Summit Treestands
Elk Vocalizations
Contributors to this thread:
Rut Nut 15-Apr-11
extrem predator 15-Apr-11
ElkNut1 15-Apr-11
swede 15-Apr-11
>>>---WW----> 15-Apr-11
Rut Nut 16-Apr-11
swede 16-Apr-11
wyobullshooter 17-Apr-11
>>>---WW----> 17-Apr-11
wyobullshooter 17-Apr-11
AndyJ 17-Apr-11
Bowhunner 17-Apr-11
Scoot 17-Apr-11
ElkNut1 17-Apr-11
Bowhunner 18-Apr-11
>>>---WW----> 18-Apr-11
Rut Nut 18-Apr-11
From: Rut Nut
Are there really that many more vocalizations with Elk, compared to Whitetails?!

Been reading ElkNut's playbook and I counted 13 different cow sounds and 16 different Bull sounds!

Seems to me whitetails don't make that many different sounds.

Having hunted many, many years.....maybe heard deer vocalize 2 times.

Elk 1000s times more.

800 bugles in one area for 2 weeks, and cow sounds so bizarre, got out of a stand to lecture a poor caller / hunter... and it turned out to be a small herd... elk like turkey, can sound a typical ..... from tapes sold . WH DEER ARE AS OVERRATED AS BASS ARE FOR FISHING . landing a bass takes 30-40 seconds .

From: ElkNut1

ElkNut1's Link
Yep, afraid so! (grin) You don't have to know how to make all those sounds but identifying them is what is of most importance! The reason is in most areas & encounters we cannot see the elk we are after so identification of sounds can be a huge plus, this will help us as hunters to form the best odds & strategy for a particular bull or group of elk when they're vocal!

Not being a big whitetail hunter I can't help you there! (grin)


From: swede
I do not know about White tail deer, but I have heard Mule deer talk. They are very soft and you need to be close as well as quiet. They do not seem to have very many different sounds, but they keep track of each other, and a doe will keep her fawn(s) from straying.

Yep you are right Swede. Mulies are fun to play with. As for elk, they do make tons of different sounds. But you don't have to know them all. I always kinda look at it this way. It isn't so much the sound itself as it is the amount of emotion, urgency, or reaction they put into it that makes up the different meanings.

From: Rut Nut
OK, thanks guys! REading thru your info and listening to the CD's and watching the DVD's for the first time can be a little overwhelming for a simple country boy deer hunter from PA, ElkNut! ;-)

I'm hoping the more I watch and listen, the more the info will become clear. I listened to the CD for the second time this morning and I think I see what WW means about the emotion, urgency and inflection(my word) in the Elk's "voice".

Hopefully in a couple months I will have a MUCH better handle on Elk Vocalizations and calls.

From: swede
I have hunted elk for years and had some idea of what elk calls means. (e.g. a bark,or mew) But I never put it together the way Elknut has. I do not know calling the way he does yet, but by listening to his DVDs several times and reading his Playbook, I am able to respond to elk much better. You don't have to be able to swim like Michael Phelps to get across the pool. You do not have to be able to call like Elknut or others to get a bull. Recognize, there are a few people, who post on this forum, that are excellent callers. The rest of us can learn, and work to catch up.

Elk can be very vocal. I group the sounds into social, rutting, and alarm sounds. As WW points out, you don't have have to know all the calls. You just have to know the difference between them, and be able to at least reasonably duplicate a couple from each of the first two groups. Personally, I would never use an alarm call.

What has worked best for me through the years is using a variety that includes cow/calf mews, young bull squeals, bugles, and grunts. As previously pointed out, I believe in using alot of emotion in my calls. You don't have to have "world class" ability to consistently call in elk. However, the more realistic you sound, the greater your odds. Practice the basic vocalizations and get ready for fun!

Since we are talking about elk vocalizations,maybe we should look at a couple of those alarm sounds that wyobullshooter mentioned.

Basically, there are two. The alarm bark and the nervous bark. And I'd venture to say that many elk hunters can't tell the difference.

The alarm bark pretty much means to get out of Dodge! I tried it once many years ago before I knew the difference between the two. I had called in a small bull and it was starting to get dark. I didn't want him to know I was there so I decided to try an alarm bark to scare him off. Instead of scaring him, he actuall came looking for me.

