Old school advice
Years ago I read something legendary elk hunting writer Jim Zumbo wrote something about Elk calls. He said rifle hunters heading out a rifle Elk hunt should never do so without an Elk call. Of course I know you are most likely carrying a weapon that can make effective kill shots on your quarry at distances beyond 300. What good is an elk call going to do me at 350 yards?
An elk standing in the open however on most hunts around here is a rarity however. Our factory is deep in the over the counter regions of Central Colorado. A good elk call can make all the difference in your hunt here. It can make a difference on a rifle elk hunt anywhere.
What is the difference? Either you just get to see your quarry run away. Or you get those precious extra seconds for a shot opportunity. So you hope to find your target standing in a meadow during daylight broadside feeding? What is plan B if this never occurs?
Around much of Elk country the archery and muzzleloader seasons have left the elk on edge. They are already retreating to their beds before dawn. Maybe you are hunting during the later rifle elk hunt seasons. These Elk are already heavily pressured. What then? Two of my favorite techniques are tracking in the snow and still hunting known bedding areas. Both call for an elk call that can be used very softly. Both are very deadly on spooky animals.
Tracking down the herd
I love it when it snows on an elk hunt. As soon as the storm ends I know those animals will be up and feeding and leaving tracks. Even if they head to their beds after feeding all night it’s all the clue you need to find them. I say you are either looking for Elk or you are hunting them. During the archery season if they arent talking I say this twenty times a day .
Same thing applies on your rifle elk hunt and it usually means you will be looking for them. Fresh snow, strong legs and a healthy set of lungs can put in you on a backstrap pot of gold. It will more than likely come at the end of a deadfall and obstacle filled rainbow.
However a lot of the times following tracks you will find empty beds. Elk like to bed on their backtrail. They will use all of their highly evolved senses to figure out you or another predator is coming. A herd will literally even leave a cow as a sentry.
One way to keep them calm is to use very soft cow chirps of different tones. Something easily done with our calls. They will hear you walking most likely. However if you sound like elk walking and elk talking they may only get up and stare in your direction. Which is perfect with a high powered appropriately calibered Elk Rifle in your hands.
Don’t attract unwanted attention
We’ve had a number of people try to call quieter than an elk reel at trade shows all over the US. People get really attached to the kind of calls they have been using and it’s understandable. But physics has no feelings and it it is simply physics that makes our calls have such a low start up velocity. They are simply astonished at the elk reels capability to whisper perfect elk vocalizations. This is key when tracking through the snow.
My goal is to call no louder than my noise I am making moving through the forest. That way if they haven’t heard me walking they haven’t heard me calling. So if I happen to catch the animals in a more open area than surprise is still an ally. It is still nice if you need to take a longer than off hand shot to be able to get a comfortable rest. Than have to take a hurried shot at animals watching you set up.
I used to try to slowly track animals and call with an open reed call. I’d try wrapping my whole hand around the call and pointing it behind me. Sometimes i would get bad sounds. Most of the time it was too loud to be realistic. We have most definitely solved these inconsistency issues. An Elk Reel once you get it it’s virtually automatic. In fact many outfitters and guides point this out to us when discussing the call. They love how they no longer worry about an odd note ruining their clients hunt.
Keep Elk calm and Stop the Herd bull
So you’ve successfully tracked the animals to their bedroom. You see several cows standing staring in your direction. Throw your call in your mouth and get ready to shoot. Some of the cows start to get nervous and bolt. You mew at them softly and they stop moving. Then you see the herd bull at 100 yards through the trees. He is walking and with two sharp loud mews you stop him in a shooting lane. A good rest is provided by the lodgepole next to you and you squeeze the trigger. The herd bull drops in his tracks and the rest of the elk thunder out of the basin.
The hands free option of our call is key in shooting elk. Once you get in the bedroom things can happen fast. You need to be able to calm the elk and then be able to stop your target in a shooting lane. They will most likely be in heavy timber, oak brush or aspens this time of year during the day. Our calls have taken elk down to -22 degrees and they will not falter in wintry conditions. If you’re into tracking down a freezer full of protein in the snow this fall or winter on a rifle elk hunt an Elk reel is a must have.
Still Hunting on a rifle elk hunt
The art of still hunting is an art of patience and persistence. Quietly creeping through dark timber while glassing and scanning, listening and smelling. Using all of your senses to detect your quarry before your presence is sensed. Taking no more than a few steps at a time before scanning the forest with all your senses again. The slower you go the more likely you will kill what you see rather than spook it. It is one of my favorite ways to hunt elk that are hiding out from pressure.
I think it can be quite impossible sometimes to silently move through the forest. Especially true if precipitation has been scarce. You will inevitably make some noise unless it’s just heavily rained and the forest is soaked. You can control it by slowing down. Animals are accustomed to other creatures in the forest. Squirrels dropping pine cones from tree tops for example.
I use the Elk Reel when still hunting on a rifle elk hunt in exactly the same way I do when tracking. The goal being the same cover the noise I’m making with its sweet elky sounds and no more. It will have the elk stand there for several more seconds after they have seen you. Its calming effect on them will give you the edge you need to get your target in your sights and squeeze the trigger.
It’s not at all hard to use either. One of the best features of our call is the ease of learning. If you know what elk sound like you will find the learning curve is minutes or seconds. No need to take time from your busy life to practice endlessly with a mouth reed. Our one easy call will last and last. The reeds are replaceable every few seasons.
Other favorite rifle elk hunting techniques
Spot and stalk
It’s so much better to chase a known quantity in Elk hunting. To be able to spot your quarry from long distance and close in on the optimal path. Some people I know will only rifle elk hunt this way. It is a a lot of fun and you can cover miles of country with your eyes instead of your feet.
I still think an Elk call should be in your arsenal on your stalk. Things can happen fast and it’s great to be able to stop a spooked animal that has busted you stalking. Its also a very big tough creature that you’re shooting at. They can cover a ton of ground after being hit and are notorious for soaking up lead. I always try to stop an elk Ive hit with a couple of cow vocalizations. Watching them expire is so much less work than looking for them ill tell you that!
Blind Calling on a rifle Elk Hunt
Blind calling can work later in the year. Bulls looking for the second cycle cows that didn’t get bred during the september breeding cycle. Cows will always respond to other cows in my opinion. They are much like a school of baitfish in that the bigger the school the safer each individual is.
A herd animal like a Cow elk will always be attracted to accurate cow elk sounds. Especially if the herd they are in thinks you are a larger herd. Also if she thinks you may be a lost calf they always seem to check on these kinds of sounds. Doesn’t matter if you are on a bow-hunt early season or late season rifle elk hunt.
Whatever the specifics is, history has shown over the past 6 seasons that cow elk will come running in to our calls. The very first elk harvested with an Elk Reel was a cow elk our friend Nick shot on a late season hunt. She literally came running into 15 yards to his lost calf calls.
So if all else fails you on your rifle elk hunt. Set up on the edge of some timber and give a few blind calling setups a try. You may be surprised like many of our customers. They have consistently reported having elk run in so fast that they’ve had to skid it to a stop with their gun.
Be patient and don’t over call. Try to sound like a herd feeding occasionally vocalizing every 5-10 minutes. Set up for over an hour it can be the difference in elk that herd you thats in their beds and take a long time to show themselves. I think a lot of people lose patience and the elk use the longevity of your calling as a filter of sorts. The inpatient blind caller usually quits far too soon.
Good luck on your rifle elk hunt!
Well a rifle elk hunt is sure one of my favorite hunts! I hope you get close enough to need one of our calls on your next adventure. Please let us know how it went and send us a picture of your harvests! We love hearing from our customers.