Elk Hunting Tips for Beginners

A misconception among the novices is that elk hunting is easy as long as you have some sharpshooting skills. But just because the elk are big game does not mean they are that easy to hunt. The fact is that they are not easy to track and shoot.

The elk have good senses and do not stick to the same route, and so you need to put in some real hard work. Having a good rifle and know how aim may be easy the easy part. If starting out, you will soon realize that locating the elk is where all the work lies.

The following elk hunting tips will help you and hopefully be among the successful few in your group.

Why elk hunting

There may be several reasons that you have chosen to be an elk hunter. For most people, the quality of elk meat is enough to make them pack their bags, strap their rifle and run to the woods. Elk presents a significant challenge which is a good source of excitement for them.

Whether you are still hunting elk or using any other approach, the activity is pretty exciting. If you have ever encountered an elk hunter that just made a kill, you will notice their excitement shining through their faces. Whatever your reasons, elk hunting is a fun activity.

Learn about the elk

You cannot claim to be an elk hunter when you know nothing about them. The first step among the elk hunting tips is to arm yourself with relevant information to give you an edge. Learn a few things about their habitat preferences, their diet, and their behavior.

Professional hunters first get down for some real research on their prey. This in addition to learning the elk hunting secrets helps them significantly when out in the field hunting. They know everything they need about the elk and can use this knowledge to their advantage.
learn elks

Get Fit

You will soon discover that elk hunting is not as easy as you thought because of the physical effort that you have to put in. You stealthily follow the elk deep into the woods before you can position yourself for the shoot.

The elk hunting tips Colorado include getting in shape. A state like Colorado where you find a lot of elk is also mountainous. You will find yourself doing a significant amount of climbing and walking. If you are low on stamina, then you will be pretty unsuccessful in hunting.

To get in shape and commit yourself to the morning jogs. Get up early in the morning and jog for at least an hour. Surely but steadily, you will build some strength to move through the mountains at a consistent pace.

Most of the time, elk hunting is hard work, and if you are not in shape, you will easily get demoralized and tired.

Get some Good Boots

If you are just learning how to hunt elk in thick timber, you now know that the most part of the activity involves being on your feet. You will be moving through the woods and up the mountains, and so your feet will be hard at work.

Choose your boots well, and you will not have to quit the hunt half way when the hot spots on your feet turn to blisters. Don’t let your boots spoil the fun. Go for the right one.

Invest in a durable set of boots with a good tread. And, of course, don’t wait to wear them on the day of the hunt. They will surely feel uncomfortable making your elk hunt difficult. Wear them several times after you buy them and can even jog with them. The objective is to get them comfortable on your feet.

Learn the necessary laws and regulations

Before you strap your rifle and knives, go through the updated rules and regulations. In the US, each state has a department that regulates hunting activities. The importance of these laws is proper management of the animals’ populations. In the absence of adequate oversight, hunters would kill off every animal in the wild leaving nothing for the coming generations.

If the authorities catch you hunting illegally, you can be seen as a poacher and face stiff penalties and jail time. Your equipment would also be taken.

The first thing you need to be on the right side of the law is having a hunting license. Permits are given by the state that you intend to hunt.

Typically, licensing is on an annual basis.

However, some states have lifetime licenses. The cost of the license varies between states and is not the same for residents and non-residents. Before you get a hunting license, you must prove that you have gone through a hunting safety course. Don’t overlook anything.

In addition to the license, you will also need an elk hunting tag or permit. You get hunting tags or permits from the state that you want to do your hunting. In the majority of cases, the tags are given through lottery since more hunters want them than is available.

Check whether the state you intend to hunt requires a special tag or permit. Luckily for you, we are in an information age, and all the necessary hunting laws and regulations are available at your disposal online.

Get Some Good Shooting Skills

If you are a poor marksman, the elk hunting is not for you. Getting fit will help you track the game, but you will eventually need to get your rifle, aim and shoot.

Typically, the animal will be about 150 yards. If you get closer, then you are among the lucky few. At 150 yards, you need to be a good shot. Elks are hard to come by, and so you need to take the shot as soon as you spot it.

Practice your shooting before deciding to go out deep into the woods. Don’t be among the hunters that confuse wasting bullets and scaring the elk with hunting. Get some good shooting skills, and you will be good to go. Elk hunting tips rifle include having a good scope.

No doubt you need all the help you can get to bag that elk and good optics are necessary.

Learn how to place the right shot

Having excellent shooting skills is not all there is. You also need to find out how to place the right shot and be as humane as possible.

You will need some elk hunting tips archery to successful place a good shot that will not cause suffering to the animal. Responsible hunters know how to make a quick kill and recover their game easily.

A significant amount of complaints from anti-hunting groups center around the suffering animals go through from bad shots. The animal limps off and dies a slow and painful death.
Before attempting the shot, familiarize yourself with the animal’s anatomy.

Specifically, note where the lungs are and visualize it in your mind when out in the field. Whether using a bow or rifle, you should always attempt the shot at the center of lungs or a bit lower.
And there are a few advantages of making a shot to the lungs. First, the lungs are larger than most other animals and are hard to miss.

Also, the heart and other critical organs such as the spleen, liver, aorta, and the spine are around this spot. This makes it easy to make a quick and humane kill shot. The elk will not suffer from this shot, and so you should attempt it as much as s possible.

The key to a perfect shot is accuracy. But this shot needs to be broadside type whether you are bow hunting or rifle hunting. When the animal is standing broadside, it becomes easy to make the lungs-shot. Emphasis is on hitting both lungs for a quick death.

