September 23, 2016
By Zach Bowhay
For those of us heading into the elk woods with the hopes of a close encounter with a rutting bull, our focus is often on shooting, calling, camo, etc., but it's easy to forgot about the other things that can be critical to having a successful hunt.
Based upon my personal experience here are five items I consider "must have items" when bowhunting elk.
Nothing can ruin a hunt faster than the wrong pair of boots. Buy a good pair of boots far in advance of your hunt so you can be sure that they are broke in.
Mountain hunting is tough, weather is unpredictable and loads are heavy if you harvest an elk. Make sure the boots you choose have a good ankle support and a Gore-Tex or a similar waterproof lining to ensure your feet stay dry.
A boot with a good Vibram sole and a full rubber rand is preferred. Generally boots with these features are a little more money, but last considerably longer. Meaning once you have them broke in you'll likely get several seasons out of them.
My go to boot for 2016 is the Crispi Nevada GTX. The Nevada has all the features necessary for elk county and have been extremely easy to get hunt ready.
Make sure you also get a quality set of aftermarket insoles. Factory insoles are not made to handle the rigors of a mountain hunt and if you invest in a better insole your feet will thank you.
The High Country Synergy Footbeds by Lathrop and Sons are preferred among many Western hunters. This is one purchase you won't regret.
The last few years it seems more elk hunters are starting to carry decoys, but I'm still surprised by how many hunters go afield without one.
Companies are making decoys that are lightweight, easy to carry and affordable. Although, I only use them on 50% of my setups, I can't afford not to carry one. I've killed elk on at least two occasions due to my decoy, so I would definitely say its worth packing along.
For the past several seasons I've been using a Heads Up Decoy and am very impressed with how simple and effective it is to use.
When elk hunting out west you need to be ready for whatever the mountain and weather will throw at you. This means having a good backpack is a necessity.
I prefer a pack that can carry all my gear, but compresses down small enough so I can move easily without constantly snagging on underbrush.
A pack must also be capable of carrying the first load of meat off the mountain when I walk back to my truck or camp. Elk are big and depending on the size of your hunting party can take several trips to get off the mountain.
I never walk off the hill without at least a quarter, so I want a pack both large enough and sturdy enough to handle the task. This year I will be using the Icon Pro 3200 by KUIU.
Of all the things I take on a hunt there is one item I absolutely wouldn't go without — a land ownership chip in my GPS. I buy a chip specific to whatever state I'm hunting. This provides me with details of land ownership, trailheads, man-made and natural landmarks and even water sources in the area.
These are particularly helpful when hunting areas you aren't familiar with and can save many miles walked. They can also provide you with information that would otherwise take much time and research.
I believe onXmaps are the best in the business. Visit their site and check out all the cool things you can do on your smart phone, computer and tablet. I own chips from each state I've visited over the past several seasons and they are top-notch.
Hopefully at the end of your hunt you'll be loading a pile of 100% wild grown elk meat into your pack for the ride home. One of the best investments any elk hunter can make is in a set of durable game bags.
Game bags will keep flies and bees off of your quarters, but still remain breathable allowing the meat to cool when hung properly.
Good bags are definitely more expensive, but they last many years as long as they are cleaned properly after use. I have personally put over a half dozen elk in my set of Caribou Gear Bags.
Twenty-plus years of elk hunting has provided me with a long list of hunting gear, but there are some things I refuse to go without!