Archery elk hunting is as fluid as a 1960s-era lava lamp. Herds that pattern early can often be aloof once the pressure pours on. That equals tough elk hunting for you – unless you vary your tactics as hunting conditions change.
Elk do pattern, and when they do you need to be ready with a whitetail-like approach. Early in the season, large herds of cows and calves may still follow summer patterns as they target large meadows to feed. With a hint of the rut in the air, bulls begin to mingle with the cows. Mature bulls might not get caught up in the chaos of herd management quite yet, but young bulls visit with gusto, giving you opportunity to wait in hiding as they use consistent grazing sources.
Waiting in ambush requires knowing exact distances to where suspected elk may show up. Nikon’s PROSTAFF 3i Rangefinder (below) is accurate from 8 to 650 yards, making it a great choice for bow or firearm hunters. It reads precisely with distance displayed in 0.1 increments, and it fits into your hand with the ergonomic comfort of your favorite coffee mug. ID Technology calculates incline and decline measurements, plus bright 6X optics ensure clear and easily read readouts. Shop for it at the great price $229.99.
Anytime throughout archery season, you might catch elk at a waterhole or an associated wallow. Stumbling across a water source with smoking-hot clues is evidence enough to set up surveillance. If you have the resources, you can put up a treestand or stake a ground blind. In the backcountry, you’ll have to fashion a blind from nature in a downwind position.
In some areas water is so abundant that you can stumble across wallows every few hundred yards, but in more arid regions wallows and water sources are few and far between. Use them to your advantage.
Run and Gun
Watching water sources saves calories, but don’t bet on it being a season-long tactic. Elk feel hunting pressure and move sporadically to avoid you and others in the forest. When they do, it’s time to run and gun, and proper footwear is key. Cabela’s Men’s Silent Stalk Sneaker Boots (below) guarantee you’re ready to cover country. Full-grain leather uppers and a Microtex microweave construction ensure a noiseless approach to elk. A rugged, rubber perimeter protects the toe, and soft sneaker lugs grip ground with the discreetness of a rabbit. You even get waterproof security and all of the above for a sale price of only $109.99.
Having access to a handheld GPS gives you the on-the-go boost you need to stay in the game. Garmin’s Oregon 600 Series (below) helps you locate future elk hotspots when your current elk honey-holes go cold. Plus, you can make sure you never get lost and never trespass with a high-quality GPS. The 3-inch touch screen is bright and is easy to navigate with via the touch of a finger. It’s designed with a rugged shell for bumps, and is waterproof for use in any weather. Exact positioning is completed through dual-band GPS and GLONASS satellite usage. Share your tracks, waypoints and other information wirelessly with friends, and with Bluetooth you can move your information straight to your home-based computer. Lots of other options make this a must-have in the elk woods at just $479.99.
When elk disappear from a scouted pattern, you can use these simple guidelines to find elk. Look for areas that restrict motorized access. Closed roads and roadless areas equal elk refuges. If you add in steep canyons, rocky terrain and thick, north faces, you have a likely hideout for elk escaping hunting pressure.
Use the Weather
Archery elk hunting oftentimes takes place under the intense heat of early fall temperatures. That restricts major elk movement to dawn and dusk. During the peak of the rut, though, elk may move all day long as they try to capitalize on the brief breeding window that usually peaks in mid-September and extends into the last week. If the weather forecast is for light snow or drizzle, go hunting.
To guard against the weather, shop for packable gear such as Cabela’s Rain Suede Packable Rainwear with 4MOST Dry-PLUS. Technology allows you to stay dry while the garments breathe and the suede finish safeguards your silence. The parka (below) includes zippered pockets to stow gear, while the pants are designed with three roomy pockets. Snap-closure storm flaps on both articles keep wind or wind-driven moisture from cooling your core. Both are easily stashed into their own pockets, with parkas starting at $111.99 and pants at $99.99.
Cooler temperatures give elk comfort and energizes them to move more during the day. Young bulls may roam between herds, and if several cows come into estrus at once, a herd bull will have to guard them from satellites all day. The action may not stop from dawn to dusk.
The extra elk action during the day is a bonus, but when you combine it with a foot-quiet environment, it equals a homerun for stalking. Use the quiet environment in a downwind attack and you could slip into the fringes of a vocal herd and get a shot.
Archery elk hunting places you front row to one of nature’s greatest performances. By putting gear and tactics together for the right strategy, you could end up being the star in that autumn showing.
This article was produced in cooperation with Cabela’s
Hunting images by Mark Kayser; product images courtesy of Cabela’s