Elk Hunting: Archery Tactics for Post-Rut Bulls

Three experts share their tips for targeting late-season elk

bowbulls

Photo by Donald M. Jones

September isn’t the only time to shoot a bull elk with your bow. Many states offer post-rut bowhunting opportunities, and because these hunts are overlooked by most hunters, it can be easier to get a tag for a trophy area. Here are three post-rut tips from accomplished elk guides to help you get the job done.

Set an Ambush
A bull's top priority after breeding is to put on body weight for the winter ahead, says Shane Ellis of Utah's High Top Outfitters (hightopoutfitters.com). "Get to a good vantage point and glass for groups of bachelor bulls. They typically feed in the afternoon and evening, preferring south-facing slopes where increased sun exposure provides warmth and keeps food from freezing." Just like during the pre-rut, pattern a bull's feeding habits, then set up an ambush along his approach route.

Make a Stalk
To conserve energy for winter, bulls don't move more than they have to now, says Donald Thomas of Kentucky's Bulls and Beards Guide Service (kybullsandbeardsguideservice.com). "If they don't have to feed into an open area, they prefer heavy cover to eat, rest, and avoid hunting pressure. Tracking and stalking is the best tactic in these conditions. Get low, go slow, and know when to draw your bow."

Be Herd
Most bulls have felt hunting pressure by the late season, so it's not the time to get aggressive, says Jay Scott of Arizona's Colburn and Scott Outfitters (colburnandscottoutfitters.com). "Bugling isn't very effective after the rut, but elk herds are constantly communicating with each other using quiet nasally sounds." Mimic this herd talk by making soft chirps, fluctuating the pitch and tone to sound like more than one elk.

Post-Rut Bowhunting Opportunities

  • Arizona: Late-season archery hunts for most units in November; more take place in October and December in limited areas.
  • Idaho: There are numerous bowhunts available in November and December across various zones.
  • New Mexico: Hunters who pay a "trespass fee" to the landowner can find plentiful chances on private land.
  • Utah: An extended season is offered for bowhunters who have a general-season archery elk permit that went unfilled.
  • Washington: Many late-season opportunities exist throughout the state. Dates vary by area.
  • Other States: Colorado and Montana, among other states, allow bowhunters to hunt during firearms seasons, which can run into December.