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5 Reasons Hunters Don’t Take Elk Day 5: Not Listening to Elk Guides

Elk hunters with large elk antlers
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Editor’s Note: This week, Ryan “Reno” Capps, a longtime elk guide, who lives when not guiding in the Loudon/Fort Sill area of Oklahoma, tells us reasons hunters don’t take elk. “I’ve been hunting elk since 1997, when I went to New Mexico and started guiding. The company’s Facebook page I work for is Black Mountain Hunts LLC and (also reachable at http://www.blackmtnhunts.com/), and we have about 400,000 private acres where we hunt. One of the ranches we lease is 250,000 acres, one of the biggest ranches in New Mexico. We also have a bunch of combined properties that adjoin the 250,000 acres. I mainly guide in Units 12 and 13, where I’ve been hunting since 2005. Elk hunters can draw tags and have us guide for them, but we also have guaranteed elk owner tags. Here are some reasons hunters don’t get their elk when they come West.” (Reno’s email is [email protected]).


Your guide’s purpose is to help you find and take a bull. If a guide says to stand or sit by a tree until you’ve killed an elk, or he comes to get you, and your guide gets 50-100 yards back from you, then he can tell that the elk probably has walked by within bow or gun range of you. But perhaps you haven’t taken the shot. Once the guide returns to where you are, you may be 100 yards from the place to where the guide has called the elk. Generally, a bull will walk right past the place to where the guide has tried to pull the elk to you by calling and making noises. 


The guide may change positions four or five times before he gets the bull within 20 yards of his hunter. However, if you’re not where the guide’s left you, you’ll miss the opportunity to take your bull with either your bow or gun. Plus, then the guide must spend his time looking for you, instead of more elk. When that happens to me as a guide, I’ve had hunters tell me, “I liked this tree better than the one where you put me,” or “I thought this rock would be better.” However, I then will tell them that I pulled the bull to where they were supposed to be sitting. I’ll tell them that if they’d stayed where I’d left them, they would have been able to kill a bull.


Whether I’m guiding for a bow or a rifle hunter, I want to be with them for every second of the hunt, perhaps a few yards behind them or right next to them. I’ll do whatever is needed to get the bull to my hunter. Also, there are often situations where there’s a father and son or two buddies hunting together. The guide may put one of the buddies on a watering hole, but after 15-20 minutes, that hunter decides to leave the water hole and look for another place he thinks is better for taking an elk. Not only will this hunter not see the elk, but if he moves, and the wind is coming from his back or side in this new location, he’ll spook the bull he’s trying to take and probably the entire herd. Guides have very-good reasons for why they pick the exact spots they do for their hunters to sit. If you’ll listen to your guide and trust that he’ll do everything he can to put a bull elk in your lap, your chances of taking a bull will be much greater.

Elk hunter and elk

With a gun hunter, I’ll be sitting right next to him, explaining what the elk’s doing, and telling him when to take the shot. I’ll also tell him that if the herd has more than one bull, which bull to take and why. Often the hunter’s gun may be resting on shooting sticks, and I’ll have the hunter move to where the elk will come to prepare for the shot.

Some State Deadlines for Elk Tags: (as of February 2023)

  • Alaska – December 15, 2023 for 2024;
  • Arizona – February 14, 2023;
  • Arkansas – June 1, 2023;
  • California – June 21, 2023;
  • Colorado – April 3, 2023;
  • Idaho – June, 2023;
  • Kentucky – April 30, 2023;
  • Michigan – June 1, 2023;
  • Minnesota – dates available mid-May, 2023;
  • Missouri – May 31, 2023;
  • Montana – April 1, 2023;
  • Nebraska – Not available at this writing;
  • Nevada – May 10, 2023;
  • New Mexico – March 22, 2023;
  • Oklahoma – Not available at this writing;
  • Oregon – May 15, 2023;
  • Pennsylvania – July 31, 2023;
  • South Dakota – Days are subject to change; refer to hyperlink
  • Tennessee – February 22, 2023;
  • Utah – April 27, 2023;
  • Virginia – March 30, 2023;
  • Washington – May 17, 2023; and
  • Wyoming – January 31, 2023.

