What did you learn the hard way?

Joe2Kool

Very Active Member
Messages
2,035
Lots of whitetail hunts, turkey hunts, and several general tag WY mule deer/antelope hunts under my belt, but only one elk hunt, and it was outfitted. I have a DIY CO Unit 23/24 hunt Oct 15-19. It's a second choice tag so my expectations aren't high.

So, in regards to elk hunting, what did you learn the hard way? I'm interested in avoiding some of the mistakes if possible! :ROFLMAO:

I know I'll need 47 sharp knives!
 

Joe2Kool

Very Active Member
Messages
2,035
Thanks guys! Keep 'em coming!

RE Chains, I've been stuck in several states. I hope to keep Colorado off the list!
 

BLooDTRaCKeR

Very Active Member
Messages
2,358
When you walk into heavy timber with elk sign, use wind to your advantage, step, look, step, look, step, look. I’ve walked up on many elk this way.

If you bump elk out of beds, pick an area close by and have a seat. I’ve had em blow out of timber only to come full circle back to bedding grounds an hour or so later. But be ready because they are alert!

Leave camp before light, come back after dark.

If you stumble upon a herd that isn’t spooked, observe them for a while to make sure you have accounted for all stragglers before making a move.

People say don’t light a fire on the mountain to stay warm because the smell on you will spook the elk. I light fires all the time…why not?! You already smell like crap to elk….play the wind everywhere you go.

Never hunt where you’re not willing to pack one out.

If you are going miles in, carry game bags.

To be continued…
 

Focoelkman

Active Member
Messages
550
Must have your eyes up on the hills and scanning at all times. Watching funnels, clearings and cuts. They appear out of nowhere sometimes.
Lot of guys never see what their chasing too busy walking with their gun on the shoulder. Maybe on their phone.
And practice shooting off hand : when you see em you got to kill ‘em. Or they are gone.
 

Butts

Active Member
Messages
779
Must have your eyes up on the hills and scanning at all times. Watching funnels, clearings and cuts. They appear out of nowhere sometimes.
Lot of guys never see what their chasing too busy walking with their gun on the shoulder. Maybe on their phone.
And practice shooting off hand : when you see em you got to kill ‘em. Or they are gone.

I agree 💯 on this. Practicing shooting off hand is one of the most underutilized skills in the modern hunting era. I don’t about everyone else , but rarely is there time to analyze a shot opportunity.
 

JPickett

Very Active Member
Messages
2,413
If it hasn’t been said yet, ditch the rifle and grab a bow. Lesson I’m glad I learned early in in life with elk. Hunted them with a rifle when I was young but got sick of it fast, it was just another deer season really. Nothing like archery elk, to the extent with me that I can’t even see the point of hunting them with a rifle.
 

Chump

Active Member
Messages
115
If it hasn’t been said yet, ditch the rifle and grab a bow. Lesson I’m glad I learned early in in life with elk. Hunted them with a rifle when I was young but got sick of it fast, it was just another deer season really. Nothing like archery elk, to the extent with me that I can’t even see the point of hunting them with a rifle.
Agreed, always hunted archery every chance I got/get!!! My shoulders on the other hand disagree! :LOL:
 

hossblur

Long Time Member
Messages
8,212
Keep shooting until it's not moving then shoot one more. Chased a bull that was hit high, 11 miles last year.

Don't walk past elk, to hunt elk.

Funny watching all the back country warriors every year "gain elevation", then shooting elk they walked past.

Elk aren't impressed with your hiking, they will let you roll on by.
 

Butts

Active Member
Messages
779
If it hasn’t been said yet, ditch the rifle and grab a bow. Lesson I’m glad I learned early in in life with elk. Hunted them with a rifle when I was young but got sick of it fast, it was just another deer season really. Nothing like archery elk, to the extent with me that I can’t even see the point of hunting them with a rifle.
JP you ever practiced running to a spot and timing yourself how quick you can put one in the money on a 3d target? I have done this it helps me tremendously in the field. Just wondering..
 

JB48

Active Member
Messages
217
I learned my life long hunting partner can't judge deer or elk to save his life. He saw a bull I was above and could have probably kill near last light. He says yep, has a weak 5th. Snowing so I start hiking out. Someone else killed the bull the next day, it score 343. First time in his life he under estimated anything. That was an awesome bull.
 

