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Archery Elk Encounters

roravetz

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I know all elk are different but I was hoping to get some feedback from some of you who have had way more elk encounters then me and if you noticed any general themes with the encounters you've had.

In September my brother called in a great bull in a thick area. My brother moved off behind me and downhill a little and I tried to setup in a spot that gave me some shooting lanes and the bull was following the script perfectly, until he turned and started walking down a small game trail right towards me. At about 15 yards I just decided to draw back because he was about to see me anyway and he spooked. My takeaway from that was to draw back sooner because you never know what they will do and to be mindful if I'm setting up on a game trail because their is a good chance they will use it.

Fast Forward to a late season archery elk hunt my brother had a tag for. We found a nice crossing area and heavily used game trail. We were about to setup in there for lunch and I stopped and told him "Rule number 1, never setup on a game trail". We worked up the hill 20 yards and about 5 minutes later as he is getting his jacket on a group of cows and a bull sneak up on us and were walking straight towards us side hilling. He had taken his release off to put his jacket on so was fumbling a little to get his release on and by the time he did it was to late and they saw him reaching for his bow (they were at ~8 yards at that point). In this case if we would have setup on the game trail like he originally planned he probably would have had a great shot.

The lesson learned there was never take off your release. Now I'm torn, if given the option do you setup on a game trail or above/below?

Also, should the caller stay at relatively the same elevation as the shooter. I'm wondering if the bull in September was trying to maintain a dominant uphill position which is why he stopped walking diagonally downhill toward my brother and turned and took the game trail which happened to be there. If the trail wasn't there I'm wondering if he still would he have turned anyway to keep the high ground advantage.

Thanks in advance.
 

MNElkNut

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Every situation is different. There are so many factors at play....wind, elevation, thickness of brush, and honestly a few we don't even recognize. Generally I would be off trail with a good shot at the trail and I would be uphill if wind wasn't a factor, but wind will always dictate where I set up. Never take off a release and always knock and arrow at lunch or breaktime.
 

roravetz

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@MNElkNut Great points, thank you! I guess that's why archery hunting is so challenging, you may learn your lesson from one elk only to have another take you school the next time.
 
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Jason73

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Nov 4, 2020
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Like my friend says, archery elk hunting.....inches and miles. You can be so close yet so far away. I had a, I'd say 330 class bull at 35 yards. He was pushing his cows and after they all passed he stood broadside browsing, I let fly and at around 20 yards my arrow veered hard right. Needless to say I didn't see the 1/4" wide aspens in between us. Sigh.....but there is no experience like hunting the rut!!
 

Irishman

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You always need luck, there is no substitute for being lucky. As far as the elk wanting to keep a dominant uphill position, I think that you may be right. When I hear one coming in, and I'm on a hill, I try to get higher. I always feel that if they are higher up than me, they are less likely to come in close, but who knows it might work differently for others.
 

COEngineer

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I think if you're on the game trail, you probably increase your chance of having a not-so-desirable head-on shot. However, I can't remember the last time I saw an elk walking a trail during archery in daylight - I see tracks from the night before, but during the day I think they are usually grazing and the best feed is rarely on a trail. Plus, I think they avoid trails cuz of all those funny smelling 2-legged predators that use them.

I had one come crashing into archery range while I was changing clothes a few years ago...I actually got an arrow knocked, but by then he knew something wasn't right and spooked when I drew. Out of the 12 hours in the woods that day, I wasn't ready for about 2 minutes and that's when he showed up...of course.
 

MNElkNut

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I have a seen a few times the opposite, they don't want to come in from below, but will come in from up high....they feel they have the advantage if they are higher and are more confident. But there are so many other factors that it is hard to say. It depends on how worked up you can get him, how thick it is, the DOW Jones Industrial average and a few other things. When it works....you feel like it is sooo easy.
 

ccc23454

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First archery elk hunt i was ever on a old man told me"archery elk hunting is easy, you only need to practice 2 shots: 6 and 60 yards" couple days later i shot my first archery bull at 8 yards while he bugled at me...amazing

Bad news is colorodo is only state with any elk left so better go there, the rona got the rest!
 

roravetz

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First archery elk hunt i was ever on a old man told me"archery elk hunting is easy, you only need to practice 2 shots: 6 and 60 yards" couple days later i shot my first archery bull at 8 yards while he bugled at me...amazing

Bad news is colorodo is only state with any elk left so better go there, the rona got the rest!
Thats the gods honest truth. This year I really plan to time myself at full draw and try to do some extended holds at short distances. The nice thing about that is that I could do that in my backyard. I think the biggest thing that screwed me this year was not drawing back soon enough. Ah well, I only have about 8 months to go to get redemption.
 

roravetz

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Do any of you have a mental checklist you go through when setting up for a bull that seems to be coming in? Any general rules of thumb for where you like to position the caller if you have a partner?
 

