There were several great comments that came from last week’s discussion…..thanks! Those comments have spurred this week’s discussion, at least indirectly. Two of the most common failures/frustrations that were mentioned in last week’s discussion involved the following: 1) I Struggle to Close the Distance/Seal the Deal and 2) Other hunters always mess up my hunts!
When it comes to getting close to the elk or getting the elk to come in close to you, there are volumes that can be – and will be – written on this topic. Many of the frustrations expressed involved not knowing what to say or when to call, getting busted by the wind at the last minute, and having bulls round up their cows and leave. The frustrations surrounding other hunters involved too many hunters making the elk call-shy, other hunters breaking the laws, and the lack of ethics displayed by other hunters.
One of the comments made in the discussion was, “I’m a 60 y/o surgeon who has control issues!!!…and that is hard in Elk hunting as i have found so many things I can’t control!” And that is the truth! There are so many things in elk hunting that seem to be out of our control. One of the most important things to consider as we discuss failures and success is being able to recognize what is within your control, and what isn’t. Then, work on making the changes you need to make with the things that are within your control. Stressing over things that are out of your control is usually a waste of valuable time. Another valuable factor is being able to see how to take control of situations that seem out of your control.
In just about every situation, there are things you can do to take control of a situation, whether it involves the elk, the elements, or other hunters. Here are a couple of examples:
When calling to elk, I’ve found great success in controlling the conversation. Rather than trying to “respond” to the elk or trying to figure out what the elk are saying to me, I take control of the conversation and tell them what I want them to hear. This takes confidence in your calling abilities, for sure, but you don’t have to be a great caller to consistently call in elk. In fact, understanding what you need to communicate to the elk is far more important, in my opinion, than how good you actually sound. Increase your understanding of why an elk comes in to the calls, and your confidence to bring him in will increase.
Elk will respond to two “emotional triggers” in September, and those emotions are centered around their desires to breed and to fight. If you are able to put the emotions of a lonely cow or an enraged bull into your calling, the bull will be able to recognize that and many times let his emotions overrule his senses – and the closer you are able to get to that elk to make your case, the better. Once he gives up that control and let’s his emotions dictate his actions, you can often bring him in on a string. This takes confidence in your abilities to say what the bull needs to hear, and with that confidence, you can be in control.
One of the most common frustrations associated with calling elk is bulls rounding up their cows and leaving…especially when you get in close! It’s important to ask the question, Why? Why did he just round up his cows and leave? There is always a reason and there are usually several options to consider. The main reasons I’ve found that a bull will round up his cows and leave usually involve one of the following: 1) He has been pressured over and over by hunters and is wary; 2) He is a younger bull with cows that doesn’t want to lose his harem to a bigger bull; 3) He is a bigger bull that has established his harem and is focused on his cows that are coming into estrous; 4) The elk’s senses are alerting them to possible danger (see movement that is out of place, hear noises that aren’t natural, or smell stinky humans). This last situation is a huge topic all in itself, and the overall discussion of why elk round up their cows and leave is a big enough topic that I will cover it in a completely separate post and discuss how to take control of these situations….stay tuned for more to come on this one (coming very soon).
When it comes to other hunters, there isn’t a lot you can do to control where they end up or what actions they take when they get there. But, you can control where you end up, and I’ve always been able to find areas to hunt where the effects of other hunters are greatly minimized. To stay in one place and then complain about other hunters messing up your hunt is simply placing the blame for failure on someone else. To go back to that same area year after year is not their problem….it is yours. Yes, other hunters can provide obstacles and challenges and frustrations throughout a hunt, but you own the outcome of your hunt….it’s as simple as that. If you’re willing to make excuses and shift the blame to others, you aren’t taking ownership – or control – of the situation. If, however, you recognize the problem and recognize that it is your problem, there are always solutions. Find a new area, hike farther than others are willing to hike, use hunting pressure to your advantage, etc. If you are willing to settle for failure and wallow in the cause rather than the solution, the outcome isn’t going to change.
Most of the consistently successful elk hunters I know have one thing in common. They are control freaks. They have a higher-than-average level of confidence in their elk hunting abilities and they aren’t afraid to fail. They don’t accept a situation that won’t lend itself to being successful. If they fail once, they analyze why they failed and find a solution to reduce the chances of that happening again. They become students of the game and find the things they can “do” to change the outcome. They take control of the situation.
So, I need to ask you one question: “Are you a control freak?” What I really mean by this question is, do you take responsibility for the outcome of your hunt, or are you willing to accept the things that prevent you from being successful as “out of your control”? If you really feel that you aren’t able to improve your success because of so many factors that are out of your control, I want you to look at it from a different perspective. I want you to ask yourself, “What could I have done differently to change that situation?”
Leave me your comments below to this question: “What is the one thing that seems to be out of your control in elk hunting?” I’ll go through the responses, and dive into some thoughts on how you can change that situation to have more control, which will translate to more success. And again, please invite your elk hunting friends to join us in these discussions. The more perspective we can get, the more we’ll all benefit.