Contributors to this thread:
Elk Hunting - The game of chance
I was thinking back on last years elk hunt and even tho I hunt familiar areas for the past 30 years, I only had TWO chances to kill an elk.
Why is it that chances come so few and far between?
Elk don't like to be dead.
Seriously, not only is it a game of chance, the chances only last seconds for the most part. I have had my fair share of chances but I have failed to execute successfully within the few seconds of any of those chances leaving me tag soup 11 times. I hope to execute this year given the chance and not to hesitate or over think it.
There's a fine line between getting a shot opportunity, and watching them walk ( or run ) out of your life. Sometimes, you just have to make a best guess as to what you should do, and sometimes, you guess wrong.
I have been wondering the same thing. Been to Colorado 5 yrs and have never got one. I thought it would be fairly easy to get one. Ks mule deer population is around 45,000 and I would not have a problem tagging out most days I hunt. I just choose to hold out for a decent size deer. But if I was just to shoot first legal deer, I would be done most years by noon on the first day(that's with archery). With Co elk population around 200,000 I thought that if we weren't picky and shot the first legal elk that it would be easy to do in a 7 day hunt. Wow, was I wrong. I can't even seem to find them let one kill one
I hope to try elk hunting one year, but only after I get a spot-and-stalk antelope and mule deer. I figure that elk hunting must be pretty tough, given the hunting pressure, fickle mountain winds, and difficult terrain, so I want to get some other animals under my belt before I give it a go. Best of luck to each of you.
Wind and pressure are probably the two biggest limiters for us, plus weather that can change minute to minute to great extremes above 10K'
"I only had TWO chances to kill an elk".
That's better than a lot of folks so your doing some things right. So, you had two opportunities and didn't seal the deal. That's fine as long as you learned what works and what didn't. When I first started this crazy thing called archery elk, I prayed for 3 chances cause I was gonna screw up the first two. As I got more experience under my belt I prayed for 2 opportunities. I am no expert by any means but I think I have learned enough that if I have a tag I'm pretty confident something is going to hit the ground. I've taken them from tree stand, ground blind, spot/stalk, still hunting, being in the right place at the right time. Sometimes you bust your ass on a hunt and that opportunity doesn't show up for 6-8 days and sometimes its 2 hours into opening day. Just keep after it and it will come together for you.
Where you hunt also plays a huge role into how many chances you get. It's not easy that's for sure. I blew my 2 chances last year also. I'm hoping to redeem myself this year.
You have to hunt them how they need to be hunted not how we want to hunt them !
Last year was a weird year. The drought moved them around a lot. Very few elk in my area compared to previous years. I was able to capitalize on the chances I got though thankfully! ;)
“Why is it that chances come so few and far between?”
Is that a rhetorical question? I hope so.
I think this is true of all bowhunting....the ones that are prepared and ready to take advantage of the opportunity are the ones that score. The opportunities are not always perfect but you have to make it happen....you have to read between the lines on that one.
Elk hunting, especially archery is nature's poker game. Bluffs and calls and all ins. Sometimes those bulls call your bluff and sometimes they fall for it. So it is a game of chance, a guy just needs to keep playing hands until he wins.
Cityhunter, spot on! Too many hunters force things down an elks throat HOPING it pays off instead of reading a bulls mindset & moving forward accordingly! Read the Situation & proceed to the bulls wants or needs. Some bulls you need to work on their curiosity & other bulls you can be aggressive with! Elk hunting experience will shine when done right!
Killing elk with sharp sticks ain't easy.
If it was easy Hillary would be doing it.
I’ve come to terms with the fact that a 7-9 day elk hunt usually boils down to 1 or 2 good opportunities in my area, if you hunt hard. Mental toughness, and staying ready for that one opportunity the whole time you are hunting, is pretty damn hard. But, as already stated, being prepared and focused when the opportunity arises, is the key to success.
Yep. It ain't easy. Hunt hard, get a couple chances and hope things come together. Win some, lose some just like life.
