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Hunting Elk Is Addictive Day 5: Learning from a Bull Elk

Elk hunter with large antlers
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Editor’s Note: Mark Hanson, from Mesa, Arizona, has a severe case of elk addiction. Mark took his first bull in 1984 with a bow—a spike with brow tines (a legal bull)—that really hooked him on elk hunting. Since then, he’s taken many bulls with his bow and two in Colorado with a rifle. However, he’s called in numerous bulls for friends and family members – about 100+ bulls. When Hanson isn’t hunting bull elk to take for himself, he hunts with friends and relatives yearly to help record their hunts, find bulls for them, call bull elk, and carry out the meat.


This bull I was hunting I knew would score well over 400 inches. I’ve only seen two or three bulls 400 inches or more, and this bull had to be one of the biggest. I really wasn’t hunting this bull; I was hunting a 7×7 that would’ve scored in the 350-inch range. But I saw the 400-inch bull three or four different times that morning, but never with a cow. I never understood why a bull of this size didn’t have a harem of cows, especially during the rut.

That day, I’d also seen other bulls that were much smaller than the 7×7 I was hunting, and they all had cows. Every morning I hunted the 7×7, something weird would happen before I could get him close enough to take a shot. For example, other hunters came in one morning and spooked this bull. The area where he was hanging out was a little meadow about 60 yards wide. Below the meadow was a small ravine with a wallow in it. So, I decided to put a tree stand close to the wallow because I thought the 7×7 in this region would come to the wallow, at some point in the day. While in my tree stand, I looked up in the meadow and watched six cow elk come out at the head of the meadow – about 200 yards up from my tree stand. A few minutes later, a little 4×4 bull moved out into the meadow. I couldn’t understand why even that 4×4 had a harem of cows, but the 7×7 bull didn’t have any cows. That just didn’t make any sense to me. After I’d been watching the elk for about 20 minutes, the 4×4 bull and the cows looked back into the woods, turned, and walked toward me. 

Elk taxidermy

Finally, I saw a monster bull that would score well over 400 inches with a broad back and really long tines coming off his main beams. He had everything an elk hunter could imagine for a dream bull. The big bull came out further in the meadow, and the little bull coming to me got about 60 yards out before turning and going into the woods as the big bull circled the cows and herded them back into the trees. After I saw that big bull, the 7×7 I’d been hunting became a dim memory. All my efforts that season went to finding the 400+ bull. Sadly, I never saw him again. Knowing there was a bull that size in the same area as the 7×7, I totally understood why the 7×7 didn’t have any cows with him. I decided the 7×7 wouldn’t try and steal any of the lady friends from a bull with a massive rack. 

What I learned on this hunt:

  • The most significant bull in an area herds up the most cows, and his presence causes the other bulls to stay away from him and his girlfriends.
  • You’re destined to be enamored by any monster bull. I was dead set on taking that 400+ bull. I passed up several other really nice bulls because I decided to take that monster-racked bull and put my tag on his rack. I spent the entire season trying to find that bull. That’s one of the only elk tags I had to eat.
  • I decided after this hunt that any 6×6 bull I saw when I was hunting elk would shoot with my bow. Occasionally, I’ll buy a leftover cow tag in Colorado and harvest a cow with my rifle for the freezer. Several buddies of mine will go to Colorado at the end of the season if we need meat for our freezers and enjoy hunts for cow elk and each other’s company.

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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