Butts

Active Member
Messages
779
I learned my life long hunting partner can't judge deer or elk to save his life. He saw a bull I was above and could have probably kill near last light. He says yep, has a weak 5th. Snowing so I start hiking out. Someone else killed the bull the next day, it score 343. First time in his life he under estimated anything. That was an awesome bull.
Well sh*t JB, “ I learned my life long hunting partner can’t judge deer or elk to save his life”
And then “ first time in his life he under estimated anything” sounds like most of his life he judged them perty accurately.
Just razzin’ ya!
 

JB48

Active Member
Messages
217
Well sh*t JB, “ I learned my life long hunting partner can’t judge deer or elk to save his life”
And then “ first time in his life he under estimated anything” sounds like most of his life he judged them perty accurately.
Just razzin’ ya!
Well a few years prior same unit a friend and I were in camp. He, (underestimator) drives up. He say big bull in the truck down the road, with fourths for days. Went and looked, and found the fourths were about a foot long. Still makes us laugh.
 

shootem

Active Member
Messages
649
When using calls such as a cow call or bugle, stay motionless when calling. Had a herd of elk up on the side hill listening to my buddy calling, however the elk were quiet not responding to the calls. My buddy walked through an open clearing while calling and was busted. Don’t walk while calling, simple enough right?
 

JPickett

Very Active Member
Messages
2,413
JP you ever practiced running to a spot and timing yourself how quick you can put one in the money on a 3d target? I have done this it helps me tremendously in the field. Just wondering..
I’ve done some of the run through course stuff. But really I don’t do much of that. Ive been shooting a bow and bow hunting elk so long that the shot any more is really second nature. Most game I take I can barely remember taking the shot and the process is so instinctual that when that moment comes it’s really the last thing I’m thinking about.
 

Butts

Active Member
Messages
779
I’ve done some of the run through course stuff. But really I don’t do much of that. Ive been shooting a bow and bow hunting elk so long that the shot any more is really second nature. Most game I take I can barely remember taking the shot and the process is so instinctual that when that moment comes it’s really the last thing I’m thinking about.
I’m sorry, what you’re describing is exactly what I’m talking about. Field run throughs. I have killed 9 bulls in the last 10 years with the stick flipper. Never ran through the shot process “as seen on TV”.
It happens before my brain gets in the way..
I need learn to call like you, cause the bulls I hunt head to the next county when a call is blown.
Guess I’m not holding my mouth right.
 

The_Coloradoboy

Active Member
Messages
848
Watch out of state/inexperienced guys make typical the same mistakes every single year;

1. The thought you need to hike 20 miles a day is completely false. I watch a lot guys get all amped up and excited on opening day and start hiking at 3am, walk through elk in the dark and proceed to blow them out. And then proceed to walk around aimlessly all day long and completely run themselves out of gas and be too dog tired to do it again the next day and the day after that.

2. Rely on your glass. Focus on finding high points, getting to them and spending hours there picking country apart. It will save your legs. Alot of guys with a whitetail back ground are typically not proficient behind the glass because it’s not a technique used. It takes time, practice, and yes some serious financial investment at time.

3. Persistence,Patience and Perseverance. Elk hunting can be tough. Public land OTC elk hunting in Colorado can be even tougher. There’s very few people out there who can get it done consistently year after year. Resident or Nonresident. A lot of guys give up early in the season and head home and others can’t seem to get out of bed and hike up that mountain day after day.
You’ll be surprised what simply being willing to get up and go every single day will do for success especially later into the season when alot of others have burnt out.
 

Butts

Active Member
Messages
779
Watch out of state/inexperienced guys make typical the same mistakes every single year;

1. The thought you need to hike 20 miles a day is completely false. I watch a lot guys get all amped up and excited on opening day and start hiking at 3am, walk through elk in the dark and proceed to blow them out. And then proceed to walk around aimlessly all day long and completely run themselves out of gas and be too dog tired to do it again the next day and the day after that.

2. Rely on your glass. Focus on finding high points, getting to them and spending hours there picking country apart. It will save your legs. Alot of guys with a whitetail back ground are typically not proficient behind the glass because it’s not a technique used. It takes time, practice, and yes some serious financial investment at time.

