Tyler Henderson is a lifelong Idaho resident. When not spending time with his wife and three kids, he can usually be found in the mountains scouting or hunting elk, or shooting his bow. Henderson is a highly successful archery elk hunter. He is an expert at elk behavior and how to exploit it to his advantage, especially when it comes to ambushing them at their water sources. His knowledge provides invaluable research to HuntDIY and its followers.
While the majority of elk hunters prefer to call or spot-and-stalk their quarry, taking a stand can also be a productive hunting method. Regardless of stand choice — stick-built, ground blind, or treestand — sitting over a water source during the rut has its merits. The following are tips to make the most of your stand hunting experience this elk season.
It is important to have confidence in your stand location. Hunting from a stand does not work well for the impatient elk hunter. Generally speaking, elk travel a circuit. A bull or herd may not hit one particular water resource every day but will eventually use it at some point. Patience on stand and believing in your setup is paramount to a successful sit and hunt.
Switch It Up
When hunting elk from a stand, hot dry weather is preferable. If it is raining, elk are less likely to use a nearby water resource. In fact, if the storm is substantial enough, elk are able to get their daily water needs from their foraging. That’s not to say a bull will NOT use a wallow during bad weather; there are always exceptions. However, if it is raining, switching to spot-and-stalk in the now super-quiet environment may be more productive. After the storm passes and the surroundings begin to dry, stand hunting can be extremely productive.
Go Early, Stay Late
It is a wise choice to plan on being on stand an hour before legal shooting light. This allows time to settle in and arrange your gear to be ready when it is legal light. Elk may hit a water resource at first light before feeding nearby. Getting to your stand early will ensure you don’t bump elk out of the area.
For afternoon sits, plan on being on stand around the 3 o’clock hour; the earlier the better. In my experience, for whatever reason, the biggest bulls seem to hit water close to 4 PM. I theorize that they leave their bedded cows to go grab a quick mud bath before it is time to resume rutting activities that night. Sitting on stand from sun up to sundown is tough but ensures all daylight hours are covered. Although bulls will wallow at midday, it’s not consistent enough to justify an all-day sit.
While working to your stand location, keep a watchful eye for elk activity. Advance cautiously, stopping occasionally to listen — and look — for signs of nearby elk. Of course, a bugle is the most definitive clue, but twigs snapping, cows mewing, or even a bull splashing in the wallow are other sounds to be listening for. I have unexpectedly walked in on a bull that was already using a wallow. Had I been paying closer attention, I may have snuck in on a preoccupied bull for a shot.
I never call while I am on stand; I don’t want any elk to know that I am around — even if I am pretending to be another elk. Calling can lead to a scenario where a bull approaches to within 150-200 yards of a wallow, sounds a short locator bugle, and then stands there watching and listening. If a bull does not see other elk nearby after hearing a call, the jig may be up. More time than not, a wise bull will simply pack up and move on to greener pastures. Stand hunting is a time to be a passive hunter. Avoid the temptation to call back to bugling bulls or mewing cows. Be patient; give approaching elk time to infer the coast is clear and come in on their own.
Patience is the name of the game when it comes to stand hunting for elk. Believe in your setup and know that it will eventually produce for you. Remember, it’s just a matter of time before that dream bull shows up and offers you a shot of a lifetime.
Hunt DIY is a comprehensive resource for DIY hunting adventures. Zach Bowhay and other HuntDIY contributors share their knowledge and experiences from years of successful — and not-so-successful — hunts through articles with high-quality imagery and videos. Hunt DIY strives to show the average hunter — one with a busy lifestyle and on a modest budget — how to produce above-average results. Follow Zach Bowhay and his hunting friends and family into the backcountry.