Elk Sounds: Learn to Make
Realistic Sounding Elk Talk

Making elk sounds properly while hunting will increase your chances of success, especially during the rut. On this page we will get down to the nitty gritty of doing elk talk with elk hunting calls.

Related topics available:
Learning Elk Talk
Product Review of Elk Calls
Recordings of Elk in the Wild
Calling Elk In Close
Predicting and Hunting the Elk Rut
Bow Hunting Elk

Everyone is tempted to make bugle call sounds, including us, but the real temptation to bulls is cow elk calls. A bugling elk call is great for locating bulls early in the morning, but done too much will usually result in a bull elk moving away from you. There are great times to use bull sounds, though! Elk Nut's instructional elk communication productions discuss all of the elk sounds much more thoroughly than we can do here.

The calm elk sounds of a contented herd of cows and calves, or an estrus whine during the peak of the rut will often attract a bull very more effectively.

All of ElkNut's instructional elk communcation products are available here with free shipping!

Chirps and Mews

Cows and calves, and even bulls, all make “mews” and “chirping” elk sounds. A mew sounds like a drawn out chirp.

Chirps: Chirps are short noises made by all elk. It’s a good assumption to assume they use this sound to stay in touch with each other. Elk herds are very sociable. They like to stay in touch (elk texting?). A chirp discussion very possibly means something like, “I’m OK over here. How about you?” Or, “This place is overgrazed. I’m heading this way.” “I’m right behind you!” (OK. Let’s not get carried away.)

To make a cow chirp on a call ( mouth diaphragm (audio) , hand held blow call (audio) , or squeeze bulb) figure out how to make a high pitched squeal “eee” and how to make a lower tone “uhh” with first more and then less pressure. The eee and uhh are both short in duration with no pause. “ee-uh”. The higher the pitch, the younger and smaller the animal (calf).

Mews: Mews are a little longer elk sound than a chirp and can become quite pleading. “eeeuuuuuh”, It might be reasonable to think it’s like saying, “I’m over here all alone. Where are you? Let’s stay close. OK?” Of course, mews can go from sounding quite relaxed, to an outright pleading attitude. “Attitude” is a very good word to use when describing tone changes in all elk talk. An older cow will have a more nasal sound at the end. Eee-uuuuh, with a sharp stop, not trailing off.

(Audio of mew on hand held reed call.) 

Calf mews are a very high pitched, “eeuh”. They are often somewhat desperate sounding when they have been separated from their mother or the herd. (Actual lost calf audio) They will often keep it up until they get “found” again. If you duplicate a calf mew, you might find that a cow elk comes to you. The cow will know it’s not her calf, because they know their own calves’ voices. After all, most mothers will try to help a crying, lost child.

(Audio of calf mew on mouth diaphragm.) 

If you really want to get the attention of a herd of cows (that might have a bull among them), a calf mew could be done repetitively for several minutes, while walking around rather noisily. When a calf is lost, he wanders around making desperate pleading mews. The risk, of course, is that you will get busted during all that movement.

Here is extended audio of a lost calf, with cows and bull sounds.

The Dredded Elk Bark

An elk bark (audio) is one elk sound you don’t normally want to replicate in the woods. Usually it is done in a stressful situation to indicate danger is present. The first time I heard a bark years ago was when a big cow had snuck up on me while I as cow talking. She saw me before I saw her. She barked and I looked around for some kind of dog. She was staring eye to eye with me.

It is very possible that a bark is kind of like a curse word, like when someone startles you or you hit your thumb. Sometimes a bull might use a bark to fuss at some cows that aren’t where he thinks they should be, or when another bull sneaks in too close to his territory without warning.

It might be something worth trying to duplicate when trying to call elk and nothing else is working, but generally, “don’t cuss at the elk”. Unless you get barked at, then you might find yourself reverting to cussing in English as the herd runs over the ridge.

There is something called a Nervous Grunt that sounds almost like this bark, but it is asking for a visual. An elk making the nervous grunt will stick around for a while looking for confirmation. Elk Nut's Sounds by the Elk CD and Playbook discuss this sound and how you can use it in a hunting situation.

