An elk in the field

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A hunter packing out an elk

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Randy Ulmer Stalks Close to Bowhunt Elk Day 2: Why Stalk in Your Socks

An elk bugles in the field
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Editor’s Note: In the world of archery, Arizona is one of the most-recognized names in the history of competition shooting and hunting elk with a bow. Randy Ulmer has used his tournament skills to become one of the most-efficient and accurate trophy elk hunters ever. This week Ulmer will help you learn how to get in close to a big bull elk with a bow.

An hunter takes aim with his bow“When elk hear noises, they turn and look,” Randy Ulmer explains. “You’ll have a better opportunity of getting close to and bagging a bull with a bow when you make less noise.”
Ulmer believes his footwear gives him an added advantage many other hunters don’t have. “I’m fairly light, I run daily, and I have strong ankles,” Ulmer mentions. “I like my lightweight and comfortable tennis shoes. I’ve found no advantage to wearing heavier hunting boots.” Ulmer believes wearing a quality pair of hunting boots makes you carry an extra pound or two on each foot. “When I elk hunt, I may walk 5 or 6 miles each day,” Ulmer reports. “I can cover 5 or 6 miles in tennis shoes much-more comfortably than in a heavy pair of hunting boots. Therefore, my footwear begins with my running shoes.” Ulmer wears his hunting tennis shoes one size larger than his regular running shoes. “With a larger pair of shoes, I can wear two pairs of heavy socks,” Ulmer reveals. “Then if I spot an elk in close and don’t have time to complete my sock system, I can kick off my shoes and stalk in quietly to get the shot.”

A hunter poses with his downed elk

If Ulmer has time to prepare for his stalk, he puts a pair of cotton socks on his feet first. Over the cotton socks, he places a thin, plastic produce bag. “Your socks and feet produce, trap and hold more odor than any garment you wear,” Ulmer explains. “I believe I keep that odor from escaping by putting a plastic bag over the cotton sock. I also carry a pair of heavy wool socks in the outside bellows pocket of my pants, making the socks easy to reach.” Ulmer warns hunters not to take their shoes off too quickly, especially in rocky terrain. Although Ulmer has walked several miles in his stocking feet before, he prefers not to cover more than 50-200 yards shoeless. “I’ve tested all types of shoe soles, including moccasins, felt soles and thin rubber soles,” Ulmer emphasizes. “I’ve found nothing muffles the sound of my walking, conforms better to sticks, rocks and branches under my feet or allows me to feel the ground better and move quieter than my stalking in my stocking feet.”

Ulmer considers having somewhat-tender feet an advantage. When you have only stockings between you and the ground, you tend to move slower and more carefully and not travel as far or as fast over rough terrain as you will if you have more foot protection. “To remember where I’ve taken my shoes off, I use my compass or GPS to get a bearing on a landmark,” Ulmer advises. “Then I can locate my shoes and pack that I leave behind when I stalk. I don’t want to carry anything that will make noise when I move in close to a bull elk.”

An elk in the fieldUlmer wears brushed-cotton, 6-pocket pants and a brushed cotton shirt when he stalks. “I prefer big pockets that will hold most anything. I also like the soft and quiet brushed cotton camouflage. If I brush against a twig or a tree, I don’t want my clothing to make a sound. My clothes must have comfort designed into them. If I have to get on my hands and knees and crawl, the brushed cotton muffles the sound of my knees like the heavy wool socks silence the sound of my feet.”

Cover: Elk: Keys to 25 Hunters SuccessTo learn more about hunting elk successfully, check out John E. Phillips’ book, “Elk: Keys to 25 Hunters’ Success,” available in Kindle, print and Audible versions at You may have to copy and paste this click into your browser. (When you click on this book, notice on the left where Amazon allows you to read and hear 10% of the book for free). On the right side of the page and below the offer for a free Audible trial, you can click on Buy the Audible with one click.

Tomorrow: How Randy Ulmer Bags Bull Elk

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