Top 5 Lessons Learned From Elk Hunting Part 2

By Jason Reid

Tagged out 40 miles from pavement.
Tagged out 40 miles from pavement.
AmmoLand Gun News
AmmoLand Gun News

New York –-( This article is a continuation from part one of my Top 5 Lessons Learned From Elk Hunting.

3) Wind & Thermals:  Every hunter understands the frustration of a wind hitting the back of your neck. In elk country you have more power to use the wind to your advantage and make it work for you according to the land.

Case in point, on both successful hunts of our Father-Son double, the wind was atrocious, plain sucked really. But over the course of the hunt, I learned patience to let the winds adjust and back off a bit to wait. As in the case with our day eight play on a giant 5 point and 15 cows, I learned patience for thermals.

The small harem and their bull were bedded on the lower third of a monumentally steep chute just after day break. Thanks to a handsome Mule Deer which had caught our attention at first, I looked down to find the elk unaware of our presence several hundred vertical yards above.

Pressing ourselves into the granite rocks, we spent the better part of a hour glassing the small group until the bull broke cover and began bird dogging cows, such like a whitetail. With the wind dropping still in the early morning chill but away from the group to the right, dad and I slid off the top and down the backside of the right facing chute side. An hour later we found ourselves below the herd only to find the wind having shifted blowing straight uphill into their noses.

Our only choice was to suck up the pain and hike back to the top and over two ridges. Two hours later we closed in on the bull with the most steady wind we had all week, and had the bull at 60 yards, Dad simply forgot the cows were looking at him as he made a move to cut the bull off.

What a long hike back to the top. The lesson learned was, be patience with the thermals in steep country. Wait for them to stabilize in the mornings and start rushing upward and save yourself a bunch of unneeded hiking.

Achieving your DIY dreams are possible with planning.
Achieving your DIY dreams are possible with planning.

2) Silence is Deadly:
To knock down two DIY bulls we used silence to our advantage. This is not suggesting calling is bad, but what I learned was how to move in on elk. Moving in on elk is one of the hardest habits to form for a non-rez whitetail hunter accustom to playing things so safe and conservative.

Calling certainly is effective, there is no doubt about it. Two calls from my Dad and my bull stood at 25 yards.

Gauge the reactions of the elk, if calling is causing them to spook, lay off and creep in silently. Also take into consideration what animal you are putting a play on in the herd. We knew my bull was a younger satellite bull and would be receptive ot the call. My father’s bull was big and also knew he was tending a hot cow and actually bred her just before the arrow passed through his lungs. Knowing he was the herd bull gave us the valuable information we needed to know to stay quiet and put the stalk on.

1) Meat Care and Logistics:

Congratulations, you just killed your first elk. Now have fun getting the meat out before it spoils.

Dealing with a downed elk smacked me across the face with a dose of reality. The easy part of elk hunting is killing one. Now you have the RESPONSIBILITY to get the elk meat taken care of properly.

Breaking down a bull makes for a long day. While some may disagree, I surmised to initially break down a bull and get it hung takes between 8-10 hours. Then take into consideration having to move between 200 and 350 pounds to the cooler. Build a plan to get the meat out logistically as you plan your hunt.

That could be:

  • Just committing to hike the meat out on your back regardless of distance.
  • Bringing animals like mules or llamas.
  • Having a wilderness packer on speed dial on the satellite phone.

Many guys go into a hunt thinking, “we will just deal with a downed animal when we get it.”

Plan ahead, expect to kill an elk and learn everything you can about breaking down an elk if you have not done so before. After killing your bull, time is of the essence. Two bowhunters set up camp right near ours since it was the only water source for miles and since they had pack animals needed to be close to water. They were fortunate enough to kill a nice six point. They earned this bull but made a fatal move, they left it uncut for over 12 hours.

Let me make something clear. If you are intend to hunt the evenings, be prepared to work all night to break down the bull to cool the meat.

The meat from this bull was spoiled by the time my father and I joined them for a camp fire just 24 hours later. We were nearly gagging from the smell.

Cut & Hung
Cut & Hung

For as tough as elk hunting is, the reward is not just in the meat and antlers, but in the clenseing from the mountians and time reconnecting by disconnecting. This is the one bug in life you can catch and never lose, but only you can really know if you have it within you to become a true elk hunter.

Read Part 1 here:

About: Jason Reid is a writer and business professional from upstate New York. After deciding to pursue his dream of becoming an outdoor writer, Jason started a blog from his dorm room at Houghton College, growing it and working hard to earn opportunities. While bowhunting big game is his ultimate passion, Jason welcomes all outdoor challenges which force him to push his limits. Jason’s work can be viewed on his website