Expert Guidebooks on Elk Hunting: Best Sellers

Secrets for Hunting Elk
The quickest, easiest (if there is an easy way), and safest way to find and take that bull elk of a lifetime will be to hunt with a guide.

Chad Schearer, a longtime Montana guide and TV personality, told me, “My hunter is my gun. If I get to the elk, and my hunter isn’t with me, then we don’t take the elk. My job is not only to find the elk but also to help the hunter get to the elk and make the experience as enjoyable as I can for him.” That’s the kind of fella with whom I want to go elk hunting. 

An elk hunt can be tough, but it doesn’t have to be so tough that you don’t enjoy it. That’s why this elk hunting book starts with the confessions of an elk guide and with Chad Schearer’s philosophy of what the guide and the hunter’s relationship should be.

A good portion of your success will depend on your physical condition, and Matt Morrett of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania explains how an eastern hunter can get ready physically during June and July to hunt western elk, the animals he describes as, “Like deer or turkeys on steroids.”

Wayne Carlton, well-known elk hunter and TV and video personality from Montrose, Colorado, tells us what types of elk calls to use and what to say to the elk. Mike Miller of Colorado, another elk guide and Mossy Oak video personality, has tactics for the best equipment for bowhunting and gun hunting elk.

You’ll learn helpful strategies and hunting tips in this book, as well as some straightforward hunting methods that will help to make your elk hunt more successful.

“Thanks to the advice in your elk hunting books, I was able to call up a nice 6-point (6X6) bull elk! He was bugling like crazy. I called him in from about a ¼ mile away. Called him into bow range (about 40 yards away). It was a thrill!” ~Rob Brannon


Elk: Keys to 25 Hunters’ Success
Often just one tip or tactic makes the difference in whether you take an elk home to dinner or have to hike back to the truck by yourself. In John E. Phillips’ latest elk book, Elk: Keys to 25 Hunters’ Success, you’ll learn from successful elk hunters the strategies they use to find and take elk.

Many know that the technique that seems to work most often is to hunt where other elk hunters don’t and understand where the elk are before you go on a hunt by studying data from each state, visiting HuntData (see chapter 1), examining maps, and reading postings on elk forums.

This book also tells you how to get ready physically for an elk hunt, including participating in Train to Hunt Competitions, what gear you need to take, how to enjoy a successful do-it-yourself elk hunt, or how to pick the best elk guide for you. You’ll also hear about the X System and the Broken Y System of hunting elk. 

Although no one person has all the answers on how to help you find and take your elk, I’m convinced that this book’s outdoors men and women will teach you how to have satisfying elk hunts.

As my friend Karl Badger once told me, “Elk hunting doesn’t get any better than when I ride horses into the high backcountry, see two grizzly bears, hear a pack of wolves howl close to camp all night long, eat plenty of delicious food prepared on a fire and enjoy the company of good friends.”


How to Find Your Elk and Get Him in Close will teach you the tactics of 10 nationally known elk hunters, to help put that giant bull that’s been screaming at you from afar, in your lap. You’ll learn what some of the best guides, outfitters, and successful elk hunters do to find elk and get them in really close.

Also in this audiobook, you’ll notice that the majority of the experts call elk to within bow range. We selected numerous bowhunters and bowhunting guides, since the bowhunter has to get much closer to a bull than the gun hunter does – often less than 20 or 30 yards – practically in your lap.

On one elk hunt, I’d heard this bull bugle all morning. My guide had called him within 30 yards, and he was standing just inside black timber. I saw the smoke from his nose wafting out into the icy air less than 30-yards away. All the bull had to do was step out, and I could take the shot with my bow. But then, through no fault of my guide or me, the bull vanished.

The only conclusion I could come up with to understand why the bull I wanted to take with my bow hadn’t stepped out and given me a shot, was because he got raptured. He evidently had left the earth with no trace of himself.

This hunt was when I started wanting to learn more about hunting elk up close. In this book, I’ve tried to find some of the most knowledgeable, experienced, and practical elk hunters. I’ve always found that the best way to learn any outdoor skill, is to either hunt or fish with the best sportsmen in that field.

Often, in elk hunting, that means elk guides, who generally hunt every day of the season and receive a salary for every hunter they guide. So, I’ve put together a group of some of the best elk hunters I know to help us all learn how to find bull elk and get them in close.


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