5 Important Tips and Tricks for Calling an Elk

Effective elk-calling tips can be the “make it or break it” factor when filling your tag. However, it may appear intimidating or confusing if you’ve never done it before. 

When do you make the call? What does that phone call mean? When should I use a cow call? 

When it comes to elk calling, there are so many factors that it can be difficult to gain confidence. Understanding elk vocalization, effective suggestions and strategies for increasing your odds, and typical hunting blunders is critical.

If you’re unsure where to begin but want to understand how to enhance the chances of filling your freezer, keep reading.

1. Challenge Bugles

If you are thinking about how to call elk, a challenge bugle can be an extremely effective calling tool that can be used once a bull has been spotted. It is most effective during the pre-rut and early rut phases when bulls are looking for cows and competing for territory. 

However, it works best when used near a worked-up bull – close enough to make the challenger feel threatened. If a challenge is delivered from too far away, the bull may gather his cows and flee.

In these cases, starting by glassing or listening to a bull is advisable. With a known location, hunters can reach as close as feasible, ideally within a hundred yards, with the wind to their advantage. 

So, close the gap and try a few quiet cow sounds to elicit a bugle. When they do respond with a challenge. This can be done in conjunction with raking and branch breaking. Be prepared if the bull becomes agitated. They might charge in hard.

Significantly, be prepared even if they do not answer verbally. The elk might enter quietly to examine the interloper. This is particularly critical for the shooter. 

Stay calm, and don’t move while your guide calls. Stay put unless your guide tells you to get up and move. It may appear to be an eternity. However, keeping a cool head and being patient often pays off in these situations.

2. Adapt to the Situation

Every elk hunter calling approach is different, and some insist on doing things the same way every time. 

If the formula works, go ahead and continue. However, approaching the calling with some flexibility can greatly improve your chances of success. Elk reacts differently at different rut stages, and reading the circumstance might help you succeed.

Having diverse tones and calling abilities can help you perform better in the field. Furthermore, elk do not always follow the script as we intend. Expect the unexpected when hunting elk, especially in calling scenarios. Maintain your flexibility and patience.

3. Cow Calls

Elk calls appeal to their instinct to fight or procreate, while cow calls appeal to their breeding instinct.

A bull with cows may not respond as readily to bugles. In these instances, they already have a harem, so fighting may not be in his best interests. 

Adding a few more cows to the mix, on the other hand, would be appealing. Cow calls could be useful in closing the purchase.

Notably, cow calls will help you to be as close to the challenge bugle as possible. A bull with a harem will be cautious about leaving them and going a long distance. Get as close as you can to use the wind. 

Remember that you must deceive more than just the bull’s eyes and nose as those cattle will be on high alert.

4. Locator Calls

Bugling in high-pressure locations is not always effective, but elk must still be found. 

Hunters have the advantage of escaping pressure, although locating calls is still useful. A locator is often a single bugle sounded to elicit a response. It’s not so much about having a dialogue or calling a bull into range as it is about determining where that bull is dwelling.

Use locator calls sparingly in the early mornings, evenings, and even at night. Call only once, then wait and listen. When you receive that response, note the location and plan to get closer. 

Locator calls can help you quickly narrow an area and focus on specific terrain.

5. Go Silent

Consider going silent if the elk are bugling and making noise. Find a glassing spot and keep your eyes on it to plan a stalk. 

A silent approach is very successful when they grow call-shy or a herd bull refuses to leave his harem. Having a cow call available during the stalk is still beneficial. You might need it to get that bull away from his herd of cows. 

Whatever you do, get as close to the elk as possible before making a peep.

Sounds of an Elk 

These sounds are categorized into seven distinct sounds.

  • Glunk- This is a bugle-like muted bass sound produced by Bulls. 
  • Mew- An elk mew can imply various things, from expressing threats to bull sparring to simple communication between a cow and calf. 
  • Chuckle- The “chuckle” is a string of brief, low-pitched noises that frequently follows a bugle. This sound is used to signal dominance between bulls, to confront one another, and to entice cows.


Reading the elk’s reactions is the key to successful elk calling and elk calls. The objective is frequently to try and stop a bull from getting to his herd or to try to get him to leave his herd. 

Significantly, you must be well-versed in elk vocalizations and calls to do this. You can tell whether an elk is calling you to come to them by understanding the meaning of the many types of bugles and cow calls. You only need to work in the field for some time to do it. If you put in the time, practice will make perfect, and you will benefit remarkably.

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