Estrus Sounds

The estrus whine (actual recording) is an excited vocal expression that cows make when they are ready to be bred, right now. Bulls are highly motivated and aroused when they hear that “love talk”, but they probably have a good idea when that sound should be heard. If you do it too soon before the peak of the rut, the bulls might get suspicious. Overusing the estrus whine can be counter-productive.

Some elk calling experts separate a “hyper hot” cow elk sound from standard “estrus” sounds and some will use the two terms interchangeably. It does seem that some cows get extra pumped up with the gyrating, wavy calls they make when they are ready to be bred. I think it’s a good assumption that an elk making this sound is saying, “I am sooo ready! Get over here you big hunk!”

It sounds something like this, "EEuuuh, eeEEeeuh”, with wavy pleading high pitch variations, not just two tones as with the mew. There is no exact cadence because all elk are different. The biggest problem is doing it too much or outside the rut peak. Sometimes it works toward the end of the rut. 

(Audio of estrus sound on mouth diaphragm.) 

(Audio of estrus sound on hand held reed.) 

It is also possible that cows in estrus get desperate toward the end of their estrus cycle and start pleading their case with more “emotion”. A cow’s estrus cycle only lasts about 24 hours. A hyper hot estrus whine might be something she does in the last hours of the cycle.

Reproduction is a very high priority and the Lord created these effective communication methods, along with smell and smell receptors, and all the rutting rituals in order to sustain strong herds through competitive bulls.

If you make an estrus whine at the right time and a bull buys it, he can suddenly get stupid real fast. Use the estrus call judiciously, though. Find out when the peak of the rut is and make this sound when nothing else is bringing the bulls in (generally around the end of September).

This might be a good time to spray some of that nasty smelling “cow elk in estrus urine” into the air, particularly if the breeze suddenly switches in the direction of the bull and you can’t do anything to correct the situation.

Here's an estrus sound that most hunters will never hear, but should try to replicate at the right time. This recording is provided by Paul Medel, AKA ElkNut on the Sounds by the Elk CD. It is discussed in ElkNut's Playbook. It sounds like this.

Fighting Cow Call

Wayne Carlton's Hunters Specialties, was one of the first to promote a fighting cow call made with a hand held reed call. To sound like fighting cows the cadence of high squeals are made to sound like two cows standing up and “boxing” each other with their hooves. To reproduce the sound of the fighting action make short, wavy high pitched squeals ending with nasal sounds toward the end of each call.

Follow the instructions for these types of calls, or listen to a tape recorded by the manufacturers, if you want to try to attract a crowd of elk to watch a good fight (while you set up for a shot). Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. Try different elk sounds until something works.

(Audio of fighting cow call sound made on hand held reed call.)

Bull Bugling

Remember that bulls all bugle differently, so many variations of bugles will be heard. There is no "right" way to do it. They mix up the different bugles. Elk haven't read the text book on bugling.

Locater Bugle is a relaxed bugle made when bulls want to let other elk know where they are and find out where other elk are. It’s a good elk sound to make first thing in the early morning before or just after daylight to help you decide where to go in pursuit of elk. Locater bugles are not aggressive sounding. Sometimes they are just a single note long(actual audio) . Deep growls and grunts are usually not done at the end. Most elk bugles only last about three seconds. (Audio of locater bugle done with mouth diaphragm call.) 

(Actual recording of live bull doing locater bugle.) 

Display Bugle sounds a little more aggressive, but is mainly a show off bugle for the cows in the area. A little more growl is added at the beginning and end of the bugle with some grunts and chuckles. To do the growl, simply add your growly voice while you use the call. Do some grunts and chuckles at the end by huffing in and out with gravely voice sounds. (See “Chuckles” below.)

(Audio of real bulls doing display bugles.) 

(Audio of display bugle on mouth diaphragm call.) 

Challenge Bugle is what calling competition judges like to hear. It is a bugle made by a bull who wants to intimidate other bulls with an angry sounding growly, screaming bad boy bugle.

(Audio of actual challenge bugle.) 

(Actual audio of several bulls challenging each other.) 

If everything else has failed to call a responding bull in, you might see if you can get him mad enough to come in for a fight. By that time, you’ve probably followed him around against his warnings, only to have him move his cows away from you several times. Now it’s time to challenge him, especially if he is doing challenge bugles (imitate their attitude).

