Tactics and Tips: Bow Hunting on the Ground

blog_hunter1After 35 years of hunting elk with bow in hand, I thought I would share some tactics I use to help me be a better and more successful hunter.

Starting with your bow, the most important piece of equipment. If you are having problems with it, can’t figureit out, or don’t have the time, have a professional help you out. You don’t have to beat your head against a tree; I enlist Andy Crawley’s expertise of Outdoor Emporium to help me sort things out. He is a master at bow tuning and set up, very patient and doesn’t cut corners. I am sure there are many other pros out there just as competent, but I have known Andy for many years and he’s always tuned my bow to perfection – he has never let me down or done me wrong. I 4 fletch the arrows 75 degrees x 105 degrees fletched in a right hand angle, with these angles the arrow will not have fletching deflection problem, most important is you don’t have to look for the cock feather in the heat of the moment especially if you need to fly a second arrow.

When it comes to apparel, use long sleeve t-shirts; this will help fend off pesky critters. Vitamin B-1 helps keep the skeeters at bay somewhat. Caps, hats, and clothing is sprayed with scent eliminator and placed in a nonscented plastic bag, while cover scent is applied onto the clothes
like pine, earth. Elk urine applied on hat and bow, if elkare close by. I’ll refresh the elk scent on the hat and bow pronto. After the morning hunt if you leave the woods,remove hunting clothes, spray the, down, change out intonon-hunting clothes, and footwear. When you get ready to go out for the evening, your hunting wear is ready to go for another round. Foot wear holds odors, so spray the soles and the outside. Scent eliminator is rather inexpensive compared to going home skunked; have lots on hand.

For cow hunting, I like to hunt from tree stands. Tree stands can be dangerous. I use a climbing belt that wrapsaround the tree for safety and to install steps or ladders and stands. Never have fallen 20 ft or more and don’t intend to. The last step will have 2 steps parallel to each other; this will give you more stability when attaching the stand to the tree. I’ll throw a line over a limb above the desired height and with the help of a friend pull the stand into place. The climbing belt really shines here so you can use both hands and not worry about falling. Secure a ratchet strap as high as you can reach and attach the safety lanyard to this. Also use for hanging packs and anything else you may want to. Tie a 1/2” rope to the tree on the side you climb into the stand then tie overhand knots every 1 1/2 ft down the 5’ rope to use as a safety line. Always have two hands on the steps or ladder at all times. Hang 2 para cord lines to pull your pack and bow up into the stand.

Tie 2 lines to the seat to tie a pee bottle and water bottle to so they do not roll off the stand. Always use a quality commercal body harness; you can find them on Craigslist.

Use a cable lock to make sure your stand does not walk away. Hang your stands well before opening day. Entering the stand is the most dangerous; if your stand only has one holding strap, add another so there is one on top and one at the bottom. While sitting in the stand, be careful of movement — just a slight movement of your head will catch the attention of the elk. Had 3 spikes come in and had to wait till two of them had their eyes behind the trees before I drew on the third to make sure they didn’t see me.

Calling the elk, practice cow calling just as much as you shoot. I don’t use the cow estrus call because most of the cows are not in high heat yet; the every day cow calling brings them in for me. I am not saying don’t use it; it just hasn’t worked for me. Use a diaphragm mouth call — thisleaves your hands free, use it to call, stop a elk for a shot, and after the shot, this will usually stop the elk from traveling to far. I have used a lot of mouth calls through theyears, and I am really impressed with Glen Berry’s camoheard bull X series mouth calls. I use this one for cow calls and bugling; it is so easy to use and produces elk whenever I use it. Try it; you will love it.

When hunting for bulls, I prefer to call and stalk them. Most often especially during Washington seasons, the bulls start to get hot around the last few days of our season, so I prefer to cow call more than bugle. Not that I haven’t called them in bugling, but I have ran the herd bull n cows off many times, probably scared the bull by him thinking I would take his harem. When I cow call, the herd bull and the herd comes in more times then not. My rule of thumb is cow call if you are looking for a herd bull, bugle and cow call is you want a satellite bull. This is where the cover scents really shine. I’ve had elk walk right pass me, and I’ve had them wind me and bolt, I’ll cow call and they will stop and start feeding!

