Elk Hunting Success Tip:

Spend Time In The Woods


Want to Invest in Something With a High Probability of Payoff in Shot Opportunities?

Schedule plenty of extra time in your hunting area.

The spike bull had no idea I was there.  I drew my bow silently, settled my pin just behind his shoulder, and released. Upon impact, the elk bolted downhill, crashing through the oak brush. 

After an anxious 20 minutes (I couldn’t stand to wait 30), I began the search.  It really didn’t take much effort.  The oak leaves in his path looked like a faulty paint gun had been spraying too much red paint.  I found the expired bull rolled up in a ball, halfway down the slope.  I had harvested my first elk with a bow!

This area was very familiar to me.  Not only had my buddies and I been hunting here for several years, this was day 11 of hiking into this hunting spot.  We had tried other locations in this unit, but this was the most consistent.  The elk followed the same pattern most days.  We knew where they fed, watered and bedded on private land, and we knew that they regularly crossed public land as part of their routine.

So we continued to come back, even though the hike in and out was difficult.  But that’s part of what made the hunting good.  Few other hunters were willing to go to the effort.

Eleven mornings I had made the trek in the dark.  I knew almost every rock, bush, and tree on the path I followed.  I had some close encounters, but had been unable to close the deal.  Until day 11.  The time and effort I put in had finally paid off.

Invest Your Time

If I could offer only one elk hunting success tip, it would be to maximize your time in the elk woods.  Time is one of most important investments in elk hunting that many are unwilling to pay.  Some of us spend thousands of dollars on our weapons, clothing and gear, hoping that it will give us a slight edge.  We want to shoot more accurately, see more clearly, and be more comfortable while we hunt. 

There is nothing wrong with good gear.  I highly recommend it.  But nothing will give you the hunting advantage like spending time in your hunting area.  Every day you spend in the elk woods, you learn. 

Elk Country is Big

If you are used to hunting whitetail in a woodlot at the edge of a field, it may be difficult to grasp just how big elk country is.  The reality is that you will probably only hunt a small fraction of your elk hunting unit.  But even that small fraction is likely to be multiple square miles. 

It will take time to learn the terrain, access points, bedding areas, feeding areas and watering spots.  Yes, some of this exploration can and should be done by electronic scouting on your computer before season begins.  But there is nothing that will improve your odds of success like spending time in the elk woods with boots on the ground.


If you are planning a hunt in an area that is new to you, the value of a scouting trip cannot be over-emphasized. I realize that is difficult for some folks, especially when you live over a thousand miles from elk country.  It may be a big sacrifice to take some of your vacation time and make the long drive to explore your hunting unit.  But I can almost guarantee it’s a sacrifice you won’t regret.

Be Early

Even if you are familiar with the terrain of your hunting spot, it’s a good idea to show up a few days early to scout.  This will provide you with up to date information on where the elk are, and where they aren’t.  It can give you the advantage over other public land hunters.  The knowledge you gain will help you develop hunting tactics for opening day.

Scout Midday

Most of us know that prime time for elk hunting is at first and last light of the day.  Since elk are nocturnal creatures, they are on their way to bed in the morning, and just getting up in the evening.  Elk hunting is only allowed in daylight hours, so midday is usually less productive.  Many of us take that time to rest and recuperate from the morning hunt and prepare for the evening hunt.  While that is not a bad thing, it might also be a good idea to take some of that time to explore new areas, looking for elk sign or hidden hangouts.  Revisit spots that were uninhabited early in the season to see if the elk have moved back in.  Hunting pressure can make elk change their habits.


The elk hunting success tip that is one of the least talked about is spending time in your hunting area.  This investment will likely pay off in shot opportunities more than all of the gear and gadgets your money can buy.  Make the sacrifice that is needed to schedule the time needed to learn all you can about your hunting spot and the elk living in it.  And if you are anything like me, there is no other place you would rather be anyway.

What About You?

Do you schedule scouting time for your elk hunt?  Do you find it worthwhile?  What are your Pro’s and Con’s when it comes to scouting?

Take a few minutes right now and let me know in the comments below.  I would love to hear from you.


  1. Jim

    Excellent advise once again. I throughly enjoy your insight . Thank you

    • Jimmie Norris

      Thanks for the feedback, Jim!

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Jimmie is a retired high tech engineer who now spends his time writing about elk hunting, selling Real Estate, and doing DIY projects.

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