Get as close as you can and blow a challenge bugle at him. He’ll probably just move away, but every now and then, one gets excited enough to come in screaming mad.

(Audio of challenge bugle done on mouth diaphragm call.) 

An aggressive growl starts the bugle sequence, quickly crescendos to a scream at the higher note with lots of vocal sounds during the scream, ending with growling and short screams during the grunting chuckling phase. To make the vocal sounds during the high pitch scream, “blow beets” with very tight lips (like you would get in trouble for in Sunday school as a kid) into the grunt tube while simultaneously making the high pitch sound through the reed.

(Audio demonstration of parts of challenge bugle with mouth diaphragm call.) 

The challenge bugle is an elk sound with a big, bad attitude. It’s made by bulls to attempt to send other bulls running. Do you really want to make that kind of call while pursing bull elk? You decide, depending on the situation. It rarely pays off, but it’s fun to do, regardless!

Chuckles (grunts and chuckles) are short in and out sounds used sometimes after, or even without, a bugle sound. Making this bull elk sound using a latex diaphragm reed call in your mouth requires a quick in and out huffing action. Cough out sharply into the grunt tube while blowing over the reed and then immediately suck air back in. Do this repeatedly for a few seconds. Use your growly voice at the same time. Chuckles and grunts are important elk sounds to learn to make.

(Here's one way do grunts and chuckles on a call.) 

(Actual audio of bull chuckling.) 

Sometimes elk get quiet and all you might here is a subtle grunt and chuckle sequence, particularly once the day heats up and suspected human presence makes the bulls a little more cautious.

Glunks are weird noises made in the back of the throat by a bull. It’s hard to duplicate credibly. It sounds very close, however, to the noise you get by slapping the palm of your hand on the small, mouth end of your grunt tube. A bad glunk might sound too human manufactured. It’s probably not a real important thing to learn. I don’t know if anyone knows why they make this strange sound for sure.

(Recording of glunking and mews.) 

Develop an Ear for the Music

It’s good to be familiar with all of these elk sounds, but not necessary to learn how to make them all. It can be counterproductive to make some of them, particularly challenge bugles or barks. Elk sounds are beautiful music to an elk hunter. It means you’re right there among them, or they’re just over the ridge.

At a minimum, learn to make cow elk sounds with hand held reed calls, or diaphragm in mouth calls. Add locater bugles, grunts and chuckles and you’ll be making elk sounds that will help you have “close encounters of the herd kind”.

Spend some time listening to tons of actual elk sounds by clicking over to the Elk Recordings page. 

Please subscribe to or our Quick Elk Hunting Tips and Updatesnewsletter or to an RSS feed (see left column for both) to be alerted whenever new information is added to the site.

We'd appreciate it if you would "Like" us on Facebook, or share this site with others.

To "Calling Elk" page from "Elk Sounds" page. 

To "Elk Calls" page. 

To Recorded Elk Sounds page.

New! Comments

What do you think about this topic? Leave a comment in the box below.
Search This Site Here:

Gear That We Use:


Free U.S. Shipping On ASAT Camo

Montana Decoy Elk/Deer
Available Here!

Montana Decoy

$59-$109.99 Free Shipping!

Bugling Bull
Game Calls

$5 Flat Rate Shipping
or Free Shipping over $50

ElkNut Productions

Free Shipping on
ElkNut Products Here

The StringSling:
Best Bow Sling Design!

String Sling Bow Sling

$28.95, Including U.S. Shipping

HECS Stealthscreen:
A New Type of Concealment!

HECS Stealthscreen

$129.99, Including U.S. Shipping

Clip-Shot: 1 oz. Camera Mount

$21.85 Free U.S. Shipping

Skull Hookers

Skull hooker

$34.99 & 59.99 Free U.S. Shipping!

The Safari Sling:
Best Rifle Sling Design!

Safari Sling Best Rifle Sling Available

$27.99 Free US Shipping

Elk Hunting Tips
Logo Cap

Elk Hunting Tips Cap

$15.00 Free U.S. Shipping!

Huntin Fool

Huntin'Fool consultants provide economical hunt planning for your dream hunt!

