What Time Do Elk Start Moving?

Location: Elk can be found in a range of environments, including forested areas, alpine meadows, and valleys in the desert. They used to dwell across most of the United States and Canada, but since European settlement, they have tended to concentrate in the mountainous areas of western North America.

Solunar Calendar: John Alden Knight postulated in 1926 that animal movement is influenced by the moon’s position and degree of fullness. Before Knight’s idea was published, it was rumored that hunters and fishers employed this theory, which is still extensively used today.

Peak rut season usually begins around the first day of fall and lasts until the first half of October, though elevation and latitude have a little impact.

If you want to bring home a trophy bull from your hunt, now is the finest time of year to do it.

Elk, like many other animals, are most active in the morning and the evening. During the rut, midday hunts might be successful, but if you want to see the most activity, aim for dawn and dark.

Temperature: Because elk can survive extremely cold temperatures, hunting is usually best later in the season. Elk will seek refuge from the heat in woodland areas or shaded hiding places on prolonged hot days. They are compelled by the heat to feed when it is cooler—at night or around twilight.

Elk, like white-tailed deer, are sensitive to changes in barometric pressure. When a storm or cold front is approaching, they become more active due to the lowering air pressure.

Elk are accustomed to sudden and drastic shifts in the weather, but hunters might not be as ready. You may be in the midst of a violent downpour one moment while the skies are clear the next. Make sure you’re ready to endure all types of weather if you want to improve your chances of snagging that prize elk.

Wind: When elk hunting, wind ought to be one of your primary considerations. They have excellent hearing and vision, but their sense of smell is superior. You won’t get much benefit from cover odours when pursuing these animals. To avoid having your scent frighten them, your best strategy is to keep the wind in your face.

Daytime hunting

Your aim should be to arrive at your hunting spot 15 to 30 minutes prior to the legal shooting time, well prepared. This implies that you must get up early enough to be ready for your day of hunting (or, better yet, prepare the night before), have breakfast, and get to your hunting location. When you get there, keep as quiet as you can. The majority of elk aren’t too bothered if they hear you drive in because they are used to the sound of vehicles. However, they will probably leave before you even realize they are there if they hear human voices or the sound of two legs stumbling through the woods carelessly in the dark.

If you’re not a morning person, try to change that. Otherwise, you’ll be giving up some of the best hunting opportunities available.

Extreme cold conditions

Elk adapt to the harsh conditions by going into survival mode. This often takes place from November to February after the rut. Elk will travel a great distance during this time of year to find the best, most nutritious food. Elk frequently move around in subfreezing weather while eating during the midday on exposed south-facing slopes or nearby agricultural fields. Set up blinds over food or on open, southern hills to focus your hunting on agricultural areas.


Elk will often leave their daytime bedding areas an hour or so before dusk and move to their nightly bedding, feeding, and watering locations during the rutting season. They will depart from this region between 30 and an hour after dawn and proceed to their daily sleeping quarters, arriving there usually between 9:30 and 10:00 a.m. Depending on the hunting area, this could be anywhere from a quarter of a mile to a couple of miles from feeding to bedding.

Even though they may get up to drink and browse, they usually re-bed close by. They will typically remain in that area throughout the day. They will then stand back up and continue this cycle. Pressure from predators and hunters may change their patterns.

Elk don’t have a huge problem with the moon, especially during the rut; the rut always wins. In my opinion, the times when the two coincide can be some of the greatest for elk hunting.

Elk may be more active at night during full moons since they can see so much better under a moonlit sky in fair weather, which may cause them to enter their bedding regions a little earlier on occasion. Elk typically remain active and are easily ignited by calling throughout the day if the Rut is in full stride. I want to be out there when the Full Moon and Rut coincide since it’s much simpler to find elk to shoot at these times.


According to my own experience, the best time for archery is mid-morning (9:00–11:00). Usually, I am on an elk early, but it takes some maneuvering to get a shot. I suppose I was more careful and it just took longer to close the deal early in my archery hunting career since I was most successful noon. Out of 20 or so elk I shot with a bow, just two were in the evening; I hunt in the evenings much more subtly and it shows.

A few bulls I saw on their feet during the day had to wait until late for them to rise up and present a shot, and I’ve killed a few 2 minutes into legal light with a rifle, but again, a vast majority mid-morning.

