Top 10 Most Common Mistakes made while Elk Hunting


Kody, Trent, Darrell, and Dirk give their insights on the Top 10 Most Common Mistakes made while Elk Hunting. This list is pulled together from years of combined research (our own mistakes). The guys get into more detail on their shared mistakes in the full video above.

In no order, here we go!

Top 10 Most Common Mistakes made while Elk Hunting

1) Letting elk smell you. (Trent)

You may be in the clear if an elk hears or sees you, but if they SMELL you, it’s game over. There are multiple different products on the market that help mask a “couple days of hunting funk”, but the most crucial item to have is a simple wind checker. It’s probably the least expensive but most important item we have in our packs and the only thing we use as far as masking goes.

2) Getting stuck in a rut. (Dirk)

No, we're not talking about elk, we're talking about people getting stuck in their own rut. Just because you've had success at a certain spot doesn't mean you should only ever hunt just that area. Have multiple spots lined up as plan b, c d, all the way to z if you can. You never know what it's going to be like when you get out there and forcing it instead of reading the signs and knowing when to move on could be your biggest downfall. Have other options lined up where you've either had boots on the ground or e-scouted with onX.

3) Not shooting your broadheads sooner. (Darrell)

You may be shooting dead on with target tips, but you won't know how your actual shot is until you screw on your broadheads. You may lose one or two, but it's worth getting everything dialed beforehand to avoid surprises and have the confidence behind your shot when it counts most.

4) Being afraid to call. (Kody) 

This one's pretty obvious, but you can't get better at calling without practice. Don't wait until opening day to get your call out of its packaging, practice as much as you can leading up to season so you can confidently rip that first bugle of the season. 

5) Leaving elk too soon. (Trent)

If you're chasing him and he's bugling back, don't quit. He could be headed to wherever his lead cow's moving the heard and just waiting for the chance to come check you out. If you can avoid spooking them while keeping him in ear shot by getting him to sound off periodically, you can get a pretty good idea of where they're headed. Once the herd is bedded down, he'll be more inclined to step out for a hot second to see what you've got. Don't give up too soon! 

6) Setting up on your knees too early. (Dirk) 

If you're setting up on your knees, make sure it's your final move. If you're too early, he may come in a an extreme angle you can't swing too, or if he's left you there for 20 minutes because he's hung up, jumping up and shifting position with a dead leg is pretty rough. Try to set up in front of a nice backdrop and trees brush, don't kneel down unless you're really exposed and the bull's going to be there in short time. Avoid early knees, avoid setting yourself up for failure.

7) Hunting only at sunrise and sunset. (Darrell)

Don't convince yourself that the only chance of finding a bull is getting out at first light or waiting til sunset if you strike out in the morning. Sure, take a break when you need to, but if it's midday and you're bugling in the right area that bull will give you an answer. If they're laying down it may be harder to hear them, but don't give up. If you're there to listen you can hunt all day if you want.

8) Look before you leap. (Kody)

We've learned time and time again not to just react and dive in as soon as we get a bull bugling back. Of course there are situations where it's go time and you gotta let your instincts kick in and take over, but if you have the option to pause, realize what's going on, check the terrain of where he's at with onX and get a proper idea of what you're best approach is, do it. 

9) Leaving water to find water. (Trent)

Have a good filtration system, and never pass up on water. When you're back at camp after a long day in the woods, and all you're looking forward to is that Mountain House in your pack, the last thing you'll want to do is leave and go find water. We collect all the water we come across during our day in "dirty bags", then use a filtration system back at camp or during breaks to fill up and restock everyones supplies so no one goes empty, or has to go out in the dark to find more water. 

10) Locate bugling from the same ol' spot. (Dirk) 

If you can see signs that every hunter who's passed this one prime spot has thrown out their locator bugle there, don't do it. Elk can get conditioned to hearing people bugle from the same place over and over again, so they may choose to not answer you even if they're there. Dive in or drop down a few hundred feet, or even just go over to the next ledge, because if you can kind of trick the elk a little bit, while separating yourself from what everybody else is doing, you'll have a lot better success locating bulls.


4 Responses


January 18, 2024

Been hunting the coast range of oregon between Newport and Tillamook. I hunt solo and always into elk. My problem is the wind and location I hunt. Most if it is behind locked gates or roadless . The wind is constantly changing direction. Ugh!

Les walton
Les walton

August 02, 2023

Have a major question, I’ve been Mt Hood for ever with a buddy of mine. We have like 12 places that we have called in big bulls! Question is we can get the bull to come in but can’t close the deal! I can say over 15 years one bull we’ve gotten! Funny we can get the bull in with in shooting range but never get a shot! My buddy’s uncle has killed 350+ bulls up there for years just can’t figure out he closes the deal?

Willis Bob
Willis Bob

August 21, 2022

Shot placement shoot off side leg never behind the shoulder quartering to you always think of where the offside leg is

Tim Dugan
Tim Dugan

July 10, 2022

Love your YouTube vids. Got drawn for early bull hunt in unit 23 north in az. My son and his wife were also drawn. 3 tags for 3 hunters never having shot an elk. I’m 74 and most likely my last hunt. Would make a good video. Unit 23 is trophy elk land.

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