Elk Hunters checklist

elk hunters checklist bull elk bowhunting

Hunt Planner Checklist: A How To Guide For 1st Time Elk Hunters

So you made the decision to take the plunge into western hunting?  Congratulations and welcome to the family.  Western hunting has turned into the one aspect of my life that drives everyday decisions.  It is my dedication, and I supply ample amounts of attitude and effort!  Early in my transition from midwest whitetail & turkey to western big game I came to the realization that the information available on the internet was information overload for me and it wasn’t structured in a format I could digest.  My brain needs structure.  I need an end goal, and work backward to figure out the steps I need to complete  to achieve that goal.  For my first trip out west, I sat down with a legal pad and did just that created a checklist.  Overtime I have cleaned it up and streamlined it for me.  

Bugle, Bark, and Chuckle this to your buddies!

Elk Hunters Checklist – Overview

However for this, I went back and looked at my original notes (yes hoarder alert) and created the checklist in excel for 1st time western hunters to use.  I figure I can’t be the only one that needs this structure and if it helps just one person. Then it is worth pounding out this post.  Keep in mind, this is all based off my experiences and those may be different from someone else.  We are all different so use this as a guide and adjust to your abilities/desire/time.  With that being said, I hope you get some value out of the Hunt Planner Checklist: A How To Guide For 1st Time Elk Hunters.

 This hunt planner is setup to be an easy to use guide for the first time elk hunter who will be hunting public lands with an OTC (Over The Counter) tag.  To keep this guide simple, I have broken it down to 5 Pillars of a successful archery elk hunt.  This guide will give you a checklist of items each month leading up to the magical month of September. That will ultimately place you in the mountains during the elk rut prepared to be successful.  With that being said, let’s jump right into the 5 Pillars.

Elk Hunters Checklist – Pillars Of A Successful Archery Elk Hunt

1.  Knowledge

2.  Archery/Calling Proficient

3.  Physical & Mental Preparedness

4.  Fiscal Preparedness

5.  Gear


This is key to a successful elk hunt. This is the biggest reason successful hunters consistently fill tags and unsuccessful hunters do not.  There are keys to elk behaviors that you need to understand to be successful.  The first time you step on the mountiain the landscape is going to seem overwhelming. Take deep breath and rely on the preparation you did during the year leading up to the hunt.

Archery / Calling Proficient

If you want the best experience possible on your first trip to the mountains chasing elk in September. You have to be proficient with your archery tools and the ability to call.  The calling aspect may seem a bit overwhelming at first, but you will get the hang of it.  Keep practicing your bugles and it will get better.  If it has been a couple of months since you picked up your bow now is the time.  Start shooting, it doesn’t have to be every day, but shoot 3 days every week working on the fundamentals.

Physical & Mental Preparedness

If you are anything like me, the period of time between Thanksgiving and Christmas always adds a few pounds to my midsection.  Now is the time to take an honest assessment of where you are physically. Develop a plan to get you mountain ready.  You don’t have to be a cross fitter to hunt elk, but you need some general physical & mental fitness. 

Fiscal Preparedness

This is the number one priority.  Developing a budget and understanding how much money you need to save each week to be prepared for a western hunting trip.  The more time and energy you spend on this the section. The smoother this trip will feel for you and for your home life.  

The last thing we want anyone to do is to return from a hunt you worked for all year and spend the next 3 months fretting over paying off the credit card debt.  DO NOT GO INTO DEBT for this.  Save a little each week and pay cash.  Use the included Hunt Planner Budget file to aid in budgeting.  It will give you a solid target for the amount of money you need to save.  Just fill out the cells highlighted in yellow and the file will return the amount you need to save in total and per week at the top.

Now that you have this number, START SAVING.


January is the month to take an inventory of what items you will truly need to safely and successfully take on the mountains in September.  While companies and Instagram celebrities may say otherwise you can hunt the mountains without the latest and greatest camo / backpacks etc.  We will cut through the fog to help you understand what you need, and what are wants.

Downloads are below the line, feel free to use as you see fit.  If you have suggestions for improvements or if you have questions or need help with the budget file drop me an email.


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