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I was successful drawing a tag…now what? pt2

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I was successful drawing a tag…now what? pt2

Part 1 here

In part 1 I talked about ways to locate the animals you are hunting, and since most people come west to hunt Deer or Elk its pretty much the same.

Now I’m going to talk about why I told you to grid your map and locate areas to check.

In Arizona most seasons are 5-7 days long. This is not a lot of time to learn a new area. Areas in Az don’t look very big on the map, but on the ground they are plenty big.

So using the techniques I discussed in part one and your map grids, pick a spot you are going to be glassing when the sun comes up opening morning. Have a second spot fairly close by if the first doesn’t work out.

Break it down with 2-3 areas to check every morning. I like areas close together, say 1/2 to 1 mile apart so you can glass a good amount of area before it gets too late.

If not check out water holes and fence lines looking for crossings. Find the Elk. They are there, trust me.

You don’t have time to be fooling around, you CANNOT BE AFRAID to move around. Elk move , you have too as well. Glass for an hour or so and then if you see nothing scout around and see if the Elk are in the area. If there is no sign go to the next area you have plotted on your map.

Have each day of your hunt plotted before you get there so its a systematic search for animals. Just driving aimlessly every day is a fast way to fail. Hoping you get one with the bumper is the wrong attitude.

When most people hunting don’t see anything, they resolve to road hunt, driving aimlessly trying to see one standing on the side of the road looking at them.

I’m anti road hunting. But I’m also not going to overlook a free Elk. So if I see one while moving between areas if I can get a shot legally I will.

Notice the LEGALLY part

And the very best way to see and shoot an Elk while moving in a vehicle is to follow another vehicle 100 yards behind and have your shotgun passenger glassing as you go. If you have a third with you have them looking out the drivers side so the driver can drive and stay on the road.

I cant tell you how many Elk Ive shot by accident moving between glassing points when they stood absolutely still, 50 yards off the trail watching the truck in front of me drive by.

The best advice Ive ever received about hunting is this.

You don’t need a big one, you need a dumb one.

And a herd you find by accident counts as much as one you find on purpose. But stay legal, its not worth loosing your hunting privileges over a stupid act.

Now I’m going to talk about rifles, ammunition and loads.

Controversy or Heresy?

My record for Elk in the last 20 years is 17/17.

That means I’ve drawn 17 Elk tags and shot 17 Elk in Arizona. So maybe I’m not an expert but I’ve been around a little and seen what works and what doesn’t.

The most frequently asked question I get is “what rifle should I get?”

I am not a fan of the high speed belted magnums ranging from 6.5 mm to 375. I’m just unable to process why anyone would want a rifle barrel which can burn out in 200 -900 rounds. I buy rifles my grandchildren will carry and shoot with the same accuracy I have now.

So if the cartridge says Magnum on it, I’ll pass. The only exception I make is the 375H&H which has 30-06 velocity with an honest 375 caliber bullet and it is a killer on Elk.

What caliber have I used most?

This is where people look at me cross eyed. The caliber I’ve used most has been a .308.

I have a 16 inch barrel Styer Scout which was my divorce present to myself after my first divorce.

I say I use it with reservations, because people who have never been Elk hunting get the wrong impression watching TV shows. They are convinced you need a belted magnum and to get an Elk you are only getting shots 600 yards away.

I call BS on that. Those shows are scripted to sell rifles. The shooters are put on a hill so they will be seen shooting long distances, if you look closely during the shooting you can see 1 shot on film but a pile of brass beside the rifle.

Not every time, but enough I have very little use for this kind of hunting.

Something to consider when shooting at longer ranges

Is there a road anywhere near the animal? Can you drive a vehicle close to the animal? Is it at the bottom of a canyon, or worse on the far side of one? Do you have a production crew like the people who make the TV shows to help pack out the animal.

You might do some soul searching and thinking before you pull the trigger.