I had good year last year with 4 chances. On the third I connected but lost the elk due to an unscene branch. First chance my bow string fell off my recurve. I must have missed strung it. I was only 6 steps from a cow. SECOND chance only 10 yards from a bull facing straight on with a tree in front of me and wind change. FOURTH after I shot at my bull an cow walk right up to me that I could have touch her nose. I had a great hunt. First time that has ever happen to me.
I hate to state the obvious, but the number and frequency of the chances is directly proportional to the quality of the hunting area. Back in the day, it wasn't uncommon for my group of 3 hunters to get 2-3 chances a day. We went 100% filled tags for several consecutive years. That was on privately landlocked BLM, which we no longer have access to. It's a totally different ball game on public OTC.
If it was easy I don't think I'd like it much.
You mean there is a difference between OTC "privately landlocked BLM" or private land in general, vs straight up, OTC with the masses? Those are what we call "Covert Public land OTC killers. "
Real world public land elk hunting, 2-3 opportunities a year is about right for me.
I’d say your just lucky to get 1 chance every decade or 2 with all the pressure on CO otc units.
I can't wait to try it. I imagine it must be a thrill to walk up on an animal that big that you just harvested with bow and arrow. Then the work starts!
"You mean there is a difference between OTC "privately landlocked BLM" or private land in general, vs straight up, OTC with the masses?"
Like I said, I was stating the obvious. The original question did not stipulate OTC hunting. Not all elk hunting is limited to 1-2 chances per season. Unfortunately, that's about normal for the vast majority of public land OTC hunting.
Very few get the opportunity to hunt landlocked BLM [ basically private ] so that why it wasnt stipulated.
99.9% of the posters 'got it'
Fair enough. I'm curious what you consider a "chance". Is it actual shots, or just animals within bow range. If it's the former, I think 1-2 shots is all a hunter should hope for, and it should result in a dead animal. It it's the latter, then 1-2 close encounters would be a pretty uneventful hunt in my book.
I don’t see it that way at all. Gambling or playing the lottery is a game of chance. There’s nothing you can do to sway your odds. With elk hunting you can make it happen. Don’t slack! Get early starts. Hunt long and hard. Don’t take the paths of least resistance but instead give up elevation and hunt the holes with the mentality that they are down there are you are smarter. Both are true! A game of chance would be staying on the ridge tops waiting for one to cross over the trail. It takes confidence to hunt like that day after day after day. A lack of confidence is why some people don’t try to do everything in their power to put themselves in the right place. “Why walk all the way down there just to have to drag myself back up the dreaded hill?” Why? Because if you do that enough times eventually you’ll punch your tag and you won’t have to do that again tomorrow and the next day. Everyone has heard the saying that 10% of the hunters consistently kill 90% of the elk. I think it’s because only about 30% truly hunt the elk. The rest say oh it’s not all about success. Just enjoy the mountains, keep it fun and make memories. Screw that.... hunt like a dog and you’ll have better memories. Some of those memories will be in the freezer and hanging on the wall. Git er dun!
I believe it has more to do with the fact we choose to 'bow' hunt. How many more chances would you have had with a rifle? I know my personal success rate would be around 80% instead of 20%. That wouldn't be the case though if i was hunting later when the bulls weren't still in bachelor groups.
Last year i saw 8 bulls, had 4 in one group at 47 yards. Waited to shoot the biggest when i should have shot the first one. Hit a log that had to have been the same color as the elk because i never seen it before my shot. Thats archery elk hunting, be there again in about a week, good luck guys.
"Screw that.... hunt like a dog and you’ll have better memories."
Well said Mule. I'm in the woods to hunt. Not socialize, not relax. When the hunt is over, whether a tag is punched or not, I'm dog tired ready to get back to work and recover. It's hard to explain in words, but many of us "get it".
Hunting is not necessarily "fun", it's HARD WORK. Don't get me wrong, I of course hunt for fun. But it's like racing a marathon. It's not "fun". It's brutal. If you stroll and enjoy the flowers while you're running a marathon...maybe you're not really racing a marathon.
Good luck this fall. Get out there and make your own luck.
Hunt hard in September. You can sleep in October.
