Advice for Inexperienced Elk Callers

I’m not great at calling elk. If you watch a couple of our episodes, you’ll see me squawk out quite a few bugles. I have a few buddies that can sound like a herd bull one moment and a harem of cows a few seconds later. In my case, I’ve shot elk without relying heavily on calling. In this blog I’ll explain a few ways to have success with limited expertise as a caller.

Call Less Kill More

At some point you will run into a bull that loves to hear itself talk. It will bugle all morning without another sound in the valley. It feels really good to have a bull respond, but don’t get tempted into bugling too much. You can’t do anything in your favor by calling back. For almost every style of hunting, call the bear minimum ;). As long as you can keep tabs on the bull, just keep moving closer. Not only do you have the potential of pushing the herd when you bugle, but a botched call will turn the bull from aggressive to wary in an instant. Most of the time remaining silent will make the bull more frustrated, which is a good thing. I’m not trying to win a calling contest; I’m trying to shoot an elk. For an inexperienced caller, calling less leads to more elk.

Utilize Other Sounds

When Max has a stag hung up at 100 or 150 yards he will shake a nearby tree for all its worth. He will use this strategy even when he has an electronic caller with him in New Zealand. I like to rake a branches, throw rocks and scrape the dirt during elk season. Whatever sounds you prefer, they will add realness to your calling and bring in more elk. Remember to be silent immediately afterwards. Any noises will make it easier for the bull to pinpoint your location and interfere with your ability to hear the bull approaching.

Scented = Heard + Seen = Disaster

Elk trust their ability to smell above every other sense. Don’t think you’ll trick an elk’s nose. However, you might trick their eyes or ears. If an elk sees you, it won’t always spook away immediately. A decoy can come in really handy at this point. A hoochie mama will also buy you a few extra seconds to make a shot.

There are a lot of sounds in the woods. Elk constantly snap twigs and rustle bushes not to mention the sounds of squirrels and birds. You can get away with a bit of noise as long as an elk can’t see you (Heard + Seen). You’re in a battle with an elk’s smell, sight and hearing. Don’t let an elk smell you. Use a decoy or hoochie mama to buy yourself a couple more minutes.


Experts love to call. For guys like Cory Jacobsen and Paul Medel, who have been around elk for decades, they understand elk communication. For beginners, keep it simple and control what you can control. Call less, use sounds like raking and stomping that are hard to mess up and avoid being seen and heard at the same time.

Good luck,


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