Decoying Elk in Barren Country

The wide-open terrain found in some elk country is a blessing and a curse. You can spot elk easily, but getting close enough for a shot is tough, especially when a bull elk stays close to his harem during the early season.

The Situation

There are a lot of eyes to fool. An elk decoy can help shield your movements as you stalk amidst a bull and his harem. It will also give the impression that a rogue cow is available to join the harem.

“Some big bulls live in areas that are shunned by other hunters because it looks like typical antelope country instead of ideal elk habitat. But the elk are there, and with the lack of cover our Montana Decoys play a key role in our success on these hunts.” — Trevon Stoltzfus, Outback Outdoors

The Set Up

In the morning, get to a vantage point and start scanning a badland tract for herds of pre-rut elk. Once you spot a viable target, plan the stalk using any available terrain features to your advantage. Open Eichler Elk and assemble the decoy stakes.

Start making your way toward the herd with the decoy in front of you. When you get within earshot of the bull and his group of cows, stake the decoy into the ground or hang it from a tree limb. If hunting with a buddy, have him or her man the decoy. While you slip ahead 20 yards to hide in any cover you can find. Once in a shooting position, start calling and wait for the bull to come corral what he thinks is another lady into his harem.

Hunting Tips

Don’t be afraid to move quickly. When bulls are focused on cows, you may find better success moving aggressively with a decoy in short bursts versus walking on eggshells. Use a “lost mew”call to get the bull’s attention. If he needs further convincing, a bull grunt can give the perception that there is competition in the area.

Elk may move several miles each morning during the rut. They prefer moving in an uphill direction with the cool descending thermals in their face. It’s best to approach a herd from the side or rear. Never try to get in front of them, as they will likely smell you and be gone with the wind. For obvious safety reasons, use this tactic during archery-only seasons.

Featured Decoy

Eichler Elk sets up fast in any terrain thanks to both a string-and-clip hanging system and a stakes. Measuring 47” x 30”, the decoy makes for an excellent shield when covering open ground. The head-on pose gives the bull a realistic view as you close the distance in a hurry.


This an excerpt taken from Montana Decoy's Big Game Decoy Guide book. The book includes set-up scenarios that are paired with hunting tips and recommended decoys for each hunting situation.

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