Welcome to our official elk hunting checklist, the definitive guide on all the equipment you’ll need on your next elk hunt. This checklist can also be used to get a general idea of what equipment you’ll need for any hunting trip but you should remember that we geared it more towards what an elk hunter would need.
Our checklist is broken down into different sections to make it easier to read and understand. If you’re going to use an elk hunting outfitter you’ll want to check with them what hunting equipment you need to provide on your own.
Legal Requirements For Hunting
- Hunter Safety Course – Many states require a hunter to take part in a hunter safety course before they can be issued a hunting license.
- State Hunting License – You’ll need a valid hunting license in the state you plan to hunt elk in.
- Elk Permit/Tag – Along with a state hunting license you’ll need an elk tag/permit.
- State Issued Identification – You should always carry a state issued driver’s license or state ID.
- Blaze Orange (per state requirement) – Many states require a hunter to have on specific amount of hunter orange. See your state’s hunting laws.
General Elk Hunting Gear Essentials
- 2-Way Radio(s) – If you’re with a partner this is a useful way to communicate or if you’re solo can be used in an emergency situation.
- Ammunition/Arrows – Depending on your hunting preference you’ll need ammo or arrows that are sufficient for hunting elk.
- Backpack – Your hunting backpack should be able to carry everything you need.
- Binoculars – Unless your superman you’ll need these to view areas from a distance.
- Compass – Knowing which way is North, South, East and West is important when hunting.
- Digital Camera – You’ll need a camera to take pictures of your harvested elk and capture memorable moments on your elk hunting trip.
- Flashlight – Useful to see at night or in well shaded areas.
- Hand Sanitizer – This is useful to sanitize your hands when you need to during your elk hunt.
- Insect Repellant – Very useful during those non-winter months.
- Knife (hunting quality) – Every hunter needs quality, all-purpose hunting knife.
- Knife Sharpener – Useful to sharpen your hunting knife in the field if you need to.
- GPS (bring extra batteries) – This is the easiest way to not get lost in the woods, but you should always carry a topographic or aerial map as back-up.
- Local Topographical and/or Aerial Maps – It’s important that you know the area you’re going to be hunting in. By using maps you can locate areas elk my populate or get your bearings if you’re lost.
- Poncho – If it starts raining on your elk hunt you’ll be soaked without one of these.
- Rangefinder – Useful for figuring out how far away an elk is to properly adjust your shot placement.
- Scent Cover/Reduction – This is used to cover up the human scent on your cloths and equipment.
- Toilet Paper – Do we really need to tell you why you need this?
- Wind Indicator – This is useful along with your range finder to help take the most accurate shot on an elk.
Elk Specific Hunting Equipment
- Call/Bugle – This is a device used to attract elk by mimicking their sounds and noises.
- Scent/Attractants – This is usually a spray or power substance used to attract elk to a specific area.
- Elk Decoy – These are used to attract elk to a specific area by fooling them that it’s a real elk.
Hunting Safety & Survival Equipment
- 50′ of Nylon Cord – There are endless reasons why you could need this nylon cord on your hunting trip.
- Chemical Hand Warmers – This is essential equipment if you’re hunting elk during the winter months.
- First Aid Kit – You should purchase a first aid kit that is designed for hunting or outdoors.
- Fire Starter or Waterproof Matches – Hunting or not anyone who goes into the woods should have the ability to create a fire on demand.
- Portable Water Storage – You should have some type of portable water storage device.
- Signaling Device – This can be a mirror, flare or laser point and is used to signal people your location.
- Blanket (heat reflectively style) – When the cold weather is involved these can help keep you warm during those winter nights.
- Water Purification Tablets – Water can be teaming with tons of bacteria in the wild, these can ensure clean, safe drinking water.
Elk Shot Placement Tips & Reminders
- The best shot placement for elk is the broadside shot and this is true for both bow hunters and rifle hunters.
- The quartering-away shot placement is another ideal shot for firearm hunters but should be avoid by bow hunters.
- If you’re a bow hunter hunting elk it’s generally best practice to wait for a broadside shot to have the best chance of bring it down.
- Rear-end shots are the least desirable shots and should be avoid by all hunters.
- Practice makes perfect. Just because you know the anatomy of an elk doesn’t mean you can actual strike your target area. Make sure you are proficient and skilled in the hunting weapon of your choice and never attempt a shot outside of your effective range.
Please remember that is a generalized elk hunting checklist and some other items that you may need could not be listed. If this is your first elk hunting trip you might want to consider using an elk hunting outfitter or being along someone who has experience in the field. Some of the worst hunting accidents happen to people who are ill prepared or uninformed.
Elk Hunting Tips
- Tip #1 – The most important tip you can read on this page is that you need to make sure you fully understand and know all the current hunting laws and regulations. Each state has their own set of rules, seasons, regulations, etc and it’s your job as a hunter to make sure you know them all and follow them properly.
- Tip #2 – When you’re hunting elk it’s vital that you cover your scent. You should bath with unscented soap and shampoo in collaboration with unscented deodorant. You’ll want to use unscented laundry soap on the clothing you plan to wear on your elk hunt. A majority of those products are made especially for hunters, try your local hunting gear retailer. You should also use a commercial scent coverer and/or scent eliminator.
- Tip #3 – It’s always worth a shot to see if you can successful use an elk call since this can help bring elk to your location. Not everyone can successfully use an elk call but if you can use one properly it can really help bring in a bull (male elk). You can use a bugle call or a cow call. A bugle call will usually only work during rut season and is designed to bring in a male elk who wants to challenge another male. You can use a cow call successful outside of the rut season and it’s designed to mimic the call of a female elk.
- Tip #4 – You should always scout the area you plan on elk hunting in, even if you’ve hunted there previously. You’d be amazed how fast Mother Nature can change the landscape of an area. If it’s a new area you’ve never been to you’ll want to locate some topographical maps and do some exploring prior to your hunt.
- Tip #5 – It’s important that you get to your hunting area prior to the natural time that elk have moment. You’ll most likely need to travel to and from your hunting spot by flashlight. Elk has the most movement during the first few hours after dawn and the first few hours before sunset. If you try to get to your location too late you may scare off elk already in the area. Remember, elk have amazing sight and hearing and will run off when startled.
- Tip #6 – Proper shot placement is important if you plan on bringing down an elk and actually recovering it. If you take a shot with a bow or a rifle and it’s not on the mark you can expect just a wounded animal or a very slow death. We have an excellent guide on elk shot placement and recommend that every hunter should review it.
- Tip #7 – Novice hunters that have never hunted elk before might find it useful to use an elk hunting outfitter. They can greatly increase your chances of harvesting an elk and give you the experience you need to go out and hunt elk on your own in the future. You want to make sure you get quotes from multiple elk hunting outfitters and understand exactly comes with that quote; pricing sometimes doesn’t include boarding or airfare.