Three Reasons You Didn’t Harvest An Elk Last Year

Elk Hunting

by Lance Stutzke

Poor Physical Conditioning

I find it harder every year to find elk and they seem to be moving deeper into the backcountry with each passing season. Don’t make the mistake I used to make and start conditioning only a few weeks before season. That has cost me many elk by putting doubt in my mind. Doubt if I had the energy or stamina to chase that bull one more ridge, or if I would physically be able to pack it out.  As soon as you have doubt, you are going to give up and miss your one opportunity. Now I am no expert on exercising, but I do know that being in shape will increase your chance of success. I just started my conditioning again a few weeks ago and my body is in pain from head to toe.  I push through it because I know that the pain leads to more encounters with big bulls. If you haven’t started yet, get off your butt and make it happen this year. I haven’t shot any elk from my recliner and you probably won’t either.

Not Enough Time

On most of my elk hunts it seems to take at least two to three days to really figure out what the herd is doing. If you only have a weekend to hunt, that doesn’t allow much time to be successful. The last few years I have been backpacking in with my hunting buddy for three to five days at a time. This has led to a big increase in our encounters with elk, and a lot more of our time is spent chasing them instead of trying to climb the mountain every morning.  Last year, it was on the last day of a five-day trip that I harvested my biggest bull. It was one of the most fun and rewarding hunts I have ever been part of.  There is nothing like going to sleep with bugles ringing in your ears, then waking up to camp coffee and more bugling bulls.  I know it’s not always feasible to take off the extra time, but this is one way I have found to better utilize what little time I have. The issue of time and how you use it leads me to my third reason you didn’t harvest an elk.

Hunting the Wrong Area

I spent many years hunting an area that I was never able to harvest an elk in. There were some elk there so I kept going back. The terrain, brush, and hunting pressure made the area very difficult to hunt successfully. The first year I committed to a new area I harvested my first six point bull. It is hard to leave an area that holds elk for the hopes of greener pastures, but sometimes that is just what is needed to punch your tag. When trying to locate that new honey hole, a tool like BaseMap can prove to be invaluable. You can’t expect to harvest big bulls every year in an area with a low success rate or a ton of hunting pressure. I won’t go into detail about BaseMap’s many helpful features, but I know it will help you make an educated decision when looking for a new area to hunt.

There are so many things we can do wrong when hunting that I am amazed we ever get it right. Start eliminating as many of these hindering factors as you can and be on your way to being known as the guy/gal who gets it done every year. It is a great feeling and worth the time and effort. Good luck and good hunting.

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