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What should we have done?
Was out a couple weekends ago with some buddies trying to help them fill their elk tags. Also had a new guy with us who had never hunted before. My goal for him was to just get him to hear some bugles at least. We had 4 days to hunt and ended up having some good opportunities but never did drop the string. I had a situation we got into one evening where I feel like we should have killed a bull and I may have screwed up on the opportunity. I'll lay it out below, let me know what you guys would have done or you think I could have done differently to get a different outcome. I know there will be differing opinions but I did what I did and it didn't work so I would like to have some other ideas next time this happens. Here it goes...... We are on a steep ridge, 5:00 in the evening...light rain, cooler temps, all is quiet and has been since the morning. Bugling has been really slow. Plan is to hunt our way down this ridge back to a vehicle we had dropped off below. We are above a north facing area I suspect elk to be bedded in and I am planning on calling into this area and working down the ridge. I get a faint response finally, down the ridge on the other side and he work closer. Cover 300 yards, cow call again, takes a while but get a response from the same area. We work to being about 200 yards away from the response and I start a cow calling sequence. Nothing happens. I am only using my diaphragm to this point. I pull out an external call, whiny estrus buzz type thing and everything changes. I can't even finish the call....Boom, 4 bulls sound off all on top of each other. Must be a hot cow in the area. They are all on the OTHER side of the ridge across us. In my experience....when you have 4 bulls responding...you need to get one killed!! This doesn't happen everyday on public ground MT. We are on the same elevation but opposite sides of the canyon. This terrain is Very steep, creek in the bottom. Timber is thick in some spots and more open in others. I can see some elk now, feeding through the timber. As the crow flies, on the other side of the valley they are about 200 yards away. Problem is...to send the shooter over...he has to drop straight down and climb straight up the other side. Not easy terrain to move in, lots of downed timber and very steep. There are elk spread out everywhere gonna be really hard for him to sneak in without being seen. I need one of these bulls to come check me out and walk by him. Every time I hit that estrus buzz, those 4 bulls respond. Literally on top of my calls. They are fired up over this "cow" They want me to come over. We do what we can and head that way. I decide to send the shooter in and try to just keep them talking. We will shoot any bull so I'm hoping the satellite will pull off and head over. I assume the herd bull will only call us over but won't want to leave his cows. The other cows are not talking that we can hear. The bulls will not respond to any calls other then that estrus buzz. I assume they are all telling me to get over there. We get as close as we can and I have the shooter on the other side of the mountain. I can't move any more without being seen. Just hoping one of the bulls will come check us out. We play this game for 10 mins. My buddy gets to about 100 yards and gets seen by cows. Game over. My buddy who has never hunted before, stayed with me while I was calling. He had an amazing night. We probably heard over 40 bugles between those bulls so that goal was accomplished. He'll be back again:) What could I have done differently? I don't think these bulls were ever gonna leave those cows. They never made a move toward me, just ripped back telling me to get there.I couldn't get any closer with the terrain and where the cows were. I never tried a bugle since I had them responding so well to the cow calls.....maybe I should have made them think a small bull had gone over and was harassing this hot cow? Or an aggressive bugle to tell them a big bull was taking that cow? Any ideas for next time?
These are always fun because we’ve all been there and had to make that decision. Here’s my play. Hopefully elknut, Brad, otcwill or one of the other killer will chime in.
Once I locate and theres an obstacle between the elk and me, I’m assuming they aren’t crossing. For example I don’t think they are crossing the creek and coming to you (most likely). Once I got the first response I would have shut up and diced off the ridge, crossed the creek and worked up the other side as much as possible. 4 bulls, one would have come in. Once I got in a good spot below them with good wind I would have stayed out and whined that estrus cow buzz like I’d never whined it before.
