Blowing an elk hunt is quite a defeat, but blowing one due to lack of preparation is a tough situation to swallow. Here are five common elk hunting mistakes and how to avoid them.
Setting a trophy standard that is unrealistic. Either by not doing proper research or by simply being too confident, some hunters set unrealistic expectations when it comes to the size of antlers they want to take home. If an elk area is not known for trophy, world-class sized bulls, then it makes no sense to plan on taking home a trophy, world-class bull. Sometimes you have to set your sights on a smaller trophy if you want to be successful.
Failure to research the area and the herd. ‘No excuses’ should be a hunter’s motto and to study an elk area, a hunter needs to be thorough by making phone calls, talking to biologists, other hunters, taxidermists and game processors. Knowledge is everything and if you are not turning over every stone, you are robbing yourself of future success. Study terrain, weather, and read books and magazines. Mostly, study enough to know whether or not you are hunting in a trophy area that grows and holds trophy elk.
Lack of physical conditioning. In my over 30 years of hunting and guiding, this is the most ignored action I have witnessed. Too many hunters assume that they can get themselves into a killing situation and then simply will themselves through the hard work of a hunt. This is a lazy way of thinking and we all should want better for ourselves, or rather, we should all demand more of ourselves. Many elk hunts are done in warm or hot weather and if you can’t physically get your meat out of the wild in a timely manner to prevent spoiling, that is something you will have to live with.
Lack of practice with gun or bow. Shots at elk don’t often involve them standing broadside on flat and level ground with no obstructions. You need to know how to shoot on uneven ground in awkward positions and over or under obstacles. Elk live in nasty places and they require a wide range of shooting skillsets to make a kill happen. Dusting off your bow or gun to go elk hunting should be illegal and any respectable hunter would never do that.
Not allotting enough time for a hunt. A lot of hunters are weekend warriors or can only get away on a hunt for a few days at a time. If this is all you can do, then so be it, but to really pay your respects to the hunting Gods, you will need to set aside 7-14 days to fulfill and complete a trophy elk hunt. You should always plan on weather robbing you of a few hunting days, and plan on the trip into the area and the trip out of the area. A hunt can be very stressful and even more of a disappointment if you feel pressed for time or if you were robbed from that ‘just one more day’ period of time. Don’t cheat yourself, take some vacation time and use it wisely.