When to Call Elk—or Not!

posted on October 2, 2014
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When bowhunting elk, knowing when not to call is just as important as knowing when to call. What I do depends on the given scenario and whether I simply want to get a branch-antlered bull or I’d like a shot at the herd bull.

Cameraman Rex Summerfield and I were just debating when to call on Saturday while sitting all day in a Primos Double Bull blind at a Colorado waterhole filming for “Phil Phillips Unleashed.” Early that morning, I wanted to skip calling and try stalking the herd bull, but this particular property held hundreds of elk--and many sets of elk eyes that could too easily pick up two people and a videocam. So we stayed in the blind, hoping a cow would drag in a big bull or that one of the nice satellite bulls caught on the Moultrie and Cuddeback trail-cams would get thirsty.

By mid-morning, we’d tried everything from bugles to cow and calf calls. Bulls screamed from their beds, but they weren’t budging, not even to check out the super whiny cow calls we made to mimic the sound of a cow being harassed by a bull. By evening, the bulls began screaming again and moved closer. While it was tempting to call, we remained silent because the action was picking up on its own. Two young bulls came in and sparred right in front of us then two more came in for a drink. Another bugling bull was on its way so we never made a peep and let the elk do what they wanted to do. Two minutes later, a 6X6 came in and I dropped him, fittingly, with an Easton FMJ at 27 yards on the 27th. Phil came to check things out just in time to be in a photo.

Moral of the story: Sometimes the best call is no call at all if you're where the elk want to be.


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