Elk Hunting - The Rut
Hunting The Pre-Rut

The pre-rut is that period of time between when the bulls rake the velvet from their antlers, usually around the first of September, to when the bulls begin to rut heavily, usually mid-September. Many archery seasons open in late August, and some end before the rut peaks, so it is a good idea to know how to hunt the pre-rut bull elk.

The thing to remember is that a bull elk is ready to mate as soon as he rubs the velvet from his antlers. That's because it is the male hormone testosterone that kills the growing antlers and, in turn, ignites his mating fires.

During this pre-rut period, a bull elk can still be coaxed in if he can be fooled into thinking a cow has come into heat early. Hunters often kill pre-rut bulls by creating peak rut fever through calling.

Even when the bulls are not bugling, you can "wake 'em up" by bugling and cow calling. Often time, a curious bull will come forward to investigate the commotion and see if he's missing anything.

Another excellent method of elk hunting is done near wallows. In the pre-rut, the elk seek out certain musty waters where other elk have rolled and left their scent. They wallow in these areas and apply a sweet smelling (to them) layer of mud, which also keeps the horseflies off them.

If you locate a slicked off area near a marsh or muddy stream where the elk have been rolling in the mud, check the wind direction and plan to be waiting there in late afternoon on the down wind side. A treestand over a wallow in pre-rut is one of the best methods for killing a bull elk with bow and arrow.

Another excellent method of pre-rut elk hunting is to glass openings in elk country for feeding bulls. When you spot a bull, you can then stalk it. You can also investigate the area to find the main game trails into a feeding area and then ambush the elk as they enter or leave the feeding area on their way to bedding grounds.

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Hunting The Rut


Elk hunting during the peak of the rut is the best time to kill a bull. The elk are less wary, constantly roaming the countryside, and they are very vocal. At this time, a bull can be lured in by calling, or you can located the bugling animal and then stalk him.

However, success during the rut is not a foregone conclusion. Western elk country is vast, and elk are not found everywhere, even in elk country.

The best way to located a bugling bull is to hike along a ridge in early morning or late evening and bugle off both sides of the ridge, listening for answering elk. Often times, several bulls can be located during one of these hides, and you can then go after the bull that offers the best opportunity for a successful hunt.

Some hunters don't even bother to call during the rut. They just roam through elk country listening to bugling bulls. When a bull is located, they check the wind and then move in on the bull from the downwind side.

If you are planning an elk hunt, try to go during the rut. Most elk archery seasons occur during the rut, but only a few rifle seasons take place when the bulls are bugling. However, most elk states offer special areas where rifle hunters also can pursue bugling bulls. These are usually limited entry areas which require a permit. If you plan to hunt elk in a particular western state, check for special early season elk hunts and then apply for one of these coveted "sure thing" permits.

Hunting The Post Rut

Elk hunting during the peak of the rut is the best time to kill a bull. The elk are less wary, constantly roaming the countryside, and they are very vocal. At this time, a bull can be lured in by calling, or you can located the bugling animal and then stalk him.

However, success during the rut is not a foregone conclusion. Western elk country is vast, and elk are not found everywhere, even in elk country.

The best way to located a bugling bull is to hike along a ridge in early morning or late evening and bugle off both sides of the ridge, listening for answering elk. Often times, several bulls can be located during one of these hides, and you can then go after the bull that offers the best opportunity for a successful hunt.

Some hunters don't even bother to call during the rut. They just roam through elk country listening to bugling bulls. When a bull is located, they check the wind and then move in on the bull from the downwind side.

If you are planning an elk hunt, try to go during the rut. Most elk archery seasons occur during the rut, but only a few rifle seasons take place when the bulls are bugling. However, most elk states offer special areas where rifle hunters also can pursue bugling bulls. These are usually limited entry areas which require a permit. If you plan to hunt elk in a particular western state, check for special early season elk hunts and then apply for one of these coveted "sure thing" permits.
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