A big bull elk is one of the most iconic animals in the west. They weigh nearly 800 pounds with antlers that can stretch five feet over their heads. They travel immense amounts of country and when bumped or pressured can relocate zip codes away. Their senses are keen and they seem to have a knack for making the right moves leaving hunters broken hearted. A big public land bull is one of the most prized trophies out west and for good reason; they are extremely tough to harvest. If you are one of the lucky ones with a bull tag in your pocket, you want to make sure you are prepared. Nothing tastes worse than tag soup. If you want to beat the odds and be one of the elite pictured kneeling behind a big 6×6, the work starts now.
I would say the number one thing that stops a hunter from punching his tag is losing drive. Day in, day out, hunting hard without seeing the bull you want wears on a guy. Stack up a handful of days of tough hunting and folks start to lose faith and the drive to keep hiking and hunting hard. This is where working in the off season to have a great game plan pays huge dividends. If you prepare yourself for these hardships and have a plan of attack, you just keep pushing. If you are packing in a camp, be prepared to move it to a different location. Elk are either there or they are not. If you hunt for a handful of days and they are not there, time to move.
When I am hunting elk I like to cover country. I will pick one drainage and hike and hunt if for a day or two, then move on to the next. I will always do my map and google homework in the off-season to have options. I never put all my eggs in one basket when elk hunting. I make a plan A, B, C, D and so on. I make sure to have multiple back up plans, hiking and hunting multiple spots until I come up with a big bull. So be sure to study up and have a good game plan coming into the season, it is a huge piece of the puzzle.
Killing a big bull starts with having your mind right; elk will test your sanity. They travel through tons of country and it seems where you are, they are usually not. There is a lot of mountain landscape that elk use but that does not mean they are there all the time. When elk hunting you will look over miles and miles of country with hardly any elk in it. If you keep covering country, staying behind your glass at the right times, eventually you will uncover a hidey-hole where the big bulls are living. So to kill a big bull you have to be mentally strong, you have to keep pushing day after day. You have to be willing to be up hours before light and be hiking miles after the sun goes down. You have to keep the faith, even if you have not seen a bull for days. You keep after them and if they are not in one drainage, you move on to the next one and then the one after that.
So prepare yourself for hardships and know you will continue to push through them. The best way to gain mental strength is to be sure that you have prepared. You get your body in great physical shape knowing you can pay the tax the mountain will demand of you. While you are training you are practicing the same skills and same mental fortitude you will need on a hunt. You set your workout schedule and then you hold yourself to it. You find a way to get your work out in which is the same drive it will take on an elk hunt, pushing day after day even when fatigued.
Elk hunting is as tough game make sure to be prepared for all a DIY public land hunt can throw at you. Be certain to check out this entire article coming up in Eastmans’ Hunting Journal to ensure you are taking all the necessary steps to harvest a big bull!
Give the episode below of Eastmans’ Elevated a listen and hear how Dan Pickar and Brian Barney of Eastmans’ Hunting Journals consistently kill trophies across the Wes!