He was doing exactly what I had ask him to do because my best effort at an alarm bark turned out to be a nervous bark instead. And I think in elk talk, I was more or less asking him to show himself. Another lesson learned from my 30 some odd years of the elk hunting school of hard knocks.

The nervous bark can also stop a moving elk in his tracks. Works 100% of the time!

What's the difference in the two sounds? Here is where the emotion in the call comes into play. The warning bark is a lot deeper sound and usually means cut and run. The nervous bark is usually a little higher pitched and is more of a question than an explanation. In other words they are a little bit nervous and may want to see a little more before coming to your calls. That's not a bad thing. Especially on a hung up bull. If you give the call before he does, it may just bring him that extra step or two for a good shot.

WW...I tend to agree that there is some variation to the alarm sounds as you describe. If they work for you or others, then that's all that really matters. A huge factor in elk calling ability is confidence, and that confidence is gained through success.

There are a couple reasons why I don't use any type of alarm call. One is that the difference from one to another is not that great. If you don't do it perfectly, what you call the nervous bark will sound like an alarm bark. Now every elk in earshot is on high alert. Even if the bull stops, he may stop in a position where I need to manipulate his position. If he is already suspicious, the odds of calling him back are poor at best. Secondly, any alarm call is going to cause an elk to become nervous, or timid, as the name nervous bark implies. That's the last thing I want when I'm calling in a bull. Since mews have more of a calming effect, the bull is more likely to be more at ease as he approaches. That has been my experience.

Like I said though, absolutely use what works best for you. Like most things, there is more than one way to skin a cat, or in this case, kill an elk! ;)

From: AndyJ
Being an elk hunter and a whitetail hunter I would say that elk have a lot more vocalizations than whitetails. Not including rattling, since they both do that, whitetails have four calls that are really obvious that every whitetail hunter should probably know: Grunt, snort, snort-weeze, and bleat. Elk have many calls that mean many different things and some of the differences are very subtle.

I would have to disagree with extrem predator. Whitetails are really fun to hunt and are a very worthy challenge.

From: Bowhunner
I have hunted elk quite a few times and I've hunted whitetails my whole life in my home state of Nebraska. Elk definately have more vocalizations than whitetails. A mature whitetail buck can be as crafty as any animal i know of.

As far as clling i often refer to the elk as the 500lb turkey. IMO a huge key to calling any animal is proper timing. Taking the animals temperature and adjusting how much and how loud you call accordingly.

From: Scoot
Rut Nut, I believe whitetails vocalize a lot more than you suggest in your post. However, as others have said above, elk do way, way more talkin' than deer do.

From: ElkNut1

ElkNut1's Link
Understanding the Sounds Elk Make are important & can aid us hunters. They can make or break an encounter. Understanding the correct definition of such sounds is something that should be important to all who desire consistent success on elk anywhere they hunt especially so on OTC Public Land Hunts!

Elk know the differences between all sounds & know what to look for or hear for to separate warnings from invites as well as many other things. We too can benefit ourselves in the same way. In the present thoughts of a Grunt Or a Bark it's necessary to understand their correct meanings for our future hunts & encounters! To avoid confusion this is why I've referred to Popping/Nervous Grunt over Barks on much of the info I've shared over the years, now you can see why! (grin)

A "Bark" is a bark, it will clear a mountain side quicker than anything else! Nothing you do will bring them back, they've recognized a threat & don't look back! (grin) However a "Nervous Grunt" is a whole different sound, it asks for a visual or identity, even an invite! We have taken near 25 bulls with just this sound alone as the the sound that got it done under many varying situations!

The Popping/Nervous grunt is used by all elk in varying situations. By experiencing this sound in its many forms by elk under different situations one can come to his or her conclusions that if it's good enough for the elk to use it under particular situations then it will also work for us hunters! This sound is used out of Curiosity or Wanting an Identification from the particular source. But it's not held to just that! Bulls will use it in front of a screaming bugle or at the end of one instead of a series of grunts. Why? Because not only are they trying to intimidate the other bull but he wants to see this new challenger. Elk will also vary volume in its use depending on the reason for the elks curiosity. Many times you will hear an elk give a soft one then another with a bit more volume. Too, I've seen calves squeal this sound along with small chirps as they were hopping & darting around with a sense of excitement & the more mature cows not even giving them a glance. Seeing things like this firsthand really helps us to know when & where we can best utilize such sounds.

