Hunting elk, especially the elusive Rocky Mountain Elk, is one of the most thrilling sports on the planet. Even catching sight of that beautiful golden satin body, harsh mahogany neck and head, and the gleaming tips of a massive rack of antlers is awe inspiring. Pursuing the creature brings with it a long line of heritage and camaraderie. Drawing down the crosshairs just behind the well muscled and brawny shoulder, slowing to a steady breath after a long chase, and gently squeezing the trigger is a feeling that never gets old. The lingering ring of the shot overwhelming the ear so used to the noiselessness of the woods, the harsh scent of the gun powder replacing the unmistakable musk of the herd within frozen nostrils, and the rush of adrenaline that overtakes mind, body, and soul as the seconds tick by watching the downed animal draws the senses to the brink of overload. This often-time once-in-a-lifetime experience is what draws many a huntsman afield.
Getting yourself in front of a herd, especially on public land, is no easy chore. Here is a tip that I have learned from hunting with a seasoned mentor as well as through experience, success, and failure.
- Persistence: Just like any other part of this sport, it isn’t the first try, shot, step, or day that results in success. Bouncing from location to location day after day lends itself to a successful hunt, just as much as firing shots at a target blindfolded does. Returning to a location one day after another allows you access to a herd’s cycle. Elk run on a four- to six-day cycle, moving from water to feed and back. Hitting the hunting ground one day and moving on gives you no true sense of their point in this cycle. In the camp-famous words of my mentor, “If they aren’t here today, they’ll be here tomorrow.” Returning for the next couple of days gives you the shot of finding them on return. Whether you hunt around their water, feeding source, or in between, they need both and will continue in their pattern. Countless times, this has lent itself to my success in harvesting one of these slippery animals.
Keep this trick in mind next time you get burnt out on an area first day in. If there is sign, even a couple of days old, there is bound to be a herd in the area. Patience and persistence may just get you that shot of a lifetime.
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