Bugling for Bull Elk with an Elk Bugle Call by Drew Rouse
The very fact that Bull elk bugle is one of the best parts about hunting them in the rut. They can and will sneak in silently. However when they march in screaming their heads off, after you’ve seduced and lured them in close with elk calls. It’s the kind of experience that is hard to beat. Those high pitched Screams will pierce more than the mountain air. To me calling elk is the pinnacle of sport. Using their high pitched guttural screams to reel them in close is highly effective if done right. This article will out line a few outside the box techniques and highlights some of the sounds you should have in your repertoire.
Locator bugle-Using an Elk Bugle call to locate bulls
I love to try to get a bull to talk by bugling a loud clear note. It may be a great spot to start as far as a tactic. I started always adding loud cow talk to my locator strategy. We’ve seen time and again bulls answer extremely accurate sounding loud cow talk so its always worth a shot to try this first. That being said seeing as this is a bugling article Ill skip that for now. Lets assume a high pitched bugle is your first and only note you’ll play when locating or attempting to locate a responsive bull. Our new Scream diaphragms and ATM and OTC bugles excel at this accurate ringing tone. The single reeds are easy to play and have an excellent range of volume.
You can add a little growl or lip bawl into this note but the general idea is to make a loud clear long note as long as your breath can go. One that will reach as fas as possible. I do not recommend chuckling while locating because you may drown out any distant response. Hit that high note and let it ring and pierce as long as you can then be quiet and listen. Covering ground and staying determined will help as will putting your self on the playing field. Bugling off the top of the rim or from the bottom of a climb is not as effective. Dropping onto a slope or putting yourself in the general area elk ought to be seems to make them respond better.
One of the best ways to locate is just before sunup. Doing this kind of stuff in the predawn darkness can have negative consequences. But that being said it can be a deadly technique to locate a talkative bull before they figure hunters ought to be calling. I highly recommend trying to not road hunt and call and educate the elk. We all share these woods and those elk might be the ones your on tomorrow over the ridge. If that lead cow says I heard that coming from a dirt bike that just shut off yesterday or after truck doors shut off the two track near my bedding area it might be pointless.
The go to move- Bulls calling Cows Bugle
Maybe Im dating myself here but I think the above scene in Rocky 3 when Mr T Aka Clubber Lang tries to bait Rocky Balboa. He started trying to instigate a fight by calling him names. This fails however. He then switches tactics and when Clubber invites Rocky’s wife over to his apartment however the fight is on. This kind of reaction is why I feel a bull sneaking in and sweet talking another bulls ladies is such a great sound. A higher pitched screaming piercing sound in a 3-4 second note is what I use in this situation.
I like to use it when you’ve already had contact with your quarry and are interacting with him vocally. Or he and perhaps even all his cows are talking and you’ve snuck in. We all know if some guy starts blatantly hitting on your woman like this in front of you it may elicit a response on a whole other level. Ripping a bull calling cows bugle is one of the most effective sounds you can use to draw in the herd bull. Most of the elk Ive shot came in doing this vocalization themselves if they were lone bulls looking for cows and coming in to a herd scenario calling sequence or cow sounds.
Using a challenge bugle
Getting in between a bull and his cows or cow and ripping the baddest bugle note you can can be very effective. I like to use this while running at a bull in heavy cover trying to make him run me over. We all know how much fun ripping huge bugle notes with growls and chuckles is so if this is your style of hunting stick with it. Hopefully the bull you encounter will be one that wants to fight some of them are just wired that way! If not go back to the bull calling cows note.
Volume variation is your friend when using your Elk bugle call
Bulls will bugle half heartedly a lot more than you think. Especially on hard hit public land that sees a lot of archery hunters. They learn if they bugle in daylight that hunters just come running. It seems the only thing that will make them forget it is a hot cow. If they aren’t on a hot cow they have in my experience in Colorado OTC units stayed extremely tight lipped.
