Champion Elk Calling Tips

Joel Turner, two-time champion of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation/Leupold World Elk Calling Championship, shares a few of his tried-and-true tactics for calling in elk.
Champion Elk Calling Tips

elk hunting tip1. Call To An Instinct, Not An Attitude

“A common elk-hunting strategy is covering ground and bugling until you find a bull in the right frame of mind to come charging in. But those bulls can be hard to find. Most often, when challenged by a rival, a bull’s first instinct is to retreat. Keep in mind that we’re mammals, too, and our own natural reactions often mirror those of elk. If you arrive at the mall with your wife or girlfriend, and some guy yells at you from across the parking lot with a clear intent to start trouble, your probable reaction is to get back in your car and leave—same for elk. It’s OK to bugle to locate elk from a distance, but afterward, rely on calls that trigger their breeding rather than their escape instincts.”

2. Anticipate The Hang-up Spot

“An approaching bull will nearly always stop as soon as it can see your calling location. Once he can see where the elk sounds were coming from, but no actual elk, he probably won’t come any closer. Hunters can use this natural elk behavior to their advantage. Don’t call unless your setup, in relation to this hang-up spot, is correct. Never call when elk are in plain view of your location. I like to shadow a herd until the terrain is favorable for calling. One of my favorite situations is when the elk are on a bench above or below me, and the bull has to walk to the edge to look over and see my calling location. That’s the hang-up spot, and I try to set up within 20 yards of it. When antlers appear as the bull nears the lip, draw your bow. You have only a couple of seconds until he’s positioned to see you!”

3. Wait For The Parade

“Eight out of 10 times, when a bull arrives at the hang-up spot, he’ll spend a few seconds looking for the cow. If he doesn’t see it, he’ll parade a few steps to one side and then the other. Still no cow, he’s out of here. But this parading instinct is your chance to stop the bull when it presents a clear, broadside shot. Most turkey hunters are familiar with ‘putting’ to stop a gobbler in shooting position. The same theory works with elk. Give a loud cow call to stop the bull—and be ready to release your arrow.”


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