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The Difference Between Deer and Elk Hunting

by Nomad Outdoor August 25, 2017

Despite the close kinship of deer and elk, both species represent very different challenges to the NOMADs who hunt them. Most experienced hunters and guides would agree that deer can be an easier quarry to pursue, but if you learn to embrace the ways in which these species differ and apply the skills you’ve learned hunting deer, you’ll have a much better chance of bagging a big bull. In this article, we’ll cover the difference between deer and elk hunting so you can have the edge over whichever game you choose to pursue.

Habitats and Gear

Elk hunting usually takes place in the Rocky Mountains. The terrain can be very challenging. You’ll often be several thousand feet above sea level while you pursue your quarry. Most guides will recommend that you get yourself in great physical condition before heading out west. It’s also a good idea to give yourself a few days to acclimate to the altitude before scheduling your first elk hunt.

It’s important to understand the difference between deer and elk hunting so you can ensure you’re using the right equipment. Your rifle or bow of choice is a given, but you’ll also need high-quality optics to help find the herds, especially when seeking elk in rugged terrain. When hunting either species, you’ll want to be sure you’re wearing the finest hunting gear available to keep you quiet, camouflaged and comfortable while stalking your prey.

Deer Vs Elk Hunting Strategies & Tactics

Because deer and elk have important biological and behavioral differences, you’ll need to use a different approach when hunting one or the other. For example, deer tend to be browsers, while elk tend to graze. This means that you’ll usually hunt deer in forests or along edge habitats, but elk are more likely to be in open woodlands and meadows. Additionally, while deer range over a square mile or two, elk inhabit vast areas that can cover 500 square miles or more. Elk also tend to travel in vast herds, sometimes comprised of several hundred individuals, while deer rarely form such large aggregations.

The bottom line? While you can scoot up a tree and wait for a deer to come to you, especially whitetails, elk hunting usually entails trekking miles over rough terrain in search of your prey.

Searching for Signs and Scanning the Scene

Hunting deer can provide a solid basis for the scouting skills required to track down a herd of elk. It is still important to look for things like tracks and droppings, but remember that the tracks you’re after are much larger and rounded than the pointed tracks left by deer. The scat of both animals is similar in shape, but elk pellets are roughly twice the size of deer pellets.

Once you find a sign or two suggesting that elk are in the area, you’ll need to find a good vantage point where you can glass large plots of land quickly and efficiently. When you spot a herd, the next step is to devise a plan for getting within range of your rifle or bow.

It is very important to keep the wind in your face, which will often require you to circle around the herd. Elk tend to rely on their nose more than their ears. Scent-masking gear is crucial here in the windy, open country. Thermals can often swirl and change during the day. Additionally, you’ll usually be approaching elk from a greater distance, so the wind can help cover your sounds better.

Elk Meat Vs Deer Meat

Many hunters are drawn to the sport of elk hunting because of the animals’ great size or the challenging nature of their habitat, but others hunt for more pragmatic purposes—specifically, the freezer-stuffing quantities of delicious meat that elk can provide. Whereas you may harvest 30 to 60 pounds of boneless meat from a deer, you may need to purchase an extra freezer to accommodate the 100 to 300 pounds of edible meat provided by an elk.

Although taste is obviously subjective, most wild game aficionados agree that elk is one of the best meats available to North American hunters. Elk meat is often compared to slightly sweet beef and is considered excellent table fare.

Get Well-Equipped for Any Hunt

Whether you’re hunting deer, elk, turkey or some other game, your gear is always a crucial element. Get every edge you can over your prey by equipping yourself with some of the best performance hunting apparel on the market. Shop the expansive Nomad collection today for high quality hunting jackets, camouflage clothing and more.

Nomad Outdoor
Nomad Outdoor

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