One time I bugled a bull that responded back, I ran 100 or more yards though the brush into the blog_elk4timber and bugled again. He bugled back. I waited and and a 300 6×6 came in. I drew as his head was behind a tree. He stop right behind a tree, all I could see was his neck and head. I
relaxed the bow and he bolted back. I let out a couple grunts and he came back in and stopped just past the tree he stopped at before and gave me a 20 yrd broadside shot. Just about every time a bull comes in he most always leaves the same way he comes in. Keep this in mind for
your partner. Example: if hunting with multiple hunters, one calling behind, another hunter can position next to the trail the bull comes in on. If hunter #1 can’t get a shot off, he can cow call bugle as the bull is retreating and the bull may stop. Then hunter #2 may have a chance for a shot.

When hunting bulls don’t worry about making noise when you are running getting into position. If you have called them, they think its another elk. In the pre rut which is when we hunt 90% of the bulls come in silent, so it you are in a spot that shows fresh sign, check wind, set up with many shooting lanes, and he may sneak in on one of the trails. This is where I think a Decoy would be helpful. The Montana decoy is easy to pack light weight,sets up fast. I really want to use the decoy.
When a bull answers after a few bugles back and forth and won’t come in, depending on how far he is away, I’ll check the wind, circle down wind of him and run towards the sound of the last bugle him and get within 60 yrds slow down and either bugle or cow call aiming the bugle behind
me, This usually always works. If he doesn’t come in after a few cow calls, I’ll give him a medium or spike bugle, and some cow calls. He may think that it is a spike protecting his cows, and come in ready to take the ladies away from Jr spike. If he bugles I’ll bugle as soon as I can behind his bugle. If he has cows with him I’ll get between him and his
cows and grunt at him. If he takes off with his cows, cow call until he stops or if they leave try to get in front of the herd, then cow call. I have been told that the cows know each others calls and won’t respond to any human cowcalls. Don’t believe it. You want elk, cow call, if they don’tcome in or call back,you need to practice calling. When tree
stand hunting, cow call. Calf and cow call in a mix, three of each. Wait 10 minutes and call again. Wait 30 minutes and start again.

Being an ethical hunter is the responsibility of every bowhunter. Back in the late 70’s I called in a westside bull. He circled me, stopped looking at me at 20 yards. When I released he bolted and I hit him too far back. I went back for 2 weeks looking for him but never did find him.

Although it started out as a decent shot it wasn’t. Looking back, the looking back should have registered that he was ready to bolt. Since then I have been more selective on my shots, I have passed up many west side bulls because I am a believer in broadside only shots. If I shot like Robin Hood

It may be different. Sure I’ve had years when I haven’t harvested one because I didn’t take the marginal shot. It doesn’t bother me at all. When I call one in and I don’t get him, at least I know I beat him at his game. I believe it is much more productive to wait for the broadside shot or a 15 yrd head on, and fill a tag rather then to wound one and let the coyotes have him. I know some that will take any type of shot, wound them and not find them. Doesn’t do much for the freezer or the game population, or to haveother people seeing animals running around with an arrow sticking out of them.

Don’t let the hot weather get you down. The elk don’t become depressed by how hot it is, you just have to find them. The more you’re out there working the elk, the more chance you have at taking one home. It compares to fishing.The more time your line is in the water, the more fish you catch. If you hunt during high heat temps, and not close to easy to get em out, make sure there is a stream close by.

Place the skinned quarters into game bags, double plastic garbage bags and place them in the creek.blog_elk5 I have harvested many in high temps. I gut, skin and cut the hams, front shoulder, strip the meat off the cage, and place them in the meat bags. It takes meat quite a while to spoil this way. If for some reason when you get it back to where ever you are going and start to smell rotten meat, you can cut off the smelling pieces and salvage some meat.

Be one of the 10% that gets his animal without losing one. The one thing I hate to hear is, I shot one and could not find it. As far as this goes, this is a very poor hunting. Either the shot was hurried, the animal wasn’t in the correct position for the shot, chanced a quartering too shot, the shot was too high, the range was missed judged, or did not wait long enough for the animal to die before tracking. Inexcusable. Remember after the shot, good or bad, cow call, bugle, whatever, the elk will most likey stop and expire not far away if you wait long enough. Always think this will be the day, never get depressed, keep a smile on your face even when you have blown a chance, there will always be another encounter, learn by your mistakes and mistakes of others. And Never Give Up.