Hunt Later for Elk

Most bowhunters get one week of vacation to chase elk. Oftentimes they choose to take off during the first or second week of September with hopes of tagging out early. However, using this strategy hunters rarely end up killing or even hearing an elk. They miss the rut early and spend most of their time sweaty and exhausted while bulls remain hidden far up the mountain. In this blog I’ll explain why I believe it’s best to hunt later for elk.

Go Big or Go Home?

First, let me explain the logic behind hunting the first few weeks of the season. Older elk will begin to feel their oats before younger elk. As a result the first bugles of the season come from mature bulls. At this point the bulls will respond to cow and bull sounds aggressively. Once they have gathered a herd of cows, they tend to avoid confrontation, and sneaking in for a shot becomes a challenge. Essentially, hunting early is a “go big or go home” mentality. Hunters won’t hear many bugles, but the bugles they do hear will come from mature bulls. They’ll either take home a trophy or nothing at all.


Temperatures often remain in the upper 70s and even 80s during early September. Hunters almost always mention the heat as an excuse before they say it’s too early. Most of the time it’s one and the same. Without a doubt warmer weather slows down the rut, but hotter temps are much more likely early in the month. All things equal, the later in the month the more likely to find bugling bulls. With cooler weather you’ll hunt more active animals at a time when it’s also easier to hike around the mountain. As an added bonus that cooler weather will also mean that meat won’t spoil nearly as quickly.

More Activity

If elk bugle during the second week then they’ll bugle during the third week. The reverse is not necessarily true. Worst case scenario if you hunt late: you can’t get into range on a herd bull. Worst case scenario when hunting early: you don’t hear anything.

Especially for someone new to elk hunting, later season hunting will allow them to gain experience around elk. Getting into range on a herd bull might feel impossible, but there will be more opportunities to shoot some kind of bull. The herd bull doesn’t necessarily have the best set of antlers anyway. I shot a satellite last year that was twice the size of the herd bull I shot this season. And, there’s nothing wrong with shooting a cow on the last day to fill the freezer.

Conclusion and Specific Dates

Too many hunters think they want to shoot a big bull or nothing at all, but two days into a week-long hunt they’d take anything. If you’re new to elk hunting I’d strongly suggest hunting later rather than earlier for elk. There will be enough elk for everyone. You’re not going to pull into the parking lot and a hunter has just packed out the last elk on the mountain.

With the full moon on Oct. 1st in 2020 you should consider taking the 21st to the 25th off. If you’re in Colorado, and muzzleloader season runs until the 20th, just take the last seven days of the month.

Good luck this season,


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