Working toward Elk Season

This time of year while talking to friends, I frequently hear the comment ” I cant wait till elk season”! And that gets me thinking “why wait”? There are so many preparations to be made in the next couple months, we can’t wait until a week or two before opening day to throw all our gear together. While talking to my buddies, I start getting excited about all the information that I’ve gleaned over the past few months waiting for the snow to leave the high country. Talk of “Elk Camp”, “The One That Got Away”, and “That lonely ridge I’ve always wanted to hunt but never did”, fuels the fire and passion within. I enjoy preseason anticipation almost as much as the hunt, due to being active in getting ready, making plans, and becoming proficient with my gear. Stop the nail biting, and start the nail driving into constructing an enjoyable hunting season.


If you haven’t spent your winter scouring topo maps and Google Earth, then you must make it a priority now! I can’t count how many little honey holes I’ve found on maps that have been over-looked because of their hidden nature. Some of these areas are on the opposite sides of ridges from where an access road or trail may cut through the terrain. Or perhaps the dense forest obstructs your vision from seeing distant areas that never get hunted. In areas that have a lot of other hunters, you must find where elk seek sanctuary. After finding points of interest, make a list and start doing the leg work. Finding game trails, I start getting to know the area. Looking for last years elk rubs and wallows helps paint a picture of what September may have in store.

After finding prospective areas, set up a scouting camera to take a look at what type of elk inhabit the area. You may be surprised at what might walk by your camera. Today’s trail cams are high tech with much useful information that can help in the success of your hunt. Last year my brother-in-law, Randy, set up a trail cam next to his tree stand and to his dismay when he returned he had a visitor during his absence. Trail cameras are a fun way to keep tabs on your favorite places.


Fine tuning of my bow set up comes this summer, before season. I find out early any problems with accuracy and the flight of broad heads and field points well before opening day so I can make necessary adjustments. Here is a case in point. My cousin from Florida came out to hunt Idaho a couple years ago. He practiced with his bow and was deadly accurate. One thing he had taken for granted though, was his arrow length. With field tips his bow performed flawlessly. With broad-heads, his arrow was too short, and if he drew his bow with a little too much enthusiasm the broad-head would catch on the bow riser and pull off the string. This problem showed its ugly head when a bull of a lifetime came in to twenty yards broadside on the last day of season….game over. These little hick-ups must be eliminated before season ever rolls around.

Participating in 3-D archery shoots is a highlight of my family’s spring and summer list of fun activities. Taking so many realistic, and not-so-realistic, shot scenarios during the shoot builds an exellent discipline for hunting season. You may also find little problems with your equipment, allowing you to tweak your set up well before crunch time.

Taking an over-night, summertime backpack trip with all your bivy camp gear is a great way to determine your personal limitations and how well-prepared you are for staying out in the wilds without the comforts of home. By doing this, you may find out what you’re lacking in physical fitness or provisions.

Breaking in boot leather needs to take place well before your first hunt of the year as well. Blisters on your feet will definitely take the wind out of anybody’s sails and distract your focus of the hunt. Make sure you and those expensive boots are “one”, and the hunt will be more enjoyable.

Working with elk calls in the next couple of months is as important as ever. You should be proficient at making elk bugles and cow calls. If not, keep practicing, so when the first bull of the year replies to your calling, you will be confident in sounding realistic. Remember, don’t get discouraged – Rome wasn’t built in a day and good sounding elk calls take practice. If the calls you’ve selected aren’t working, try another brand, or style, until your satisfied. Seek help from other elk callers on their personal techniques and work together to get better.


Hunting partners can make or break your hunt. In choosing your partner, make sure they have the same focus and expectations as yourself. While you’re set-up, calling in an elk is the wrong time to find out you and your partner aren’t on the same page and nothing can spoil the hunt like two hunters mixing like oil and water. Be honest when discussing expectations of the trip, and make a game plan of how opportunities will be shared. Nobody likes a greedy partner. A week in the high country can build or break a bond between two friends and the memories will last a lifetime.


Many times we get caught up in our elk hunting gear and forget about our vehicle’s ability to navigate remote mountain roads. Before you go make sure to check the condition of tires, belts, hoses, batteries, and scheduled maintenance before traveling to places far from home or repair.


Having a pre-selected campsite will most definitely help in having a flawless elk season. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket when it comes to a camp site. More than once I have had to go to plan B, after finding someone else was in my intended camp site. If you find yourself in this situation, be polite to the other campers, as we are all trying to have the same experience of the back country. Summer time is a great time to scout out campsites for the upcoming season and plan out logistics of camp locations.

Rather than “waiting” on elk season to arrive, I find it much more rewarding to “work towards elk season” and I hope you will too. The time passes faster and the hunt will be more rewarding with all the preseason preparations and anticipation.