Pro secrets for bowhunting early-season elk

Expert tips for bowhunting elk in the early-season, pre-rut period


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One time in early September, I was in tight on a young bull, but not quite close enough for a clean shot. Unfortunately, he saw me before I saw him, and I was busted—he wouldn’t come any closer after seeing me move. That happened because I was moving too fast while trying to cut off the herd as it moved up the mountainside.

So remember, when stalking elk, there’s no such thing as going too slow. And under no circumstances should you make any noise that is unnatural, such as the sound of zippers or clanging metal. If you happen to snap a twig or make other natural noises, you should be fine. Just be patient and sit tight for a few minutes to assure any nearby elk you aren’t a threat.


If you plan on stalking elk in their beds, meanwhile, be aware that it’s a one-shot deal. Once spooked from their beds, elk won’t rest in the same spot again for a long time.

The toughest part about stalking elk is that you usually don’t know exactly where they are. You may think you have them all in view as you move cautiously into shooting position, then get busted by previously unseen animals. Many times, I’ve been stalking one or two elk, thinking that was the entire group, only to have another 15 or 20 unexpectedly stand up in the same vicinity.