There are many styles of elk hunting and even more ways to get an elk on the ground and into your freezer. Whether you are hunting 5 miles or 500 yards from a road, “the elk are where you find them.” How you prepare for an elk hunt can make or break your hunt and experience.
Prepare For An Elk Hunt
This is a gear breakdown for an early season elk hunt out of a basecamp that anybody can do. I am based out of Utah and most elk hunts I partake in are based out of a tent or camp trailer, surrounded by friends and family.
My favorite time to scout is during late Spring and Summer. Animals tend to be less tense and spend more time in clearings where you can put eyes on them. Finding the general location of where the elk are feeding, bedding, and watering, will play a big part in being successful. Depending on your style of hunting, this would be a good time to test out your new pack with a good bit of weight (30 – 50 pounds depending on your fitness). If your pack is seasoned, there is no time like the present to get in better shape. There is always room for improvement. During this time period it is prime for breaking-in your boots or making sure your current boots are going to handle the load and terrain for the hunt.
Know Your Weapon
Practice with your weapon as much as possible leading up to the hunt. Make sure that you are proficient with the weapon going to the hunt and check your “zero” when you arrive at camp, during the hunt, and definitely if the gun or bow takes a spill down the mountain. Testing your rangefinder isn’t a bad idea either.
More Is Better
Take more pictures and take more video. I have yet to be on a hunt and at the end say, “Why did I take so many pictures?” I would bet you have a quality smartphone with a good camera to capture the moments. If you are looking for something slightly improved, I really like the latest mirrorless options from Sony. Phone Skope Optic Adapters and spotting scope/binocular also is a great way to capture more. This is one of my favorite parts of the hunt – being able to relive and share the moments.
BBD (Big Bull Down)
Now that your bull is laying at your feet, know how you are going to get the elk from the field to the freezer. I prefer the gutless method, if you are not familiar with this there are hours of tutorials on YouTube. A sharp knife and another for a spare is always a good idea. Replaceable blade knives ensure a sharp edge as long as you have a sharpener or fresh blade.
Keep the meat clean and out of the dirt or in the brush. I prefer using game bags or shirts if need be to keep the meat clean. You can take it a step further and debone the meat if you have a long, grueling pack out. In the event you are lucky enough to have pack animals, a lot of help, or you’re close to a road, you may not need to debone the meat. This is your call. A good pack is going to make things easier if you do not have pack animals. All packs fit differently and I would suggest trying a couple on with some weight before you make a decision. A pair of hiking/trekking poles can also help with stability when hiking uneven ground, hauling a heavy pack. Work as quickly as possible especially if temperatures are high. The goal here is to get the meat on ice as soon as possible.
Cape & Antler
It sounds like a posh store in your up and coming mountain town but let’s talk about the actual thing. Depending on the type of mount you are planning for, know how you are going to cleanly remove cape and hide or antlers. Keep a sharp knife, that you are comfortable with for the intricate work around the face and features. I like to give taxidermists plenty of room for a shoulder mount, so in the event it’s not the cleanest cut, they have room to work with. A nice rounded skinning knife will assist in cleanly caping the animal, making it for less work for the taxidermist. If you are not familiar with caping, there are plenty of videos on YouTube breaking down the process. Just like the meat, try to keep the clean as well and get it cool as soon as possible.
My Tools For A Successful Elk Hunt
Weapon – Tikka T3 Lite
Ammunition/Arrows – Nosler Trophy Grade
Boots – Scarpa Kinesis GTX
Binoculars : Leica Noctivid
Spotting Scope : Swarovski ATX 65 & 95
Tripod & Head : Schonfeld Carbon Fiber / Manfrotto MVH500A
Rangefinder : Leica 2700-B
Knives – Havalon Piranta & Outdoor Edge Blaze
Game bags : Koola Buck antimicrobial
Pack – Exo Mountain Gear 3500
Camera – Sony A7R / iPhone 8 Plus
Elk Calls : Rocky Mountain Hunting Calls
Questions or comments? Send me an email at Tanner@phoneskope.com Best of luck and see you on the mountain.
Article written by Phone Skope General Manager, Tanner Kochevar
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