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?

Comments for Archery Bull Elk Non Responsive to Cow call

Click here to add your own comments

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

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.


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

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.

Click here to add your own comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Share Your Elk Hunting Pictures, Stories, Comments or Questions!.

Shop Our Store

Elk Tips Outdoor Gear Logo


Newsletter Opt-in:
"I just get so excited talking about elk.." ~Tristan, CO

Search This Site Here:

Hunting Gear Reviews

ElkNut Outdoor Prod.
Bugling Bull Game Calls
HECS Stealthscreen
Montana Decoy
StringSling Bow Sling
Skull Hookers
Safari Sling Rifle Sling
Clip-Shot Mini Camera Mount


Free U.S. Shipping

Bugling Bull
Game Calls

ElkNut Productions

Free Shipping on
ElkNut Products Here

HECS Stealthscreen:
A New Type of Concealment!

HECS Stealthscreen

Including U.S. Shipping

Montana Decoy Elk/Deer
Available Here!

Montana Decoy

$59-$109.99 Free Shipping!

The StringSling:
Best Bow Sling Design!

String Sling Bow Sling

$29.95, 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

Share your elk hunting pictures and stories on our Facebook Page!

Go to Forums

Forum Topic Discussions:

How often should I use my cow call?, I am new to the sport of bow hunting elk and my question is how often should I use my cow calls?

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)


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...

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, 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..."

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 " .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 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

Popcorn VenisonPopcorn Venison with Maple Syrup?

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...