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Elk Hunting - 6 Tips for Better Late Season Elk Hunting

By Doyle Moss

A spotted heard during late-season elk hunting

Many states have adopted late-season elk hunting. These hunts have a higher percentage of draw success and make it attractive for the hunter to apply for based primarily on the numbers game. The early season rut hunts have become so sought after that the draw odds are dismal. They have become so low in fact that most hunters can only expect to draw these types of tags once in their lifetime. Late-season premium tags could possibly be drawn two to three times during a hunters life depending on thier luck.  This is the main attraction to late-season hunting. It gives more opportunity for the hunter.

Here are a few things to look for and expect in late-season elk hunting.

Hire a guide

If you’re unfamiliar with the area you are hunting hire a guide. The money you will spend on a guide for this limited opportunity can be worth it’s weight in gold. A good guide can put you in bulls immediately and save you days of scouting time. The price of gas today and the time off work to do effective scouting is not cheap. The money you can save from a few less trips can quickly add up towards paying a qualified guide. 

Remember the weather is nasty late-season so not only does a guide bring you knowledge of the area where the elk will be but he can also keep you safe during extreme conditions. If you know the area and go at it by yourself never hunt alone during late-season. The elk are usually in deep canyons this time of year and to get to them will require driving through mud and snow. The chances of getting stuck in your vehicle this time of year is high. If you are successful packing out an elk is a big job. The more people you can have with you to help you glass, push stuck vehicles out and pack out your elk will make your life much easier. 

Look for good food sources 

The bulls use this time of year to load up on food before winter hits. The rut take its toll on the bulls as many of them will lose up to 30% of their body fat from pursuits of the opposite sex.

Mahogany hillsides are a great place to seek out late-season elk especially south facing. South facing slopes are exposed to the sun longer and will keep the vegetation more desirable for the elk. Once a bull finds a good food source he will do two things, eat and sleep to restore his bodyweight and energy for the winter. Also, remember that bulls will generally be either by themselves or with a few buddies. Don’t expect to find big bulls with the herds during this time of year.

Be prepared for long-range

In the late-season elk are more alert than during the rut. Those of you who have hunted the rut know bulls can be almost stupid as they have one thing on their mind. In late-season elk are much more alert and attentive to their surroundings. They can also be in much deeper canyons. These two factors lend themselves to longer shots. Be prepared to shoot a minimum of 400 yards in order to increase your effectiveness as a hunter for this time of year.

Broken antlers

If you are seeking a true trophy bull the late-season is not your hunt. 70% of the bulls will have broken antlers this time of year. Every season I will find countless big bulls with the potential of scoring really well. The problem is they’re missing a sword tine or an eye gaurd or in some cases an entire beam. When two 500 pound animals collide something is bound to break. It is rare to find a big bull in October or November that has made it through the rut without banging up his headgear.


If you keep your expectations in check with the area you are hunting the late-season hunt can be a great experience.

Do your research on the unit you will hunt and see what the average success rate and average score of the bulls are. This will give you a chance to set realistic goals for your hunt.

I hope I didn’t discourage you too much from late-season elk hunting. I must say some of the largest elk that I’ve ever killed in my career have been in November or December. The chance of shooting a monster on a late season elk hunt are there.

Remember hunt hard, hunt smart and hunt safe.

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