Pro secrets for bowhunting early-season elk

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




When bowhunting, nothing gives you a better shooting opportunity than letting the animal come towards you, and calling is an effective tactic to lure them in. Unfortunately, calling also gives away both your position and the element of surprise, so animals tend to enter cautiously.


Before beginning a calling sequence, make sure you’re set up and ready to shoot with limited movement (above). Hide in cover, but not so much that it impedes your shooting lanes—you want just enough cover for the elk to expose itself while searching for you. During the pre-rut, elk can come in quickly or slowly, quietly or loudly, and either carefree or cautiously (or, of course, not at all). The point is, you must be prepared for any eventuality.

After calling, be patient and don’t move. If you don’t hear anything, assume the elk are coming in extremely cautiously, expecting to see a fellow elk. If they detect any motion whatsoever, they’ll stop until they’ve positively identified the source of the movement as another animal. Never take your eyes or ears off your downwind side. And if you’re confident elk are nearby, stay put for at least an hour or two.

Pre-rut elk make many different sounds, from social mews, estrus whines and warning barks to intense growls and a variety of bugles. Each sound means something different, so you must respond or initiate the calling accordingly. Also keep in mind that elk talk is similar to human dialect in that it differs from place to place and from elk to elk.