Mossberg Blog

6 Mistakes That Will Ruin Your Opening Day Elk Hunt

Elk season is right around the corner, and hunters across the country are preparing gear and equipment for their moment on the mountain. But despite all the planning, preparing of gear, and fitness training that goes into our pre-season routine, countless elk hunts are blown due to six basic mistakes that’ll cost you big time. Here’s a look at the 6 mistakes that’ll ruin your opening day elk hunt.


If you want to notch your elk tag this season, be sure to avoid the mistakes mentioned below.

Not Being the Early Bird

My grandfather used to say, “The early bird gets the worm.” It rings true for hunters (as much as anybody) particularly when it comes to being the first one to the gate or trailhead in elk country. Deny the desire to snooze another 5 or 10 minutes. Get up early and get there first! The butterflies and jitters that come with the stress of worrying about someone beating you to the spot on public land is enough to make you sick. Don’t miss out on opportunities. Get up, get out, and be the first one on the mountain.

Not Having a Plan B

On those hunts when someone does beat you to the spot, or some other variable comes up, you better have a Plan B. More hunts are blown each year because Plan A was a bust. Someone else was in your spot, the elk weren’t there, forest fires burnt the timber, limited access, and a thousand other excuses are all reasons why you need a solid Plan B… and even Plan C. Don’t let your hunt get shut down because you failed to plan.


What happens when you show up and someone’s already in your spot? Do you have a Plan B?

Not Watching the Wind

Nothing will blow your opening day elk hunt more than the wind. Elk hunters live and die by the wind. If you fail to keep the wind in your favor, your hunt will be over as quick as it started. Pay attention to what the wind is doing. Keep a wind checker in your pocket at all times. Use smartphone apps to monitor wind changes throughout your hunt.

Not Knowing When to Call

The bugle of a bull elk is what draws us to the mountain. There’s nothing in the world like it. But that desire to hear an elk bugle is what typically causes us to over call. We want to hear that bugle so we run up and down the mountain screaming on our calls, hoping to get one to talk back. Calling too much is a temptation we must resist. There will be times when excessive calling works, but more times than not, less is more. Learn when to call – and when to keep quiet.

Not Being in Good Physical Shape

Another deal-breaker in elk country is lack of physical fitness. If you’re not used to hunting in the mountains, running a couple of miles on flat pavement won’t cut it when it comes to pre-season prep. You need to simulate mountain training as much as possible prior to your hunt. And once you arrive in the mountains, give yourself a day or two to get acclimated to the mountain air to avoid sickness. Altitude sickness has made some hunters feel like they were dying. Give yourself ample time to be in the best physical shape possible for the hunt.


Hunting elk is nothing short of brutal labor, particularly when you find success. Are you physically prepared for the hunt?

Not Knowing How to Use Your Maps

The blessing and curse of modern technology are the mapping apps now available on our smartphones. Gone are the days of having to put boots on the ground to figure out new hunting areas. Digital mapping allows us to learn a tremendous amount of knowledge before ever setting foot on the mountain. The problem is every other hunter out there has access to the same information. It’s changed the game, for sure. It’s made you have to hunt further and dig a little deeper to find that tucked away honey hole. But regardless of whether you’re using a digital map, or an old-school paper map, you need to know how to use them to maximize your hunting efforts in elk country. Not knowing how to read maps in elk country is a mistake. A mistake that will blow your hunt every time.

Foolish errors are what blow more hunts each year than anything else. Avoid the mistakes mentioned above and you’ll be on your way to punching your next elk tag.

Have a great season! Hunt hard – shoot straight.

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