top elk hunting tips 2023

Picture this: you’re standing in the heart of the wilderness, the crisp morning air filling your lungs.

You’ve just bagged your first elk.

The adrenaline is still coursing through your veins, and your heart is pounding. This moment you’ll remember forever is a testament to your skill, patience, and preparation.

But let’s get one thing straight; it’s not just about having the right gear. It’s about strategic planning and understanding the behavior of these majestic creatures.

Mastering Your Hunting Area

elk hunting areas

Comprehensive Analysis of Your Hunting Zone

Before you even think about setting foot on the hunting ground, you need to know it like the back of your hand. This means understanding where the elk are likely to be. You must consider human interaction, water sources, food availability, resting zones, and mating areas.

For example, elk are known to avoid areas with high human activity. They prefer quiet, secluded spots where they can graze and rest undisturbed. So, if you plan to hunt in a popular area, you might want to rethink your strategy.

The Impact of Human Activity on Elk Patterns

Elk are smart, much smarter than most people give them credit for. They know where the humans are, and they’ll adjust their patterns accordingly. That’s why it’s crucial to consider the areas with high human activity when planning your hunt.

For instance, if you’re hunting in a public land area, you must know other hunters, hikers, and campers. These human activities can scare off the elk and make your hunt more challenging.

The Value of Aerial and Topographic Maps

Aerial and topographic maps are invaluable for getting to know your hunting area. They can help you identify potential hotspots and plan your approach. For instance, you might find a secluded meadow perfect for setting up an ambush or a dense forest that provides excellent cover.

These maps can also help you understand the terrain and plan your routes. For example, you might want to avoid steep slopes and stick to the valleys and ridges where elk are more likely to be found.

The Importance of Pre-Hunt Scouting Trips

There’s no substitute for boots on the ground. Pre-hunt scouting trips allow you to see the terrain up close, identify signs of elk activity, and get a feel for the lay of the land.

During these trips, you should look for signs of elk, such as tracks, droppings, and rubs. You should also consider vegetation, water sources, and other landscape features.

The Migration of Bull Elk During Mating Season

Bull elk are known to move to different areas during mating season. Understanding this migration can give you an edge when finding the big bulls on public land.

For example, during the rut, bull elk are more likely to be found in open areas where they can display their dominance and attract females. So, if you’re hunting during this time, you might want to focus on these areas.

Learning from Others

Learning from others

The Value of Shared Knowledge from Fellow Hunters

There’s a wealth of knowledge to be gained from other hunters. Whether it’s tips on how to bugle louder than the herd bull or advice on the best places to set an ambush, don’t be afraid to tap into this resource.

For instance, you might learn that the key to a successful hunt is to stay aggressive and not be afraid to put another round in a bull. Or, you might find out that the best time to hunt is during the archery or muzzleloader timeframe when the elk are less wary and more likely to respond to calls.

Using Online Forums and Social Media to Gather Information

Online platforms can be a goldmine of information. These platforms offer many insights, from discussions on hunting new countries to posts about the best gear.

For example, you might find a post on how to zero your riflescope in 3 shots, or a discussion on the benefits of lightweight, breathable gear.

The Role of Area Wildlife Biologists

Area wildlife biologists can provide valuable insights into local elk behavior and patterns. While their advice won’t be a secret, it can still give you a leg up.

For instance, they might be able to tell you about the local elk population, their migration patterns, and their preferred habitats. They might also be able to provide information on the local hunting regulations and the best times to hunt.

Identifying Less Popular, Potentially Fruitful Hunting Areas

Sometimes, the road less traveled leads to the best hunting spots. Look for areas that aren’t getting much attention from other hunters. These could be your ticket to a successful hunt.

For example, you might find a secluded valley that’s teeming with elk, or a dense forest that provides excellent cover. These less popular areas can offer a more challenging and rewarding hunting experience.

Managing Your Scent

elk hunting tips

The Superior Sense of Smell in Elk

Elk have an incredibly keen sense of smell. They can detect human scent from miles away, which is why it’s so important to manage your scent effectively. Imagine being able to smell a pizza from several blocks away. Now, multiply that by a hundred. That’s how sensitive an elk’s nose is. They can pick up on the faintest whiff of human scent, sending them running in the opposite direction.

