Seven miles in to our do-it-yourself wilderness elk hunt, I was growing discouraged with the number of hunters my buddies and I were seeing. Then, at about the 13-mile mark, camps began to dwindle. Leading our pack string of horses five more miles, we found the isolation we desired. That night – two days before opening day of Wyoming’s archery season – the mountains were alive with bugling bulls. On opening morning, the three of us hiked four more miles, to over 9,000 feet in elevation. By 9 a.m., two of us had big bulls down, with the third member of our party arrowing a 355-inch brute the following morning.
The next two days were long, hot and extremely tough, but we got all the meat and our gear off the mountain. We quickly filled those tags because we traveled farther into the wilderness than other hunters, and we called very aggressively. Shortly after that hunt, I went on another elk adventure on my own in central Montana. I was on a chunk of public land that’s landlocked by private grounds. Public pressure had pushed many elk over the mountains and into the drainage I hunted, just as I’d hoped.
Rather than call to these elk with straight bugles or timid cow chatter, I mixed cow, calf, young bull and aggressive bull talk. The approach worked, and soon a big bull came charging in. I wasn’t in what I’d call the ideal shooting spot, but I hunkered down in the waist-high grass, amid shade, with a few straggly aspens behind me.
THE BULL CAME IN BUGLING and agitated. When he started walking from right to left, I hit him with a cow call, and he stopped. I’d already reached fulldraw, and the Gold Tip arrow buried tight behind the bull’s leg, piercing the upper heart and both lower lungs. He went a short distance and piled up. A few days later, I went to Oregon to chase elk. Though I called six branch bulls to within 25 yards, I didn’t let a single arrow fly, as I was hoping for a monster bull or nothing. I was aggressive, called a lot, and learned a great deal; a successful hunt, for sure. A couple weeks later, I traveled to central Idaho for the rifle season opener.
Temperatures were hot, and while many hunters stuck to spotand-stalk, hunting only during the early morning and evening hours, I hunted daylight to dark, calling the whole time.
The number of bulls I had answering my calls was mind boggling, unlike anything I’d experienced in a rifle season, before or since. On the second evening of the hunt, a big bull finally stepped from the reprod he’d been bugling from all day. At just over 400 yards, I took a rock solid rest in my Bog Pod shooting sticks, and the Nosler custom .325 WSM roared. A 200-grain AccuBond hit the mark, and another elk tag was filled. The family ate well that season, and we were fortunate to smoke, can, and freeze some great tasting meat.
When that elk season came to a close, I’d called 47 bulls to within 40 yards. It was a good year, full of learning. I stuck to my aggressive calling style, basing it upon on what was happening with the elk that season. Now is the time calves start venturing a bit farther from the cows, and they often communicate with their voices to keep track of one another. Small bulls will pick up on this and often bugle; big bulls will have a heck of a time keeping their harems in line.
This is why I like calling using a mix of calf, cow, young and mature bull sounds. Hot weather seems to prolong or even delay the rut, which is why calling in so many October rifle seasons out West can be very effective Play the wind, call aggressively, cover ground and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
DEAD FOOT ARMS
I’m a firm believer that many elk tags go unfilled because hunters are too timid, too afraid of botching stalks. As long as the wind is in your favor and you can work the shade, go for it. Let the elk, terrain and wind determine your next move, and you’ll fill more tags, no matter where in the West you’re hunting elk this time of year.
Written by Scott Haugen –AmSJ
AmSJ Staff note:
These are some really good information to go off on. Another source that you can check out if you’re a bowhunter is from ArcheryTopic.com. Their information are off the charts, check out this Elk Hunting 101 [Ultimate Guide].