If you want to be as successful as possible when you go elk hunting, you can learn a number of in-the-field strategies and techniques that you can use. These techniques and strategies can help you “finalize” the deal, but it really comes down to the prep work that you do prior to the hunt that creates the potential opportunities to even take a shot. It can be a bit overwhelming learning how to be successful in elk country, but there are certain rookie mistakes that can be avoided. Here are five of them.
It is a well-known fact that the more time you actually spend hunting, the more likely you will find success in the field. This may sound obvious, but there are various physical, mental, and even environmental factors that can reduce your overall hunting time. Make sure these factors are addressed prior to hitting the field or mountain to make certain that you have as much active time as possible to hunt.
If you enjoy elk hunting a lot, you will soon learn that you will spend more time than you prefer working with Plans B, C, etc. Hunting pressure, road conditions, weather, and locating elk are factors that can require you to alter your entire hunt plan. Don’t cause yourself to be left needing to come up with a brand-new plan from complete scratch while hunting. Most people will travel from out-of-state and only have about a week—or maybe less—to fill up their tags before going back home. These people cannot afford to spend hours or days searching for a new hunting area, by trail or vehicle.
Luckily, when it comes to learning a hunting area, there are lots of online mapping resources available. The state game and fish and forest service offices can be excellent resources for learning information that you are unable to see on a topographic or aerial map. They can also provide information on recent wildfires, trail conditions, or road closures that may alter your hunting plan. These resources should be used strategically, and you should develop several backup options to reduce the chances of hunting pressure, road conditions, or weather derailing your elk hunt.
Are you looking to have a complete backcountry hunting experience, or would you prefer to go back to your vehicle every night with a campfire, camp stove, and drinks? Some people don’t have preferences—maybe that’s you—as long as they have a cooler full of meal to head home with. Whatever your individual preferences may be, make sure that you are realistic about what you prefer and what you’re capable of. When you begin to plan a western hunt, it is easy for your body not to be able to keep up with your mind. There are backcountry hunters, and there are day hunters. Early on, set some realistic expectations. The longer it takes for you to be realistic about your hunting expectations, the larger the impact on the hunt once those unrealistic expectations come to light. Plus, it’s easier for a negative attitude to develop when things don’t necessarily go as planned. As soon as you begin to doubt your ability to be successful, the chances are high that things will start to fall apart—or at least not come together.
When it comes to hunting in the mountains, physical fitness is essential; however, there are numerous hunters who are successful who don’t spend a significant amount of time inside a gym. There is one trait that both types of hunters generally share, though, and this is mental toughness. When things go wrong or get difficult in the mountain, some hunters will tell themselves it is best to head back to camp, or worse yet, cut their trip short and head home. If you aren’t hunting, it is difficult to be successfully. However, for hunters with that mental toughness, they can stay positive and stay on the mountain during these tough times. Some individuals are simply born mentally tough, while others have to work to maintain a positive attitude. For the ones that it doesn’t come naturally, the preseason is the perfect time to improve mental toughness so that you can remain positive when you go hunting.
If you head out on a long hunt, the days will pass and your mind may begin to wander to work or family responsibilities at home. This can often make it more difficult to stay on the mountain, so make sure that things are taken care of at home before hunting season ever begins. If you don’t leave anything undone, it will be easier to stay focused on the hunt. Now, while you should ensure you are able to communicate with your family to let them know of your whereabouts and that you are okay, you should try to “disconnect” while hunting. If you don’t, you will be faced with too many distractions.
It is also a good idea to practice placing yourself in situations that will put your mental toughness to the test. Several weeks before your hunt, take a break from your typical hiking or exercise regimen. One thing you should consider doing is hiking distances that will be similar or further than what you will be hiking when you go out on an elk hunt. If you have hiked similar or further distances in the past, it will be a lot easier to talk yourself into hiking over the next ridge. The mountains can often be incredibly physically demanding, but if you mix up your physical training during the offseason, it will help to minimize the physical and mental effects throughout the hunt.
Many people who travel from the east do not spend a lot of time camping during the offseason—and this does not include pitching a tent by your truck or camping in the RV. For individuals who opt for backcountry hunting, it is important to be familiar with your equipment as well as living out of a backpack. There are times when you will face high winds, difficulty finding a flat spot for your tent, or being unable to locate a water source within hundreds of feet of you. As fatigue sets in, these factors will impact your decisions more and more. Whether or not they have an impact between success and failure, you never know, but you can definitely make some different choices if you are better prepared that can improve your overall odds of success. In some cases, lack of experience with your equipment can keep you from making the proper decisions. Therefore, it is crucial to take the time and make the effort to get familiar with all of your gear in advance to ensure you are better equipped to manage various factors like difficult terrain, weather, and water sources that may be different than what you anticipated.
It is different to come to a full draw in the mountains on an elk than it is to shoot at the same target every day in your backyard. For one, the adrenaline isn’t the same. There are various other variables that can impact your shot as well. For instance, maybe you had to run 30 yards in extremely thin air before you could take your shot, or you have spent days going up and down the mountain with a heavy backpack on your back. It is not encouraged to shoot for a long time when you are fatigued throughout the offseason, as it can create poor habits, though it can be helpful to mix in some fatigued shooting during the preseason. It feels different to shoot when you are already dealing with tired muscles, and you can benefit from a boost in confidence from shooting with fatigued muscles. You most definitely do not want to create opportunities for uncertainty or doubt to creep into the back of your mind when that perfect shot creeps up on you. By practicing the aforementioned scenarios prior to the hunt, you can gain that much-needed confidence in the moment that the shot can be taken and made.
When it comes to practice conditions that you are likely to experience while out hunting, you may want to consider checking out local 3D archery events. The shots in your backyard that are flat and unobstructed are not typical on an elk hunt. 3D shoots and events, though, can assist with practicing shooting in dense areas and at steep angles. You can attend a shoot or join a local archery club, which is perfect for breaking out of your typical routine and obtaining the skill shooting and experience that you need in more difficult conditions that your backyard simply doesn’t provide.
Just remember: it is never too late to boost your odds of success on an elk hunt. Make sure you are prepared, plan ahead so that you can avoid the aforementioned mistakes, and you may be well on your year to kill that prize bull you’ve been waiting for. For more information, contact Full Draw Archery.
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