During this time of year, the elk haven’t been harassed or chased by hunters. They’re not yet loaded with testosterone, nor have they gone to war with the trees. However, their necks are swelling. All year they’ve been looking forward to breeding season, and now that the time of year has arrived, they can’t get any dates. This month-long period is the best time of year to take an elk, even though the elk aren’t as vocal as they are during the rut or the second rut. Elk don’t tell you they’re coming to you by bugling or posturing during the pre-rut, like they do while the rut is taking place to let you know they’re ready to whip you. But they’ll come in to take a good look at you, if they hear you calling. However, this hunt also can be very frustrating, because you can call and call and not see or hear anything. Then when you stand up to leave, you may spook a bull that’s only 30-yards away. Most muzzleloader hunters are amazed that a 1,000-pound animal can sneak-up to within 30 yards of you without you ever knowing he’s there. But this scenario happens many times when you’re hunting the pre-rut. To take a bull before he sees or smells you, set-up on his trail. The bull has to come from a certain direction to take a look at you, so by setting-up on his trail, you’ll dramatically increase your odds for success.