View Full Version : Bowhunting elk, call or not call?

06-05-2011, 07:04 PM
When you are going after the big herd bull with all the cows do you call or do you just stay quiet and try to stalk in close? Want to hear your thoughts.

06-05-2011, 08:13 PM
I killed the herd bull on my NM hunt by sneaking in and cutting them off as they headed into the thick stuff. No way in hell was I going to try to call at him and try to pull him away from his 30 cows... let alone tell them to keep an eye out in my direction. I hunted at the end of September and never blew a single call the entire trip, except for a bugle or two at night just to listen to them.

06-05-2011, 08:29 PM
Both methods will work in the right situation.

A more experienced caller would be better off calling and getting the bull to commit, most situations I have been in the herd bull is more likely to round up the cows and make a run for it.

I prefer going in silent, because I am less likely to mess things up.

06-06-2011, 06:33 AM
There are times when calling is the key to "seal the deal" But, timing is everything! We must be patient & have the right terrain & cover as well as the wind in our favor! Calling from openings or elk in the larger openings will result in hung-up bulls, this can be avoided & should be at all costs! Our #-1 way to call herd bulls to us is "Calling His Cows Away" Here's what we do & why!

When referring to "Calling A Bulls Cows" away from him, many think 1st off that cow sounds are being used by us? Now yes, there are occasions for this & it can work well in the right situation & with the right sound selection! But to use cow sounds no matter what & regardless of the situation will result in many Herd Bull Hang-ups, plus I'm not really wanting cows or young bulls to show first & screw things up! For best results you must be a good reader of an encounter & adapt to it. When referring to Calling His Cows away in an actual close encounter hunting situation we as hunters are looking at getting to the Herd Bull & bringing him our way, this is done in a way that will put the odds well into your favor & not the Bulls Favor in getting him close! This is best done by luring him over to us & NOT any other part of his harem first!!! So basically we are presenting ourselves as a THREAT to him or his harem. This is what will get him to "React" to the situation we are presenting before him! Why does this work? How should it be done to guarantee us the best possible odds & not the bull getting the advantage? This is where understanding why elk do the things they do especially speaking of pre-rut & peak-rut times!

During Pre-Rut especially, it is very common to see multiple bulls with the cow groups & all are getting along just fine & roaming the country-side together, this can also apply during certain Peak Rut times when there are no cows in or nearing estrus. These bulls are familiar with one another & have been sharing various bachelor groups together throughout the Summer. They know one another by Sound, Sight or Smell but every once in a while a "New Guy" will show out of nowhere, he can be welcomed or tolerated with, no big deal. These bulls have gotten their Pecking Orders down in Aug. as they were in these groups Displaying for one another in the form of bugling & rubbing velvet off their antlers, this is all a ritual done every year in prep of both pre-rut & peak-rut times. Any of these "New Guys" that show up most likely will be investigated fairly quickly & identified for future rutting times & where they may fall in the pecking order or scheme of things!

As the Cows start showing signs of Estrus the more dominant bulls that are around are the ones that will secure these cow groups, it is very common for more mature or more dominant bulls to come in & take over a group of cows by simply challenging the "present" herd bull & pushing him out. This can leave many bulls out there without cows, it all depends on an area being hunted & the bull to cow ratio in a given unit. The more bulls the more the competition. Only so many of the bulls can be the Herd Bull, so what about all these other bulls? Some are Juvenile bulls & some depending on the area hunted could be some darned good bulls or Herd Bulls anywhere else! Fact is they still want cows! These bigger more mature bulls can confront a Herd Bull at anytime in a challenging situation, it's more present however as cows are nearing Estrus as this really raises the ante.

