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How To Bowhunt Public Land Elk

I spend all year preparing for bowhunting Elk on public land. It takes dedication and time but the end result is oh so rewarding. Allting time to prepare you for elk hunting will make your hunts more enjoyable. Plus, your efforts increase the chances of accomplishing your ultimate goal of success.

Once the memories build you may even find yourself in the same position I am, an elkaholic. Don’t worry about it. I can’t think of a better addiction to have.

My name is Michael. I am an ‘elkaholic’ and I live all year long for elk season. I am so addicted that I even start counting down the days till the following year’s elk season as soon as the current season closes. Hunting for elk with a bow on public land can be one of the most challenging hunts I know of, but it’s also one of the most rewarding. It is draining both physically and mentally. It takes hard work to be successful at hunting elk on public land — preparations are an ongoing process.

The country Elk live in is tough so physical conditioning is a must. The average person is only willing to walk a mile or less past a closed gate or down a trial to find elk. If you go an extra distance you eliminate 80% of the public and greatly increase your chance for success. Keep in mind that 3 miles in, means 3 miles out and hopefully that is with the extra load of meat.

I don’t feel that there is one conditioning routine that works for everyone as we are all different and our bodies respond differently. I like to add swimming and hiking in the mountains for my cardio, as well as lifting weights for strength training. The key here is to find something that works for you and stick to it. Even if this means a simple routine that you do at your house.

Know the country you hunt. Between Google Earth and topo maps, I spend hours looking at country that I think will hold elk. The first thing I look for is North Eastern facing timbered slopes away from roads and main trails. Those areas are prime bedding areas for elk. The more distance between roads and main trails the better.

After I locate an area that I think is a good spot for a bedding area, I look for water in that vicinity — along with travel routes in and out of the area that lead to possible feeding areas on open Southern facing slopes. This applies both to an area I have hunted before or a new area I am considering hunting.

I constantly look over maps to gain a better understanding of these areas. This will make your scouting trips more effective and save you time and money in the long run. Mark potential spots on both the topo map and in a GPS. The GPS is a great tool, but they don’t work everywhere, so basic map reading skill is a must. It can mean the difference between getting lost and getting home.

Scouting is a great for getting your legs, body and lugs ready for the upcoming hunt. Hiking the same area you intend to hunt with a backpack on gives you a true measure of what to expect and what you will need to do to prepare.

Seeing elk while scouting is nice but I tend to look more for rutting sign than I do for animals. The rutting sign I look for is old rubs on trees and old wallows. Old rubs can also give you an idea of the size of bulls that have been in that area in the past. Make sure to mark these areas on your map and on the GPS for future reference. Along with the rutting sign, scouting trips can also show you spots for base camp location as well as potential spike camps, depending on how far in you plan to hunt from base camp.

Spike camps save time and allow you to be closer to the areas you hunt. The more time you spend in elk country, the better your chance for success.

Glassing from high vantage points will show certain land markers that can be used to navigate your way out when going down into a canyon or bowl after a screaming bull. As the season draws close I tend to spend more time glassing from these spots to see what has moved into the area and their patterns as they move around.

Practicing your elk calling and shooting your bow are two things I see so many people fail at. Shooting all year long builds confidence in your shooting ability and also shows your effective shooting range. 3d-shoots during the summer are great practice for estimating yardages and knowing your equipment.

Basically shoot, shoot and shoot some more.

Practicing elk calling is often overlooked until the week before the season. Making elk sounds at critical times will be the difference between filling that Elk tag and eating it.

Listening to instructional cd’s and mimic Elk sounds to practice. Bugling Bull Game Calls has an instructional cd and dvd that not only explains the meaning of the elk sounds, but also will teach you how to make them using mouth diaphragm calls as well as external calls. Actual elk sounds are the best sounds to listen to and learn from. Don’t be afraid to record yourself so you can hear how well you are doing.


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