A couple years ago I started hunting Elk here in Colorado. My wife Leesa and I started by spending as much time in the backcountry as we could. We did not know what we were looking for but slowly started to find game trails and even spot elk, deer and a couple bear. One of the greatest things (in my opinion) about scouting is wandering around the mountain and seeing the views from different peaks.
We spent 2 afternoons a week at the shooting range shooting a box of bullets each day. 200-yard shots were getting very easy and our groupings were all in about the size of coffee cup by the end of that summer. Purchasing a bipod immensely helped our groupings.
The first season after walking 2 miles up a steep incline and arriving at first light, I see a group of elk just starting to walk back in the trees. While scurrying over to a large rock to lay my rifle on I notice the elk had stopped and were looking at me.
I leaned over put the crosshairs on a cow, breathed out, squeezed the trigger and missed. They were still standing there looking at me. Once again I aimed the rifle and shot. MISSED AGAIN!! How did I do that, by the time I chambered another round they were gone. I spent the entire day walking the area looking for blood or an animal but never found any sign that I hit it.
The next morning I head over to a friends house he takes me to a spot he has seen sign lately. Its about 3 miles back up a steep draw. Once again we get there at first light and sit behind a pile of trees. 30 minutes of waiting and a group of elk start walking towards us. They stop about 90 yards away from us. Remembering my misses from yesterday I take a lot of time, put the crosshairs on the cow, breath out slowly and squeeze the trigger. This time I did not miss and we were able to harvest my first elk. I was very lucky my friend Mark was there to show me the correct way of quartering and elk.
He was very careful keeping the meat clean and getting every little bit of meat of the carcass as possible. This was invaluable to me; I probably would have not made the correct cuts and would have had a lot more burger and less roasts and steaks. I learned a lot of lessons that year, spend lots of time at the range, and scouting the area you want to hunt. If you can go with someone that knows how to prepare the elk after you shoot it and get in shape (scouting should help with this).
I wish I could turn the clock back and would have started hunting years ago, at least Leesa and I have started and we can thoroughly enjoy our time together on the mountain together.