To re-emphasize, Barks are done in Repetition & Nervous Grunts are not! When Barks are used in warning others they get further & further away, nervous grunts do not, elk will stay right there & sometimes even come closer!

We've taken many bulls with the use of the nervous/popping grunt, timing of sounds is key, too, they must fit the encounter or fit a method of use. Do not confuse this sound with a "bark" a bark is used by elk as a warning to others in the area, it will be given by them several times in just a few seconds & they are getting further away, others may also chime in with this warning. Nervous grunts are given in a single note fashion, rarely closer than 30 sec apart, generally closer to a minute sometimes more.

Here's a couple of our experiences for fun & hopefully it may assist others that have not used it or were reluctant to try it!

You may have read the story where I called a nice bull in for my Son. During the exchange from the bull & I just before I got him to commit with the pants & a scream I hit him with 2 nervous grunts then I hesitated for 3 sec & hit him with a challenging scream! This issued a challenge & I also wanted to see him or for him to show himself to me! He was coming in to do just that when he went by my Son at 12yds!

Another example we've used it was when we startled a bull on our way out of a hunting area. We apparently surprised him at 40yds out in thick stuff & he hit us with this sound! I immediately mewed, I left my Son right there as the shooter & I retreated with soft cow mews & chirps putting distance between me & the bull as if I (the cow) were leaving, within minutes my Son had the bull on the ground with a double lung shot!

On another hunt I used the nervous grunt myself to get it done. Some may remember Harold, I met him here on the internet & invited him on his 1st ever elk hunt with a bow no less! (grin) We happened to come across a couple bulls out of nowhere 3-miles back in, they spooked at 40yds & ran, I immediately gave off 2-3 nervous grunts to my left then my right, some high in volume & a couple in a lower volume & proceeded with some cow in distress sounds, then I threw out a short screaming bugle, the once quiet woods erupted with screaming from a couple bulls that we had no idea were there, one was a 5-point 200yds out, he came on a dead run 12 yds from us & ole Harold put an arrow through both lungs, we watched him walk off & crash right in front of us! Harold was shaking like a leaf!! (grin)

On another hunt it was my Son & I, we got into a herd & called in a bull, my Son shot right over his back at 25yds, yep, he missed, the herd started scattering & we let them go to settle down for about 15minutes or so. We crested a ridge & spotted 2 bulls side-hilling away from us 200 yds out. It was my turn to shoot so we put a plan together & I went forward trying to coyote in on them, as most plans go I was busted not even a 100yds out, a bull hit me with the nervous grunt, before I could react another one chimed in to my right, yep I was between them, what should I do???? I chimed in with a couple of my own & they just stood there in the chest high brush, I immediately pulled out all stops & really hit with off the charts cow in distress sounds they were very pitchy & painful sounding. My Son knew the jig was up for me even though he was well behind me so he threw in several bull screams as I continued with cow in distress sounds. (grin) The woods erupted into bugling that would be hard to explain & here comes a bull right at me, I arrowed him at close range & got to my Son to get up to my position so he too could have an opportunity, within 5 minutes of keeping the commotion going he arrowed a 2nd bull at pointblank range!

I've also used very soft nervous grunts over the years to bring cows over my way that I had spotted at a distance, using such sounds as this & others under the situations can be very effective. I could go on here with other adventures but this gives a good idea of how we've used them in our personal hunting adventures!

Hey, I also will inject such sounds in my "blind or cold calling setups" it creates interest & excitement!!


From: Bowhunner
Is it just me or is elknut a little like E.F Hutton? I just ordered a bunch of his stuff. Thanks for the mini-lesson. gonna try that nervous grunt IF i can get the sound down.

Elknut has it right. But don't be confused by different terminology or names for certain types of calls. Depends alot on what part of elk country you happen to be from.

What he is referring to as a bark is the same thing as what I was calling a warning bark. Yep, one in the same.

Also, what I referred to as a nervous bark is the same thing that Elknut calls the popping/nervous grunt.

Another one would be blind or cold calling setups. In this neck of the woods it is known as silent calling simply because 90% of the elk that come to it, do so without ever making a sound.

Sometimes differen termonolgy can be as confusing as elk call meanings themselves.

Now, does anyone want to get into chuckles and grunts? LOL!

From: Rut Nut
LOL! My head is spinning right now, WW! Don't confuse me. I have Elknut's info, so I'm gonna stick to his terminology! ;-)

Thanks for the info, ElkNut!

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