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Quick Elk Hunting Tip 9-9-13
September 09, 2013

Playing the Wind Game

Yesterday, my second day of hunting elk this season in Montana, started out quiet, except for me doing elk talk. It was mid-morning. I was on the move when I smelled fresh elk scent. That beautiful, pungent smell that you know when you smell it!

I quickly took a reading with my high tech breeze sensor instrument (talc in a squirt bottle). The wind was whipping this way and that, so I was having a hard time figuring out exactly where the smell was coming from. A few tests and I had a good general direction that the welcomed smell was coming from.

I coyoted upwind 30 or 40 yards, set up and did a couple of pleading mews. I was satisfied to be a little bit above the elk and they were upwind of me. A bull bugled less than a hundred yards in the 1:00 direction. There were no trees big enough to set up my Eichler Elk decoy, because the jack pines and juniper shrubs were too small. I didn't have the stakes with me, only the hanging system.

I made a pleading cow call and the bull bugled again. He was now at the 4:00 direction. He had circled around a bit. I was sure he was going to try to wind me (6:00 direction). I moved to my 9:00 direction trying to stave off the inevitable sharp nose of his.

I was panicking trying to set up my decoy as a "bedded" elk, since I still couldn't find a place to hang it. The flat HD photo of a cow elk was not cooperating.

I turned around 180 degrees and made a cow mew sound and slinked to my right (my new 3:00 position) to get away from where I had made the call. Feeling good about avoiding letting him pinpoint my location, I readied myself for a shot.

I peaked through the short vegatation and saw the bull 100 yards away, up above me on the hill, now downwind from me. He had taken my advantage away from me and it was now his! He was now looking down on me and downwind.

Regardless of whether he saw or smelled me, it was what he didn't see that ended our close encounter. He took his two cows and a calf and headed for the usual bedding area. From his vantage point he could not see the cow that had been sweetly talking to him. That kills the deal with just about any elk!

I tracked the small herd over a half a mile, until it was obvious they were headed across the fence a couple miles away. One that I cannot cross. (Again!)

"Windage and Elevation", as John Wayne Once Said

He took away the advantages I thought I had over him. A little elevation and the wind. Maybe I got a little too close, giving him a chance to get behind me too quickly and easily. Elk are smart animals. They can tell what the wind is doing by feeling it on their noses, or whatever. The don't need a puffer. They know exactly where to go to do a smell check. It's amazing how quickly and quietly they can get there.

One of the elk decoys by Montana Decoy could have saved this scenario from ending as it did. My reposition to the right of where he last heard me could have prevented him from smelling me, but he needed a visual. Of course, the visual (decoy) would have been to my left as I faced the bull, maybe with a little elk pee sprayed on it!

Proper Set Up for Calling

Ideally (rare in elk hunting), would have been for me to set up the decoy for him to see from his new elevated position. I would have moved for enough to the right to stay out of the scent stream heading toward him. I would have called right next to the decoy and immediately moved away. I would have set up some nice shooting lanes to shoot that bull when he came in to check out the decoy. Ideally, I wouldn't have given him so much open area to work with above me (behind and downwind).

But then, this is a competitive sport between man and beast. The beast usually wins! They have to win all the time. We only have to win once! I'll be out on the "playing field" again in a couple of days. The rut is picking up! I'm hearing of hunters in other states who are talking about bugling bulls.

Here's another quick tip regarding the Montana Decoy/Eichler Elk decoy: The hanging system is great! I no longer carry the heavy poles. However, the hanging strings can be easily dropped and lost, if you're not paying attention. If you get one, develop a good system to avoid losing the hanging system! In the heat of the moment I dropped one of mine on the ground and left it. Last time I spoke to them they do not yet have extra hanging systems yet for these new Eichler Elk Decoys.
Want to learn more about setting up calling scenarios and more precisely what elk are saying (and you're saying back)? Check out

Elk Nut's Sounds by the Elk CD and Playbook. Paul Medel discusses many different scenarios and what to say and do to effectively set up calling attempts, for lone hunters and team hunting.

Send Me Your Quick Elk Hunting Tips!

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