WIbiggame

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Jan 5, 2013
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Do any of you have a mental checklist you go through when setting up for a bull that seems to be coming in? Any general rules of thumb for where you like to position the caller if you have a partner?
Stop over thinking it 😃. I say that 100% jokingly nut also seriously. I was just like you and tried to analyze everything, I think for me it came from tree stand whitetail hunting and knowing what 99% of the deer should do. Elk are HUGE as you know and will walk wherever whenever they want. Something could work 8 straight setups than never work again or vise versa.

The one thing you said that helped me get my first elk as well as my hunting partner is draw sooner. Great idea on the long hold for your bow. I was held back for 54 seconds (have video I used for time) on the bull I shot.

Talking with some of the local guys who always seem to fill their tags, they said it takes them about 5-6 legitimate encounters (drawn back) before they get their bulls.
 

roravetz

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Aug 23, 2015
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Denver
Stop over thinking it 😃. I say that 100% jokingly nut also seriously. I was just like you and tried to analyze everything, I think for me it came from tree stand whitetail hunting and knowing what 99% of the deer should do. Elk are HUGE as you know and will walk wherever whenever they want. Something could work 8 straight setups than never work again or vise versa.

The one thing you said that helped me get my first elk as well as my hunting partner is draw sooner. Great idea on the long hold for your bow. I was held back for 54 seconds (have video I used for time) on the bull I shot.

Talking with some of the local guys who always seem to fill their tags, they said it takes them about 5-6 legitimate encounters (drawn back) before they get their bulls.
Haha yep I'm definitely overthinking it. Especially when I'm seeing my freezer get lower and lower and when I had to buy steaks at the grocery store the other day. But that's ok, hopefully some of the experience gained these last few years will help me this year if I end up burning my 5 CO preference points.
 

roravetz

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The silver lining of screwing up that September encounter was shortly after we got into a nice group of grouse and I could hear that bull bugling while I processed this one.
 

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WIbiggame

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Haha yep I'm definitely overthinking it. Especially when I'm seeing my freezer get lower and lower and when I had to buy steaks at the grocery store the other day. But that's ok, hopefully some of the experience gained these last few years will help me this year if I end up burning my 5 CO preference points.

Took me 7 years to figure it out hope your time is this year! Best of luck and can't wait to read your success story the end of September!
 

buffybr

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BozAngeles, MT
I've archery hunted elk off and on for a number of years, but the only elk that I shot with my bow was a 5x5 bull that I shot just out of Steamboat Springs, CO when I lived there in 1973.

I was hunting with a Herter's recurve bow, fiberglass arrows with bear razor insert broadheads. It was a Saturday, the opening morning of the Colorado archery season and I was stalking in the aspen and oak brush. I heard several animals coming toward me so I just knelt down and waited.

The first animal that I saw was a small raghorn that I let walk by. The next bull was a 5x5 and as he walked broadside, 10 yards from me, I put an arrow just behind his shoulder and he ran off into the thick brush.

I know that I should let him bleed out, so I just sat down and as I started to eat a sandwich, I heard the noon whistle go off in town. After about a half hour I started to look for my bull. When I stood up, a third elk that had been standing there the whole time, crashed away into the brush. My bull didn't go far, but it took me an hour to find him.

I didn't carry a camera back then so I didn't get any pictures, so I just gutted him there and went back to town to get help. I didn't get back to him until 6 pm that evening when the landowner showed me a way to drive my pickup right to him, and we were able to load him whole. I then went straight home and hung him from a big cottonwood tree next to my trailer.

The next day I skinned and quartered him, and a friend let me hang the quarters in his basement. He only hung for a day and a half as Monday afternoon my called me to "get that stinky thing out of here." Evidently the side of the bull that had lain on the ground did not cool properly in the August heat and had soured.

Since then every elk that I have killed has been quartered and hung the day that I shot them.
 

RHood

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Feb 6, 2021
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Boulder, CO
Do any of you have a mental checklist you go through when setting up for a bull that seems to be coming in? Any general rules of thumb for where you like to position the caller if you have a partner?
The most important thing is to take note of the wind direction or the setup won't matter, ideally you want to be at the same elevation as the elk since generally the wind will be pulling uphill or downhill. Corey Jacobsen has a good breakdown on two person calling setups. Basically you (the shooter) want to form an arc in the downwind direction between the elk and your caller since elk most likely won't come in on a straight line, they're more likely to make sure their senses are to their advantage. Elk know exactly where noises come from so it's important that the caller is far enough away or behind some sort of topography/cover that the elk can't see where the noise is coming from without having to get really close, how far away the caller needs to be is really just dictated by the terrain you're in. Obviously this type of scenario is in perfect world and sometimes you got to just work with what you got, but it seems like a good way to maximize encounters.
 
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