The art of elk calling is one that can be the quintessential turning point for a hunter's success rate with elk. There are many different techniques styles and methods of making elk calling an essential part of your tool kit while hunting. It starts with some of these basics.
Of the many different calling techniques, most hunters start with bugling. As an elk hunter - either new or old - you should have a bugle. However, do you know how to use it properly?
It used to be that bugling was the ideal way to bring elk close to you. A bugle would indicate to a bull that another bull was coming into the herd and would thus go to encounter the other bull and fight off the intruder, opening itself up to a shot by the hunter.
Because every hunter under the sun owns a bugle now, the bulls have grown used to the sound and have started to ignore it more often, especially when the air is thick with bugle and cow calling in August and September when archery season opens up.
After the second week of September though, when other bulls start to actively bugle themselves, your bugle calls will be much more effective. After dark is a particularly good time to seek spreading herds and use your bugle call to draw out the bulls.
Using the Bugle
First, find a good point, high above the herd with plenty of viewing space. Here, you will be able to use your bugle to make a series of long and high pitched tones that simulate the call of a bull bugling to a herd of fellow elk.
Most often, this sound means nothing more than a casual hello from the bull to the herd. They are very social animals and communicate with each other often - this is also a survival instinct, allowing them to stay together and converse.
You will most often get a response from an active bull in the early morning and late afternoon hours right up until the sun sets and when the weather is cool, the bugling might last all day long. The bugle itself can mean any number of things beyond a basic hello though - from an aggressive call to fellow bulls to a mating call or a simple warning to move on.
Your call will usually bring a bull out because they are curious to find what has come to them. Ultimately, do not be too aggressive - just make sure the herd knows you are there. If you find a herd where a bull has been fighting or pushing around all day, he will likely not respond, but will simply push around in his own herd.
If you see a bull is looking for your call though, continue sounding it until it seeks you out. This is the bull you will want to continue watching and seek out. He has probably recently lost his cows and is looking for a fight.
Afterward, you might need a cow call to slow or stop the bull to take your shot. This is rare, but will occasionally happen. If he is large and looks angry, tone back your call a slight bit so that the bull thinks he can easily defeat you and will continue coming. Use the cow call softly to make the bull think you have something to come and take and he will get that much closer, opening up a good shot many times.
When you learn to use your elk bugle properly, you set yourself up to be much more successful in your hunts. It allows you to better understand how the bull thinks and what you can do to manipulate those thoughts. Use your bugle, watch your herd, and make the necessary adjustments to master your new skill.
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