Before the Hunt:
One of the biggest mistakes elk hunters make is not taking seriously the importance of being in shape. Elk hunting is a high physical activity. The mature bull you want is not in the easy territory. Elk like it steep, rugged and high. If you can’t get to where they are, you have a very low chance at getting what you want. It is very rare that you’ll pull up in your truck and shoot an elk. It takes time and preparation to be ready for the hunt. Your stamina will greatly affect your ability to get a mature bull. So, get in the thick of it and start climbing.
Have a layering system dialed for your clothes. Base layer, insulating layer, waterproof layer. Make sure you have them with you. Wool socks are a must. Absolutely no cotton, you’ll regret cotton every time. Get good boots and wear them in before the hunt. Make sure they are comfortable and that they don’t cause hot spots (blisters). Happy feet make all the difference on a hunt. Elk hunting is not done with the comforts of a heated camper a night or a quick trip to the nearest town, so be sure your gear will take care of you in the worst of conditions.
Another common mistake elk hunters make is not scouting the area they are going to hunt before the season starts. It’s so important to know the land you’re going into. Have a mental map of the land. See what those contour lines on the map really look like. It’s also important to have a good understanding of how the thermals work in that area. Don’t worry about covering your scent, you’ll never eliminate it, so focus on using the thermals to your advantage; get the wind in your face. The more information you can gather about the area, the better decisions you will be able to make during the hunt.
Set up and Calling
Don’t come in calling. Make sure you are set up before you start to call. It seems counterintuitive because you want to know an elk is there before you set up, but that is not a good tactic. Set up and then begin calling. Don’t call too much, make sure you listen for the bulls to respond. Remember to stay still and quiet when calling elk. Movement and noise will spook an elk coming into your calls.
So, you found yourself a mature bull. You call it in shooting range, great, but can you make the shot? Your preparation means nothing if you can’t finish the job. Hunters need to spend adequate time honing in their shot. Whether shooting with a bow or rifle you need to practice, practice, practice. Practice shooting at different yards and different stances (standing, crouching, etc).