The perfect spot, if you are using a rifle, is right behind the shoulder. If you have a gun carrying the right bullet, you can quickly hit the lungs and heart. Avoid the headshots as much as possible as they end up wounding the animal instead of killing it instantly.

One crucial tip when making a clean and humane kill is never to attempt a shot outside your effective range.

Choose the right rifle

To be honest, there isn’t such a thing as a perfect rifle when it comes to elk hunting. You will come across many publications claiming that a particular type of rifle is the best.

However, the best rifle is the one that works for you. I prefer bolt action rifles as opposed to semi-automatic. Bolt action rifles are safer, and a have shorter reload time. Choose a scope according to your effective shooting range.

Choose the right season to hunt

The most appropriate season to go hunting is the rut. Rutting is when elks do their mating and this period lasts for six weeks only every year.

The main reason for choosing this season is because the elk will be tired from the fighting, mating, and competition that characterizes this period. They are not at their best and will be slower and weaker. This is the time that you will have the chance of tracking and finding them for the hunt.

Be Early

Elk starts moving just after dawn and closes for the day just a few hours before sunset. To be an effective elk hunter, be in position before their grazing activity begins. You need to remain hidden at these critical times.

If you get there too late, your chances of getting to the appropriate spot for the kill will be minimal. Make one mistake, and the elk will disappear as you have never seen. Don’t spoil it for yourself.

Get off Your Comfort Zone

Good hunters are always ready to get off their truck, strap their camping bag and carry their rifle long distances into the forest. You cannot expect the elk to come where you are on top of your truck. Be ready to cover some ground and spend the night camped out.


There is not such a thing as an easy hunt when it comes to the elk. You need to be at your best, and that includes a military-kind scouting. Scout the areas where you intend to do your hunting.
Note some of the important features where the animals are sure to frequent.

Typical locations include south-facing ridges, wallows, waterholes, and north-facing slopes during the day. Well-watered conifers and aspen with a generous amount of grass are good elk attractions.

There are some areas the elk are sure to frequent as they wander through the mountains in search of pasture. Note them out on your map.

A good elk hunter learns all they can before proceeding with the hunt. And of course, this learning includes moving around and noting everything. Yes, elk hunting is not a walk in the park.

Choose the elevation well

Choose your elevation according to the season. During the rutting season, you need to be at a higher elevation because there is where the elk like to be.

However, if you are hunting after the rutting, you will need to look for them at lower elevations. After the rutting season, the elk will be hungry and will be in search of a significant amount of food. Such food is at lower elevations.

Choose the right elevation depending on the season, and you will be more successful.

Follow their food

Finding the elk may be one of the most challenging. Among the best elk hunting strategy is to go where their food is, especially after the rutting season.

Their favorite after this season is alfalfa. If you happen to come across a patch of it, just know that they are close by. Your chances of running across them will increase significantly. The shallow creek is another place where the elk frequent. These animals love the vegetation that tends to grow in water.


Another one of the good elk hunting tips is calling. Using a patented elk call may bring it to your location in no time. You will also need to be close to their food source before calling.

Having a calling machine does not exempt you from the hard work of tracking. Choose a female elk call during the rutting season, and it will attract a bull elk. Study elk calls in advance so that you can know the right volume and frequency.

Please note that a cow elk call may not always be effective after the rutting. The bull just spent the last six weeks fighting for dominance and mating, and this call may not interest them.

Instead, you can try a male call and capture a bull bugle. Using calls is among the best strategies to locate and get a response from the elk. However, their effectiveness depends on the mindset and mood of the elk to respond.

Don’t be too over-reliant on the calling strategy. If you notice that it is not giving you results, try something else like going to their food source.

Funneling their trail

Another great tactic you can use to hunt is setting up shop at a place where the elk frequent on their way to the grazing pastures or from it.

This can be a valley or a canyon. However, you will need to be good at tracking so that you can identify their movement pattern from their prints. Set up shop downwind and wait for them to come. Preferably, choose a higher elevation so you can have a good view.

The Senses

Elks are animals that have acute senses. Their hearing, sight, and smell are great, and so it is very easy for them to detect your presence.

When elk hunting, stay hidden, silent and in most cases downwind. You will also need to invest in proper camouflage clothing and learn to mask your smell. This means not wearing any kind of perfume or deodorant. You can go further and smear yourself with mud or moss to smell as natural as possible.

Exercise Patience

Seasoned hunters know the value of patience and elk hunting is no exception. All of the strategies mentioned above are great but will not be fully effective. Elks are slow and cumbersome. They don’t follow a single trail and tend to cover a wider area. As a result, you may need to stay at the same location for a number of days before a single elk shows up. Be patient, and you will finally scoop the prize.

Be Ready to Deal with the Meat

Your hard work has finally borne some fruits, and you have made your first elk kill. Remember you will be out in the woods where you cannot call your favorite butcher to prepare the meat.

Pulling the trigger down the animal is easy. But you also need to know how to deal with it once it is down. If you are on the hunt alone, quartering, as opposed to gutting, is preferable. You will need small meat saw, meat bags, sharpening steel and two knives. An external frame pack and a pair of medical gloves will also prove essential.

Final Word

The above elk hunting tips will help you in your hunting if you follow them religiously. However, the most important thing to remember is their mating season, their feeding places and how to hide your scent.

Do not forget to be on the right side of local laws and regulations or these elk hunting tips will mean nothing when you are behind bars. Enjoy your elk hunting!


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One Comment

  1. It was helpful when you explained that the elk will not come to you when you are hunting them. I want to take my son hunting this year, and elk are the one animal that I have never tried to get before. These tips you shared will help my son and I get our first one.

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