We rarely actively pursued elk the way I like to due to clients’ lack of fitness so we sat crossings and funnels much more; interestingly, during the years I guided, the majority of elk killed by clients were midday. I would guess that 80% of the elk we killed at that operation were between 11:00 and 3:00.

Final Season

Elk hunts often take place in November and December in areas with a late elk season. Elk are concentrating on foraging and preparing for winter at this time. When the weather is stable, they will transition from their bedding sites to feeding areas in the late afternoon before going back to their bedding locations in the early morning. These elk typically have a history of hunting pressure, therefore they will settle down miles away from their feeding grounds, frequently in remote locations far from highways and paths.

Elk migrate throughout the day?

Elk move, and their movements are influenced by the environment and hunting pressure. Elk don’t spend their nights lounging on day beds. Hunt during the day in lodgepole pine or Douglas fir second growth forests. Look for elk to bed high on north slopes in warm weather where there is plenty of forest but the breezes keep the flies at bay.

In the morning, do elk move up or down?

Elk generally travel up in the morning and down in the evening, according to several people I’ve heard on podcasts, elk101, and other platforms. This is usually related to thermals, in my opinion.

Do high alpine basins have this phenomenon? In my limited observational experience, I have observed elk moving up to the open, tall grass in the evening, night, and morning to feed, and then moving down the mountain near timber in the morning to sleep.

This year, I’ll be hunting in South Central Montana’s high elevation wilderness, and I’m attempting to figure out my hunting strategy and what to look for.

I want to call my elk, but when should I start?

The time of year when all the elk have finished breeding and mating is one of the greatest times of the year to use elk calls. This time of year may put a lot of pressure on them, so they might not respond loud and clear. However, they are still still animals, so authentic-sounding Elk vocalizations will still be effective. In the woods, it is impossible to tell our Elk Reel apart. To our ears, it sounds exactly like the actual thing. Any animals under stress will mistake it for the real thing.

A competent caller who understands elk language can and will lure in animals around the end of September, even if they arrive softly.

The most difficult animals to trick at this time of year will be the cows. The oldest and most seasoned animals tend to be cow elk. These elk are older and have endured at least 12 hunting seasons. It’s important to call softly and with accuracy. This precision might make September’s end spectacular. It’s certainly the ideal moment to use an elk reel to call elk.

Elk are able to remain in one place?

Elk are nocturnal creatures, therefore a bull’s “day” will start in the late afternoon. He will get out of his bed in the dense wood, frequently on a hill to the north. He will slowly make his way through the woods as dusk falls, feeding along the way. The bull will often stay in the shadows while the sun is still up as he makes his way to a drinking well or his preferred meadow to graze for the night.

Bull elk may drink from a seep in a distant canyon, a muddy puddle made by recent rain, streams, rivers, lakes, or water tanks set up for domestic cattle, depending on availability and perceived threat.

Elk will feed and interact with one another all through the night, either remaining in the same meadow all night or lazily moving to another meadow if the whim strikes.

Bull elk will begin moving toward a bedding place as the night transforms into day and the sun rises over the mountain tops, maybe stopping along the way for water. Bull elk frequently select the same general place to nap during the day when not disturbed by hunting pressure or other circumstances.

Up until the rut, both bull and cow elk typically exhibit the behaviors indicated below. The rut has a huge impact on habit change, as we’ll see in the following section.

Elk do they move when it snows?

Elk will relocate to regions with less snow for better access to food after snow depths reach the 15 to 18 inch range, according to CPW Biologist Brian Dreher. But if they have to navigate a maze of hunters, they might remain a little bit longer.

Elk hide where?

Elk that are scared don’t possess a magical hiding place. They will leave the meadows where they have been eating all night and enter the forest before dawn. As hunters intrude on their formerly safe havens, they may run for miles through the forest, halting sometimes.

The length of the elk rut.

Elk enter their reproductive season, or rut, each fall, sometimes as early as August 15. The peak of the rut usually occurs around the middle of the month of September, and it lasts for approximately a month. Bull elk have been heard giving voice as late as mid-October when the rut occasionally lasts into October. Elk experience an enduring phenomenon in September that makes people’s hearts beat faster. People can observe the elk mating season in full swing in September, especially along the Madison River. Every year, some of the most talented photographers in the world congregate here to capture countless images of mature bull elk and their harems. In September, a lot of the pictures you see in magazines were taken along the Madison.