Elk Hunt Rookie Questions

Jul 30, 2023
I've searched the forums and found some info but looking for more, please share your diverse opinions on any of the following questions so I have more info to help me make good decisions...

1. 100g 3 blade tip or 125g broadhead? - I've been practicing with 100g and 125g field points, not a huge difference between thems so I could go either way on the weight but I think a little more weight shoots a tiny bit quieter and could bring a tiny bit more lethality on impact? I was just going to use the 100g 3 blade broadheads I already have but then thought I might buy some 125g 2 blades instead. At first it seemed to me like 2 blades were the more popular option but then I saw some people saying the 3 blades had a better wound channel and might lead to a better blood trail for tracking.

2. Jumping the bowstring - I've read once or twice that deer might jump the bowstring but elk not so much. I originally planned to only shoot from 15 maybe 20 yards, but after a recent development with my aiming method its possible that 30 yard shots will be in the repetoire by the end of the month, and with doubling of distance comes a doubling of arrow flight time, and I'm asking myself how long can the arrow fly before the elk moves?

3. Rib bones - I haven't really seen any discussion about rib bones. Aren't the rib bones right over the vital area? Do the arrows either just punch through a rib if connecting squarely or otherwise deflect between the ribs if its more of a glancing rib shot? And if so are two blades more forgiving about sliding between the ribs than 3 blades?

4. Calling reeds - I got an amp reed and it worked. I got a backup primos reed and the latex was crimped down with a big wrinkle in it and it seems almost impossible to get a good tone out of it. Is this normal and useable or is it junk? Does Primos generally make junk? Also as soon as the reed touches my lips the saliva starts seriously flowing, and if its just resting there some saliva builds up between the latex and arched plate and I have to clear the spit and it sounds gurgling for a half second before I can produce a nice cow sound, anyone else have this issue?

5. Bugles - should I get a bugle tube? I think I have enough time to learn a basic bugle but I just thought a cow call would be enough because I still don't understand elk behavior and language too well so I wanted to keep it simple, and it was also one less thing to carry. Should I skip the bugle or am I being lazy?

6. Stalking and noise - How quiet do you need to be when stalking? At first I thought you had to tip toe in when seeing an elk from 200 or 300 yards, but then I saw people say if the elk are walking you need to be running. And I've heard people say be aggressive with elk in general, but that was maybe more in the context of closing some ground like immediately if you hear a bugle. But if an elk is kind of grazing and meandering along should I hustle towards it (without getting seen) until I'm like 50 yards away or when do you really need to start being as silent as possible?

7. Stalking and sight - I was taking a walk with the gf and we rounded a little hill and saw four elk feeding about 200 yds away. We crouched down with maybe half our body visible and half concealed behind the terrain. I pulled out the binos to watch them closer. At one point one of them looked up and did what looked like a pretty cautious 360ish scan, and its gaze passed directly over us without any indication that it actually noticed us. I can't remember if we were wearing any camo that day but I think maybe we weren't. This makes me wonder if I'm stalking an elk with zero cover, at 100 to 200 yds wearing an appropriate camo for the environment, if I stood perfectly still and the elk looked around would it notice me, or what range starts to be "outside their vision"? It seem like people say movement is what gives you away, so if I see its head come up should I try to drop to the ground and risk it seeing that motion, or would it be better to just freeze where I'm standing?

8. Number of arrows - I got a 4 arrow quiver. I figured I would really only need two arrows for elk and then I could have two if I saw some grouse. Then I saw someone say they missed two or three shots on some elk in a matter of ten seconds so I guess whatever situation that was there is a small chance you could miss but immediately have the opportunity for another shot? Just wondering how many arrows you realistically need for maybe a 36 hour hunt for example? Also the quiver adds some weight to the bow and I've thought about just using some sort of quiver on my pack since it seems realistically the knocked arrow is probably the only one you'd get a chance to shoot in a single elk encounter?

Thanks for you insight everyone.


Aug 6, 2020
Lots of good questions. I will do my best to answer a few. Since you’ve posted this in the traditional archery sub forum I will answer in regards to that.

1. In the traditional world, guys tend to use heavier arrow setups than are commonly used in the compound world in an effort to make up for the speeds lost and to create momentum. I do not see where you mentioned your arrow setup or total arrow weight. In my trad setup I am shooting a 657 grain arrow which includes a 300 grain broadhead up front. This arrow is moving about 172fps when it leaves the bow. Lots of discussion about foc and whether 2 or 3 blade heads are better. Another factor to research and draw your own conclusions is single or double bevel. Another thing to consider is penetration. Elk are big, thick, heavy hide and boned animals. It takes a lot to pass through an elk, especially a large bull. Out of a good number of elk I have killed with archery equipment, I have only ever had 1 pass through, and ironically that was the furthest elk I have ever killed with a bow. I have had more experiences than I would like to admit when I made an excellent shot but the arrow did not pass through resulting in an unrecovered animal( or recovered after it was too late). I am currently reevaluating my arrow/broadhead setup and trying to make sure I’m doing everything I can do achieve better penetration. If an arrow stays inside of an animal, it clogs the wound channel, not allowing to animal to leave a blood trail and simultaneously plugging the whole that would alternatively cause the lungs to deflate/collapse. Read an anatomy and physiology text book to learn about exactly how an animals lungs work in regards to interpleural space and the diaphram, and also about the coagulation cascade and I think it will help you really understand what needs to happen to administer a fast effective kill.