From your story & description once I made contact with the bulls & I had a good direction where they were I would not have called again, I would get over to their side & close as I could. I would also guess you sounded more like an Excited Cow over the Contact/Estrus Buzz especially with a bite & blow call? ( I assume this is thick timber & not open) By the time you got over there there's a good chance one or more of the bulls would have bugled on their own looking for you giving you a better idea of their actual position once on their side. Pick a bull, one bull, send a shooter in silent as you the caller call just enough keeping the bull vocal to give your shooter a location to take him. The shooter should be prepared to give a nervous grunt to stop the bull if needed, always be prepared! I love this silent shooter approach, it can work well & the shooter has no one to blame if he fails! (grin)
#-2 -- If conditions are too dry & noisy for shooter to slip in silent then I would switch it up & have the shooter give just enough soft buzzes as he heads straight to the bull with wind & cover! He needs to watch & listen for the bull to be coming towards him or if he starts raking to encourage the ole girl to keep coming!
#-3 -- Get to 100 yard mark of chosen bull & have shooter advance 25 yards in front of caller. Have caller give his buzz to entice the bull he's chosen, once bull responds cut him off with a Challenge bugle & a bit of raking, this shows defensive action on your part selling your goods to the real bull you have a cow in or nearing estrus, that should do it! -- At any rate quit all calling once bulls are located & get over to them before any calling sequence is used!
I love a silent approach with no calling once bulls are located but in so many instances terrain can be an issue & you have to adapt to present conditions & the encounter!
I'm not an experienced elk hunter. But, I have had some success after finding them by getting close while staying as quiet as possible in doing so. They seem like turkeys in the fact that if you get close enough, they are going to come look most times. So, in that instance, I would have tried to get over there with them and get as close as I dared before doing any substantial calling trying to lure them in.
I don't know all the calls and such. I just try to sound like what I am portraying emotionally in the calls I give. Maybe I need to get Paul's tutorials and learn these individual call names to try and understand what I am trying to say to the elk better. All I know from my limited experience is that being close, up's the odds to get them to check out the calls I give. God Bless
Several things Elknut mentions describes what I would have done. As he says, if the bulls keep talking on their own, there's zero reason to give up your location by calling. I don't want them to know I even exist. Until you get inside their comfort zone, you're more than likely going to have nothing more than a shouting match anyway. The fact it was steep terrain made the odds one of the bulls was going to come over to you slim to none.
Since there were 4 bulls bugling, I would have concentrated on the one that was in a spot that had the best cover. I would have gotten as close as I dared, but preferrably within 80-100yds. At that point I would have positioned the shooter in a spot that had at least a couple shooting lanes, backed off 20-25yds, and hit a couple of the same calls they had been responding to. Once he bugled, I would cut him off with a challenge bugle and wait for the fun to start. The key is...you HAVE to get in tight!
Ok so it sounds like we all should have tried to move in closer. That's my take home. Not aggressive enough. Thanks!
Elknut is spot on.
Get tight to the elk before starting any calling sequences. Under 100 yds is preferable and closer in tight cover.
Hard to pull a bull in if you’re 1/2 mile away but sometimes they will surprise you!
Have been really shocked a couple of times when a bull screams back at a locate bugle and starts trotting in. If you want to keep him coming, you immediately have to change up your calls to keep him on track and get the shooter ready because that bull can cover ground quick!
Ya, I feel like that was a situation where you HAVE to get one killed. You can't afford to miss out on those opportunities. We'll get him next time!
Ive had a few elk experiences over the years....
Ive been in the same scenario a few times... And Ive done EXACTLY what is suggested above - get in close / dont call / cow call / rake / challenge / etc /etc / etc
And ya know what? Sometimes they JUST DONT COME IN. No matter what is mentioned here
But thats what makes it fun
Yep, I'd have done all I could to use Elknut's #3/wyobullshooter/Treeline's approach. ...and, in the end, cnelk is right! 60% of the time, it works everytime! :)
Good advice above! I've rarely ever said I was too aggressive on elk by moving to their location, but there's been plenty of times I've said that I wish I had been more aggressive! It's amazing what you can get away with on elk if you keep the wind in your face and have a little cover. Definitely get as close as you can without advertising your position. In my half pint elk hunt thread I should have talked about how we were getting on so many elk a little better. She loves the calling but I bet we had 100 conversations about how important it is to remain invisible as long as you can before you advertise your presence.
