No matter where you find yourself hunting elk this fall, there are two things you can do to improve your chances of success. In addition to just elk hunting, these principles could apply to any type of hunting. On a long hunt, it can be difficult to keep yourself in the game. After several grueling days of hunting, hunters who are able to maintain hard work and patience will ultimately enjoy a more rewarding experience.
This brings to mind an archery elk hunt guided by one of our friends and an excellent hunting guide. The guide and his hunter had worked hard through four days of hunting in September when the daylight hours are especially long. They were into elk every day that week, but had no shot opportunities.
As mountain hunting often goes, they dealt with constantly shifting winds. The hunter had been close to a couple of bulls. But they were forced to back out each time because of shifting winds. For several days they played cat and mouse games but never got within range. They put a lot of miles on their boots and in the saddle every day of the hunt.
Despite tough breaks, the hunter kept his motivation and willingness to do what it took. On the morning of the fifth day they made another long ride and put in some difficult hiking. Once again they got into the elk, but they were still unable to get a shot opportunity. Near the end of the morning, they attempted one last bugle and were thrilled to hear a response from the dark timber about 300 yards away.
They closed the distance and moved into position. The guide bugled again and received an immediate response. They had a bull moving in, and were excited that their work might finally be paying off.
However, hard work is only half of this story. Just as they got set up, the bull went totally silent. After four days of working for a shot opportunity, this is where many hunters might lose patience and make a mistake. The guide was about 35 yards behind the hunter, giving a soft cow calls and breaking a few sticks. Still, there was no response. The guide put away the calls, and the timber was still.
This went on for more than 15 minutes with no sound from the bull. Yet the hunter kept his cool and didn’t move a muscle. His patience paid off. Like a ghost emerging from behind a tree, suddenly an antler was visible and then the elk stepped into the clearing.
He was tempted to draw but the bull was quartering toward him. With the bull facing him, it would have been dangerous to draw without being seen. Eventually the elk became suspicious and turned to leave, quartering away. When the elk’s head was behind a tree, the hunter drew his bow. As soon as the elk stepped out on the other side, he released, making an excellent shot.
During those long moments with no sound or sign of the bull, it was difficult to remain perfectly still. When the elk finally appeared, it took an incredible amount of patience to wait for the right shot opportunity to unfold. The hunter’s patience was rewarded with a nice bull.
For many of us, we wake up early on the first few days of our hunts, bright eyed and bushy tailed. Putting in the work to locate elk and get close to them is enjoyable, even if it’s difficult. But after a few days, many hunters begin to wear down. It becomes more difficult to make those long hikes or rides. Even worse, hunters can easily lose patience. That can result in lost shot opportunities because of thoughtless decisions at the wrong time.
In addition to good physical conditioning and proficiency with their weapon, successful hunters also come equipped with a tough mental attitude. By the end of a long hunt, staying alert and in the game might be tough. Hunters who can stay as patient and work as hard the last day as they did on the first, will dramatically improve their chances of success.
For more information on our Montana elk hunts here at Lazy J Bar O Outfitters, please see our Elk Hunting Page. We offer elk hunts in Southwest Montana and in the famed Bob Marshall Wilderness area. Please contact us with any questions.