Elk are one of the largest of the deer species. A mature bull may reach heights of up to 9 feet tall including their antlers. Cows and their calves live in herds, while bulls tend to live in bachelor groups or alone.

Elk once roamed across a majority of North America, but due to vast human settlement, they now live in the western United States, but can also be found in parts of Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and North Carolina, and west of Ontario in Canada. Elk are extremely adaptable animals and have been introduced to other countries including Argentina and New Zealand, where they are currently thriving.

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Variables to Consider When Hunting Elk

Location: Elk live in a variety of habitats, from rainforests to desert valleys, and alpine meadows and to woodland regions. They once populated a majority of the United States and Canada, but since European settlement, now live mostly in western North America's mountainous regions.

Solunar Calendar: According to a theory laid out by John Alden Knight in 1926, animal movement is affected by the position and fullness of the moon.  This theory was said to be used by hunters and fishermen long before Knight’s theory was published and is still widely accepted and adopted today.

Time of Year: Although slightly affected by elevation and latitude, peak rut season tends to fall near the first day of fall and runs through the first half of October. This is the best time of year to plan your hunt if you hope to take home a trophy bull. 

Time of Day: Elk, like many animals, are most active during the morning and evening hours. Middle of the day hunts may be effective during the rut, but if you are looking for the most activity, shoot for early morning and dusk. 

Temperature: Because elk are built to withstand extremely cold temperatures, later in the season is typically better hunting. During long hot days, elk will seek shelter from the heat in wooded areas or shaded hideouts. The heat also forces them to feed in the night or at dusk when it's cooler. 

Barometric Pressure: Similar to white-tails, elk can sense a change in the barometric pressure. Their activity increases when they sense an oncoming storm or cold front based on declining air pressure. 

General Weather Conditions: Elk are used to extreme and abrupt changes in weather, however, hunters may not be as prepared. One minute it's clear skies, and the next you are in the middle of a torrential downpour. If you want to increase your chances of getting that trophy elk, make sure you are prepared to stick it out through all types of weather.  

Wind: Wind should be one of the main factors you consider when hunting elk. While they're sense of sight and hearing is great, their sense of smell is even better. Cover scents won't do you much good when hunting these animals. Your best bet is to make sure to keep the wind in your face, to prevent your scent from spooking them.


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