To imitate these bulls I don’t think anyone makes a call that works more consistently and easily to add some more sounds to your cow calling then our new Bullistic missile bugles or Scream Diaphragms. Both harness the 3 dimensional air and voice inflection capturing power from our reed setup. It is borrowed from the original elk reel design and we spent years tweaking and patenting every aspect of it. The Non latex reeds have a natural elky sound that drives real elk nuts. Using the Scream diaphragm, OTC RPG or Extendabull Anti Tank Missile. You can make that bull calling cows sound that we love so much, that a bull approaching cows will make to call them to him.
A whiny growly note. A few Half hearted chuckles. Glunking with the bottom of your tube against the palm of your hand. It all will help you in pressured areas. Glass the elk up and watch where they go to bed. Then plan a mid day sneak into their bedroom. If a bull thinks another bull has scent trailed them into his honeymoon suite he may be a lot more eager to get up and come into bow range.
Blind calling strategies for using an Elk bugle
I love mixing it up when blind calling elk. Also like to try to paint a picture of two smaller bulls mixing it up. To the point where I have even carried around 5×5 sheds to rattle with. You’re basically trying to call in satellite bulls blind calling. Although I’ve blind called in whole herds trailing the mountain king more than a few times. A mature bull in the first few days of September will probably still be roaming alone or with another bull perhaps still. Making a mature bull think a few smaller bulls may have the first hot cow is a winner.
What I like to do is try to imitate one whiny squeeler of a juvenile bull and then another bull chuckling in a slightly different tone. That is one nice thing about both our bugles the mouth pieces are available in single and double reeds. Adding this to some cow calling sequences gives the idea of a happy herd of elk. Juvenile satelitte bulls and mature elk are equally attracted to such scenarios. Add beating up a tree with an antler or big stick and its just a killer technique.
The two juvenile bulls is my go to for blind calling and I highly recommend it. The last OTC Colorado 6×6 I killed came into just the particular sound. After pretending to be a herd moving up the mountain to the ridge top. The bugles were the icing on the cake that he couldn’t resist.
Whether the Elk have been pressured or not plays a huge part in my strategy for using an Elk Bugle call. Do I need a devious strategy for using my Elk bugle? There is a huge difference in behavior between pressured over the counter elk and un-pressured bulls. I believe that on opening weekend every elk that is in a heavily hunted spot sees or smells a hunter. If you are hunting public land in an easy to get a tag unit they definitely have been. Archery and muzzleloader Elk hunting is as popular as ever and public land gets absolutely hammered.
Or even before the hunting season the elk get pushed around. With the advent of Instagram it seems now a days everyone and their brother is out putting up cams and taking pictures of animals with a digi-scope. When I got into archery hunting it seemed this was level of dedicated scouting was the rarity instead of the norm. But just our very presence in elk country draws warning attention to the approaching Elk seasons. We set off their alarms at the same time every year. I think the older cows can predict when to head off the top of the mountain where they have spent the summer.
The elk you are hunting are prepared for you
Public land over the counter Elk have a well rehearsed playbook of moves to avoid you. They will drop into a deep dark hole most people won’t want to pack them out of. Or maybe pressured bulls and cows spend their daylight hours on a extremely steep timbered hillsides using small benches and flat spots above trees to bed. They will move onto private property or in some cases into the limited entry unit next store. Elk will start bedding deep in the oak brush where you will have trouble approaching them stealthily. Basically they will do everything and anything to even keep you from finding them. One of their favorite moves is to turn the volume down.
They still need to vocalize to stay in contact with each other. This is the main reason elk calves, cows and bulls vocalize in the first place. Imagine moving through a thick forest with slight terrain undulations created by erosion of eons of snowmelts and thunderstorms. To keep from getting separated the elk will whisper mews and chirps to each other. Even the bulls make whines and cow like vocalizations and they definitely like bugling at ultra low volume.
They reduce their volume to avoid you. How many times do they need to wind a hunter after calling or see one to become a tune to this relation? Elk where they do not need to reduce their volume to avoid hunters talk much louder all season long. This I have seen time in and time out. Elk on the ranch you drive past to get to public are screaming and the cows are whining loudly. When you get to public? They have shut up before dawn.
