game hunting. 7 power (7X) is most useful for scouring brush and trees up closer, but does OK at distances of several hundred yards. 8X is versatile and a little better for distance scanning while looking for elk or deer on a far away ridge. 10X makes “spot and stalk” hunting from one mountain side to another more feasible, but eye fatigue can result if using them at closer ranges. There are zoom binoculars that are reasonably priced.
I won't get into a discussion of roof versus porro prism construction here.
Maximum distance measured is the variable. For bow hunting, a rating of 400 yards or so is plenty, since most shots are taken under fifty yards. The 400 yard maximum range is hard to actually measure without a big wall or barren hillside to bounce back the signal.
An 800 yard rated range finder will have the same problem at 800 yards. Most people can't accurately shoot out to 400 yards anyway. An 800 yard maximum will consistently get you a good reading of 400 or more yards away.
I use a “440” Nikon for rifle and archery with no problem. There are bells and whistles that you can read about at the retailer sites, but those are the basics.
There are too many styles and brands to make specific recommendations. Unless you know you want a skinning/gutting knife, a drop point or a clip point. A four inch long blade is a good length for most uses. Gut hooks are not absolutely necessary, but they do
make gutting easier (see the gutting page here).
They are often added to the opposite side of the knife blade, or as an extra blade. Here's one that I would like to add to my selection (I need another knife like I need a hole in the head):
You can't have too many knives, in my opinion. Serrated edges need to be sent in for sharpening, but these edges work great on partially frozen meat and we like
to grind meat
in a near frozen state.
Anyone will like a folding type blade. Some people will tolerate the overall length of a non-folding blade and may even prefer it. Not I, however.
SureFire makes a great headlamp.
This is most often an early morning or camp tool, but can become a survival instrument. Quality can become vital. You can’t go wrong with a Sure-Fire flashlight for general purposes.
At least a day pack is a vital piece of survival and functional hunting gear. The
Badlands Superday Pack
is a very popular pack among hunters. We’ve bought a few cheap packs. They sit in the basement. An $80-100 price tag is the low end of something of quality for backpacks that make good additions to the elk hunting gear list. Badlands packs are more expensive, but worth it.
If you have a small waist like me (30"), Badlands has redesigned them to fit smaller waists, even our favorite Badlands Superday Pack.
A fanny pack will lower the price, but being able to carry survival gear and all the gear needed
to field dress
an elk or deer, without going back to the truck, requires a back pack. Most good backpacks have hydration systems built in. If a fanny pack is used, a separate hydration pack would be a good addition.
Garmin handheld GPS units
are the best choice in many people's opinions, including ours. You don’t have to have the expensive versions. I use an older, lower priced GPS and I'm very well served by it. A Garmin and decent topographical maps make two great complementary pieces of hunting gear.
I don’t care how much Thinsulate is in the expensive gloves. I always need hand warmers inside the gloves. I like cheap rag wool gloves and mittens (green, not white or a light color). Add a lightweight liner for more warmth. I have worn all three many times when it was really cold. If a mitten is used, make sure it has a trigger finger built in.
keep the lower part of your pant legs from getting wet when walking in snow or soaked grass. Once you get your pants wet below the knees, the moisture sneaks into your waterproof boots by wicking right down into your socks. You can buy Gore Tex gaiters, but even the less expensive, water-resistant brands do a pretty good job of repelling moisture, even with a soft quiet texture that slips through brush quietly.
Consider the temperature boots will be worn in. We prefer from 800 to 1200 grams of Thinsulate for cold weather hunting, along with Gore-Tex, or other similar waterproof technology.
Snow "packs" can certainly be warmer and dryer, but definitely not supportive. A good leather boot provides more support, but lower quality leather boots will sacrifice a warmth and comfort.
A high quality leather boot is a must. The best boots for mountain hiking and hunting are made in Bozeman, Montana at either
, or Schnee's. Their quality hunting boots will cost you $200 to $400, but they are the best. Then again, they will last and keep your feet safe and comfortable. Good boots will be your best friend in elk country.
Game Ear Type Hearing Devices
Unless there is a hearing loss, we haven’t found these useful.
They mainly amplify close up sounds. The hunter can hear his own clothing swish and his breathing sounds louder. That’s not helpful. A distant elk bugle or turkey gobble is not amplified appreciably. These might be useful hunting gear for tree stand hunters, as they might amplify a deer approaching the deer stand.
This tool should be in any hunters pack or pocket, even if someone carries a GPS device. If a GPS battery dies, a compass and topo map
(print free maps here)
might become a lifesaving piece of hunting gear.
There are many good brands. Lowrance is popular. However, you can print free maps at
Obviously, a vital part of your hunting gear is a rifle. 30.06 is the most versatile of calibers and plenty powerful enough for elk. 300Win-Mag, 338 and 308 are also often mentioned for elk hunting. Regardless, your gun will perform most effectively against elk if you buy premium, and the more expensive, ammo. Don’t cut costs on ammo.
If you know what type of gun you want go to GunBroker.com
for legal gun auctions, new and used. They have archery equipment as well.
, like guns, are very personal choices and require thorough research before purchasing.
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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...
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.
Rough Estimating Elk Antler Score, by Tater (Sheridan, AR) "I have booked my first elk hunt out west. My package includes up to 250 inches before the bonus prices increase. Can someone tell me how to estimate the antler size of an elk or at least a 250 inch elk?"
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."