3. Persistence,Patience and Perseverance. Elk hunting can be tough. Public land OTC elk hunting in Colorado can be even tougher. There’s very few people out there who can get it done consistently year after year. Resident or Nonresident. A lot of guys give up early in the season and head home and others can’t seem to get out of bed and hike up that mountain day after day.
You’ll be surprised what simply being willing to get up and go every single day will do for success especially later into the season when alot of others have burnt out.
You should write a book!🤝
 

JPickett

Very Active Member
Messages
2,413
I’m sorry, what you’re describing is exactly what I’m talking about. Field run throughs. I have killed 9 bulls in the last 10 years with the stick flipper. Never ran through the shot process “as seen on TV”.
It happens before my brain gets in the way..
I need learn to call like you, cause the bulls I hunt head to the next county when a call is blown.
Guess I’m not holding my mouth right.
When in doubt call less. I’m pretty good with a diaphragm but there’s lots of times I just shut up for a bit after I get a response
 

JB48

Active Member
Messages
217
I love this… if you gain 3000 vertical feet that’s where ol 2 hundo is/ 4 hundo.
They are where,well…
Well, all day to climb and glass at the top. Some of the most beautiful elk country I have ever seen. Spotted the bulls on the way down at 9100 feet in a canyon across from the pickup. The bull I killed was the smaller of 2, but the only bull visible last light. He scores 380. I will post a pic tomorrow.
 

Butts

Active Member
Messages
779
Well, all day to climb and glass at the top. Some of the most beautiful elk country I have ever seen. Spotted the bulls on the way down at 9100 feet in a canyon across from the pickup. The bull I killed was the smaller of 2, but the only bull visible last light. He scores 380. I will post a pic tomorrow.
Hell yeah can’t wait! 380 is world class stuff. Most guys on here state score don’t matter.., but when you kill something that is in the top 5% of any given area, it’s way cooler 😎!
 

MountainSqwabler

Active Member
Messages
367
If it's rifle elk, I learned that you don't need to walk every dang ridge, and if there's a small hill your driving up to that has an opening or a valley ahead....stop before you Peak and walk up to the top and peak your head over and look into said valley or opening.

If it's archery, I've learned to be patient and consistency is key. If you know for a fact that elk are in an area, even if you haven't gotten a shot, and you know that you haven't spooked them out yet....keep after them, don't give up and move on to a new group.
 

JB48

Active Member
Messages
217
Hell yeah can’t wait! 380 is world class stuff. Most guys on here state score don’t matter.., but when you kill something that is in the top 5% of any given area, it’s way cooler 😎!
At my age now with new hip, I just want to be outdoors, and hunt with friends. Harvest matters to me very little these days.
 

HntHrdr

Active Member
Messages
500
If it hasn’t been said yet, ditch the rifle and grab a bow. Lesson I’m glad I learned early in in life with elk. Hunted them with a rifle when I was young but got sick of it fast, it was just another deer season really. Nothing like archery elk, to the extent with me that I can’t even see the point of hunting them with a rifle.
This is the truth!
 

Servehim

Very Active Member
Messages
1,698
Things I've learned....long list .
It is said , you can often fool their eyes , you can fool their eyes on occasion, But you never fool their nose . They smell you its game over.
Stay calm when a close opportunity comes your way. I have 3 bullet points taped on my bow
1. Stay Calm
2. Pick your spot
3. Follow through

Its 10% of hunters that harvest year after year, same guys . Most hunters are not committed. "Lucky" hunters by and large are those guys who are in the woods and not sitting campsite. The more time you are actually hunting the Luckier you get !!

My 2 cent
 

Thill

Member
Messages
79
Elk are where you find them - not where you want or expect them to be. If the sign isn't fresh, keep moving. You can find the greatest looking game trail or trails only to eventually realize that hasn't been used in weeks.

The best places to hunt during 1st season in your area is going to be an escape route into black timber or heavy cover.
 

Butts

Active Member
Messages
779
If your killing 340 bulls every year you got her pretty well figured out
Yes it’s coming to a head,but I’ve done well for quite awhile.
Everything has its peaks and valleys. I did well while it lasted. Good time’s!!
 

Chump

Active Member
Messages
115
But while we're at it...we are all in this together. Need to quit butting heads. Let's move on and fix this ****........being our country.
 

Butts

Active Member
Messages
779
I agree Chump, I’m as guilty as the next guy. I can say whole heartedly sometimes we are own worst enemies !
 

2lumpy

Long Time Member
Messages
5,598
This has the potential for being longest unanswered question ever asked, in the history of the human experience…..
 

