Whether the Elk have been pressured or not plays a huge part in my strategy for using an Elk Bugle call. Do I need a devious strategy for using my Elk bugle? There is a huge difference in behavior between pressured over the counter elk and un-pressured bulls. I believe that on opening weekend every elk that is in a heavily hunted spot sees or smells a hunter. If you are hunting public land in an easy to get a tag unit they definitely have been. Archery and muzzleloader Elk hunting is as popular as ever and public land gets absolutely hammered.
Or even before the hunting season the elk get pushed around. With the advent of Instagram it seems now a days everyone and their brother is out putting up cams and taking pictures of animals with a digi-scope. When I got into archery hunting it seemed this was level of dedicated scouting was the rarity instead of the norm. But just our very presence in elk country draws warning attention to the approaching Elk seasons. We set off their alarms at the same time every year. I think the older cows can predict when to head off the top of the mountain where they have spent the summer.
The elk you are hunting are prepared for you
Public land over the counter Elk have a well rehearsed playbook of moves to avoid you. They will drop into a deep dark hole most people won’t want to pack them out of. Or maybe pressured bulls and cows spend their daylight hours on a extremely steep timbered hillsides using small benches and flat spots above trees to bed. They will move onto private property or in some cases into the limited entry unit next store. Elk will start bedding deep in the oak brush where you will have trouble approaching them stealthily. Basically they will do everything and anything to even keep you from finding them. One of their favorite moves is to turn the volume down.
They still need to vocalize to stay in contact with each other. This is the main reason elk calves, cows and bulls vocalize in the first place. Imagine moving through a thick forest with slight terrain undulations created by erosion of eons of snowmelts and thunderstorms. To keep from getting separated the elk will whisper mews and chirps to each other. Even the bulls make whines and cow like vocalizations and they definitely like bugling at ultra low volume.
They reduce their volume to avoid you. How many times do they need to wind a hunter after calling or see one to become a tune to this relation? Elk where they do not need to reduce their volume to avoid hunters talk much louder all season long. This I have seen time in and time out. Elk on the ranch you drive past to get to public are screaming and the cows are whining loudly. When you get to public? They have shut up before dawn.
Think outside the box to learn how to use an Elk bugle call more effectively
When you have animals well aware that they are being hunted. They are well versed in how to behave to avoid you. This is where being a good elk caller and using calls that play accurate variable tones can pay serious dividends. When I got into making elk calls it was because I was unsatisfied with any of the calls I had used. The original goal was to make a bugle mouth piece and then design a tube to amplify the sound. Elk bugles I had always used were not all that reliable and were hard to use at low volume.
The low volume issue was particularly troubling. I have observed many times bulls making low volume bugling sounds that don’t sound to most people what elk bugling should sound like. In my opinion I think a lot of hunters could get the idea that elk only sound like people on an elk calling stage. Maybe they think elk sound exactly what someone teaching elk calling with a diaphragm call sounds like. Or that elk only bugle at full blast. They don’t spend enough time listening to actual elk. People just don’t get to experience what elk actually sound like unless they seek out this information actively.
I think that they vary their volume to depending on many things, how old they are, how many times they have been bumped or missed after bugling loudly. Maybe they aren’t actively breeding any of their cows because they just aren’t in estrous that day. Some old bulls love using a bull calling cows bugle to communicate to the cow that he has heard them and is searching for them. This kind of sound can really drive a big bull nuts.
Be Clubber Lang to instigate a bull fight with an Elk bugle call!
Maybe Im dating myself here but I think the above scene in Rocky 3 when Mr T Aka Clubber Lang tries to bait Rocky Balboa. He started trying to instigate a fight by calling him names. This fails however. He then switches tactics and when Clubber invites Rocky’s wife over to his apartment however the fight is on. This kind of reaction is why I feel a bull sneaking in and sweet talking another bulls ladies is such a great sound. I like to use it when you’ve already had contact with your quarry and are interacting with him vocally. Or he is talking and you’ve snuck in. We all know if some guy starts blatantly hitting on your woman like this in front of you it may elicit a response on a whole other level.
Volume variation is your friend when using your Elk bugle call
To imitate these bulls I don’t think anyone makes a call that works more consistently and easily to add some more sounds to your cow calling then our new Ballistic missile bugles. The OTC RPG and the Extendabull Anti Tank Missile. You can make the kind of low volume accurate whines that a bull approaching cows will make to call them to him.