Check out Jarrod's 2014 Bull:


See 13 Year Old Taylor's First Elk (2014):

Thanksgiving Day Bull

2013 Five Yard Archery Kill Video:

6 X 6 Archery Bull: 5 Yard Shot With Video by: Dave, ElkHuntingTips.Net

Go to Forums

Forum Topic Discussions:

Is a 308 rifle enough for elk hunting?I recently bought a Mossberg in 308 caliber. I am wondering if that caliber is ok..., by Skip (Tucson, AZ)

295 yard kill with a Kimber Montana 325 WSM, by Don from Dallas: My ELk did not even twitch once. He was dead when he hit the ground.

325 WSM is worth considering, Palmer Lake,CO: I believe that the .325 WSM is the ultimate elk caliber...

30-30 for Elk? : I have a 30 30 with 170 grain round nose bullet. Will this work to shoot an elk ?

(More comments about Best Elk Rifle below)

Recent Submissions

Unit 62 in Montrose, Colorado?, by Skip, Anyone hunt Unit 62?

Best and Cheapest State to take Nonresident Youth, by Noel (MN), I've always wanted to elk hunt but $$ and distance has detoured me...

Help needed for 1st DIY Hunt w/Son, by Patrick (Parker, CO), "I was looking for some advice on my 1st DIY hunt for 2014 in CO with my 13 yr old son. I have countless hrs going over stats, topo maps & Google Earth"

Benches?, by Scott (Minnesota)...could you explain a little more about benches? I've read a lot of magazines and they all mention benches and that elk typically bed 1/3 the way down a slope.

2013 elk bow hunt around Pagosa Springs: by Bobby (Little Rock , Arkansas), looking for someone to join my DIY hunt!...

Unique Elk Talk by Idaho Steve (Hailey, Id ), In the middle of the night, a herd of elk came traveling through the drainage and right past my tent...

Smelly Elk Areas? by Jimmy (New Mexico), I've come across many areas that just stink of elk, literally. I have heard two somewhat contradictory stories...

DIY Gear List Must Have's! by Craig (Florida) "Here are some of the items I use on my DIY hunts in the CO backcountry..."

Elk and Deer Hunting and Mountain Bikes, by Skip Shepherd (Tucson, AZ)~ At 67 I am thinking a lot about investing in a mountain bike to get back into remote areas...

Elk Hunting Colorado Unit 85, by Jerry~ I'm looking for any good advice on hunting elk in unit 85 in Colorado Spanish peaks area....

Solo archery hunting -- tips for calling/set up?, by Idaho Steve (Hailey, ID )~ I hunt by myself a lot...I'd love to hear your thoughts on strategic set-ups when solo hunting and calling.

Non- Lead Bullets for Elk?, by Dave, Elk Hunting Tips.Net (Garrison, MT)~ What do you ballistics guys think about the use of non-lead bullets for elk? According to this story...

Rage Broadheads by Chris, ...my buddy gave me a rage practice tip and when I shot it you could not pick out the broadhead from the field points. I was sold...

Recent Submissions:

Finally filled the freezer..., Colorado Rockies~ "I was bummed when I got to the property and no elk, nor any hoof prints in the snow. ...I pulled each of the elk into shade then started gutting..."

Wounded Veteran Elk hunts, by Joshua FL), I am a disabled veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and have always dreamed of hunting elk. I am posting this to see if anyone would know of any elk hunts free to disabled vets....

First Elk with a Bow, by Ryan H. (Colorado), ...Finally after many years of hunting with a bow "I got er did"!

First Elk!, by Tater (Sheridan, Arkansas) I took the advice I received from this website and was successful…I wanted to Thank You and Your Forum and the folks that share on here for the knowledge and information that helped me find an elk I was quite happy with.


Any success in Unit 14?, by: Dave (MI), "I'm planning on doing a DIY in Unit 14 for 2012..."

Rough Estimating Elk Antler Score, by Tater (Sheridan, AR) "I have booked my first elk hunt out west. My package includes up to 250 inches before the bonus prices increase. Can someone tell me how to estimate the antler size of an elk or at least a 250 inch elk?"

