Archery Bull Elk Non Responsive to Cow call

by Danny Plumlee
(Henderson, NV)

Went Archery elk hunting for the first time. I was not the shooter but decided to help a friend with his hunt. Neither of us had any experience with archery elk or elk hunting, period.


My friend drew a tag here in Nevada and we had several months to try to learn. I knew as a team I would become the caller and he would position himself 60+ yards in front of me between me and the bulls. Long story short when we made our set ups the bulls would answer bugles but were unresponsive to any cow calls.

I think we hit the place pre-rut or just beginning of rut because all the bulls were still in pairs. Like I said they would answer bugles but would not approach any calls whatsoever.

We ended up getting a shot at 46 yards but that is another story. I want to prepare for next season and need to know what we could have done different in the call department. Were these bulls just not ready to defend their territory or to mate?

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Dec 01, 2012
Calling Bull Elk During Pre-rut
by: Dave, ElkHuntingTips.net

Great descriptions of reality when calling elk, Larry. I hunt alone most of the time, since I hunt at least five days a week during archery. (My sons are now off building careers and relationships with the opposite sex.) I run myself ragged trying to be in two places at one time, caller and shooter. It can be done, though.

During the pre-rut this fall I called a bull in with cow talk from directly in front of me. He came straight in and walked right up to me and breathed on me a few feet away, then turned around and walked back the way he came. He was plumb stupid. I let the raghorn have another year to wise up. Like you said, there is a period during the pre-rut when they throw caution to the wind. Then they wise up rather quickly. It's like they suddenly say, "Oh yeah. It's that time of year again."

In 2011 I called a bull straight in with no intent to shoot him. He walked straight to me and walked around me and stopped a few feet to my side, bugled and walked away.

I love the pre-rut, but it changes quickly. It gets more fun from there, though.

Nov 30, 2012
this sometimes has success
by: elkwisperer

I have had a hunting buddy for 28 years and in my opinion hunting in pairs is the best way to hunt elk. (in pairs) with one calling and the shooter constantly moving to place the himself between the caller and the bull.

We always encounter vocal satellite bulls that never commit. These bulls get close then go away then stay still etc. Bugling the whole time. We have had some luck but not huge success in killing a few. In the pre rut with these vocal bull we do not use cow calls at all. As the bull leads us away we try to get him to stop. Once stopped we send the bugler back the other direction away from the bull. The shooter stays close and tries to position himself between caller and bull. In a few cases the bull will loop back around towards the caller trying to maintain a large cushion of space. If the shooter is stealthy and can intercept the direction the bull is moving back toward the caller you may get a shot. This is a low % move but better than doing nothing. Also match the bulls intensity with the bugles. Do not challenge if the bull sounds non confrontational. If he is bugling to locate just use the same intensity and do not be the one to heat up the intensity. Be slightly more passive than the bull. Chances are he is a satellite bull looking for another satellite to hang out with.

Secondly have the caller stop the calling and go to tree raking with a stick on a small pine tree. Bulls are raking trees heavily in the pre rut. He may work in closer to the sound of the tree raking or pick on a tree of his own and the shooter has a great chance of sneaking in for a shot if he becomes occupied for 5 min working over a tree. The key here is they like a good space cushion. 100 to 200 yards. Again the caller/raker needs to go left if the bull goes right keeping the shooter in the center of the circle. Again the wind can bust you at any time. If that happens go find another bull.

Depending on the bull and how into the rut they are you can mess up with little consequences. On a few rare occasions the bulls have come in with their heads down not even looking ahead to see where the calls are coming from. I say each bull has about an 8 hour period during the peak of the rut where they forget about hunters and throw all caution to the wind. Each bull has his time when he is so caught up in the rut that he get stupid. If you are in the field hunting every day during the rut your chances of meeting up with a bull who is not thinking clearly and you can get away with much more and everything seems to work.

Keep after it and keep trying new things. If it works once that is definitely no guarantee it will work again and in most cases it won't. Don't stop a technique, chances are if it work once it may work again on your twentyith try. There is no magic bullet for calling elk. One thing is for sure: you won't call one in and kill it sitting on the couch.

Larry




Nov 30, 2012
Calling Elk Pre-rut
by: Dave, ElkHuntingTips.net

Hi, Danny. Sounds like maybe you had some call-shy elk? Is the area pretty heavily hunted at that time? I actually prefer the pre-rut, because the bulls are not with cows. When they get with cows the bigger bulls tend to hang up. As you saw, sometimes the bulls will travel in pairs, or more during the pre-rut.

Not having been there, it's tough to tell what happened. I can only guess some scenarios. It's possible that you may have done too much aggressive bugling, which made them want to avoid you and the cow sounds you made. They don't like fighting when they don't have to, especially when they don't smell estrus. They weren't smelling estrus cows, but they were hearing bulls that sounded like they were with cows, maybe? (You two.) I rarely bugle, unless the tone of the bull seems to indicate it might help at the time. I do some locator calls, but not much and not aggressively.

Pre-rut bulls will often come in to check on cows they hear talking. They will often bugle in response, but then sneak in quietly. They might have seen you two before you saw them. I've been busted in those scenarios many times. No telling how many times without my even knowing it.

Maybe you didn't manage the wind right? They could have turned away before you knew they were even coming if they smelled you. There are lots of possibilities.

I have a section on this site about Calling Elk and Scent Control Hunting.

I would also recommend getting ElkNut's "Sounds by the Elk" CD and maybe his "PlayBook". These are great resources that teach what you are actually hearing and what you might want to say back, rather than just blowing elk sounds that don't make sense to the elk. You can get those directly from this site and I will pay for the shipping cost (click on link above). I will mail those to you myself. I still listen to those over and over again!

Bow hunting elk is the most fun, exasperating adventure! Keep learning and it gets better, but still frustrating. I'm sure others will have some valuable input here, too. I look forward to hearing more advice.

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