3 Tips for Whitetail Hunters Who Dream of Chasing Elk

3 Tips for Whitetail Hunters Who Dream of Chasing Elk
3 Tips for Whitetail Hunters Who Dream of Chasing Elk

MISSOULA, Mont.—Elk: The official daydream of whitetail hunters everywhere.

But hunting deer and hunting elk are, typically, two distinct disciplines within North American big game hunting. Different skill sets and expectations are required. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation offers three tips to help new elk hunters make the transition from fantasy to reality.

Brandon Bates, host of “RMEF Team Elk” on Outdoor Channel, is familiar with the dream. He grew up in southern Louisiana chasing white-tailed deer with gun and bow. Like thousands of his counterparts across the country, Bates spent countless quiet hours in low-country treestands while imagining snowy peaks, alpine meadows, dark timber basins—and giant bulls.

Today, Bates hunts elk or accompanies other elk hunters in several states each fall while producing a television show now reigning as the Fan Favorite Best New Series on Outdoor Channel.


“Elk still represent the best opportunity for an average hunter to get out, all on his own or with an affordable outfitter, and experience a classic Western big-game hunt,” said Bates. “But elk are also the toughest animal for a newcomer to hunt successfully. Elk hunting humbles lots of folks who, like me, had become pretty good at taking whitetails and had assumed that body of work would carry over.”


Often, it doesn’t.

Bates discusses three tips learned during his first few years as an elk hunter:

  1. Expectations—“It took me 3-4 years to understand that you don’t just pick up a bow and go out to the mountains and take a big bull. That’s not how it works. When I was strictly a whitetail hunter, I scoffed at the guys who claimed they hunted because they liked to be outside and see the flowers and hear the birds. Man, I hunted because I liked to kill deer. But hunting elk made me appreciate what those guys were talking about. It really is about the place, the elements, your ability to adapt and the overall experience. The happiest elk hunters I know are the ones who approach their sport simply as a campout or hike with an elk tag. They just enjoy it for what it is. There’s no great expectation of a kill, and if it happens, it’s considered a bonus.”

  2. Elements—“All whitetail hunters know that elk hunting will demand better physical conditioning. More mobility in altitude and steep terrain. Better preparedness for harsh and changing weather. They understand that elk hunters literally live on what they can carry on their backs. But I think a lot of newbies are completely surprised and unprepared for the wind. In most whitetail country, winds are usually fairly directional. You just adjust and keep hunting. But in elk country, the wind swirls. It’s in your face, then at your back, then in your face again, all day long. It’s hard to cope with, and it really throws off hunters who aren’t used to it.”

  3. Patience—“Going from whitetail hunting to elk hunting is like going from pond fishing to lake fishing. Your world suddenly gets a lot bigger and it’s much less forgiving. You go from hunting an animal that patterns within a square mile or so, to an animal that could be anywhere on the landscape at any given time. Finding elk, especially a particular bull, is really an incredible proposition. You have to take it day by day. Learn what you can about the country and how elk use it, and then use that knowledge to your advantage tomorrow. You’ll develop more patience than you ever thought possible.”

About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
RMEF is leading a conservation initiative that protected or enhanced habitat on more than 6.1 million acres—an area larger than Yellowstone, Great Smoky Mountains, Grand Canyon, Glacier, Yosemite and Rocky Mountain national parks combined. RMEF also is a strong voice for hunters in access, wildlife management and conservation policy issues. RMEF members, partners and volunteers, working together as Team Elk, are making a difference all across elk country. Join us at www.rmef.org or 800-CALL ELK.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

New Optimum and Optimum TS Downriggers from Canon

New Optimum and Optimum TS Downriggers from Canon

From rugged reliability to smooth integration of cutting edge technology across several different platforms, OSG's Lynn Burkhead learns that there's much to like about the new Optimum and Optimum TS downriggers from Canon.

Abu Garcia Virtual Rod with Bluetooth

Abu Garcia Virtual Rod with Bluetooth

Pure Fishing's Andrew Wheeler tells Outdoor Sportsman Group writer Lynn Burkhead all about the brand new Abu Garcia Virtual rod that integrates Bluetooth technology through a free ANGLR smartphone app.

MLF Pro Tips: How to Fish a New Lake

MLF Pro Tips: How to Fish a New Lake

Major League Fishing pros Alton Jones, Jeff Sprague, Anthony Gagliardi and James Watson share their thoughts on how to approach fishing a new lake for bass.

BPT Points Champ Edwin Evers Talks New Berkley Baits

BPT Points Champ Edwin Evers Talks New Berkley Baits

After making the switch to Berkley products heading into the inaugural BPT season, Edwin Evers tells OSG's Lynn Burkhead why Berkley baits played such a key role in his recent angling success.

Trending Articles

You can catch bluegill faster with these strategies. Panfish

Find and Fish Bluegill Beds Efficiently

Terry Madewell - May 22, 2019

You can catch bluegill faster with these strategies.

Who needs live bait when the big 'gills are so eager to strike these lures? Other Freshwater

5 Great Lures For Bluegills

Stephen D. Carpenteri - March 10, 2011

Who needs live bait when the big 'gills are so eager to strike these lures?

Unless you live in Antarctica, the only continent they aren't known to inhabit, there is a species Catfish

10 Biggest Catfish World Records of All Time

Jack Vitek - December 08, 2014

Unless you live in Antarctica, the only continent they aren't known to inhabit, there is a...

While catfish are still catfish, the difference between day and night tactics and strategies can be profound, even when fishing the same lake or river. Catfish

How to Catch Catfish Day and Night

Terry Madewell - April 04, 2018

While catfish are still catfish, the difference between day and night tactics and strategies...

See More Trending Articles

More Hunting How-To

Winter is here. Focus on these frozen food sources to improve your chances of scoring a giant buck. Whitetail

Focus on Frozen Food for Winter Deer

Bob Robb - December 27, 2019

Winter is here. Focus on these frozen food sources to improve your chances of scoring a giant...

A shot commits you to finding the animal. Your success depends on how you read the hit and the track. Whitetail

Aim True, Track Smart: Harvest Recovery

Wayne van Zwoll - December 26, 2019

A shot commits you to finding the animal. Your success depends on how you read the hit and the...

Chestnut Hill shares its philosophy of land management at ATA Show 2020. ATA Show

How to Improve Habitat for Hunting Deer

Game & Fish Digital Staff - January 10, 2020

Chestnut Hill shares its philosophy of land management at ATA Show 2020.

The challenges of the late season can also yield ruffed grouse success. Waterfowl

Late-Season Ruffs When It's Tough

Matt Soberg - December 18, 2019

The challenges of the late season can also yield ruffed grouse success.

See More Hunting How-To

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.