How Elk Hunting Came to Be:
Big-game hunting is about hunting a large animal (also known as game) for sport. The term has been historically associated with the hunting of the Big Five Game in Africa, i.e., lion, elephant, buffalo, rhinoceros and leopard). But most of these species are protected now, which could be why hunters have turned to other larger animals for this type of hobby. One of them is the elk.
Elks, also known as wapitis, are one of the largest species that belong in the Cervidae or deer family. They are also believed to be one of the largest land mammals in eastern Asia and North America. Sometimes, these animals are mistaken for a moose because of their large antlers. There are cultures that believe elks are a spiritual force. But they are also hunted for meat, artwork (antlers) and velvet collection. Some call elk hunting “canned hunt” because there are hunters that pay a fee for a guaranteed chance of being able to kill one in an escape-proof area.
Elk Population in America:
Over the last 100 years, there is a resurgence of the population of the North American elk. There were an estimated 10 million elks roaming in the country before the Europeans got here. However, the massive loss of habitat due to westward expansion in the 1900s has reduced to an estimated 100,000 animals. Thankfully, nowadays, biologists suggest that there are around a million elks.
Methods for Elk Hunting:
It is important to have an in-depth knowledge of elk hunting to be successful in such sport. The key to proper execution of a method or tactic is to plan ahead which kinds of animal are you willing to take. By knowing the answers to crucial questions, you can take away any hesitation that could cost you those precious few seconds when an elk appears before your eyes.
Spot and Stalk an Elk:
This is a classic tactic, which is also the most widely applicable. With this method, you will need high-quality optics to scan an area for elk. Once you spot an elk, you stalk it until you get a good shot.
Elks are crepuscular, which means that they move more at dawn and dusk. This also means that the first and last hours of a day are the best times to spot them. This is why a lot of successful elk hunters start at 3:00 am. They hike in the dark with a headlamp towards a predetermined point. Once they get to an area with a great vantage point, they position themselves, get comfortable and wait for first light. At this point, you should also keep your ears open as bulls may be bugling before dawn. When daylight comes, you should then start using your binoculars. you’ll need to sit still and place your optics on your knees for stability. This is where a good quality binoculars is very much needed.
Calling an Elk:
Another effective method to use in elk hunting is to call the animal using man-made devices to mimic its sound. The secret to successfully calling an elk is to read and understand their language and behavior to determine their intention, know when to put your calling technique away and understand timing. However, overcalling can be the biggest risk when hunting an elk using this tactic.
Calling an elk can be used to:
1. Cover sounds of movements when you are scouring the area or stalking an animal.
2. Bring an elk that you just shot back for another shot.
3. Locate elk herds.
4. Attract bulls to your position when a herd is in close range.
Ambushing an Elk:
Ambushing elks is another commonly used method in elk hunting. But just like all other tactics, it only works better in specific situations than in others. For example, when hunting Rocky Mountain elks, this technique works well especially when around waterholes during drought. But it is most useful when going after Roosevelt elks because they tend to stick to smaller ranges.
With this technique, you can have more shots that are high odds. It can also be a great backup tactic for when you are too tired from using other methods but you will want to keep hunting. If you’re wondering where to set up an ambush, an area near water would be perfect because elks need to drink. But these water holes can be found in remote locations, which means that you’ll need to put in some serious leg work.
Places to Hunt for Elk:
Elk Population (estimated) State
58,000 New Mexico
Tips for Elk Hunting:
Be fully aware of the hunting laws. Whether you’re hunting in Montana or Washington, it’s important that you understand all hunting regulations. Keep in mind that every state has its own set of rules. So, to avoid getting in trouble, always take the time to know what is allowed and what is prohibited.
Cover your scent. Use unscented bath soap and shampoo before going hunting. There are products specially made for hunters, which don’t use any scent in them. Or you can also use a scent eliminator.
Practice elk calling. Since this is the best way to bring elk to your location, make sure you know how to do it. Choose between a cow call or a bugle call, which works specially during rut season.
Scout the area you plan on elk hunting in thoroughly. Landscapes can change in an instant. So it’s best to check if there are still a good number of elk in the area, even if you’ve hunted there before. This is especially true if you’ll be hunting in a new territory. Be sure to have topographical maps so you can explore before your hunt.
Get to your spot before the elk. The first few hours after dawn and before sunset are the times when elks have the most movement. So if you get to the spot during those times, you might scare off the elk. Keep in mind that elks have excellent visions and hearing.
Place the shot properly. If you plan on taking down an elk, make sure you have the perfect shot with a bow or rifle. If you miss your mark, you could end up with an injured animal or a slowly dying one.
Follow all these tips to ensure that you’ll be successful in your elk hunting.