Elk Hunting 101: Ultimate 2019 Beginner’s Guide
For centuries, we have enjoyed a good hunt, and it’s been used for sport, provision, survival, and animal control over the ages. Elk is a popular subject of hunting, since they are similar to both deer and moose, but provides its own challenges and tricks to properly hunting the prey down.
If you’re hoping to get into elk hunting, this guide will give you all the information you need to know about the sport. Elk is a great prey, they’re large and clever, so you’re in for an exciting and rewarding challenge!
Elk Hunting 101
You need to understand elk in order to be able to hunt them. Knowing about their personalities, their species, their habits, and their herd patterns will help you during the hunt, as well as give you valuable insight for tracking them.
It’s also very important to know how to hunt them, as well. These two halves of information will give enough of the basics to jump into your first elk hunt and come out pretty successful.
Hunting elk has become a popular choice of game due to their larger size, yet similarity to a deer. These bulls are the largest species of deer, but tend to look a little more like a small moose thanks to their large antlers. Elk mean is also very lean, with far more protein than chicken or beef has.
Elk like to travel in small, single-sex groups for the majority of the year, unless it’s the rut. During mating season, you’re more likely to find mixed groups, or couples. The bull leaders will defend his pack of 20 or less friends, and fend off their predators such as coyotes and wolves.
An elk will eat early in the morning and early evening, while choosing safety and security during the afternoon to allow their food to digest properly. They’re not like deer, who tend to graze throughout the day, and herds will stick to pretty set meal times twice a day. It’s not uncommon to see some snacking in between meals.
Knowing How To Hunt Them
Hunting elk game consists of many of the usual practices and routines required for deer hunting, but you need to make a few adjustments. Since these animals are larger and more challenging by nature, the sport is pretty demanding, and it’s tough going at times. In return, you get a large reward, so the effort is worth it!
The rules for success follow a simple set-up. Elk are extremely social animals who communicate often and like to be around their friends. Using their sounds can help you track and decide when the best time to attack will be.
When hunting Elk, you can also choose to use a bow or a rifle. Most people choose the latter, since firearm power is pretty unbeatable, but those who like a bit of a timeless challenge love the feeling of an arrow whizzing through the air towards their target. You’ll want to decide on your weapon of choice beforehand, and make camp to accommodate those choices. Bow hunters will want to get closer to their prey than someone with a rifle.
Fitness & Traveling
Elk hunting is very physically demanding. This prey is quick, moves fast and determinedly, and likes some pretty treacherous conditions. Plus, if you get one shot, you’re going to be lugging that heavy meat for hours back to civilization. Being in shape is important for your success, and you also need to make sure you’re quiet enough without being weighed down with lots of heavy, noise-making supplies.
During your elk hunt, you’ll be moving quite a bit. There is lots of hiking, hiding, and watching involved with hunting elk. Sometimes it may take hours to hear a herd, and even then, you’ll need to move stealthily to get close enough to scope them out.
You’re probably going to be making your elk hunt a trip, unless you live in a great area and have been blessed with the ability to secure a hunting tag by a popular game park. Planning your trip is almost as important as the hunt itself, because you need to make sure you’re prepared for the season, have space for your kills, and know what migrating patterns to expect.
Need to Knows about Elk Hunting
So, now you’ve got the basics covered, but you still need to get some more information on what you need to know before your first elk hunt. Maybe you’re a seasoned hunter with other animals, and you want some elk-specific questions answered. Either way, you’ll find all you need to know here.
Legalities of Elk Hunting in the U.S.
Put simply, hunting elk in America is legal. However, you have to be sure you follow the rules in order to stay within the bounds of legality here. You need a hunting permit for elk hunting, and you may only do so during approved times and seasons. Certain areas are also restricted when it comes to Elk hunting, so you have to stay in accordance to the hunting location guidelines.
Poaching, or hunting without a license, is a very dangerous thing to attempt to do. The law punishes poachers severely, and this action contributes to species being endangered and going extinct over time.
Following the rules and regulations that are in place will protect you from punishment while elk hunting, and protect the elk themselves by monitoring their numbers.
