The reasons for enjoying elk hunting vary as widely as the trees in a forest. Some do it to feed their families. Others love the thrill of the hunt. And there are some sportsmen who simply use any excuse to head to the woods to play with their outdoor toys – fancy cargo carriers, the latest GPS devices or shiny shooters. Plus, how else are you going to make elk jerky?
With elk hunting season upon us, the following is a primer to help you get prepared.
Elk hunting is about more than sports, recreation or food. It’s a vital way to help keep nature in check. Without hunting, elk could take away food sources from other wild animals and have a negative impact on farmland.
Like many wild animals, elk like to bulk up and forage during the fall in preparation for the cold winter months. Elk tend to live in large herds, like cows, and seek abundant pastures that allow them to keep an eye out for predators. Sometimes the most delectable pastures in the eyes of elk are the crops found on farmlands – particularly when the goods are tender. To help farmers prevent elk-induced crop damage, many states have an antlerless elk hunting season that begins in the later part of the year.
Before you get out your shotgun and head to the wilderness with your gear loaded in your hitch-mounted cargo carrier, make sure you’re familiar with your state’s hunting laws, general hunting etiquette and the necessary gear.
Elk Hunting Basics
Elk hunting generally starts in the fall, but this may vary by state. The following are some of the most common regulations to expect:
Kill only female antlerless elk. Even if a big ol’ buck just shed its antlers, sportsmen must stick to hunting only female elk. This rule helps preserve breeding potential. If this law applies in your state, make sure you can reliably discern the difference between bulls (males) and cows (females) before you hunt.
Know how to identify “spikes.” Your area of the country may allow you to hunt male elk that don’t have well-developed antlers (known as “spikes”). Spike antlers grow on younger elk and don’t have many formed branches. Check out your state’s elk hunting guides to learn about which types of antlers qualify as spikes and which don’t.
Have a tag or hunting license. Just as fishing is restricted, states protect the elk population by limiting the number of tags or elk hunting licenses they sell for a particular hunting zone. Once you have a tag, you can hunt down the indicated number of elk within the set date range. In Oregon, for example, the state sells 46 tags for the Upper Nehalem River area between Dec. 1 and Mar. 15. With this specific tag, an Oregon hunter can kill one antlerless elk. Before you hunt, seek the proper state-approved licenses or tags.
Must-Have Elk Hunting Gear
Having the right hunting gear not only enhances your enjoyment of the experience, but it also helps ensure safety. Don’t leave home without these essentials:
- Hunter orange outfit. The hottest color of the elk hunting season, hunter orange makes you more visible to other sportsmen. Fortunately for you, elk are color blind so you can stay incognito to your prey and visible to your hunting buddies.
- Headlamp. Elk hunting season coincides with some of the shortest days of the year. With a headlamp, you can dress your game, keep your hands free and not worry about the fleeing daylight.
- Hunting weapons, including a hunting knife. Whether you use a gun or an archery kit, make sure you know your state’s regulations regarding the weapons you can use while hunting elk. A good hunting knife always comes in handy, and some are made specifically for unzipping.
- Cargo carriers. You’ll need a convenient way to take your equipment – and win – home. Cargo carriers let you keep the elk separate from your gear. If you can’t sacrifice any space in your vehicle, get a hitch-mounted cargo carrier. After all, some things just shouldn’t commingle. As an added bonus, some cargo carriers can act as coolers for your fresh game. Look also for models on swing-away frames that still allow access to the rear of your vehicle while attached to maximize your storage capacity.
- Hunting buddy. It’s always best to hunt with a partner. A hunting buddy can help you track an elk that keeps running after it is hit, carry your win or call for help in an emergency.
Hunting is a tradition that dates back to the times when your ancestors lived in caves. By knowing the rules and making safety a priority, elk hunting will continue to be an ultimate thrill. If you would like to have some help in your hunt look in to using an Elk outfitter
Many thanks to Anna over at StowAway2 for submitting this quest blog post. StowAway2 provide the highest quality hitch mounted cargo carriers and racks on the market. Their cargo carriers are perfect for hauling gear for sports, tailgating, hunting, camping & more.