The Elk-Hunting Code

The Elk-Hunting Code

Elk seasons will soon be upon us. After 30-some years of passionately chasing elk — 23 of those spent guiding paying hunters — I still can't get enough. I'm poised, geared up and ready for action, anxiously waiting September's cool mornings.

Thinking about elk hunting always starts me thinking of the many misperceptions surrounding the sport. Mostly, these ill-conceived notions stem from trying to turn something inherently difficult, physically demanding most of all, into something leisurely and, well, "easy." Easy, as in, "Just toot on an elk bugle or cow call and trophy bulls will come running." As in, "Stake out a convenient watering site for an easy kill."

Unfortunately, these perpetuated myths, like rattling, decoying, still-hunting corn rows, sitting scrapes or dispensing buck lure, normally come off better on paper than reality. They're devices for inflating the validity of a particular product.


In reality, boringly straightforward approaches account for 90 percent of elk-hunting success. That 90 percent includes dogging bugling bulls and spot-and-stalk hunting. Calling, and waterhole hunting (unless you bowhunt elk in the dry Southwest), constitute the other 10 percent.


But you just watched the video of the call manufacturer's pro staff killing 12 trophy bulls in quick succession — all called into range with their remarkable products! Let me ask some simple questions: How many failed hunts didn't make the cut? More importantly, if you were in the business of fabricating videos highlighting your calling products, would you bowhunt the same public lands you now ply?

To put this as simply as possible, bowhunting elk is a tough assignment. Bowhunting success averages 10 to 20 percent. More pointedly, 10 percent of the hunters who get it regularly tag 90 percent of those elk. You can't arrive on an elk hunt expecting to hang all expectations on a single, fanciful technique. This is a sure setup for failure, save exceptional luck.

Calling is part of elk hunting, without a doubt. But I would never toss all my eggs into that single basket. So is guarding water and/or wallows, something exceptionally productive during the perfect weather (dry and hot) and settings (areas with limited water sources), but rain instantly dampers that approach. And bowhunting elk is also about dogging bugling bulls — the ultimate technique, but again not infallible, like during an unseasonably hot week, or when excessive hunting pressure turns bulls tight lipped. Elk hunting can also include spot-and-stalk techniques normally reserved for taciturn mule deer.

The point is all elk-hunting ploys, from calling to stalking, should remain open for consideration during any week of bowhunting elk. Savvy elk hunters read each evolving scenario and adjust approaches accordingly. Regularly successful elk hunters remain flexible and carry an extensive bag of tricks.


For more details, read Patrick Meitin's book, Bowhunting Modern Elk, available by clicking HERE.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Springtime Turkey Hunt

Springtime Turkey Hunt

Kevin Steele and the boys are bowhunting turkeys with the help of some well-placed decoys.

Ravin Broadheads – 3 New Mechanicals

Ravin Broadheads – 3 New Mechanicals

Designed exclusively for their crossbows, Ravin has announced three new mechanical broadheads to maximize penetration and overall performance.

Ravin R29X Crossbow – New for 2020

Ravin R29X Crossbow – New for 2020

The new Ravin R29X Crossbow includes everything you need for blistering speed (450 FPS!) and deadly downrange accuracy (3-inch group at 100 yards).

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Going from field tips to broadheads requires arrow tuning on a higher plane.

 Good broadhead flight How-To

4 Steps to Perfect Broadhead Flight

Bowhunting Online Staff

Going from field tips to broadheads requires arrow tuning on a higher plane. Good...

The system offers ease of use, versatility, affordability and ever-expanding functionality. Scouting Tools

Moultrie Mobile: A Complete Scouting Solution

Christian Berg - July 22, 2020

The system offers ease of use, versatility, affordability and ever-expanding functionality.

ATA 2020: The new flagship bows are here, and it's an impressive crop! ATA Show

New Bows for 2020

Tony J. Peterson - January 09, 2020

ATA 2020: The new flagship bows are here, and it's an impressive crop!

From portability and comfort to stealth and shooting opportunities, today's tree saddles are hard to beat. Treestands & Blinds

Why You Should Try Tree Saddle Hunting

Andy May

From portability and comfort to stealth and shooting opportunities, today's tree saddles are...

See More Trending Articles

More Big Game

Boost Your Success Rate with this Time-Tested Wisdom... Big Game

Must Know Elk Hunting Tips

November 01, 2010

Boost Your Success Rate with this Time-Tested Wisdom...

Petersen's BOWHUNTING Editor Christian Berg whiffs on a Texas axis deer doe but gets an unexpected Big Game

Second Chance Axis Deer

Christian Berg - August 01, 2012

Petersen's BOWHUNTING Editor Christian Berg whiffs on a Texas axis deer doe but gets an...

Crawling through waist-deep barley after the fresh rain only helped our efforts to close the Big Game

Mule Deer Maiden Voyage

Jim Kinsey - June 15, 2012

Crawling through waist-deep barley after the fresh rain only helped our efforts to close the

John Dudley shares what his many years of bowhunting bulls have taught him. Big Game

Lessons Learned from 15-Years of Successful Elk Hunting

John Dudley

John Dudley shares what his many years of bowhunting bulls have taught him.

See More Big Game

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get Digital Access.

All Petersen's Bowhunting subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now