2. Yes elk can absolutely jump the string. I have had it happen more than once. One time being on the biggest bull I have or will ever see in my life. It is truly amazing that an animal that big can move that fast from a truly relaxed and unaware state, but I have witnessed it with my own eyes. It can happen. I’ve got a bull on video jumping the string from a compound at 40 yards and completely ducking the arrow. Another event was with my recurve at 30 resulting in that arrow sailing over its back as well. In those events, I’ve got to give it to them. They bested me and they deserved to live.

3. If shooting a broadside shot resulting in an arrow contacting the animal perpendicular to the animals side, the arrow will either go between the ribs or hit a rib. On a shot like this, a properly weighted and tuned arrow with a sharp head should have no problem breaking a rib and continuing on. If you hear about guys “not being able to blow through a shoulder blade or humorous” they are full of crap and did not make a good shot to begin with. Study elk anatomy to answer this question. In a scenario where you are shooting a quartering to or away elk, depending on the angle, you run the risk of an arrow hitting a rib and “zippering” across the rest of them and not even penetrating the thoracic cavity, even though it may look like it goes behind the shoulder. An arrow can still go behind a shoulder without entering the thoracic cavity. In regards to your 2 vs 3 blade questions, I will leave that for you to research and decide on your own. Lots of thoughts on that.

4. Although I have not tried every reed in the market, I believe if you have a reed with a wrinkle crimped into it you’ve got a defective reed. Buy a bunch of different reeds from different manufacturers and spend some time experimenting with them. Only you can decide what fits your mouth and what sounds you can make with them. I have a couple of favorites from different manufacturers that are my go to reeds that I pair with a bugle tube of some variety to ad depth, direction, volume, and a hollow nasally sound.

5. I would say until you #1 begin to learn when to call and when not to call and 2# get some good practice with your reads, calling can actually be detrimental to a novice elk hunter. In contrast, it can be a great tool when used by an experienced elk hunter with the right bull in the right situation.

6. This is something that can only be learned by experience. Elk are not quiet animals. It is definitely ok to make some noises if they are the right noises. Sometimes it can be advantageous to make noises that mimic elk or other animals when in close proximity. How much noise and what kind of noise is what you need to figure out. In regards to being aggressive or passive with strategy, there are times for both but you need to learn what those times are and how to read an elks attitude or mood, among other factors.

7. I don’t think there is a straightforward answer to this and I believe it depends on. Plethora of different factors. Elk have great eyesight, but more than eyesight you should at all times be aware of what the wind is doing. You can fool the eyes of an elk, but I guarantee you that you will never be able to fool the nose of an elk no matter what scent blocking clothes or cover scents you might be wearing. As far as what their effective vision range is, I think it definitely has to do with where you are hunting and how much pressure those animals are accustom to. That will decide how alert they are and how much effort they put into to surveillance. I have walked on a wide open hillside 1k yards from a herd of elk and they could clearly see me but did not take me as a threat, other times in other areas those elk would have been miles away at first glance. Lots of thoughts on camo vs solids and face paint vs not and whether an elk notices movement or sillouettes and whatnot. In regards to your last question if it were me I would rather freeze and play chicken that try to drop to the ground. If she pins you you’re done for either way.

8. In regards to arrows, I’d sure hate to run out when I needed another, I’ll just leave it at that. Sure we’d all like to make a single heart shot each time and watch the animal go down in seconds but reality is that doesn’t always work out that way. I have a 5 arrow quiver on my trad bow. Whatever you do for a quiver make sure that you practice with it the way you will hunt with it.

Hope my rambling helps you out.
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Jul 30, 2023
Ya thanks for the reply. Especially knowing about jumping the string. At 15 yards I wasn't too concerned about it but now I know 30yds might be a different story, thanks. Also the freezing vs. ducking may prove helpful.

And yes I forgot to mention that I'm shooting a 60# recurve and my arrows are 505gr or 530gr depending on the 100 or 125 gr tip. I'm using the basic 6mm/"wide" arrows in a 340 spine and I have some 100gr inserts that have threaded ends and you can keep screwing 25gr pieces on. They're only like 8.9 gpi arrows to begin with so the FOC is going to be relatively higher than if I used a heavier arrow. Maybe I'll try adding 50 grains to a few arrows and see how that feels. I have 3x 3" fletchings on them and finally got a fletching jig to fix up my arrows and think I might try some 4" fletchings now because the arrows are getting so front heavy


Mar 27, 2017
here’s my thoughts on a couple questions you had.
1) regarding bugle tubes, my opinion is in general cow calls get you closer to elk than bugles. Not saying bugles don’t have their place, but I tend to locate and get closer to elk more often with cow calls. That said I do pack a bugle tube and will at times cow call with it just to cover a wider area. That’s not saying I won’t bugle, I just try to get a feel for rutting activity before. I hunt northern UT. My season starts in August. 3/4 of my archery season is pre rut. Yes you can hear bugles but it’s not the bugle fest that most hunters dream about mid sept.
2) Arrows- I personally have 5 on a quiver, but if you don’t want to buy a new quiver you can always bring a couple more in a tube and strap it to your pack. Not ideal but would be handy to have if you’ve lost a couple due to say grouse.
3) Broadhead choice- as stated earlier most trad guys are shooting heavier arrows. I’m shooting 630grs at 165 fps. My recommendation would be if your arrow tunes well with the heavier broadhead then go with that. I have been successful with 2 and 3 blade. I get a touch better penetration with with 2 blades, but that could be circumstantial.
3) last bits- I would argue that most elk are killed with a good boot, physical fitness and a well tuned arrow than anything else. Don’t forget about the wind.