Public land archery elk encounters can be few and far between. Sometimes there are days on end of nothing but silence. It sometimes takes all you have, to talk yourself into hammering your legs and body one more time, to get yourself into elk infested areas. Needless to say, every encounter is gold, and you want to take every precaution there is not to screw it up.

In reflecting on last Season, we had several encounters that we should have easily capitalized on, but we ended up eating tag soup.
Each situation had its own reason for failure, but one of the most common themes was TOO MUCH MOTION ! The words “Don’t move” do not translate to “start messing with your video camera”.

In the above video, we had a textbook situation. We used the proper wind to approach the bull on his level. Got within 80 yards, and set up the decoy. I then instructed the shooter to move ahead, using the nearest available cover to shield his approach.

In the video, the bull fires off when he hears commotion, and you can hear me echo him with a challenge bugle followed by some excited chuckles. Then, I start breaking some limbs and raking a spruce, and give some soft cow calls facing away from the bull.
The bull, though he can’t be seen in the video, is a mere 12 yards from the shooter on the other side of the spruce trees at that point, and was moving in quickly as Kenny draws his bow.

Somewhere along the line, the bull hangs up. You can tell by the camera that there is continued motion by the cameraman, during the bull’s approach. The ideal setup would have been to have the cameraman back toward me, nowhere near the shooter. I still feel that bull would have cleared the trees enough to sight the decoy, and it would have been all over.


A good bull I encountered on Public Land in Colorado, 2013


I have had some very close elk encounters over the years…one cow was a mere 3 feet from me when she finally got my wind, and another bull walked by me at less than 10 feet once, with nothing between us. It has nothing to do with camo in my opinion, the secret is lack of motion. In both those encounters, I was frozen like a statue, and I was undetected by the elk.

In the aforementioned encounter with the bull, I had failed to draw my bow on a frontal approach, due to lack to trees or cover in between the bull and myself. I figured I could just freeze, let the bull walk by, draw my bow once he got past me, and take a quartering away shot…WRONG! The bull was well past me when I finally moved to simultaneously pivot and draw…and as soon as I moved, that bull bugged out! Up to that point, I had been completely undetected.

Sometimes, you can beat the odds with trickery. On another encounter last Season, I bumped a bull out of his bed at 20 yards. Thinking quickly, I let a “nervous bark”, a call I make with my voice by sucking air quickly. The bull immediately stopped, quartering away and looking back, at 40 yards. This would have been an amazing opportunity…except for the fact that there was a spruce tree right between me and the bull’s vitals. After surveying the situation for a few seconds, the bull calmly walked off into the timber, never to be seen again.

Knowing when to draw on an approaching bull is truly an art. The guys that have it down kill elk consistently each Season. Once drawn and stationary, you will be amazed at just how undetected you are by elk. Being still in an elk encounter should always be one of your primary objectives.