My experience is that all hunting is really easy when it's easy, and not when it's not, and it's usually not. Intermittent reward is a surefire domapine hit for most of us, and I think experimental evidence is strong for that. When "rewarded", we often (retrospectively) assume that it was something that we did, when, in fact, it really WAS, in large part, chance. None of this is to say that trying isn't important, or that our skills don't matter, just that we shouldn't get carried away with ourselves. Games of chance do involve skill, and they're fun because even the skilled get schooled sometimes, and the unskilled can win.
As I've aged, I've found that hunting smarter, not harder, results in just as many "chances".
Matt, I personally consider a "chance" as elk in range not already spooked and on the move outta the county. Seeing elk out of range could be turned into a chance if played right, but until you are in range for your ability and the elk are not alerted and leaving...I don't see an "encounter" with elk as the same as a "chance" to harvest an elk.
I have often glassed elk then moved on them, out of season, using my camera hoping to get up close shots undetected. More often than not I am impatient and find the elk close but having already detected me and were not exactly where I hoped to find them. I need to learn from this and be more cautious in season with a bow in hand....so I have more chances than encounters. Once they have you pinned down it is hard to make any effective move to draw or shoot without them busting out first.......which I don't call a chance, only an encounter.
Like many, I could go back and check my postings of hunts, I think I average between 2-6 chances to kill an elk each season with a dozen outings. Sometimes many in the same day with some days just not working in my favor at all. Some outings are full day hunts, some are fit in after work and before dark for just a couple hours.
In the past I have been more of a midwestern whitetail hunter using ambush as my primary technique. But I tend to move around after 40 minutes or so in a spot to a new ambush spot. This year I will try to do more still hunting into more challenging terrain (steep dark timber bedding areas). I am curious if I just have more encounters and fewer chances..........
If I have clipped my release on my loop, I consider it an opportunity. That generally means an elk was in range or close to in range, and I screwed up to not get a shot. Thus far I've had 2 opportunities that I screwed up.
I am similar to smarba. I hunt hard to try and accumulate chances. I am not a great hunter/killer, so I view it as an odds thing. It can be getting up at o dark thirty to bugle ridges to find elk (because you have not seen/heard one in 3 days). Or it can be nocking an arrow when I stop for snack and/or nap. An elk chance for me is rarely a bull stopping broadside for 30seconds @ 20yards in the wide open.
I get that it’s not easy but dang - 2 opportunities in 30 years... I’d be looking to try and explore different areas...
I generally agree. A "chance" to me is being within range on un-alerted animals. Some chances result in shots, most don't. Sometimes I screw up chances, other times the hunting God's dictate whether a chance results in a shot or not. I expect at least a "chance" a day, as I can usually find elk and get close enough. Shots, on the other hand, happen much less frequently. If I get 1-2 legitimate shots a season, I generally kill something. Either way, it's the "chances" I hunt for. Shots are a bonus that have to be capitalized on. If not, I'm disappointed in myself.
LOL, I will nock on to just about any sound that alerts me to the possibility of an elk....often just damn squirrels. I'll nock on if it just feels like something might happen. I've drawn back many times.
In 11 years I've only dropped the string on 2 elk. Once on a cow at 10' at dusk and had arrow deflect off an unseen branch. The other time on a 6x6 that was broadside at 45 when I thought it was at 60 yards. Missed twice, once across the shoulders and then after it jumped further away and popped out right under the brisket drawing just a little blood.
In 11 years I SHOULD have dropped the string on at least at least 4 more elk but just didn't feel right, execute timely, 2nd guessed and waited when I shouldn't have.......so on and on. I wish I had a more finely honed killer instinct. But damn have I had a lot of fun and never have I thought I wanted to quit trying or regretted having tried.
It's all just blessings. Sometimes we are blessed more than other's. We overthink everything and make it harder than it is. Elk as you know Brad are actually pretty easy to kill sometimes. Some of the biggest bulls I've ever seen ran right into me & I still didn't get them killed. Lol Live right with faith in and fear of the Lord and you will be blessed!
Lots of AWESOME personal analysis above! Some blend perfectly with my thoughts. Go get after it!
