Becoming proficient at fooling bulls isn’t easy, but understanding these strategy basics could help you get one within bow range.
If you’re walking into an area blind or haven’t had any luck finding elk yet, climb high and employ the locator bugle. Make one non-aggressive call, then simply listen for a response. This bugle generally doesn’t draw bulls in but will help you identify where the elk are so you can get closer. Don’t overdo it — use the locator bugle sparingly.
When you’re within closer range of a worked-up bull, you can use this bugle to make him feel threatened and issue a challenge that could draw him in even closer. You can pair the call with other sounds such as breaking branches and raking the ground. Whether the bull responds or not, be prepared — he could come charging in at any time. This tactic is especially effective during the pre-rut and early rut when bulls are in search of cows and ready to fight.
If a bull is already surrounded by cows, a challenge bugle might not generate the intended response. But a cow call could still bring him in. This strategy also works best when within close range of the target bull. A simple cow “mew” is often all you’ll need. Again, be ready for action at any moment.
If elk around you are already being vocal or have gone call-shy, consider being quiet and avoiding giving away your location. Get in as close as possible before thinking about breaking out the calls again.
Keep It Real
One of the biggest mistakes elk hunters make is not sounding natural. The best thing you can do is listen to recordings of real elk — not people pretending to be elk — and get in as much practice as possible. This will help you avoid overdoing it in the field and convince even mature bulls that you’re the real deal.