Early Archery Season Elk Calling Tactics
Weather and Elk vocalization are closely related. Volumes have been written about these subjects and opinions are varied. What is not disputed is how weather affects elk. In Colorado where I live and hunt, archery season starts the last week in August and lasts for approximately 30 days.
At this time of year bulls are beginning to establish their territories, raking trees and some vocalizations. Hot early weather will find the elk is deep timber. Mostly in south facing areas.
Calling strategies at this time of year should be very limited. Try short calls with no grunts or extremely loud calls. The reason for this is to try to locate bulls that may respond. Loud aggressive calls will most likely keep bulls silent and on edge. A better strategy would be to search the area for obvious sign like rubs and wallows.
When you find good fresh sign try short non-aggressive calls then wait at least 20 minutes or more. Bulls are most likely to come in silent then to respond with a call of their own.
Cow calls should also be very short and non-aggressive. Try saying here I am, cows call to each other just to keep the herd together. There is very suttle difference in a cow call that is just a communication call to one that has some urgency to it. Always call starting high and trailing the call off quietly with a slight buzz at the end. Mouth diaphragm calls are the only ones that can achieve that “buzz” at the end. There are a few reed calls that can do this but it takes practice.
Bow hunters who succeed year after year are proficient callers and know when and how to call during the long archery season. And know that long hot stretches of weather will most likely not get bulls to bugle. Setting up on well-used wallows is a good strategy. I have called in many bulls by using a large branch and splashing the water aggressively. And grunting softly. I have recording of a bull in his wallow making thosesubtle grunts. A wildlife biologist friend of mine who studies elk stated that a well used wallow is owned by a single bull and will defend it from other bulls. Rake nearby trees, lots of splashing, make sure you beat the ground making a bass sound also stomp you feet. Wait and listen for approaching bulls keep doing this for an extended time as it will take a bull some time to approach.
Using the same subtle grunts should also be used while raking trees. When you find freshly rubbed trees. Try raking the tree using very short bugles and the subtle grunts. Stomp your feet and listen for approaching bulls. The best way is for one person to do all the splashing, raking and calling and the other(s) to set up away from the hunter to try to intercept approaching bulls. When hunting solo I have been busted many times with a raking branch in hand as the bulls approached silently. It’s a great way to get an early season bull.
After prolonged hot weather and cool wet weather approaches that is a great time to go afield and try those calls. What is very important is to try to locate a bull and try to sneak in as close as you can. Calling aggressively will push the bull away. Get in close and call softly just trying to say here I am. A big bull will not tolerate other bulls in his established area while he is getting ready to rut.
More tactics will be discussed in the next article that addresses the beginning of the rut when cows seek out bulls. Bulls will bugle more and when the first cow comes into estrus it’s a great time to be in the elk woods.