@ sdkhunter - "I get that it’s not easy but dang - 2 opportunities in 30 years... I’d be looking to try and explore different areas..."
Let me reiterate. Ive been hunting the areas for 30 years. Over that time, me and my buddies have taken about 9 dozen elk outta those mountains - all manners of take.
Last year, I had 2 chances [shots] and I drew my bow 2 other times at elk very close but no shot was presented.
In the last 20 years of bowhunting the same areas, there have only been 5 years I didnt tag an elk. So no, Im not looking to explore different areas.
Elk aint hard to kill... they are easy to miss!
Hopefully you have plenty of chances this year and are able to be picky, Brad! Kill a big ‘un!
Good luck to all you guys in the coming season!
good thread. the fact of the matter is that a small number of people are highly successful and fill most tags they get. The rest of us are mortal. I have hunted with people who get down right pissy and not fun to be around if they aren't getting any action. Myself....I just like to hunt and be in the mountains in September.....but it sure doesn't pay off to hunt where the elk are not. To me it is a game of chance and persistence.......
Brad, game of chance? I was waiting for that picture of your game camera opening morning! You lost on that roll of the dice.
Here ya go Gian. Yeah, I chose wrong spot last year opening morning. :)
Persistence creates opportunity.
Preparation gets you ready for an opportunity.
Success occurs when persistence and preparation collide.
For me persistence and preparation have had side swipes merely trading paint rather than full on collisions.........
I had only one chance last year and fickle, late morning winds cost me a shot. It was the best opportunity our group had in 8 days. If I'm in the mountains then there's always a chance. Do whatever it takes to keep yourself in the mountains and you already have an infinitely better chance than you do from home. Time to make it happen in just a couple short weeks. We live all year for September, it's over before you know it!
I'm newer elk hunter, but the only two tags I've had in my pocket ended up being notched, a 6 point bull and a raghorn. In 2 years of elk hunting I've had 5 shot opportunities and probably average 1 or 2 really good encounters a day (some days multiple, others none). Most of the time it's wind shifting or some other act of god that prevents me from killing one sooner, but those events don't bother me. I like hunting with buddies, but I think if I were solo I'd have even more opportunities (both elk I killed were the only days I hunted alone). I would guess 2 really good chances to kill an elk per season is right around the norm, and a number I'm personally happy with.
I agree with persistence and preparation. We all know there are many elements out of our control....... but if you are persistent you will get more chances. If you are prepared you will have better odds of making those chances count. Good luck to all. It's almost here!
Two opportunities—an un-panicked elk within bow range—is my average per season as well. It used to be 4 or 5. The reason for the decline is, I believe, because the herd I hunt has been reduced in size by half. Another factor may be the increased number of large predators that has made the bulls less vocal, thus lowering opportunities to get within bow range.
Like just about everything in life, there is an element of luck involved in how many chances you get - being in the right drainage on the right evening. One evening years ago, I called seven different bulls in, yet last year I had a total of three legitimate chances that I can think of. Apart from luck, it's also a numbers game - how many elk, how many other hunters, how many bulls versus cows.
Guys chances are limited more because they fail to call enough! They expect the elk to do all the work! I hunt all OTC every year & the info many have shared tells me they are way too quiet in the elkwoods to have so few opportunities.
We all need to be more creative in our calling especially when hunting dark timber. Even when I hunt more open country I seek out the timber to get it done.
When I glass them up I do not call, I wait for them to get in the cover then call & kill them. Being lucky is fine but I do not rely on it, it's all about being a confident hunter & not shying away from calling at the most crucial times! Calling is key to locate & bring them to you. Take advantage of the Sept. Rut.
Good advice Elknut, hindsight is really easy versus the heat of the moment and I certainly wish I was not afraid to have made some sound effort at the right moment. I think successful hunters get after it pre season,all the hunt days they get, and post season. Last year I found a waterhole on google earth in a unit I have hunted for over 20 years but didn’t know about. Checked it out at 2:30 on a early season hot day and found 52 elk near the water. We had lots of chances there and ended up with a spike bull harvested.