Think outside the box to learn how to use an Elk bugle call more effectively
When you have animals well aware that they are being hunted. They are well versed in how to behave to avoid you. This is where being a good elk caller and using calls that play accurate variable tones can pay serious dividends. When I got into making elk calls it was because I was unsatisfied with any of the calls I had used. The original goal when I started inventing my own Elk calls was to make a bugle mouth piece and then design a tube to amplify the sound. Elk bugles I had always used were not all that reliable. Traditional diaphragms fall apart and you need a whole pocketful to get through season or sound more multiple. Everything I ever used was hard to use at low volume. My outside the box calls led me to thinking about outside the box techniques. Ive seen ever contraption and idea on how to muffle a diaphragm to sound further away. Reel game calls natural volume variability meant I could now do things I could never do the way I wanted before.
The low volume issue was particularly troubling. I have observed many times bulls making low volume bugling sounds that don’t sound to most people what elk bugling should sound like. People and especially those influenced by the marketing hype of traditional hunting call manufactures. Whether they’ve seen it on TV or youtube or on social media its usually some “professional” elk caller teaching you a decades long rehearsed bit about how to chuckle or how to bugle. The result is a lot of hunters could get the idea that elk only sound like people on an elk calling stage.
There is nothing wrong with watching instructional videos on how to use elk calls. However when practicing I recommend listening exclusively to elk. I think a lot of hunters must be convinced elk sound exactly what someone teaching elk calling with a diaphragm call sounds like. Or that elk only bugle at full blast. They don’t spend enough time listening to actual elk. People just don’t get to experience what elk actually sound like unless they seek out this information actively. I can not stress this enough if you really want to put more bulls on the ground. Love them. Listen to them. Make it a part of your daily or weekly routine. It will pay off in more tags punched or bigger bulls on the ground.
I think that they vary their volume to depending on many things, how old they are, how many times they have been bumped or missed after bugling loudly. Maybe they aren’t actively breeding any of their cows because they just aren’t in estrous that day. Is it really hot? How long since its rained. So many things can vary how fired up bulls will be. Half hearted whiny bugles. Half a set of half volume chuckles. Moans, whines, cow like chirps, growls, glunking and more bulls make a lot more sounds then you’d ever imagine when you first start learning about imitating them.
What can go wrong with bugling at Bulls already committed
Bugling like the king of the mountain with your Elk bugle while blind calling can be a bad plan. This is depending on the age structure of the bulls where you are hunting. There simply may not be one big enough to charge in to steal a herd bulls cows. If a bull is coming in silent there is only one way to interpret his mood. Skittish. We witnessed a bull last year that was a broke up 260-280 6×6 missing multiple points on his rack and his whale tail on his left side. He turned around after I ripped two massive full note bugles 50 yards short of the caller and slowly walked off like he just didn’t want to get beat up again. He had obviously been fighting hard and perhaps had just had his butt whipped early in the predawn that morning. I could see the caller and not the bull and he was already committed to come in to cow sounds. I was testing bugle mouth pieces on that hunt and probably that whole season was just way to liberal with it. However since I had no idea a committed shooter was walking up my shooters lane. I ripped a few loud full notes for the heck of it. It ended up backfiring in the worst way.
It is just a theory but I do believe that so many variables exist in bugling for elk with an Elk bugle call that lots of strategies work. But I do like to stick to the trying to sound less intimidating than the bull I want to shoot. One reason to think that Bull Calling cows sound is so effective. Some of our team guys swear by it and use it 90 percent of the time. Being realistic about whats in your unit or area is something you should take into account when sounding off. Its fun as heck but a lot of thought should go into every note you rip through your tube.
As always think outside the box to call in more bull elk
I can’t stress it enough when calling elk, be different and be multiple. Anything creative that you can come up with to add realism will help. Bugle a funky sound you’ve heard bulls make and never hunters and you will get more responses. Run 100 yards in between challenge bugles. Splash a wallow with a log and scream your head off at the highest possible pitch. We hope our calling tips and secrets for pressured bulls provided some useful information for the next time you go hunting.