Share Elk Hunting Secrets

Bugle in Herd bulls, by Swiltbank (Az) The key to calling in a herd bull is to get into his bedding grounds and threaten his herd. Start off sounding like…

Best Big Game Rifle?

Best Rifle Caliber?, by Buglemup (Superior, MT), "I've been reading what people have been writing about rifle calibers and here is what 16 years of guiding elk has taught me."

7mm Remington Magnum, by Dean (Helena, MT. USA) I use my Liberty Ruger M77, 7mm Rem. Mag. for antelope, deer, elk... Comment: "What do you guys think about the idea of hunting elk with a 270? I also know a guy who kills elk with a 243."

338 Marlin Express, "Light, fast shooting, hard hitting, manageable recoil, and for a lever gun - very accurate."

Guns I like for Elk, by Mountain Walker (Kootenays east B.C. Canada),"I think the gun you shoot Elk with should be one you shoot a lot with... "

.35 Remington, by Bill Smith "...my .35 Rem appears to have dropped a medium deer flawlessly, but I now have serious doubts as to its capability to take an elk."

Arizona Elk Hunting

Where to hunt in Az unit 3B?, by Cliffjumper (Tucson, Az) ~ I got a late bull muzzle loader hunt in Arizona unit 3b. Does anyone know how to hunt bulls in the late season?...

First time elk hunter hunting Arizona unit 6A , by Rob Marchio (Omaha, Ne)~ I'm a first time elk hunter hunting Arizona's unit 6A. I'm planning on staying in the Pine Grove campground...

Elk Hunting Colorado

Help needed for 1st DIY Hunt w/Son, by Patrick (Parker, CO), "I was looking for some advice on my 1st DIY hunt for 2014 in CO with my 13 yr old son. I have countless hrs going over stats, topo maps & Google Earth"

Elk Hunting Colorado in 2013, By William (Midland, TX) "I am planning an elk hunt next year in Colorado and I wanted to know if hunting Gunnison National Forest..."

Unit 60 Elk 4th Rifle Season Nov 13-17 Either Sex 2013, By Chester "...Any general advice about the unit would be appreciated!"

Idaho Elk Hunting

Elk Hunting Idaho Unit 8 8A 11, This is my first year seriously trying to track down some elk. Is there anyone that has hunted in any of these units and can give me some friendly advice? Mitchell, Moscow Idaho

Elk Hunting Pocatello by Cameron (Pocatello) Where is the best place to elk hunt around Pocatello, Idaho? I'm a student at ISU and I'm looking for somewhere around here to hunt next season.

How is the elk hunting in unit 30A in Idaho?, by Terry (Richland Center, WI) Has anyone archery elk hunted in unit 30A in Idaho? What can you tell me about the area?

Elk Hunting In Montana

Hunting in Western Montana, by Mike A. (Alabama)

I did not draw a tag for Missouri breaks where I have hunted in the past. Having to start over and try western Montana.

New Mexico Elk Hunting

New Mexico Unit 49, by Silas (Los Alamos, NM)

If anyone has tips on areas to start scouting, I'd really appreciate it.

First Elk Hunt First Elk Hunt, by Big "R" (NM)

I finally got drawn for a late elk hunt in Unit 28, north of Road 506 and south of the boundary line of the Lincoln National Forest...

Elk Hunting in Utah

"This is my first year hunting. I'm trying to make it fun and exciting for my kids. We went to the north slope by Bridger and China Meadows..."

Elk Hunting Nevada

Cow elk in Nevada's unit 222:

"Any good places known in unit 222?"

Northeast Nevada Early Elk hunt, by John (Carson City,NV)

"Any suggestions on what areas I may see some signs of elk?"

Questions from Novice Hunters

Retired USMC MSgt Needs Advice, by Ken Wing USMCRET (Bealeton, Va)

Big Game Recipes

Elk or Venison Steaks Grilled to Perfection Here's how to turn them into steakhouse steaks!

Spice-Crusted Grilled Venison Roast Recipe This Spice-Crusted, Grilled Venison Roast recipe works great for any red meat roasts, including elk, deer or beef roast...

Corned Elk Recipe You can easily make corned venison and elk, moose or corned beef from these instructions...

My wife's website: