Your garden and flowers may not have enjoyed the below freezing temperatures that Western Montana experienced last week, but if you’re an elk bow hunter you might have had a different perspective. Cooler weather and the end of a full moon will make bull elk more active. They begin to gather up cows and will respond better to cow and bugling calls.
Shawn Plakke of Superior who is no stranger to shooting nice size bulls with his bow thinks that many hunters try to complicate their archery or rifle elk hunting by over thinking where the elk will be located. “Elk are a trophy animal for hunters and they are a challenge for even the seasoned elk hunter to harvest”, he said. Plakke recommends that hunters get to know the elk’s migratory habits. “If you know the area that you are hunting and you know that there are elk in the area then try and find out where they hang out during different weather conditions”. Surprisingly, Plakke loves hot weather when he is archery hunting because the elk will more than likely be bedded down in a cool shaded area and come out to feed early morning and just before dusk. “Once you have located where the elk are then it is time for you to pick the location where you will set-up, keeping in mind at the same time what direction the wind is coming from, you’ll always want to be down wind”.
There are a couple of circumstances that might affect the elk’s bedding and feeding habits, predators and other hunters hunting pressure. Spotting scopes are an effective tool in spotting a heard of elk at a distance of a mile or more. “Use your optics to spot and then plan your stalk accordingly”, says Plakke. Of course spotting the elk, getting set up, and then trying to call a bull elk close enough for a shot is always a challenge. I asked Plakke if he had any tips on how to get a bull closer once you are set-up and the bull elk your calling won’t come within shooting range because it is already cowed up.”You as a hunter want to get into the bulls comfort zone so you make it think that it can sweep around where you are located and bring another cow back into its harem”. added Plakke, “You accomplish this by going toward the bull and cow talking real soft – remember, the bull is expecting to see a cow, so the elk your cow call should sound like is a cow that wants to be with his other cows”.
Practicing your cow call or elk bugle as well as shooting your bow-all very important before the hunt according to Plakke. “Shooting at a target is a great idea but I don’t recommend shooting at 3-D targets the week before you are going to go hunting”. Most 3-D targets are smaller than the actual live animals they look like so shooting at a block target is much better. “The average sized elk is about 28 inches from the top of his back to the bottom of his torso so if you cut out a piece of card board that size and put it behind your block target it will help you to better imagine the actual size of a live elk when you are in the field”. Once you set-up in the field use a range finder on objects in front of you so you will have a good idea how far your potential shot will be before the elk appears.