What ever call you use I think trying to accurately make the lower volume guttural then whiny sound an approaching bull makes requires restraint. Do not scream as loud as possible. I try to stay at half volume when imitating this type of vocalization and behavior. The video below is a great example of this behavior. This bull was a 360″ satellite bull with the herd bulls being gargantuan. My way of doing it is not a be all end all approach to this type of a vocalizations as bulls will make this vocalization in their own way. I just say don’t try to be but more than half volume.
I recommend adding some of these low volume sounds to both blind calling setups as well. When moving through the woods after a few cow vocalizations followed by a short break then a bull responding searching for those cows. And most especially when you’ve located the herd and crept into close proximity to the herd bull.
Blind calling strategies for using an Elk bugle
I love mixing it up when blind calling elk. Also like to try to paint a picture of two smaller bulls mixing it up. To the point where I have even carried around 5×5 sheds to rattle with.
What I like to do is try to imitate one whiny squeeler of a juvenile bull and then another bull chuckling in a slightly different tone. That is one nice thing about both our bugles the mouth pieces are available in single and double reeds. Adding this to some cow calling sequences gives the idea of a happy herd of elk. Juvenile satelitte bulls and mature elk are equally attracted to such scenarios. Add beating up a tree with an antler or big stick and its just a killer technique.
The two juvenile bulls is my go to for blind calling and I highly recommend it. The last OTC Colorado 6×6 I killed came into just the particular sound. After pretending to be a herd moving up the mountain to the ridge top. The bugles were the icing on the cake that he couldn’t resist.
One thing not to do with an elk bugle
Bugling like the king of the mountain with your Elk bugle while blind calling is usually a bad plan. This is depending on the age structure of the bulls where you are hunting. There simply may not be one big enough to charge in to steal a herd bulls cows. We witnessed a bull last year that was a broke up 260-280 6×6 turn around after two massive bugles 50 yards short of the caller and slowly walk off. He had obviously been fighting hard and perhaps had just had his butt whipped early in the predawn that morning.
It is just a theory but I do believe that so many variables exist in bugling for elk with an Elk bugle call that lots of strategies work. But I do like to stick to the trying to sound less intimidating than the bull I want to shoot. Being realistic about whats in your unit or area is something you should take into account when sounding off.
Using an Elk Bugle call to locate bulls
I love to try to get a bull to talk by bugling a loud clear note just as much as the next guy. However it is a beat the dead horse strategy if you ask me. Though I am guilty of hitting that horse way too much myself. I started always adding loud cow talk to my locator strategy and trying to just make cow sounds then take a break then cow sounds and the loud clear high ringing locator note. Our new extendabull and OTC bugles excel at this accurate ringing tone and the single reeds are easy to play and have an excellent range of volume. I try to do something to sound different than most people on the OTC hunting and using an elk bugle.
Doing this kind of stuff in the predawn darkness can have consequences. You can blow the elk out of the basin you’re in at your own risk. But that being said it can be a deadly technique to locate a talkative bull before sunup. I highly recommend trying to not road hunt and call and educate the elk. We all share these woods and those elk might be the ones your on tomorrow over the ridge. If that lead cow says I heard that coming from a dirt bike that just shut off yesterday it might be pointless.
Using a challenge bugle
I wish I lived somewhere with bigger bulls sometimes. The OTC a few hours west of Denver gets shot up during the gun seasons. We just don’t have the age structure to make this a technique I go to all the time. A bull going over the 300″ mark is rare here. However challenge bugles can be very effective. Some bulls just have that attitude problem and want to fight. Just like some people can’t help themselves when provoked.
Getting in between a bull and his cows or cow and ripping the baddest bugle note you can can be very effective. I like to use this while running at a bull in heavy cover trying to make him run me over. However I do believe in only cow calling if that will do the trick. I think its best not giving a bull an excuse to round up his cows and head for the next county. However we all know how much fun ripping huge bugle notes is so if this is your style of hunting stick with it. Eventually the bull you encounter will be one that only wants to fight.
As always think outside the box to call in more bull elk
I can’t stress it enough when calling elk, be different and be multiple. Anything creative that you can come up with to add realism will help. Bugle a funky sound you’ve heard bulls make and never hunters and you will get more responses. Run 100 yards in between challenge bugles. Splash a wallow with a log and scream your head off.
Good luck this season! If you take a Elk with one of our calls send us an email! And as always if you have any questions or need any help hit me up -Drew Rouse