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How To/Pro-Tips

Magnums For Elk

It may not take a magnum to kill an elk but I prefer "magnum" bullets. By that I mean the strong "premium" bullets with controlled expansion. A big bull elk is a tough test for a bullet and if you don't get a wound channel well into the vital area, a wounded elk is often the result.
Penetration is the issue. Controlled expansion bullets better harness the power of standard cartridges for good penetration and with the faster magnum cartridges, they prevent premature bullet blow-up.
Sectional density (SD) is the relationship of the bullet's weight to its length. "Long-for-their-weight" bullets penetrate better and that's critical on a big, tough animal such as an elk. I like a SD of at least .250 for elk and other large game.
Bullet makers tend to make their heavier bullets in a given caliber a bit tougher in the expectation that they will be used on bigger animals. Lighter bullets may have more velocity but you sacrifice both SD and bullet strength.

Late-Season Lessons

You can learn a lot while hunting late in the season. With the leaves off and much ground vegetation killed back, you can see your hunting area better than at any other time of the year. Take a good look at your whole hunting area. By more fully appreciating the lay of the land and the relationships of deer trails, cover and terrain features, you can make better stand site decisions for next year.

It is now much easier to spot a buck's sanctuary. The places you hunt him now will likely be much the same next year. You will also see what the favored late-season food sources are and where they are found. This is another good lesson for next season.

The most valuable overall lesson in late-season hunting requires that you have been paying attention (and hopefully taking notes) of how the deer in general and the bucks in particular have utilized different parts of their habitat over the whole season.

Big Game in Big Country

To successfully hunt elk, you have to expand your thinking. Elk range over big chunks of the western landscape. If you are used to stay-at-home whitetails, hunt "bigger." This means elk hunting usually involves much more walking over and glassing big country looking for elk or sign.
Taking a stand over smoking hot sign is not a bad idea. A fresh wallow serves the elk something like a scrape does a deer. However, the bull uses the wallow, usually spiced with his own urine, more as a dressing table than as an actual attraction to cows. He covers his neck and shoulders with aromatic mud so as better to romance any cow he comes across.
Trails can be hotspots. Elk are more oriented to established trails due to the rugged nature of most elk country. There are only so many good places to walk. To up your odds, look for convergence points where several trails come together to get through a particularly nasty piece of real estate.

Elk Rifles

Elk are big animals and logic seems to say "Big game; big gun." However, before rushing out to buy a new magnum rifle, stop and think. "New" and "magnum" create a new shooting situation.
The new rifle (and, likely, new scope) will usually handle and perform a bit differently than your current hunting rig. You need to take the time to get used to it.
Magnum calibers produce more power and usually a flatter trajectory. However, if you don't take the time to get used to the increased recoil and muzzle blast of the magnum, your shooting ability will suffer. This means not only that you can't take advantage of the magnum's extra range, but also you will shoot poorly at shorter range.
Most outfitters and guides say they would rather have a hunter use a lesser caliber that he can shoot well than a magnum that he can't. Calibers such as the .270, .280, .308 and .30-06, with proper bullets, are entirely elk-adequate at reasonable ranges.

Tune Up Time for Rover

After laying around all summer, both you and your retriever are likely a bit out of shape and out of sync. The retrieving breeds are easily trained and often actually get bored if you don't keep them interested. This leads to bad behaviors such as digging and chewing stuff up.
Though there is no substitute for good training, the best retriever work is a result of a strong bond between man and dog. Once this is achieved, your dog will "read" you and work almost on instinct to do what you want.
Your commands should be consistent and so should your attitude and body language. The same word, said the same way, every time is fundamental to successful man/dog communication. Discipline to correct a problem, not to vent your frustration.
A refresher course on commands, both basic and advanced, is the best way to tone up both your retriever and your relationship with a hard-working dog. Keep the first sessions short until you both get in shape.

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