Best Locations for Elk Hunting
Big bulls can be found in several states, but it’s not always the easiest task getting hunting tag for them. Thanks to popularity varying in certain states, the places you would’ve assumed are the best for elk hunting are actually crowded and have long waiting lists for hunters. You need to find a location that has the elk in demand, but also enough tags to go around.
These 5 states and hunting parks are perfect for an elk hunting beginner, and they often have enough tags to give everyone a turn! Make sure you get your application in early, before the season starts, to ensure you get the approval.
Though it’s not the best state for hunting the large, trophy bulls, Wyoming has lots of areas with plenty of tags available for seasonal and frequent hunters. Their 350+ inch bulls are limited, but there is more to go around with opportunity hunters. Shirley Mountain, Area 16, is the best unit to hunt your best big bulls, especially during the popular winter season, thanks to the lower ravines.
With what is considered the most trophy bulls in the state than across America, Colorado has both the space and numbers to accommodate all sorts of hunters. There are several hunting tags available for regular hunters and opportunity hunters, including private land that is available to purchase a tag for to get an even better experience. The Steamboat Springs park is great during the summer hunting season.
Archers prefer Arizona for their elk hunts, since the points are limited and you need to spend carefully to ensure you have big game to hunt. Rifle hunts take much longer to get a hunting tag for, but Arizona units are vast and suited for the survivalist hunter anyway. Tucson is the best region to hunt during any of Arizona’s established seasons.
Many fear Montana because of their wolf population, but when elk hunting, you should never forget this beautiful state with its expansive units and plenty of points and tags for hunting. Both archery and rifle hunting is accepted, and though tags are expensive, this keeps them accessible. Local national forests are perfect for elk hunting and available to licensed hunters.
Once upon a time, Utah was the best place for elk hunting. Unfortunately, high demand of numbers and available units have made this a pretty tricky spot to get approved, but if you can swing it, it’s well worth it! Utah elk population is huge, and their parks are the best. Maps for the units and parks help you navigate through the best season.
Must Have Elk Hunting Pack List
It’s been mentioned that traveling light is important, but you still have to make sure you have everything you’ll need for your hunt. Being unprepared could cost you a great bull and ruin the experience for yourself, and your friends. Pack smart!
A secure, durable backpack with enough space for everything you need is key here. Multi-pocketed ones do best, and you should find one that is well-fitted to your body and feels right on your shoulders. Weather resistance is another great plus to be on the lookout for.
Strong boots with non-slip soles, gloves, jackets, and other articles of clothing are important for this, as well. You’ll be hiking a lot, so warm, supportive socks and durable footwear will be 100% required. In the winter months, you may want warm items like hats, face shields, and long underwear. Gloves are especially helpful any time of the year to protect your hands from brush and for keeping your hands clean while transporting your prize.
Check out our article on the best elk hunting boots.
Hunting Weapon of Choice
Choosing a great rifle or bow with arrows is another big part of hunting. Make sure you don’t pick something that is difficult to break down, transport, and takes up too much space. After you shoot your elk, you’ll be sharing the space and manpower with the meat and the weapon, so think carefully here.
Water, a portable first aid kit, and granola bars should always be included in your pack. Dehydration and exhaustion are real concerns for a demanding hunt like when you’re stalking elk, so keeping yourself taken care of should be high on the priority list.
Tents, blankets, extra warm clothing gear, and enough food for overnight or extended trips are all things to be taken into consideration as well. As much as roughing it for the prize is a great experience, safety is equally important.
Hunting elk comes with much more thrills and challenges than deer hunting, but the prize is in much higher demand and offers a large payout. Beginners who get started with elk hunting have a lot to learn, but diving in with the basics and putting their knowledge to the test will help them conquer the feat and take home a big prize for their effort. Though hunting tags are limited due to the high demand for elk, and the lower population in some states, several states have open availability and great numbers.
Staying safe and enjoying the hunt are just as important as the quest itself, so follow this guide complete with packing lists, friendly reminders, and suggestions to make your first, and all the following, elk hunt the best in your life.