The absolute farthest I’ve ever shot an Elk has been 130 yards away, with a neck shot which I’ll be the first to say was a lucky spine shot.

And I’m in no hurry to ever do it again. I’m so sure of that in fact, I let a giant 8×8 Bull get away because there was a cow who wouldn’t get off his shoulder until it was too dark to see. I’m haunted by that and it was 10 years ago.

Its not about the rifle, or the caliber within reason. Its about the bullet and where you put it.

Hunt into the wind, use your eyes and your optics more than your feet and if there are Elk there you will find them


Without going into a nightmare of comparison and starting the endless online caliber wars, I will say you should use this very simple rule.

And Im not ashamed I got it from Nathan Foster who has shot more game than I will in 10 lifetimes.

Use a very tough, light for caliber bullet. Or use a heavy for caliber, soft bullet.

So in a 30-06 a 150gr or a 165gr TSX would be a good choice, as the TSX is an extremely tough bullet made to penetrate deep before expanding.

On the other end, a 30 cal Hornady 178gr ELD-X is a fantastic choice on animals the size of Deer through Elk. Bears in the lower 48 as well

In calibers like the 35Whelen, the 180gr TSX loaded by Barnes is deadly, and the Hornady 250gr Interlock is as well.

Its important to not confuse the bullet weight with performance because its a very different animal depending on what it was designed to do.

If I had a majic, do everything in North America, bullet it would be a VLD-X in either a 250Gr .358 or a 270/300 gr .375. If I had a wish granted by the people at Hornady.

Id stop buying the TSX at that point unless I were hunting Bison on this continent or anything in Africa. What I can also say…the VLD-X is half the price of the TSX if you buy components for reloading.

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I keep both mini editions in my truck glove box so if I have a new hunter its easy to explain exactly where the bullet needs to go

So, what rifle?

Buy a rifle you aren’t afraid to shoot, if you have a Deer rifle in 270, 280, 30-06 you are set.

Run PREMIUM ammunition, with premium bullets,  period.

Especially if you don’t load your own. I am switching this year to Hornady Precision Hunter in my 30-06, I get mine from Sportsman’s Guide

I generally buy a case of 10 boxes and that way they are the same lot number which is consistent with good accuracy

Hornady, Barnes, Norma, Federal etc all load their own versions of premium ammunition. Don’t skimp on what makes or breaks your hunt. Remember if its a Barnes TSX go slightly lighter bullet weight than you would with a Cup and Core bullet.

Barnes loads accurate ammunition, as does every other premium maker.

An important fact for new western hunters

Animals here are larger than animals on the east side of the US.

An Elk has 10x the lung volume as a Whitetail deer. The bullets you shoot an Elk with do the same damage as the bullets you shoot a deer with, but it takes an Elk a little longer to get the message its dead. The simple reason is the Elk has larger lungs, and more volume to bleed into.

Elmer Keith was very right about bullets for Elk. Hit it hard with a big bullet and keep hitting it as long as its in sight and in range.

Just be aware, an Elk will not always drop like a deer when shot. Its a fatal wound, but you might want to hit it again.


Have a plan for when the animal is down

The first Elk I shot weighed 700 lbs on the rail. No guts, head or hide. Just meat and bones, a monster sized Elk.

This is not something you load whole in the truck by yourself. Learn about what cuts to make after its gutted and skinned to get the most meat from your animal.

I know, the next question will be ” How do I feel about the gutless method?”

Three different meat processors have told me its a mess for the inexperienced hunter. Quarter the beast and bring it out bones and all.

I don’t have that option anyway, the area I usually draw a tag in requires everything be brought out except the gut pile.

I hope from reading this and other posts Ive done on hunting public land you are getting out and doing it. You can search this site using the Hunting category, I have multiple posts about tactics for Elk.

Please if you have questions or comments feel free.

I was successful drawing a tag…now what? pt2



The post I was successful drawing a tag…now what? pt2 appeared first on The Quiet Survivalist.

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