Are you looking for ways to improve your elk hunting game in 2020? This list of pre season elk hunting tips may include just what you need to become a more successful elk hunter so you can find yourself sitting behind the bull of your dreams this fall! Early season elk hunting tactics are considerably different than those you would use hunting late season elk so by adhering to a simple set of common sense related rules, you can match the time of year with the right elk tactics for the job.

Before Your Hunt

Pre season elk hunting tips to help you become a better elk hunter.

A successful elk hunt always starts with confidence, and confidence in the elk woods comes from preparation. In this section you’ll learn what you can do that will tip the odds in your favor before even setting foot in the field on opening day.

Tip 1. Get In Shape

It’s not a secret…Most of the time elk live in rugged country and are very adept at navigating it. I’m not going to tell you that you need to be in the gym every day pounding out reps gettin’ all swole, but you should probably shed that spare tire and work on some cardio before the hunt. Start several months in advance by eating right and hiking, biking or running to get your stamina up. You’ll shed some weight in the process (if you need to), feel great, and be able to hunt longer in more intense country. If you feel a more advanced exercise regimen is right for you, then join a gym. My point is for you to understand just how demanding elk hunting can be and that if your body is tuned up for the game, you can start working on tip number two.

Tip 2. Mental Preparation

The first tip will help set you up nicely for tip number two! Being mentally prepared for an elk hunt, and knowing how to handle the adverse situations as they arise during the season, will let you focus on killing an elk. If your body is able to traverse elk country with relative ease, that’s one less thing you have to worry about and you can concentrate on these other tips to prepare you for your elk hunt.

Accept the fact that you will be uncomfortable at times. This goes for both early and late season hunt scenarios. Early season elk hunters will face warm temperatures and an active elk herd. It’s not uncommon to run to get into position for a shot, or to position yourself for a killer calling set up. You’re going to get hot, the wind is going to swirl, and the bulls just won’t do exactly what you want them to do all of the time. Preparing for this before the hunt, and bringing the necessary mindset to succeed in these conditions will put you one step ahead of your unprepared competition.

On the flip side, late season elk hunters may have to deal with cold temperatures and snowy weather. Show up for your hunt with the right cold weather gear and you wont have to worry about how cold or wet you might be. There’s plenty of products out there designed to ensure you are comfortable on a late season elk hunt and offer you piece of mind when packing for your trip.

Tip 3. Gear Check

Just knowing your gear is going to withstand the abuse of an elk hunt will help you a great deal mentally. There’s nothing more frustrating than having a leaky tent, bad tires, or other gear breakdowns when all you want to do is focus on your elk hunt! Take a hard look at everything you’re going to bring months before the season. If you need to fix something, its a lot easier to do so in your garage than with limited supplies in elk camp. If you find out that a particular gear item needs to be replaced, hopefully you’re going through your gear with enough time to either purchase it, or save up a bit before buying. Go into the hunt worry free with gear that will get the job done.

Tip 4. Study Elk Behavior

You just can’t learn too much about elk behavior, and the more you know now, will help you react accordingly in the field when it counts. Even if you are far from an elk hunting pro, there’s still plenty of elk information online that will help you begin to understand why elk do what they do.

Chances are that you’re reading this in the off season, or close enough to your hunt that scouting is just out of the question. The elk are likely in a much different pattern than they will be during your hunt so you must rely on past knowledge, other people, or the internet. Google things like “Late season elk hunting in Montana” or “What do elk do during the rut”, or anything else you want to know that will supply the knowledge to be successful. If you know a fairly successful elk hunter, that’s great! Don’t be afraid to ask them direct questions about elk behavior, chances are they would love to help!

Tip 5. Practice Shooting

This isn’t the place to be cocky. By gaining an intimate understanding of your rifle or bow during the off season, you’ll be more likely to hold it together when that golden opportunity presents itself. Shoot as often as you can, in as similar to field positions as possible. Practice shooting off of a bi-pod, off your pack, bracing the rifle to a tree, and as many other possible situations you may encounter.

If you’re a bowhunter, practice uphill and downhill shots. Practice a smooth draw and come up with a consistent draw sequence that will eventually become second nature. Shoot off of your knees, at weird angles, and under varying degrees of daylight.

If you practice enough with any weapon type, you’ll extend your range which will, in turn, increase your odds of success. You will also learn your maximum effective distance during this process. Be honest with yourself and limit your shots at elk to distances that you know a lethal shot is imminent. The last thing you want to happen is a marginal shot and a wounded elk!

Tip 6. Refine Elk Hunting Tactics

I’ll cover both early and late season elk tactics in this section. Even though there are some distinct areas of tactic overlap, generally speaking early season elk hunters will call elk, and late season elk hunters will glass for them.

Learning to call effectively with convincing elk sounds takes time, and knowing when to call is a whole beast of its own! Just like above, use Google and YouTube to your advantage and practice all the time. Make a point to learn cow calling techniques as well as bull sounds like the bugle and chuckle. There’s plenty of how to videos, and a lot of them are pretty good! Once again if you know an accomplished caller, hit them up for some info.

Glassing takes a while to refine. Hopefully you’ve got some experience behind the binoculars…If not, spend some off season time getting out and learning to find game through the glass. Find your own rhythm, and make sure you’re comfortable sitting for extended periods of time. Luckily elk are big and usually contrast well with their habitat which makes them stand out. Look for pieces of the elk like a patch of hair, an antler tine, or their brightly colored rump. By looking for pieces of the elk, you’re more likely to look in places they might actually be. After finding enough elk through the binoculars, your subconscious takes over and will alert you. Take the time to practice so you’re not spending precious time during elk season to learn the craft of glassing.

Tip 7. Scout Your Elk Unit

Scouting for elk can be as generalized or specific as you want it to be. Some hunters will keep tabs on a particular bull and will scout only for him. This type of pre season scouting is the exception rather than the rule because so many factors are in play that can alter the target elk’s movements. More often, scouting involves finding good elk country with some quality bulls that compliments the method in which you will be hunting. We’re going to focus on the second method as it is far and away a more common approach to scouting for elk.

Hang your tag on a bull like this after learning these pre season elk hunting tips.

Before even stepping into your elk unit you can narrow down your focus area with Google Earth. Become familiar with access points and areas with good foot access away from roads. The time of year in which you will be hinting plays a big part in exactly what type of country to look for. Your previous research about elk behavior will pay big dividends when learning what type of country you should be looking at with Google’s aerial photos.

You can also search for specific information about your elk unit online to determine trophy quality of an area. Start by searching for something like “Bull elk unit 23 Arizona” or similar phrase applicable to where you will be hunting. You’ll get a good taste of trophy quality and the general terrain of where successful hunters have killed elk in previous years. Use this to your advantage when researching spots on Google Earth.

The first time you scout your elk unit, try not to deviate from the plan you’ve set for yourself during the research phase unless you see something really worth while to check out. Sticking to your plan helps you stay focused and second guessing your decisions can only send you into a spiral.

We’ll follow up this article with a comprehensive guide to elk scouting within a couple months, but try to keep it simple and direct during your scouting trips. Glass, look for sign, feed, water, and other elk country “must haves” when you’re out there. Remember to have a good time out there, after you’ll be elk hunting soon enough.


Hopefully these preseason elk hunting tips will get you started in the right direction as you prepare for elk season. By adhering to this proven methodology, you’ll be able to hunt elk nearly worry free when the season opener rolls around.

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