So here you have many Bulls that are without cows but desire them! The younger Juvenile/Satellite bulls in the 2X3 to 6X6 range were part of these groups & getting along just fine even though they feel the urges of the rut coming on which hence puts their interest where they're at. As cows show signs of Estrus & nearing ready to be bred these Herd/Dominant Bulls will start pushing these smaller bulls out of the harem or keeping other bulls out that were nearby & now showing personal interest in this or that group because of the hot cows. Many of these younger bulls are confused & don't understand why they cannot be present in the group any longer, after all they too have these same "urges" as the herd bulls do? Their testosterone levels have been escalating ever since there antlers started to re-grow & rubbed the velvet off & polished them up! Now it's really starting to peak & are flat out attracted to the cows, they too want too smell & be near them but the herd bull doesn't allow it! These now Satellite or subordinate bulls will do their best to roar or bugle out at a distance from these big & small herds in hopes of cows wanting to come on over & check them out for breeding considerations. It's the cows who choose the bulls that will breed them not the bulls picking the cows.

Many youngsters are slow learners & keep trying to come back to these herds but every time they get near they get intimidated or physically pushed out by the Herd Bull! After enough consistent butt whippings or being charged at they start getting the message, it's a learning process all Juvenile & Subordinate bulls go through. But they still want Cows!!!!

So what do they resort too, to attract cows to come to them or to come their way? They call to them!!! Yes, they do their best to call cows away from the Herd Bull as they Yearn for a piece of the action. This is done in several ways depending on the phase of the rut & cows in estrus. They know they cannot whip the herd bull so they now fear or respect this, but they can stay away from him at just the right distance which they're now learning is in the 100yd range or more where they can call at the cows in the form of Bugling or Roaring & not be charged at. These subordinate bulls may really mix up their sounds as they get demanding or want to send an urgent message to receive some consideration from any cow at all that will listen. Guess what? Some cows do come their way but it is not very often, in most cases these subordinate bulls must get extremely brave & try to slip in quietly & steal cows, once in close they can get overly excited as they can see or smell cows & use subtle sounds to attract cows their way quickly. Such sounds can stem from raking a tree or brush to display for these cows, or pant several times in a low volume fashion, some will use glunking, some will issue forth a short scream & low chuckling, some 2-3 cow mews & a short scream & go running at the cows in hopes of sweeping a few out of there. Any of these sounds can be mixed & matched during any encounter as this depends on the intruders excitement level. At any rate these bulls know they must act fast in order to stay out of harms way!

So as hunters when we get into encounters with Herd Bulls with cows & slipping in silently will not work for whatever reason then our next best bet is to do our best to represent a satellite bull doing his darnedest in calling a herd bulls cows away! If we do this too far out or outside a 125 yds or so our odds of success will drop as the Herd Bull will issue forth a warning but generally isn't forced to take immediate action because we are outside his comfort zone & not a true threat, we are tolerated! But get inside that 100yd realm & closer depending on the wind & good cover so we are not spotted & start calling at his cows aggressively with these sounds I described & all hell can breakout! Now you are a THREAT! This can & in most cases will get the Herd Bull to see RED & he will "react to the situation"-----Same applies if we got between a bull & his cows, no matter the circumstance, as long as you are close & the wind is in your favor with that good cover you can now confidently & effectively attempt to call a bulls cows away, the herd bull will not like it at all & he doesn't want any of them leaving him & come your way so he comes straight at the intruder to force him out of the area! This happens to the herd bull all the time so it's nothing unusual for him to deal with. Represent this Satellite bull in a believable manner & you too will have many golden opportunities at the herd bull through calling & more importantly through the use of bull sounds!

Practice these methods at home, watch elk videos or the outdoor channel & see these actual sounds being used by the elk themselves as they sound off coming to a hunters cow calling & all the other things talked about here. A bulls sounds do not change if he's calling a lone cow his way or he's trying to call cows away from a herd bull, it's all the same to them!

And yes, challenging the Herd Bull is another "option"--this is a different sound used though by bulls, in essence you are questioning a real bulls dominance & his right to keep & breed the cows he has! I've used both many times but find Calling His Cows Away to be absolutely deadly!!!


06-06-2011, 08:09 AM
Well said Paul!!