The Role of Wind in Scent Control

The wind can be your best friend or your worst enemy regarding scent control. Learning to read and play the wind is a crucial skill for any elk hunter. It’s like playing a game of chess with Mother Nature. You need to anticipate the wind’s direction, adjust your position accordingly, and always stay downwind of the elk. This can be challenging, especially in areas with unpredictable wind patterns. But with practice and patience, you can turn the wind to your advantage.

The Limitations of Scent Elimination Products

While scent elimination products can help, they’re not a magic bullet. The best strategy is to minimize your scent as much as possible and use the wind to your advantage. Consider scent elimination products as a backup plan, not your primary defense. They can help mask your scent but can’t completely eliminate it. So, don’t rely solely on these products. Instead, focus on maintaining good personal hygiene, washing your hunting clothes with scent-free detergent, and storing your gear in a scent-free container.

The Benefits of Lightweight, Breathable Gear

Lightweight, breathable gear can help you stay comfortable and minimize sweat and odor. This can be especially beneficial during long hunts. Imagine hiking for hours in heavy, non-breathable clothing. You’d be sweating buckets, increasing your scent and making you more detectable to elk. But with lightweight, breathable gear, you can stay cool and dry, which can help reduce your scent.

The Art of Calling

The Debate Over the Effectiveness of Calling

Calling can be a powerful tool, but it’s not always the best approach. Some elk are call-shy, especially in areas with high hunting pressure. It’s like trying to converse with a stranger in a crowded room. If they’re not interested, they’ll ignore you. The same goes for elk. They’ll ignore your calls if they’re not in the mood or sense danger.

The Intelligence of Elk and Their Familiarity with Their Herd

Elk are intelligent animals with a strong sense of community. They know their herd well, making it challenging to fool them with calls. It’s like trying to impersonate someone’s voice over the phone. If you don’t get it right, they’ll know something’s up. So, when you’re calling elk, you need to sound convincing. You need to mimic the sounds of their herd, from the bugles of the bulls to the mews of the cows.

The Potential Benefits and Drawbacks of Calling

While calling can sometimes lure in a bull, it can also alert elk to your presence. It’s a tool to be used with caution and skill. Think of it as a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it can attract elk and bring them closer. On the other hand, it can alert them to your presence and scare them off. So, use your calls wisely.

The Strategy of Using a Caller to Distract While the Hunter Moves Closer

One effective strategy is to use a caller to distract the elk while the hunter moves in for a closer shot. This can be a game-changer in the right circumstances. It’s like a magic trick. While the elk are focused on the caller, the hunter can sneak up from a different direction and get a clear shot. But remember, this strategy requires teamwork, coordination, and a good understanding of elk behavior.

Choosing Your Hunting Strategy

The Variety of Successful Hunting Tactics

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to elk hunting. From spot-and-stalk to ambush hunting, the best tactic is the one that works for you. It’s like choosing a favorite ice cream flavor – what works for one person might not work for another. Some hunters might prefer the thrill of a spot-and-stalk hunt, where they carefully track their prey and make their move at the perfect moment. Others might prefer the patience and anticipation of an ambush hunt, where they wait for the elk to come to them. The key is to find a tactic that suits your skills, preferences, and the specific conditions of your hunt.

The Thrill and Challenge of Different Hunting Methods

Each hunting method offers its unique thrill and challenge. Whether you’re glassing from a high vantage point or tracking a bull through dense terrain, each hunt is a unique adventure. It’s like going on a different roller coaster ride each time – some are fast and thrilling, others are slow and suspenseful. But no matter the method, each hunt offers its own set of rewards and challenges that make it a memorable experience.

The Importance of Glassing and Understanding the Terrain

Glassing and understanding the terrain are key skills for any elk hunter. They can help you spot elk from a distance and plan your approach. It’s like being a detective – you need to gather clues and piece together a picture of where the elk are and how they’re moving. This involves understanding the terrain, including the topography, vegetation, and water sources, and using binoculars or a spotting scope to observe the elk from a distance. Mastering these skills can increase your chances of a successful hunt.

