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More Reasons Hunters Don’t Take Elk Day 3: Elk Hunters Not Choosing Best Times

Rifle elk hunter
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Editor’s Note: This week, Ryan “Reno” Capps, [email protected]), 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 (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 five more reasons hunters don’t get their elk when they come West.”


The hunters who want to take big bulls may not select the right times to hunt. Your best opportunity for killing a big bull, if you have him located, will be the very-first archery hunt anywhere in elk country – usually around September 1st. In Colorado, archery season opens the Saturday before September 1st. If you’re a rifle hunter and want to take a big bull elk, you’ll need to book a trip near October 1st in many states. 

Remember, those elk already have been chased around, since September 1st. Then, there’s usually a week’s break, with no hunters, before rifle season. On October 1st, you should be able to see several nice bulls and hopefully take the elk you want. This time is generally when the outfitter charges the most for a gun hunt. Some of the private lands that are involved in Ranching for Wildlife programs will let gun hunters hunt in September in places like Utah and Colorado. (You can research this program on the Internet to see if it’s offered in the state where you want to hunt elk).

When I guided in Colorado, the peak of the rut usually occurred about September 25th. The season always has been closed before the peak of the rut happens. So, the first of rifle season in any state that opens after the peak of the rut means you’re probably not going to hear an elk bugle. Therefore, I believe that the earliest date you can get to rifle hunt closest to the peak of the rut is when your chances are best to take a big bull.

For archery season, the bull you want to take is getting ready to go into the rut. He may be by himself or with a couple of bulls. If I can find where that bull’s bedding and the closest water source, many times I can get my first archery hunter where he needs to be to take a big bull. But, if you don’t have a bull you want to take found by the first week of archery season, then that week can be slow with very-little bugling happening. Usually, the weather then will be hot, and droughts will cause the bulls to be as close as possible to a water source.

Elk and elk hunter with binoculars

Once the rut starts, those bulls will begin to trickle in and gather their herds, with 20-60 cows per herd. When you have that many cows with a herd bull, he’ll be difficult to take, since you’ll have so many pairs of eyes looking for you. That’s a hard game to play.

Some State Deadlines for Elk Tags: (These deadlines may change but were listed in early 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

Tennessee – February 22, 2023;

Utah – April 27, 2023;

Virginia – March 30, 2023;

Washington – May 17, 2023; and

Wyoming – January 31, 2023.

Tomorrow: Hunters Not Understanding Elk Movement

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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