Control the Controllables- Take charge of your Elk Hunt, Control what you Can!

Apr 14, 2024

Control the Controllable

By Zach Bowhay

Recently, on a podcast Cody and I did, we talked about confidence in the elk woods and how vital of a tool it can be in your arsenal. One thing we discussed was the importance of controlling the controllables. Another way to express this is to perfect the things you can perfect before the hunt takes place. There are always factors on every hunt that are beyond our control, but having the aspects you can control dialed in before a hunt, goes a long way toward fostering the confidence needed to handle other facets of the hunt as they arise. Breaking down the processes of your hunt into smaller categories can be overwhelming, but focusing on a few key areas and mastering them before the hunt is always advisable.

Tuned and Dialed

Not having confidence in your ability to place a broadhead-tipped arrow on target accurately is a recipe for missing a bull. Attaching your broadheads haphazardly a few days before the season and watching them veer off course as they approach your target might seem acceptable to some. However, such practices can undermine your confidence when you least expect it.

From experience, I know that the years when I have my bow tuned and shooting flawlessly are when I feel the utmost confidence. Spending extra time pays off significantly. If you don’t know how to adjust your sight for 2nd and 3rd axis, seek assistance from a pro shop. Shoot your broadheads throughout the summer and ensure they hit where you need them to. Spend time participating in 3D shoots, shooting ground squirrels, or stump shooting—anything to familiarize yourself with shooting at awkward angles you might encounter on a hunt.

Engaging in each of these activities is not only enjoyable but when you finally feel completely dialed in and capable of making any shot; you are well on your way. Not having to worry about whether your arrow will hit where you aim and making this process second nature is one of the best things you can do leading into a hunt.

Be a Good Caller

I understand that practicing your calling can be challenging at times. However, even with the risk of receiving funny looks from your neighbors or having your significant other question your sanity, practicing your calling early and often is crucial. If you have a hunting buddy who typically handles all the calling because you aren’t confident in your abilities, it’s time to practice. I’ve been in situations where I've done most of the calling, which can become tiresome. If each group member is a proficient caller, the odds of success increase. Being able to drop back and call for a hunting partner can be crucial when a bull is approaching, and if you haven’t practiced and honed this skill, it can lead to hesitation, which is never beneficial. If you hunt solo, it’s even more critical. If you are the only one you can count on to call in a bull, you must be up to the task.

Have confidence in your calling across the board. If you excel at cow calls but struggle with bugling, now is the time to learn. If you can bugle adequately but struggle with chuckling, work on that. Some individuals struggle with specific calls; if you are one of them, find what works for you. Numerous reputable companies manufacture a variety of calls. By investing some time and money, you can find calls that you can make sound good. Having the confidence to use these calls when encountering real elk is much easier when you’ve spent the off-season perfecting your technique.


Perhaps I am old school, but I will likely always believe boots-on-the-ground scouting is more effective than E-scouting. However, that doesn’t diminish the value of E-scouting in any way. Spending downtime leading up to a hunt studying and familiarizing yourself with your unit or area is time well spent: Mark access points, water sources, saddles, benches, or relevant features. Doing so ensures that you don’t venture into any hunt completely blind, and you’d be surprised at the confidence boost that can provide.

If you have the time or means to scout in person, do it! Confirming your E-scouting findings, discovering old sign, encountering actual elk, and learning the lay of the land are excellent ways to energize and prepare yourself for hunting in the area. Knowing the terrain you’ll be navigating and that elk actually inhabit the area can provide a significant confidence boost leading into a hunt.

Perfect What You Can

What needs improvement can vary significantly from one individual to another. These are just a few examples of things that may require attention. If you’re planning a backpack hunt, ensuring your backcountry camp is dialed in and that you’re familiar with your gear is essential. The basic idea is that each of us has areas where we can improve. I know that in some years, when I become too busy or lazy to practice my shooting as diligently as I should, it affects me mentally when I'm in the woods. Addressing these issues and controlling the controllables will enhance your elk hunt rather than hinder it.


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