The Importance of Practice

The Value of Hands-On Hunting Experience

There’s no substitute for experience. The more time you spend hunting, the more you’ll learn and get better. It’s like learning to play a musical instrument – you can read all the books and watch all the videos you want, but nothing beats hands-on practice. So, get out there and hunt. Each hunt is a learning experience, and each experience brings you one step closer to becoming a master elk hunter.

The Benefits of Hunting Any Legal Elk for Beginners

For beginners, any legal elk is a good elk. Hunting smaller elk can provide valuable experience and help you hone your skills. It’s like starting with training wheels while learning to ride a bike. You might not be going as fast or as far as you would like, but you’re learning valuable skills that will help you when ready to take on bigger challenges.

The Necessity of Proper Gear for the Hunt

Having the right gear is crucial. From your weapon to your clothing, each piece of gear plays a role in your success. It’s like going on a camping trip – you wouldn’t go without a tent or a sleeping bag, would you? The same goes for elk hunting. You need the right weapon for the job, clothing to keep you comfortable and concealed, and equipment to help you track and locate the elk.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the best time of year to hunt elk?

The best time to hunt elk largely depends on your hunting method and the specific behavior of elk during different seasons. Generally, the rut, which typically occurs from early September to mid-October, is a popular time for hunting elk. During this period, bull elk are more active and less cautious as they’re focused on mating, making them easier to locate. However, hunting during the post-rut period can also be successful, as elk are often focused on feeding and recovering from the rut.

How can I improve my calling skills?

Improving your elk calling skills requires practice and understanding of the animal’s behavior. Start by listening to real elk sounds, which can be found online or in various hunting apps. Practice mimicking these sounds with your call. It’s also beneficial to understand what different calls mean, such as a bugle (typically a challenge from one bull to another) or a mew (often a communication between a cow and her calf). Remember, less is often more when it comes to calling. Overcalling can make elk suspicious.

What should I look for when scouting a hunting area?

When scouting a hunting area, look for signs of elk presence and activity. This includes tracks, droppings, rubs on trees where bulls have removed velvet from their antlers, and wallows where elk have rolled in mud or dust. Also, pay attention to food and water sources, as these are likely places to find elk. A good pair of binoculars or a spotting scope can help you cover more ground without disturbing the area.

How can I manage my scent effectively?

Managing your scent effectively involves several strategies. First, bathe with scent-free soap before your hunt, and wear clean clothing washed in scent-free detergent. Avoid strong-smelling foods, tobacco, and other odor-causing substances. Use scent-eliminating sprays on your gear. Finally, focus on the wind direction to ensure your scent isn’t carried toward the elk. Remember, no method is 100% effective, so combining multiple strategies will give you the best results.

What kind of gear do I need for an elk hunt?

The gear you need for an elk hunt can vary depending on the location, time of year, and your hunting method. However, some basics include a reliable weapon (rifle, bow, etc.), appropriate ammunition or arrows, binoculars or a spotting scope, and a good hunting pack. Clothing should be layered to adjust for changing weather conditions and should help you blend into the environment. Other items might include a hunting knife, game bags for meat, a headlamp, and navigation tools like a map or GPS. Remember, checking local regulations to ensure you have the necessary tags and licenses for your hunt is important.


Elk hunting is a thrilling and rewarding pursuit that requires a blend of skill, knowledge, patience, and the right gear. Whether you’re a seasoned hunter or a beginner, continuously learning and adapting your strategies is key to success. Remember, it’s not just about the hunt itself, but also about the respect for nature and the incredible animals that make the experience possible. So, gear up, do your homework, and embrace the adventure that awaits.

By Editor

Editor is a passionate enthusiast and the brains behind, your ultimate destination for hunting and outdoor gear reviews. With the tagline "Elevate Your Outdoor Experience," this website is committed to providing you with the latest and most comprehensive analysis of rifle scopes, hunting gears, and outdoor equipment. Our dedicated team of experts scours the market to bring you unbiased recommendations and valuable insights. Whether you're a seasoned hunter or a beginner, our detailed reviews and expert tips will help you make informed decisions and choose gear that matches your skill level, budget, and hunting preferences. Join our community and unlock the full potential of your outdoor pursuits with