Chasing bulls with a bow is often considered the pinnacle of big game hunting in North America — and for good reason. Tagging an elk with archery tackle is a tough task.

Especially if you’ve never hunted the species before and live outside of an elk state, just getting started can be a challenge — but one that’s absolutely worthwhile. These are the biggest struggles you’ll face in the sport.

Learning Curve

If you’ve spent the bulk of your bowhunting career sitting in a deer stand, spotting and stalking elk could come with a steep learning curve. It demands different skills and understanding to be successful in the backcountry than the back 40. Bugling, locating bulls — it all takes time and experience to master.

Physical Demands

Toughing out single digits 20 feet up requires a certain type of toughness, but elk hunting takes a different toughness altogether. Logging many miles each day, adjusting to high altitude, dealing with different terrain, and climbing steep mountain sides will all be physically taxing. Months of conditioning beforehand are critical.

Big Investment

Like all hunting endeavors, bowhunting elk can be expensive — both in terms of time and money. You’ll likely log lots of hours preparing then more when the season rolls around — and even then, it’s not a slam dunk.

You’ll also have to invest in some different gear than what you would wear in the whitetail woods. Rubber boots and big, bulky layers won’t cut it while you’re hoofing it up the mountain. You might have to crank up your draw weight and buy new broadheads too. And don’t forget the cost of those non-resident tags.

Accessibility & Tag Availability

While there are still some opportunities for out-of-staters to purchase over-the-counter tags and hunt public land in some states, it’s generally tough, crowded, and expensive to do so. It can still be done, but many bowhunters opt for an outfitted elk hunt for these reasons.

Closing the Gap

Locating a bull can be a challenge, but getting within bow range and making a good shot on the ground is even more difficult. With the excitement of bugles and seeing just how big these animals are on the hoof, it will be tough to keep your cool and play it smart.