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Bow Hunting Elk


Bow hunting elk poses an exciting challenge for hunters with the skill, patience, and dedication. Bow hunting will require you to get closer than hunting with a rifle, which also means you need to be stealthy and well camouflaged. There are a few important things you’ll need to know to make your next hunting trip a success.

Preparing Yourself

Image – practicing archery

In order to do well in the field, you’ll need to be in good shape. Elk can move quickly through your bow’s range, and you’ll need to be able to move quickly in order to get into position. You don’t want to let an elk get away because you couldn’t make it in time! Practice cardio exercises, leg strength to help you up the more serious hills, and weight bearing exercises so you’ll be prepared to carry your pack or your successful kill.

You’ll need to be adept at shooting your bow from the many positions that an active target in the field can call for. Practice shooting not just from perfect standing stance for archery competitions, but also from your knees and under cover. Elk country is usually mountainous, so you’ll need to be able to shoot on steep, rocky terrain.

Preparing Your Hunt

Image – camp setup in woods

Once you’re physically fit and skilled enough at archery for an elk hunt, plan the way you want to carry out your trip. It can be very effective to backpack into elk country, staying downwind of the elk and moving with them. Get a light sleeping arrangement and other camping materials that you can carry with you, and then approach the elk at dawn, when they won’t anticipate your movements.

Use your hearing, sight, and smell to find the elk. High vantage points can help expand your range, and you can sit on a hilltop listening for their sounds. Bring binoculars to scan faraway locations, and blow locating bugles to see whether they’ll respond. You can also make calls at night to locate them, and then wait until the morning to make your move.

During the Hunt

Image – elk

If elk have been bothered by other hunters, they’ll retreat to steep, thick areas for security covers. These are the places to look if you are striking out on your quest for elk.

Calls should be made sparingly, and you should always accompany them with other sounds like the snapping of twigs. Elk have become very aware of hunter calls, and if yours does not sound realistic, it could send them fleeing. Wait for a few minutes in between calls so that the elk don’t recognize you as a hunter too quickly. However, if a bull responds quickly to your call, then call back often – this means the bull thinks you are a harem to pursue. It’s often helpful for one member of a hunting team to make the calls, set up a decoy, and move around, while the other hunter sets up their shot downwind. This can bring the elk close enough for your bow’s range.

You don’t need cover in front of you when you’re hunting elk the way you do for deer hunting. Position yourself in front of cover so that your outline is less visible to the elk. Elk are less perceptive than deer, and can be fooled more easily. If you paint your face and hands and remain still, an elk will likely not notice you.

In order to get an elk, you’ll need to be aggressive and move quickly. You can even charge into a herd if your attempts at luring an elk away are failing – just be prepared to shoot quickly, and chase the elk! Bulls can also be taken while they are rubbing their antlers on a tree; their eyes are almost entirely shut while they are doing this, and you can get close enough to shoot with your bow if you move quickly.


It’s always important to take an animal in one shot for a clean, ethical kill. Elk have particularly tough hides, and they are hardy creatures. Don’t shoot an elk straight-on in the chest, and still wait if the bull quarters on. Even if you hit one lung, the elk will likely survive and could escape. If you eventually find the dead elk, the meat will be completely ruined.

The best way to shoot is a full broadside shot, and this is really the only option for a bowhunter. Aim tight behind the shoulder so that your arrow will pierce both lungs. This way, the elk is unlikely to go more than 150 yards before it dies.