Are you ready to take the next step in your hunting career? Maybe just curious about bigger game? Well, you’ve come to the right place! Elk hunting is one of the most challenging, ancient, and popular forms of big game hunting and I cannot recommend enough attempting it at least once in your lifetime.
North America is blessed with one of our planet’s most beautiful and majestic creatures: the elk. Its habitat of wilderness is also home to some of the most spectacular sights our continent has on offer and comes jam-packed with adventures that are sure to last you a lifetime.
Whether you’re an experienced elk hunter, needing a refresher or a newbie looking into what it’s all about – this article will go through some of the main aspects of elk hunting, and see how you can ethically go about pursuing this majestic prey.
Let’s get it.
The Wapiti: North America’s Monarch
Elk are among the largest species of deer roaming the North American wilderness. Hunted since the early days of the natives, elk hunting offers some of the most badass and beautiful hunting opportunities on offer.
Depending on where in the country you’re headed out, you might encounter a variety of subspecies, including the Rocky Mountain Elk, Roosevelt Elk, Tule Elk, Manitoban Elk (and if you can time-travel, the now-extinct Eastern elk).
The bulls can weigh up to 1000 pounds and stand up 5-6 feet tall at the shoulder. The smaller cows usually will vary between 400-600 pounds and tend to be a bit more skittish.
Elk Hunting Seasons and Regulations
By far the most difficult aspect of elk hunting will be the acquisition of an elk tag. Elk hunting is carefully regulated by state wildlife agencies across the United States and Canada, and prospective hunters have to go to great lengths to get a hold of the tag (in addition to owning the relevant hunting licenses of course)
Now the elk hunting season tends to follow that of most fall-focused game. Depending on location and subspecies it will typically fall between September and November to coincide with the elk’s breeding season.
Some lucky states also have spring hunting seasons for elk. To ensure that you know the right season, tag lottery and elk hunting regulations make sure you check out your state’s government website.
All states have their own respective department focusing on conservation, fishing, and hunting. As a Washingtonian for example, I would go here.
Elk Hunting Techniques and Strategies
Alright, onto the fun stuff!
Elk hunting is notoriously challenging, but there are a great variety of strategies you can use to get after your prey. You have a lot of freedom regulation-wise, so you can hunt in the way that you prefer.
Spot-and-stalking elk involves glassing for elk from vantage points like hills or ridges, and then you stealthily approach on foot to get within shooting range. This is truly an ultimate test of patience and requires quite a bit of knowledge of elk behavior.
I will always prefer this way, as it takes advantage of a variety of skill sets such as scouting, knowledge of the terrain, game, ability to move stealthily, and patience. This is how our ancestors mainly hunted, and there’s no more satisfying way to get a good shot on a bull after a long spot-and-stalk hunt outwitting one of nature’s most majestic creatures.
During the rut, bulls can be enticed using various elk vocalizations, such as bugles, grunts, and cow calls. By mimicking these sounds, you can attract bulls closer to your location. If you can master elk calls, you’re bound to become an elite hunter with great success!
Setting up a stationary position, such as a tree stand or ground blind, near feeding areas, water sources, or known elk travel routes can yield fruitful results. If you’re a big fan of fishing and enjoy patiently waiting for your prey to come through instead of chasing it, this is for sure the strategy for you.
Regardless of which strategy you prefer, always take the time to scout out the area before the season begins. Grab some gear and dedicate time to exploring potential elk habitats such as meadows, open forests, and more high-altitude areas.
Look closely for signs of elk presence, including tracks, rubs, wallows, and droppings — and use this knowledge to your advantage once the season begins!
It’s pricy for a reason…
The greatest controversy around elk hunting is the price and competitiveness of the tags. Although there is no hiding that this can be a true bummer on your patience and wallet, make sure you remember that all that money contributes to habitat conservation, research initiatives, and population control efforts.
Hunting is the main economic contributor to ensuring that our wildlife stays as pristine and well-kept as it is. Think of the price of your tag as charity towards nature, and doing your part to take care of God’s creations.
What is the best caliber for elk hunting?
As is the case with most games, there is no single “best” caliber that fits the preferences of all hunters. There are a few options that are effective for taking down elk; it just depends on personal preference, shooting ability, and conditions.
Based on me and my friend’s experience, these are the ones I’d go for – let me know if you agree!
- .270 Winchester: A versatile and popular choice, the .270 Winchester offers good accuracy, flat trajectory, and manageable recoil. It’s suitable for both open plains and forested areas.
- .30-06 Springfield: This classic caliber has been used successfully for hunting elk for decades. It delivers excellent power and range, making it well-suited for various hunting conditions.
- 7mm Remington Magnum: Known for its flat trajectory and excellent long-range performance, the 7mm Remington Magnum provides great stopping power and is favored by many elk hunters.
- .300 Winchester Magnum: With high muzzle velocity and energy, the .300 Winchester Magnum is effective for taking down elk at longer distances and is especially suitable for open-country hunting.
- .338 Winchester Magnum: If you anticipate hunting in areas with dense vegetation or if you prefer a larger caliber for elk, the .338 Winchester Magnum offers substantial power and excellent penetration.
Quick note: I wouldn’t go higher than a .338 Winchester as that’s going to be pushing it on power, and you’ll end up damaging the meat.
Considering an elk hunt? Do it.
Elk hunting truly offers one of the most thrilling and rewarding experiences possible for any human to partake in. A true adventure in the wilderness awaits those who can rise of up to the challenge, and I cannot recommend it enough.
By understanding elk species, the seasons, various techniques, and how the tags work – you too can partake in one of the most ancient and revered hunting traditions of all.
Soak up as much knowledge as you can, gear up, hone your skills, and immerse yourself in the grandeur of North American nature as you pursue the majestic wapiti; monarch of the wilderness.
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