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How To/Pro-Tips

Bowhunting for Elk - Get the Point

If you are a serious bowhunter for deer, you probably already have an elk-capable bow. Most bowhunters pull the most power they can comfortably handle to take advantage of a flatter arrow trajectory. Increasing your bow's draw weight or buying a new heavier bow is much like a gun hunter going up to a magnum caliber. You must practice with it to get in shape and back to your top shooting form.
Arrow and point selection is more critical. Of course your arrow should have the correct spine strength for your bow but going to a heavier arrow increases energy and penetration potential at the expense of a bit of trajectory flatness.
Your broadhead should be razor sharp and I prefer simple heads with three or four very strong blades for elk. Multi-bladed heads, very wide heads and the "trick" heads that pop open on impact cut a larger wound channel at the expense of penetration. With a big animal such as elk, penetration is the key to success.

Late Season Strategies

After the rut has come and gone, and after lots of hunting pressure, things get tough for both bucks and buck hunters.
The bucks are worn down and undernourished from the rigors of the rut and they know instinctively that they must get back in shape to face the coming winter. This means heavy feeding on the most nutritious foods available. At the same time, they are still spooked by hunter activity and are very wary. They have to find food while still dodging bullets and much nocturnal feeding is the norm.

Hunters with an unfilled tag are dealing with super wary bucks that move at night and hole up in heavy cover.

There are no pat answers. Simply hunt hard and cautiously. A survivor buck isn't going to give you many second chances. Hunting all day ups your odds for success, because deer that move mostly at night sometimes move again during the midday hours.

Hold Low

Having videotaped many bow shots at deer and taken a few myself, I know a bit about "string jump." If a deer hears your bow or sees the movement of your release, it can react fast enough to cause your arrow to miss.

The first thing an alarmed deer does is crouch to spring away. It will drop several inches, almost instantaneously. We have a lot of slow-motion footage of well-aimed arrows passing just over the back of bucks about to make a successful getaway.
Bow noise is the main culprit on close-range shots. Also, deer react more violently to a threat at close range. Make every effort to silence your bow and even then hold a bit low on bucks at very close range.

At longer ranges, the buck seeing the movement of your release is the more likely problem. You can minimize this with good form and follow-through discipline. The normal drop in the arrow's trajectory helps here as well.

Drop-Camp Elk Hunting

Many hunters have, over the years, developed the experience and acquired the gear necessary to hunt elk on their own on public land. The beginner, however, will find many advantages to the so-called drop camp offers some advantages. Compared to modern-day elk-hunting costs, it is relatively inexpensive.
What you are paying for is the rent of the outfitter's mainstay equipment - tents, stoves, and other camp gear - plus his time and horses to haul you deeper into the backcountry than most would go it alone. You supply your own personal gear and food, though many outfitters will allow you to send them a shopping list and have the requested food packed and ready to go when you arrive. While in camp, the outfitter will check by occasionally, hopefully to haul out meat.
It is strongly recommended that groups book together. There is considerable shared work in a drop camp and a mix of strangers often doesn't work out. Most outfitters won't piece drop-camps together for this very reason.

Selecting A Stand

After all your scouting, you must finally pick a spot to set up your stand for opening day. What to do? Set up on buck sign? Set up on feeding areas? Set up on trails?

I like the trails, particularly the ones that lead from bedding areas to feeding areas. In a way you are covering two key components of the deer's activity pattern without seriously disturbing either one.

Pick your exact location wisely. If you hunt in the mornings, you don't want to be facing the rising sun. Vice versa for evenings. Consider normal wind direction and thermals. Don't set up directly on the trail where you are likely to be spotted. Set up a bit to the side.

Pick a good solid tree that will support your stand and do a bit of trimming for easy climbing and to open shooting lanes. Now get out and stay out. You don't want to disturb this area again until you arrive ready to hunt.

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