An elk hunt, whether on private land or public land, is a very-expensive proposition if you’re headed from the East going to the West. These tips will help you better prepare to take the elusive bugling bulls of the high country.
I’ve had several friends say, “I’ve always wanted to go elk hunting.” My standard response to that statement is, “Give me just a few minutes to find a baseball bat, and we’ll go out in the parking lot. I’ll beat you up with that bat. Then you’ll feel like you’ve been on a week long elk hunt.” Elk hunts are a lot of work, but they’re also exciting.
- Get in shape before the hunt to have a successful elk hunt. In the East, most-often we walk on flat ground. In the West, especially in the mountains, most of the land has a severe incline and a severe decline. You’re either walking uphill or downhill when you’re hunting elk in the high country. Because your body isn’t conditioned to this type of terrain, if you don’t start training well-before the hunt, more than likely you’ll have a difficult time reaching the place you need to be to take an elk with your muzzleloader.
- Plan to get to elk camp 2-days before your hunt starts to scout and to get your body accustomed to breathing thin air. The Good Lord in His ultimate wisdom created some of the most-beautiful country in the world where elk live. But He didn’t supply enough air for easterners to breathe comfortably at those high altitudes for the physical demands of an elk hunt.
- Spend time at the rifle range sighting in your CVA rifle at distances out to 200 yards. You’ve got to know where your bullet will hit at different ranges. If you have to make a shot at 200 yards, you’ll know where and how to aim.
- Make sure you have boots that are appropriate for the terrain you’ll be hunting. Just as importantly, make sure you have comfortable socks that will keep your feet dry from rain and sweat, and prevent your feet from slipping and sliding inside your boots.
- Purchase the best lightweight Gore-Tex rain suit you can afford. More-than-likely rain, sleet or snow will fall during elk season.
- Talk to your guide or experienced friends you’ll be hunting with, to learn what you need to carry in your daypack. You need to have everything you’ll need for that day’s hunt in your daypack, but you don’t need so much in your daypack that it’s a burden to carry.
- Remember the importance of being scent-free, since odor definitely will scare-off elk. My friend, longtime and avid elk hunter, Bill Custer of California, explains, “Campfires are warm, comfortable and fun to sit around, but I won’t have a campfire in elk camp. I don’t want to have wood smoke in my clothes. Fire is natural, but elk on public lands today are street-smart. If an elk smells smoke without seeing smoke or flames and has seen hunters before when he’s smelled that odor, I think the elk is smart enough to relate the smell of campfire smoke to danger. I don’t go out and spend a lot of money on odor-eliminating products. You can spend thousands of dollars trying to get rid of odor and still stink. If I’m hunting into the wind and spook a bull, most of the time I can call him back within range. But if the wind is hitting me in the back as I stalk the bull, and that bull smells my human odor, I’ll never see that bull again. A big, smart bull probably will change ZIP codes when he smells human odor. As long as you’re wearing a camo pattern that keeps the bulls from seeing you, and you wear a mask and gloves, and the bull doesn’t smell you, you have a good chance of calling a spooked bull back to you.”
What tips or suggestions do you have for hunters who live in the East and plan to blackpowder hunt for elk in the West? Send tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
By: John E. Phillips, longtime blackpowder hunter for more than 30 years and outdoor writer.