Bitterroot Bulls
06-06-2011, 08:20 AM

That was a great post. My hunting partners and I also utilize the technique of imitating a satellite bull trying to steal a cow. Sometimes you can mix in some cow calls, and the big guy will come running because he thinks you already have one of his ladies.

06-06-2011, 03:51 PM
Elknut, that was some great info, wow. I'm assuming you run the elknut.com website?

06-06-2011, 05:29 PM
Guys, Thank You!

NDHunter, yes sir, I am Paul the ElkNut guy. (grin) Thanks, glad you enjoyed the info!

Bitterroot Bulls, yes, we incorporate what I've used & called "The Threat" for years! It's the next level up when calling a herd bulls cows & he's a bit shy of committing. We always employ a threatening situation to either the bull himself or calling his cows from him, getting him to react is the key as you well know! This only works when under that 100yd realm! If a guy is hunting un-pressured elk things can apply a bit differently! Thanks & come on Sept!! (grin)


Bitterroot Bulls
06-06-2011, 05:43 PM
If a guy is hunting un-pressured elk things can apply a bit differently!

Un-pressured elk?

Please disclose where you have found such mythical beasts!

I don't think they exist, at least not in MT.


Thanks again, Paul! Really great info.

06-06-2011, 10:26 PM
sounds pretty good guys I myself perfer to never call to the herd bull I find it to be more rewarding to just stalk in being unheard and unseen by all those eyes and ears trying to detect danger I have found that 90% of the time that you try to call to a herd bull he will round up his cows and leave I'm not saying that it doesn't work I'm just saying from experience 9 out of 10 times it will not work to your advantage my family and I have killed alot of big bulls over the years and none have been taking by using a calling sequence we like to think of it as if you were a sniper in the millitary would you want to call out to the enemy letting them know your exact location or would it be better to move in silently and take them by suprise call me crazy but deep down you know it makes sense thats just my spin on it.

06-07-2011, 07:10 AM
Like Paul said, the aggressive approach can work....in the right situtation. Every time it has worked for us, we have been right inside that 100 yard "comfort zone". If we were too far out, bull packs up his cows and moves on.

If it works, it is one of the most exciting hunting experiences you will ever have!

Best of Luck,

06-07-2011, 07:12 AM
Ha Ha, I hear ya Bitterroot! There are a few good holes here & there where we've stumbled on these type of elk, we call them dumb elk! (grin) They are very cooperative! Unfortunately they are far & few in-between!

Steve, stay with what works Sir! But I will say in the defense of calling that it does work, Timing & use of sounds is very crucial as many of these OTC herd bulls have been around the block once or twice! (grin) The classic bugling & cow calling will not get it done, 90% of those will end up in hang-ups or turn bulls into runners if not handled correctly or understood.

95% of the elk we take (over 65 herd bulls) are via calling! They may start out as Spot or Call & Stalk but end up that some sort of aggressive calling is needed to seal the deal. Yes, we hunt all OTC & heavily hunted zones, the success rate for a bull here is under 6% with last year sporting over 6000 hunters in our unit not to mention the wolves! We have pressure but calling is still the #-1 source of our success! This is why I would recommend it to those who wish to go that route. It takes a lot of work to master this art, it's no accident to consistently call in herd bulls or satellites. This doesn't mean you have to be the worlds best caller or have to know how to make tons of sounds, but more importantly you must understand what sounds you are using/saying & what the elk are saying?

