When do you draw your bow when an elk is approaching?
Way before I have a shot.
I have killed 10 elk in Colorado.
I hunt mostly timbered areas
I wait until the elk's head/eyes goes behind some brush or tree before I draw.
If in the open, watch their head and their eyes. If they lower their head or turn it, that may give you the chance to draw your bow.
Timing is critical as you can draw too quickly and may have to let down if you hold too long before a shot presents itself.
when they're not looking...
When they are not looking. Or sometimes when they are depends on how much of the imasexcrazedelk gene they have.
Preferably when their eyes are behind something, or turned away, or I'm behind cover. But NEVER before I'm relatively certain I'm about to shoot.
Always try to sit or be in a place where you have some draw cover. Practice enough or work out enough so that you can hold a bow back for an extended period if needed. Despite your best attempts there will be times the elk will see you anyway.
Also, learn how to draw your bow properly. If I'm standing, the lower cam is in a bowholster pocket, placing the bow just about in shooting position. It takes very little motion to just raise it a few inches and smoothly draw the string straight back. Kneeling, (which is how I shoot from the ground most of the time) I either use the bowholster or the ground to position the bow just before drawing.
You can get away with a bit more with an elk than some other animals. The deer we hunt, if you can see their eye they can see you. I try to use that rule as much as I can.
And what Ziek said. There's DRAWING! and there's drawwwwwing... you can almost use your bow as cover and the only thing that moves is your arm straight back to anchor.
If they are moving you can get away with more than if they are still. If they are raking a bush or something they often have their eyes closed or their attention is somewhere else.
Best when they are coming in and their head goes behind a tree or bush. Usually one of two things will then happen.
When you make that perfect draw, that cow you didn't see will bust you instead.
He will hang up with you at full draw and only his head showing for about 5 minutes.
I do the same as Paul@thefort. Once there head is turned the other way or they pass a tree I come to full draw. Never been busted yet.
I always try to draw when they go behind a tree or brush as well. One thing that is important is to make sure you are set up in FRONT of a tree or brush, not hiding behind it. If you are in front, you won't have obstructions keeping you from your shot. Just let your camo do its job and break up your outline against a good backdrop.
Also, I have drawn on quite a few bulls when they were looking right at me. If they come in and pinpoint you, they are seconds away from busting out of there anyway, so you have nothing to lose. Sometimes they bust as soon as you start to draw, but sometimes they don't... :-)
I have not had problems getting drawn on any game and I've used selbows and longbows sinse 1993. Whatever the difficulty with a wheel bow its more challenging with a stickbow. The key is patience. They will give you a chance as long as all else is ok. I don't draw till its time to shoot. There is no holding for traditionals. (most at least) I suppose it could hurt some times but I'm convised it helps also...having to be patient. The only time we do not follow thru on the draw is if they see us START to draw. Once we get about half drawn its on...no stopping the shot at that point.
Good advice above. There are cases when you can draw on them in the open. Let me see if I can save you a lost shot opportunity;
I have never been able to draw on a bull that is moving in slowly and scanning for me. For example a bull holds up 80yds out, then moves a bit closer- cautious. Even using Longbows strategy of a slow draw with little movement- it hasn't worked for me and my compound.
Now, that slow draw has worked for me on a couple bulls that are in a frenzy and just charging in and all worked up. Their body language was not cautious but, "I'm going to get there first" type of thing. If they are grunting or bugling even better- more distraction. In those cases with your bow already pointed, a slow draw and quick shot has worked for me.
Also, be aware of the other bulls around you. I have seen cases where a bull is working toward a buddy- wide open- without a prayer of drawing then the bull down the hill bugles. The approaching bull will almost always turn his head giving you a split second- but you have to be ready....good luck.
last year while with a buddy, myself and his brother were about 35 yards from the shooter calling while the shooter was 15 yards to the side of a trail. (elk lesson he learned the hard way)the bull was coming at me and the other caller on a rope up into the saddle screamin, chuckling. my buddy waited until the bull was in full sight of him and drew, (15 yards broadside, a chip shot right?)the bull appeared to be looking right at me and the other caller at the time. that bull jumped and did a 180 and ran back the way he came. i just knew my buddy stuck him thru the lungs.(he was out of site from where we were sitting) my buddy never got a shot. as he drew back the elk saw him with his peripheral vision and bolted. 15 yard gimme shot!!
i took away 2 elk lessons here. 1. as soon as he saw the tips of the antlers coming over the rise at the saddle he should have drawn his bow and been ready and 2. i have learned that a nervous grunt while drawing back would have stopped that bull long enough for a shot.
Ziek, you should have added, "draw when their head goes under water". :) Paul
trophyhill, I think you 'learned' the wrong lesson. I've never seen a bull spook that fast just from drawing the bow, especially since he would be looking for some motion to begin with. More likely he winded one of you. Three guys in a saddle?! Too many people and no telling what any breeze will do.
Now is a good time to draw....
Ziek, the wind was moving up from the same direction the bull was traveling. if he didn't see him draw perhaps he heard him? this year my buddy was in almost the same exact situation with his brother calling in that same area. when he heard the elk thundering thru the dark timber towards him he came to full draw before ever seeing him and drilled him at 6 yards. his first elk in his second year hunting them. another elk hunter hooked for life.
Slightly different version to what most have said. We had a guide several years ago we had a guide in MT who had killed a bunch of elk and he gave us two pieces of advice within the first 5 minutes of when we met him: 1) Whenever possibble, stand in front of cover 2) Never draw your bow until the head is past the tree.
His logic was that too many people draw when the head goes behind the tree and the bulls stop with their vitals behind the tree. Wait until the head clears and then you will have a shot. Can't say that I have practiced it everytime, but it makes sense!
" 2) Never draw your bow until the head is past the tree."
Welka, Can't say I would agree with that!
Through the years I've killed a number of bulls that either came into me silent or that came in and gave me no opportunity to draw before they had me pegged.
I always have a diaphragm in your mouth and in cases like that, when the bull is close, I start to make a small squeal and at the same time I just start to slowly draw my bow. It does not always work, but you would be surprised at how many times the squeal will lock them onto you long enough for you to draw, aim and release. And most of the time I am talking about a distance less than 10 yards.
Have a great bowhunt. BB