Elk Hunting Conditions


Hunting conditions vary greatly for the elk hunter, and these variations often mean the difference between success and failure during the hunt. Smart hunters usually plan their elk hunting to avoid bad weather and include elk activity, such as the rut, to gain as much advantage as possible.

The weather is a variable that is often impossible to predict. However, the term “bad” weather can often be used to a hunter’s advantage if he knows where and how the elk respond to individual weather conditions.

On the other hand, the condition of the elk herd’s activity is critical to a hunter’s efforts. The great explosion of activity during the frantic weeks of the rut are a definite advantage for the hunter, and a hunt should be planned around this activity, no matter what the weather is like.

Generally, an elk hunter should try to turn both the weather and the elk herd’s activity to his advantage. Of course, both of these conditions may change at any time. The hunter who understands how the elk react to the weather and how they act during the pre rut, rut and post rut is usually the sportsman who claims a trophy.


Weather conditions in elk country are unpredictable, at best. Weather stations that forecast the weather usually do not take into account the extreme atmospheric pressure of the mountainous high country where most elk live. A Denver, Colorado, radio station may forecast sixty degrees and partly cloudy – a typical mid-September day. But 30 miles away in the mountains, gale-force winds, freezing temperatures and blinding snow may occur.

Consequently, a hunter should be aware of the fickle tendency of the weather in elk country and prepare for the worst. This preparation should include proper clothing and emergency gear to wait out a sudden fall blizzard in comfort. Tragedies in elk country often involve hunters who went afield wearing light cotton clothes with no emergency clothing, matches, compass or food to wait out a sudden blizzard.

These storms are usually short-lived, and a sportsman who can huddle near a small fire overnight will usually not suffer any adverse consequences. It is the unprepared hunter who falls prey to hypothermia even from a mild storm.

Story continues below


A typical emergency kit should include a raincoat or poncho, space blanket, matches, food and water, compass and map. This entire outfit will weigh only a few pounds and easily fit in the corner of a day pack. You may never need to use your emergency gear, but just knowing that you have the capability to live through a sudden blizzard will give you the confidence to hunt harder, without always looking over your shoulder at the gathering clouds.

Weather can also be used to a hunter’s advantage if he knows how the elk will react to hot, dry weather, or where the elk will go before, during and after a snowstorm.

To be successful a hunter must first be prepared to withstand variations in the weather. Once that chore is accomplished, he can begin the more pleasurable job of learning how the elk react to rain, snow or heat. In the end, the weather may vary, but the experienced hunter will know where to find the elk and how to hunt them – no matter what weather conditions may greet him in the morning.

Hunting The Rut!

The rut is by far the most active period of time for an elk herd. The bulls lose most or all of their natural wary instincts in their drive to mate. Even the cows, who don’t lose their inhibitions to lust, become less suspicious of sounds that would normally alert them because rutting elk are aimlessly roaming through the woods making lots of noise.

Consider this: even during the peak of the rut, whitetail deer never get to this frantic state of mind as elk do, when obvious tip-offs of impending danger are ignored. This all translates into a normally wary animal that suddenly allows human intrusions to go unnoticed or ignored.

Add to all this the fact that the bulls are very vocal as they bugle out their frustrations and challenges, which allows a hunter to pinpoint a bull’s location.

These conditions of a suddenly very active, less wary, and vocal elk herd combine to create optimum hunting conditions for the elk hunter. In fact, many experienced bow and gun hunters target their rut period, usually in mid-September, as the best time to pursue bull elk.

Most archery seasons for elk fall in this rutting time period, but many elk states also set aside certain areas where rifle and muzzleloader hunters can enjoy the excitement of hunting during the rut. Some of these firearm seasons are open to general hunting, but most require permit applications to control over-harvests.

Even though the best hunting occurs during the rut, good hunting can also be had during the pre rut and post rut. During the pre rut, the elk tend to still be concentrated in large herds in their late summer habitat and are fairly visible in the high country feeding areas. A hunter can find success by going into these areas and glassing for bulls.

During the post rut, cold weather and snow usually drive the elk down from the high country and concentrates them, which again creates a prime hunting condition.

While it is true that hunting during the rut is best, pre rut and post rut hunting can also be productive for the hunter who knows where the elk will be located, and how to hunt them, during each period of the fall.


About Author

Leave A Reply