I don’t put a lot of stock into fortune cookies. They’ve never given me any reason to change my mind. I don’t care for sushi, pecans, or iced coffee. It’s hard for me to trust a grown man who doesn’t cuss, and I hate politicians. I’m against man buns, roundabouts, and gas barbecues. Lastly, I get irrationally mad at people who put spoilers on their stupid Hondas with loud mufflers. You need an ass-whoopin.
I do, however, love September. It’s my favorite month of the year.
If you hunt bugling bulls during September, I suspect it’s your favorite month too. There’s nothing like it, right? Elk, crazy with hormones and testosterone, slashing at trees and screaming at the top of their lungs tends to make us as crazy as they are.
September is here. I thought I would knock out a quick article before the hunt kicks in for me on Friday. I don’t think I’ll have time once it hits. No other topic than elk hunting would do for now!
One of the hot topics on social media has been calling elk. A lot of new hunters are asking questions and posting their bugles for scrutiny. It’s actually not a bad idea!
To you bran new buglers out there, don’t over-complicate it. Don’t over-simplify it either. Being proficient with a bugle is a lot like learning to play an instrument. I play drums and guitar, and am decent with a bugle. Start with learning the very basics with a reed. Learn simple cow sounds, then move into bugles and chuckles.
Bull elk have been known to bugle at dusty breaks on a dirt road below them. Meaning, you don’t need to be a world champion elk caller to call in a fired up bull. Practice as much as you can, all year long. The progression may seem to take a long time, but you’ll be surprised at how real you sound come hunting season. Just like playing the guitar, consistent practice makes small, unnoticeable improvements that over a few months add up to sounding like a real elk. Surprise yourself by putting in the effort!
There are tons of great resources out there. In fact, if you scroll to the top of this page and hit the “partners and links” tab, you will find the best of them. They don’t pay me for the partner link, they are simply the exact tools I used to become a decent elk caller. Trust me, I needed all the help I could get!
If you are familiar with my site and content, you know that I am not much of a gear junkie. I know hunters who get more excited about new gear than the actual hunt. That is not me. I would go elk hunting with a back-to-school special backpack from Walmart if I had to.
I do, at this point in my life, have some decent gear and know the benefits of it. Good gear will be a key factor in your ability to hunt longer, farther, and in more of mother natures elements.
Like elk calling, the free available resources are endless. In that light, I won’t bore you to death with a detailed gear list. However, there are some key pieces of gear that I want to highlight simply for the lower cost they provide.
If you have a huge budget, skip the rest of this section. For the rest of us, and especially the young twenty-something year old new hunter, don’t stress about top notch gear. Get the most cost-effective essentials and get in the woods! The gained experience will be much more beneficial to you than $750 camo.
I’m going to leave your choice of weapon out of this discussion. It’s very much a personal preference.
I will share a little story, however. I have a customer who had the pictures and video to prove this story; it was 2016 and he had never been elk hunting during archery season. His wife told him that if he spent one penny above $450 on gear, it would be his head on the wall in the living room. He walked into a damn Walmart and purchased a bow, arrows, broadheads, camo, and boots. Three weeks later, he was packing out a 300 class bull elk. Think about that for a moment.
You do need a decent pack that can haul meat. The image below will take you to the Amazon link to buy. Is it a long-lasting EXO or Mystery Ranch? No. But it will get you through a season or two and haul your meat. If you need a last minute pack to get you on the mountain, this one will do the trick!
Good boots go a long way. Super expensive boots go a long way for many seasons. When you have the available funds, get some very high-end hunting boots. Personally, I love Hoffman Boots. However, the boots below can be purchased for $70 and will absolutely do the job this season. I spent almost five years in the Marine Corps Infantry, the $60 jungle boots I bought on base went hundreds of miles. Literally. Click the link for a cheaper option.
A good pack and boots will get you where you need to go. You can find a million different packing lists online for both backcountry hunting and base camp hunting. If you are playing the wind correctly, the cheapest of camo will serve you right.
This all being said, please don’t misinterpret my point. I am not endorsing the above items nor am I putting down expensive gear. You hear all of these names; Sitka, Mystery Ranch, Exo, First Light, Kenetreck, etc… I love them all! Frankly, if you have the money, they are absolutely better to have and any serious hunter should make the investment. What I am trying to highlight is this; don’t let a smaller budget destroy your elk hunting aspirations.
I’ve been so poor in my life that I was living off of Ramen Noodles and ketchup, I called it spaghetti. I still went hunting in those days. You should too.
One more quick recommendation, have some first aid items in your pack. A simple kit will do. The one thing I’m adding this year is ZipStitch. I highly recommend this product. Elk hunting requires the use of extremely sharp broaheads being deployed during intense, adrenaline fueled times. If lucky, you will then need sharp knives to deal with your kill. There is an above average chance you will cut yourself, and deep. ZipStitch is awesome, I have seen it in action. Click the image, Amazon has the best deal.
Get Your A** On The Mountain!
Elk season is here, so I need to wrap this up. I want to leave you with something I’ve noticed since my obsession with elk hunting began.
The guys that consistently kill bull elk every year have a few things in common. It is wise to take notice. They are passionate about elk hunting. They don’t get excited for next season in June or July, they are pumped on October 1st for next year. They are committed to this thing. They take large amounts of time off of work, they hike farther, they go places others won’t go, and they know the basics of elk behavior.
Their freezers are not full because they hunt roads or only spend a half day in the woods. Push yourself this year. When you feel you’ve gone too far and simply cannot keep going, go to the next ridge. It’s a numbers game. Time and miles, I believe, are what makes all the difference. I don’t mean hiking further than the next guy. I mean hiking until you get an encounter. It may not be far at all. Hell, I’ve had encounters ten feet off the road. Just keep going, keep searching, don’t give up.
Trust me when I say this; you have more grit and stamina than you realize. Elk hunting is hard, but your complete and total commitment to pushing harder in the woods will be so much more memorable than calling it quits at lunch cause you haven’t heard anything. Even if you don’t notch a tag, the effort you put into this season will either haunt you all year, or fill your soul with pride.
You have made it to this point. Get after it. Next September is a long way away, don’t waste this one. If you’re reading this, I believe you have it in you. Now, get your ass on that mountain and show us what you got.
As always, thank you so much for reading. If you get an elk down and want to share, send pics to firstname.lastname@example.org!
See you on the mountain!
Can’t wait to get on the mountains this year man! You hit the nail on the head, it’s not about fancy gear, it’s about getting out there and giving it your all. Can’t wait for our season to start!