Early Season Elk Tactics

With fire in his eyes the big bull stopped a mere 8 feet away! My heart was now in my throat and was seemingly choking me with every beat! With the bull broadside, looking past and over my kneeling position, I slowly drew, turned, and picked a spot…

This is the kind of action we all love and one of the reasons we love to hunt elk during the rut! But this wasn’t the middle of the rut, it was opening day of the Idaho archery elk season. Over the years, I have had many similar encounters on opening day. The early season can be a very exciting time to be in the elk woods. Slightly different tactics have worked well for me versus the more aggressive rut hunting tactics I employ later in the season. One of the things I like to do in the early part of September is to slow down and work the “elky” areas less aggressively. I do like to use calls, but again, not aggressively. If a bull is close and is fired up from my calf, cow, and little squeal, he will come looking to see what all the socializing is about. If he’s not fired up and you act aggressively, you may never see him again.

During mid-day, as the sun and heat intensify, I try to find a cool shady spot near a wallow and set up for several hours, hoping a bull will stop by for a mud bath! One last tactic I try to use throughout the early season is to entice a bull to start raking his antlers. I do this by raking a tree with a stick which usually gets a raking reaction from the bull. This gives me a chance to quickly slip in closer. When a bull is raking, his eyes are usually closed and his hearing is impaired, creating a great opportunity to take advantage of a fun situation!

…. I slowly drew, turned, and picked a spot. At the shot, the bull spun and I quickly let out a bugle. He stopped again, this time broadside at 17 yards, and another arrow was on its way through the boiler room. The early season can be just as exciting as the middle of the rut, and for me has often been equally as productive, so don’t overlook opening day!