Bull711

New Member
Messages
2
Aim small miss small, words passed along to me many years ago that I need to remind myself of when shooting a bow or rifle.
 

HikeHunt61

Active Member
Messages
608
Great answers! One thing I didn't see mentioned (or I missed it):

When hunting timber, your nose is as important as your eyes. Elk smell. Even cows. It's a little like the odor of cattle. About 1/2 of the elk I've killed, I smelled them before I saw them. It's a HUGE advantage to know they are near. You go from very slow walking to one step at a time looking for a patch of hair. It's also the most exciting thing to know they are right there with you.
 

Gunnihunter

Active Member
Messages
646
Stay ALERT! Elk make a lot of noise when moving with other elk, but can move silently when they want to. When a hunter is making calls, a bull can respond and come it without making a call or stepping on a twig. Bulls have a language you can learn, from “here I am sweetheart” to raging “get the hell a way from me”. If you have a bull that you are following and trading calls with, if he shuts up, start moving away in the opposite direction and give a few cow calls. I’ll almost guarantee that he will he will give you the “here I am sweetheart, catch up” call back.
 

blueman

Member
Messages
33
This is the young man in me speaking, "get them dead and on the ground, then worry about packing them out". Its easy to say that timber hole is too deep, that hill is too steep, ridge too far, Etc.
 

Ballistic

Member
Messages
48
1. Locate the elk. They are creatures of habit. Even when they are bumped they move to another spot and the habits resume. This is easier said than done. It can be easy to do or hard- depends on the individual and the pressure. Most hunters aren’t willing to hike very far to locate elk. And even more aren’t willing to go after the elk once they are located- it’s just too far or hard for many.
2. Don’t hike into where the elk are at 3:30 in the morning. You’ll blow them out 99% of the time. Get a ridge away and wait when you can just see the early light and then make your move.
3. Hunt smart not hard. If your worn out from hiking too much your not going to deal with an animal that’s on the ground very well.
4. After sunrise glass the shaded areas of canyons. Elk really hate the sun on their backs. They will stay out for a few hours after sunrise as long as they can keep the sun off of themselves. You might not get into range that morning but could set up where you spotted them at 0900 am for example -the next morning.

Most of the above have already been addressed by other posts. I spent my 1st 3 years eating tag soup on elk. I read the books and watched the videos and made many many mistakes along the way.
Elk hunting is still hard work and there’s a reason that approx 10% fill their tags every season.
If you are lucky enough to go hunting with someone that is successful every year -take good notes.
 

elkchaserreturns

Active Member
Messages
339
What have I learned the hard way?
Pretty much everything I know about elk hunting, , , , I learned the hard way!
Lots of good info already given. The trick is knowing what to do and when to do it.

These tips apply to bow hunting elk in September.

1) You can fool their eyes, you can fool their ears, but it is damn hard to fool their nose. Keep the wind right!
2) After a day or two of not finding elk, move. I had to re-learn that lesson two years ago. I kept telling myself to hang in there and stick to the plan. But the bulls just weren't talking in our area and we burned a whole week before we finally accepted it.
3) Be prepared to get one broke down & out to a cooler within 12-15 hours after it dies. It is often 80+ degrees where we hunt and they will spoil pretty quick.

I could ramble on and on but most of it has already been stated.
Be respectfull to the animal you hunt & the people you meet along the way.
Be sure of your abilities and stay within those limitations.
Be safe & enjoy the whole experience. Filling the tag is just the icing on the cake.

Elkchaser
 

Thill

Member
Messages
79
In units 23/24 NEVER pass on any legal animal. This is really common sense for just about every unit that has some form of over the counter tags. 99.99% of the legal bulls were spikes the prior year and very few will make it thru all the hunting seasons this year.
 

1989Cohunter

Active Member
Messages
546
Like has been said a lot slow down. And hunt where elk are not where you want them to be. When I used to only bow hunt elk I would kill myself getting to my spot. I would blow elk off the trail almost daily. I learned those elk were better to hunt. They were closer and they were there. Sure my spot I hoofed it to had elk too but they were a lot farther away. I think one almost has to learn that with age. I was told plenty to slow down but I didn’t want to listen.
 

HikeHunt61

Active Member
Messages
608
Oh- and like you do with all game, make dang sure the elk is dead before handling him. (Ya know- the poke in the eye trick). Had a friend once that got a nasty surprise thinking the elk was dead since it was laying still on the ground. Elk are very powerful!
 

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