On Wounded Bulls
If you do happen to make a bad hit on a bull, don’t toss in the towel. What you’ve heard and read is correct: A wounded elk is more of a challenge than a wounded pronghorn or whitetail. Elk are super tough and resilient. The last thing you want to do is bump a wounded elk.
Instead of circling or moving to the next chunk of available habitat, elk often flat-out leave the country when bumped. Their vast wilderness home, combined with rugged terrain, equates to unlimited hiding spots and poor trailing opportunities. Gut-shot elk are often never found after being bumped.
If you have a questionable hit on a bull, don’t leave the scene of the hit without a bit of detective work. First, recreate the shot and try to recall where the arrow hit and how the animal reacted. Next, move to where the animal stood and try to find blood and your arrow, but don’t follow up on the bloodtrail immediately. Mark the location you shot from and the location of the animal when it was shot before you forget, especially in a thick forest.
Unless you are 100-percent sure of your hit, wait. Even if you believe the hit was solid, it’s best to wait at least a half-hour. If you think your hit was anywhere but in the vitals, you’re in for a long wait. Experts argue that you should wait a minimum of two to four hours on a gut-shot elk. I’d wait longer, but conditions will dictate your wait. If you’re bowhunting in hot weather, try to wait at least four hours before following up. If it’s cool or downright cold, wait as long as seven hours to allow the animal to die or become too sick to flee.
Keep an eye on your waiting time and your temperature. Meat can spoil in two to four hours after an elk expires in warm weather, but it takes longer in cooler temperatures. Take your time and use common sense to turn a questionable hit into a great recovery.