Elk Hunting Mindset

Elk Hunting Mindset

When you are preparing for an elk hunting trip, it helps to get into the right mindset. When you get your mind in the right place the hunt is far more rewarding and usually more successful. If you are from a region that is at or below sea level (often called a lowlander by the locals) you may not be accustomed to the thinner air and steep mountains. You need to be ready for the mental and physical requirements of elk trips.

Real elk hunting means actually getting out there and tracking the animal. You will climb over mountain and through canyons. You will track the elk on foot through wooded areas and clearings, up steep buttes and through deep valleys. You follow tracks, look for droppings and even think like an elk. If you want to be a successful hunter, you have to anticipate which way they are going to go. Keeping your focus on the ground can cause you to miss out on a good kill.

Before the Hunt

Before you go on the hunt, learn a little about the area you will be hunting. Elk hunting is very physical and demanding. It helps to know the lay of the land. If you can walk the area beforehand, that is even better. Become familiar with the land if you can and get to know where the elk like to bed down, where they like to sun, where they prefer to eat, the location of their watering hole, anything that you can learn that will help make your tracking easier.

It also doesn’t hurt to prepare physically. Cardio exercise will help your body handle the thinner air of higher elevations. You will be doing a lot of walking, so exercises that increase your stamina will help too.


When you are tracking elk, probably the first thing you will look for are the tracks. You can identify an elk track by its size and shape. The hoof is cloven and looks like a dairy cow or deer. The main difference, though, is that the bull elk track is about four inches long or longer and it is wider. Also, when elk walk, they step in or very close to their front tracks with their back hooves. The thing is, if your mind isn’t in the right place, you are likely to miss a good set of tracks. You have to be aware of what is on the ground and what is around you at all times.


The droppings are a sure sign of elk. When you are elk hunting for bulls, look for droppings that are in a pile as opposed to scattered. Cows tend to scatter their droppings while bulls leave it in a pile. This is not for the squeamish. If your mind is on the hunt, you have to be prepared to check the droppings to see if they are fresh (warm). And how do you do that? You feel a pellet with your bare hands. Get in that hunter mindset and it won’t be a problem.

Think like an Elk

Always be prepared. You never know when you are going to round a bend and come face to face with a prize bull elk. Always be ready because things can happen quickly and you could miss a great shot.

When you start out, often it will be before day break so that you can find a butte or area to settle in to and wait for the sun to rise. Thinking like an elk will help you find a good spot so that you can catch the herd on their way to feed or to bask in the early morning sun to keep warm.

As you are tracking, you may lose the ground tracks. In that case, you need to be able to continue the tracking by thinking like an elk. Keep a sharp eye for likely areas that they will bed down or places they may be drawn to for feeding.

If you have your mind on the hunt, your elk hunting mindset will bag you that prize bull.