Archery elk season is under way in a number of western states, or just on the horizon in others. If you haven’t geared up, now’s the time to get everything in order. From footwear to your choice in broadheads, elk hunting is a tactical endeavor, and the better you prepare, the better your chances for success. More importantly, the better your chances will be of staying safe yourself.
Assuming you have your favorite bow and with the right draw length and pound range (this all depends on your size and your height), you’ll need a broadhead that you’re confident with. The first priority for any elk hunter is a clean kill, which usually translates into a shot that penetrates both lungs.
Generally speaking, this means your arrow should weigh between 400 and 500 grains. That should be enough for a dependable kill shot, particularly if you’ve chosen a broadhead with a fixed two-blade, cut-on-contact design. This type of broadhead is great for penetrating and bringing down a big animal.
What’s in your pack?
The best advice for loading your pack usually starts with the phrase, “It depends.” For instance, if you’re hunting from a private lodge or on a private ranch with a hired guide, your pack will only contain the absolute necessities. If you’re on your own, hunting from a camp or striking out on a backcountry hunt from a trailhead, your pack is going to be quite a bit heavier. Let’s just cover the basics, assuming you’ll have prepared for the correct conditions (and that you have your outwear handled — layers of durable, water repellent clothing, heavy-duty footwear and such):
- Additional clothing that can withstand the elements and be layered appropriately.
- A map of your hunting unit and a compass.
- First-aid kit and your prescriptions
- A good knife
- Emergency shelter
- Ample water and extra food
- Insect repellent
- Game bags
- Bear spray
You might also consider a portable stove and dehydrated meals. Neither are significantly heavy and both could come in hand in the event of an emergency.
Speaking of an emergency
Make sure you let someone know where you’ll be hunting. Also, tell them when you’ll be in the field, and when you expect to be back. If you have the means, a satellite phone is never a bad idea, and if you’re hunting with others, a walkie-talkie setup is a good idea for close-range communications.
Archery hunting for elk is an awesome experience. You’ll see some of the most beautiful country in America, and you’ll be immersed in it. That said, approach the endeavor with some caution. Don’t take unnecessary chances that may end up in an accident.
Also, if you’re on your own, don’t venture farther away from camp or your vehicle than you can reasonably retrieve your trophy. The whole idea is to have an incredible experience and come away with a healthy and wholesome source of protein for you and your family. Wasting the meat from an elk because it takes too long to get it out of the field is downright sinful.
Finally, if you’re hunting public land, be aware of any private-land interfaces. Trespassing is taken seriously by landowners. If there’s a chance you might have to cross private land, be sure to get permission from the landowner before you do. Many ranchers make their land accessible to wildlife by practicing solid environmental tactics. That doesn’t mean the ranch is accessible to hunters, however.
The bottom line
Preparing for an elk hunt takes some time, but the better you plan, the better your chances are for a successful experience. Pack the necessities, and don’t turn down help from others who might have more experience. Make sure you’re familiar with your surroundings, know where you are at all times, and make sure you and your gear are ready for the hunt. Most importantly, be safe and be smart. Not every hunt ends with a trophy, but every hunt should end with you making it home when it’s over.