Early elk season hunting tactics look different from those of late September into October. Hunters need to adapt to the high temperatures that can still occur this time of year, as well as other limiting factors such as nonvocal elk or bachelor bulls. However, if you can learn to work with these different elements rather than against them, early season can prove to be a very productive time for you, and you’ll find yourself bagging those trophy elk long before anyone else.
Here are some of our top tips to making the most out of early elk season. Learn to use this time as a ture early season rather than a set up for later in the year.
Understand Bugling Behavior
Nothing will ruin your chances of punching a tag early on faster than sending out the wrong type of call for the wrong time of year. Early on in the season, the bugling that you will hear from bulls is merely social chatter. They are getting the lay of the land and learning to understand what kind of competition they are up against, so all of their calls are much less aggressive than those they sound off during the rut.
Understanding this early season bugling behavior will help you avoid making the wrong call when trying to call in a bull. Calling in a way that seems more aggressive or challenging will send red flags to any bull in the area. They will be wary of your unnatural call and move elsewhere, and your chances at a good shot are, well, shot.
Use Location Calls
Sending out a location call from a high vantage point is a good place to start if you haven’t found any sign of elk in the area. Send out a calmer, less aggressive bugle and see what you get in return. Remember, any return call you receive is likely from a bull who is much more concerned with just letting you know he is there, rather than establishing dominance.
Keep your calls to a minimum, and when you do get a return bugle, do your best to pinpoint the noise and cut your distance in half. Once you think you have your distance down to about 150 meters, find a good spot with plenty of shooting lanes and send out one more call.
Try Your Luck in the Wallows
Posting up and waiting for a bull to come find water in the wallows may not provide that thrill of a good hunt, but it could be a very productive way to take a break from the sun and heat. Keep in mind that bagging an elk from the wallows may require a stake out for hours, even days at a time.
But, if the sun and mosquitoes are out and you’re not in a hurry, sitting and waiting for a bull to come by for a drink might be the best way to spend your time. Trail cameras may also be useful here to understand the times of day elk frequent the area.
Don’t Forget the Spot and Stalk
If early season elk are quiet and calling hasn’t been working, there is nothing wrong with reverting to a classic spot and stalk. Pay attention to signs that tell you elk are in the area, and pick a few spots that you can slowly cruise through.
If you’re out hunting on a particularly hot day, finding some shady, north facing woods might be your best bet to catch unsuspecting elk trying to escape the heat. Just remember to find your wind and keep that direction in mind as you move through the area.