This is where hunters go wrong! Most do not know the differences between classic location bugles or a lip bawl bugle or a round up bugle or a calling cows away from another bull bugle or a re-gathering bugle, not to mention selective cow sounds, etc. Recognize these different sounds & it will open up a whole new outlook on how you approach elk hunting! Not saying we shouldn't Spot & Stalk but consider other successful avenues to avoid being one dimensional when the stalk starts to go sour! Be very versatile is key! (grin)

Knowing when & where to call is equally as important! Good Luck elk seasons getting close! (grin)


06-07-2011, 07:19 AM
In all that I have watched on TV, Videos, DVD's or the actual real thing, I have never seen a mature herd bull round his cows up and leave because a real bull was calling close to him. I think alot has to do with how authentic you sound in your calling. If we can tell it is another hunter I am sure they can too. After reading Pauls Playlist book, we tried one of his tactics. A cow had busted us but the rest of the herd had not seen us, we ran at the herd to scatter the cows. While running in we gave a few threatening screams, the herd bull thought we were another bull coming to steal his cows, and was on top of us in no time. Just wish the season had not ended the week before, don't know if I would have been able to get a shot off any how the way I was shaking. Do yourself a favor and get the Elk Nuts Playlist. I guarantee you will call in more bulls and have more fun.

06-07-2011, 02:40 PM
NDHunter, yes sir, I am Paul the ElkNut guy. (grin) Thanks, glad you enjoyed the info!


Elknut, on a different forum, I saw a very positive review of the books and dvd's that you have on your site and so I figured that must be you. Thanks for all the info that you and everyone else has shared. I have learned a lot on this thread. And I will be definitely be ordering some items off of your website!..

06-10-2011, 12:19 AM
Here in the jungles of North Idaho I gotta use elk calls to get them in close. Closing the gap on the herd bull and cows once they are bedded and then challenging him with an up close and personal bugle works great. Also if you can pressure the bull long enough with bugling and "dogging" behind the herd, often times he may turn and fight. Of course, you must play the game carefully or they will bust you.

06-26-2011, 08:16 PM
I've got a takeoff question from this topic. This fall, I'll be hunting CO for the first time. I'm from MI and my only western exposure is from TV. (Thanks Eastmans TV and .com for your quality productions) I bought a bugle and cow call and I'm kind of scared to find out what a real elk thinks of me. My dog loves it...or hates it. I'm really not sure what all of his howling means. So, I'm actually wondering if I decide to call to a bull, how likely am I to attract additional hunters to "my bull"? Has this ever happened to any of you?

06-27-2011, 08:26 AM
Well, yes and no. When you do call a bull and he answers...it wont take long for you to figure out if he is coming in or not.(bugles get closer to you will noise of him coming or they stay ..or go away).
Elk are big animals so they are not always too quiet when they move through the woods. You will soon either close the distance on him yourself and start to see him, or you wont see him.
I have heard other hunters in camp at night but not ever run into them on the hills.
Rull of thumb, dont go up a trail that already has a truck parked there when you arrive! Good chance the "bull" that calls back to you is going to be the real deal.

Bitterroot Bulls
06-27-2011, 11:09 AM
I've called in a bunch of hunters, and been called in a few times to boot, even way back in the backcountry.

06-27-2011, 09:48 PM
great thread, very informative as I have never called in an elk it is very intriguing, I can call coyotes in but This year is the first year to have an elk tag with my name on it

06-29-2011, 09:41 PM
ElkNut, the playbook is a must read. I got mine for fathersday and have all but finished it. Now I need the sounds of elk and some more calls Im hooked. Thanks
(guys this is the real deal)

07-06-2011, 07:07 PM
Walleyed, thanks for the feedback, yes it's a Book that will be giving many an elk a dirt nap! (grin) Thanks!


07-06-2011, 09:40 PM
I ordered my copy of the audiobooks today. Plan on throwing that on the MP3 player and hearing elk bugle while I get my run on in the mornings, looking forward to that. I also ran across this link today: http://bowsite.com/BOWSITE/features/articles/elk/fieldjudging/ , which it looks like ElkNut was affiliated with. Good stuff.

07-07-2011, 03:25 PM
May the THREAT and DIRT NAP be with you..............(Grin) as Paul would say!

07-08-2011, 06:51 PM
Just ordered Elknuts audio/DVD set and the xtr lil chuckler can't wait to start practicing and give a big new mexico bull a dirt nap this fall