3 Tactics for Early Season Elk Hunts

3 Tactics for Early Season Elk Hunts

There’s nothing in the world like hunting elk in September. We look forward to it all year long. But as much as we love talking to elk, September weather can be cruel. Snow is always a possibility, and we’ve experienced our fair share of it. But more often than not, the first half of September is a battle with hot weather conditions. 

The rut makes bulls vulnerable. But when the temperatures are warm, locating elk is no easy task.

Here are three tactics you might consider when hunting early season elk:

1. Use Your Eyes

Hot weather is even less comfortable for the elk than it is for you. Hiking around in the bright sun while sweating isn’t what you want to be doing – so don’t expect elk to do the same. Get to a glassing point before daylight. Pick a spot where the rising sun will be at your back. You want to be glassing as soon as it’s light enough to see.

These early morning and evening hours are the critical times to spot elk when they are on their feet. On any elk hunt, locating elk is a large part of the battle. If you can spot elk in the morning, try and watch where they bed. If you have a good idea of where they bedded, get as close as you can before you set up to call.

2. Find the Cool Zones

Cool air tends to settle in deep ravines and along creek bottoms. Additionally, the north sides of mountains offer shady, cool relief from the midday sun. As the temperature rises, elk will drop into these thick drainages to find shade and cold water sources.

If you didn’t locate elk with your eyes in the morning, don’t go back to camp for the afternoon. You can still find them. With afternoon thermals coming uphill, it helps to be above the elk. Walk ridges above these creek bottoms or north-facing slopes and use location bugles to try and locate elk in these refuges.

3. Sit At A Wallow

If you find a well-used wallow or water hole, you may consider creating a makeshift blind, and sitting during the hot hours of the afternoon. If you’re confident elk are in the area, this can be a great strategy. Even a large herd bull will often get up from his bed and leave his cows during the heat of the day to go wallow.

Set up close enough to the wallow that you’re in range. Pay attention to the wind. And as you conceal yourself, make sure you can draw your bow and that you have good shooting lanes. Once you’re set up, cow calling and raking can be effective ways to draw in a curious elk.

A Note About Meat Care

After the rush of excitement wears off and you confirm the elk has expired, it’s time to get to work. During early September when the weather tends to be warm, it’s imperative to get the hide off and get quarters into game bags as soon as possible.

To learn more about caring for meat in warm weather, please see our previous blog post. While finding elk during periods of hot weather might seem difficult, the real challenge begins when you have a bull on the ground! Check out our article on warm weather meat care to help you get home with great tasting elk meat.

For hunting gear and more resources, please explore the rest of our website. And please remember that newsletter subscribers get free shipping within the lower 48. Please feel free to contact us with any questions. Best of luck on all your hunting adventures this season!


By Zach Lazzari and Ryan McSparran 

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