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Know the Best Elk Hunting Equipment Day 5: Know Must-Haves for Successful Elk Hunting

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Editor’s Note: Longtime, award-winning outdoor writer J. Wayne Fears of New Market, Alabama, has taken 12 bull elk. He’s a nationally known gun writer who has written for most of the gun magazines in the past and today. 

When asked what’s most important about a person’s rifle for a successful elk hunt, J. Wayne Fears answered, ”First, having quality optics mounted on your rifle. Then, spend plenty of time sighting it in at ranges from 300 to 400 yards. Choose a good load and caliber that you know when you squeeze the trigger that that bull will go down where he’s standing. I’ll probably choose any of the three calibers I’ve named earlier.

“Some folks have gotten excited about the 350 Legend Black Powder rifle, available from many online stores. Since it’s a 150-yard rifle, I wouldn’t use it as an elk gun if I was going elk hunting. Another gun that some black powder hunters are also excited about is the 45-70 gun. If you’re hunting elk in dark timber where most of your shots probably will be inside or less than 100 yards, I wouldn’t be afraid to use this gun if I’d sighted it in and knew how it would perform at 100 to 150 yards. One of the reasons that the .350 Legend is becoming so popular is that in the states where you can use the 45-70 to hunt whitetails, you can use the 350 Legend. But neither of these calibers, in my opinion, is an elk caliber.

“When you go elk hunting in most states, you don’t know if you’ll have a shot at 50 or 400 yards. So, having a rifle that can put an elk down out to 400 yards is best, and having a bullet that will break him down when it hits him, and most importantly, give you the confidence you need to make that shot, which comes from putting time in at the range.

“I’m also asked a number of questions about other equipment that an elk hunter may need, and I believe the most important equipment you need for a successful elk hunt is a hunter in good shape. Regardless of what kind of rifle, optics, or boots you’re using, none of that matters if the hunter’s not in good enough shape to get to where he needs to be to take the shot at the elk. You can have some of the finest, most expensive elk hunting equipment ever made, but if you can’t get to the place to take the shot, none of that matters.

“When I was guiding elk hunters in Colorado, most of our hunters were from the East. Being out of shape was the main reason our hunters, who didn’t take elk, failed to take the bulls of their dreams. If I were to write a book on elk hunting, my first chapter would be ‘What to Do to Get a Hunter in Shape to Hunt in the Mountains.’

“Buying equipment, sighting it in, and knowing how to use it, how to pack it, and what to do if you need some of the equipment you’ve got isn’t important if the hunter’s not going to get to the elk. The truth about elk hunting is that it’s hard work. Now, if you’ve got a ton of money, you can go to some of these nice elk lodges, ride around in a pick-up truck, and shoot your elk. However, if you’re going to hunt in the mountains on horseback or on foot, you need to be in really good shape. For the average elk hunter who’ll be hunting in BLM  or national forest lands, even if he has a guide, the elk hunt will be tough.”

Looking for more content? Check out our YouTube channel and watch “What I Learned From Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant” by John E. Phillips.

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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