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Old 04-08-2011, 04:34 AM
Typical Buck
Join Date: May 2009
Location: Colorado
Posts: 797

I've hunted elk for 25 years been guiding hunters for 22 of those years. As a guide you don't get to pick the choice seasons. Go after the bulls in the prime time. I almost don't know what that would be like to get to pick my one season every year. I didn't kill a bull elk myself until I was 19 years old. That was right at the time when it went from spikes to 4 points or better. Finding an elk with a rack was hard to do. I believe back in 85-86 was the time frame. Since then I've almost went 100% on taking a bull elk every year. I'm on the verge of taking 20 bull elk myself and with clients that number of elk taken is a lot higher elk taken but lower on the ratio of success.

Hunting for one's self is a lot different than adding in extra person or a buddy you are dragging along behind you. For one you want to be considerate and make sure they are safe, comfortable and having a great time. But when there's distance to cover between you and the elk, you have to eat that ground up in a very short time. Elk hunting can be enduring. Twice hunting for myself and once with my brother I've actually ran over 500 yards to get in a position to shoot elk on the move. I can't do that to a client and I sure would feel bad doing it to a buddy. But if you want to go 100% year to year on taking a bull elk you have to be ready to do whatever it takes to get it done. Try it a few times just for fun, run a couple hundred yards then calm yourself for a shot before the elk get out of the area. Not really a fair point but I grew up in the mountains and I guess i'm adjusted.
But it's not about running one into the dirt that was the extreme of being successful. You have to hone those stalking skills. Know how to use the terrain in open country to get close and make that shot even with a bow. Last year archery season a father/son duo and myself stalked on a herd above timberline and we got in position for a shot. It was a long shot 50+ yards but I think that was one of the most rewarding stalks on elk I've ever did. Stalking elk with multiple people where the only cover is the shape of the terrain and the grass not even a boulder to hide behind. Now that's fun. If he wanted to have killed a cow they were only 19 yards from us. We missed the bull but who cares it was the experience that made the day.

There are so many things a person could write about how to help a new person in the elk world but there is a few core things that will make a difference.

Shooting- This is the biggest make it or break it in the elk world. 450 yards for a rifle/ 150yards for a muzzle loader/ 50 yards for a bow. Standing, Kneeling, Sitting, Prone. You need to be able to make any of those shots to increase your chances of getting an elk. I know you just think I went stupid. But I can do it and a few people around me and a few that I've guided can do it. It's not a matter of can't do it, it is a matter of practice. Don't do what so many people do and see an elk and go Oh my god and elk and get flustered and all their shooting capability's go right out the window. It's sad because they don't get the elk. I could write a book solely on first hand witnessing people missing elk. Some of them big ole bulls I sure with that would of been my turn and my season.

Being in shape is number two, if you can't get there you can't get the shot. It's that plain and simple. I've hiked 65 year old men plus patiently up rough nasty terrain miles to get a shot on a bull that I knew the elk had moved into that area. If a 60+ person can do it you better be able to do it too. I used to think take the young man get to the elk. I'll take the older gentleman and be packing out an elk at the end of the day.

Attitude- I can't count the number of elk taken on the last hour of the last day with friends and clients. Keep your head in the game. Stay positive. So many times I've seen guys get poor attitudes because a hunt isn't going perfect. If you start giving me attitude about finding elk how do you think you next day of hunting is going to be? My most important thing is to get someone an elk. That's my lively hood. That's my passion.
People just don't understand that even outfitters get skunked. If elk hunting was easy then I'd probably have a different number one game animal on my favorite list. If your attitude sucks I can imagine your hunt is going to be miserable. I hunt myself by myself. I want to go where I want to go. If your like me don't bother hiring an outfitter, it will drive you nuts being led around all day.

What's the one consistent tip I can give you that always works for me. If your not looking into the north facing timber for elk your not looking at the right area's. Elk have a massive hide full of hair and even on the coldest of cold days you'll find them bedding on that north face out of the sun. This is not 100% but it's as close to right for knowing where the elk are. And just because an area looks small rugged and nasty doesn't mean there's not quite a few elk held up in it. And turn your scope down when you walk into it. Three to five steps and you better be looking or glassing. Elk move around in the timber during the day so sitting and taking long breaks is a wonderful idea.

Hunt the same mountain side or canyon everyday and you just increased your odds of seeing an elk 10 times. I move around a lot but I've got 20 some years of learning my area. I know where the elk tend to eat, sleep, and play games. If you killed a bull there the year before chances are your going to do it again. Maybe not in the same scenario but in the same area.

Good luck to you and keep a positive attitude.
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