The only option I have not heard mentioned is to not go directly to them but to attempt to get to their elevation. I think that elk are more willing to come to calls if you are at the same elevation they are, so get the wind in your favor and climb to their elevation before resuming calling. Not necessarily going to them or closing on them but going to a location them hoping to call them in.
I'm going next year on a unguided elk hunt and the suggestions are exactly how I hunt turkeys. Thanks for the info guys.
Mint, just don't watch too many Primos videos! They are fun to watch and you may learn a thing or two but it is not how it goes down on public land.
Agreed, nothing is 100% so what we do is do our best to stack the odds in our favor per encounter. Don't fall into the trap & think there's nothing you can do, it's just hunting! This is not so in aggressive situations. Reading the situation will allow us to do this. In many cases we adapt to a situation on the fly. Sure we go into a situation with a plan in mind but then a wrench can be tossed into the mix. Being versatile & willing to adjust ones thinking keeps the odds high that we can pull it off! How so? By understanding the message a bull is sending!
For instance, as Treeline mentions hunters receive a response from a location bugle & once in a blue moon a bull will come your way on that one bugle. He may stop & bugle just out of sight/range, why does he do this? In nearly every case he is giving a Round Up Bugle. This bugle from the bull is asking you to 'come over his way' - He wants to see you to size you up, it's a very common occurrence that most hunters have no idea is happening, they just chalk it up to a bull bugling back at them! Worst thing a hunter can do is toss out another location bugle because he responded to it the first time around, why, because it doesn't fit! You already know where he is so why would you ask him this again when he's standing right there!
You're much better off to give him the Round Up Bugle back, you could even use a nervous grunt & the round up bugle as one! This is talking to the bull not just bugling at him hoping for the best! This bugle sequence makes sense to the bull & can pull even the cagiest bulls your way!
Always remember that even someone who's hunted elk a lot is going to have a hard time moving in on a herd and taking a shot on a bull. Moving a new elk hunter in on a herd is going to be a low odds endeavor no matter what.
Yeah, I agree with Idyll. Sometimes you just can't make it happen. If it were that easy everyone would kill every time they went out. Sometimes there's just no realistic play to be made. However I also agree with the above advice that it's best to remain silent and slip in. If they don't know you're coming in they're not looking for you and not as expecting to be seeing an elk, so you have the element of surprise. Once I have their location I like to go quiet and try to slip in on the edge of the herd until something materializes.
Do everything right... the bull is within range... and.... one of the following happens:
He stops behind a tree
And if you're lucky enough to draw and shoot , your arrow hits a twig you didnt see.
So many more things can [and will] go wrong when everything else goes right.
^^^^^ I have these T-shirts ^^^^
"I have these T-shirts"
Dang Brad, we must shop at the same store! Ha!
Yes sir those things happen even when we do things right, it happens to all of us! Point is, when calling is needed don't give up too easily because one or two things aren't working, be willing to be creative. The guys that are in that 10% coveted group aren't so lucky year in & year out that they give a few calls & elk fall into their laps. You're constantly reading the bull, your considering where you're working him that time of the day. You need to have an idea if he's going to stick around or is he in transition from feeding to bedding. Are there hot cows around, if not you need to work him slowly. Is it a herd bull or satellite bull. These things come into play which we can control by simply educating ourselves!
I'm more from the school of positive thinking & making things happen. It seems many are on the side of counting the reasons why things do not work & are satisfied with that. That's fine, the thread starter is not one of those guys this is why he is asking for assistance to avoid the same mistakes over & over. Smart man!
Paul- "! Point is, when calling is needed don't give up too easily because one or two things aren't working, be willing to be creative. The guys that are in that 10% coveted group aren't so lucky year in & year out that they give a few calls & elk fall into their laps. You're constantly reading the bull, your considering where you're working him that time of the day. You need to have an idea if he's going to stick around or is he in transition from feeding to bedding. Are there hot cows around, if not you need to work him slowly. Is it a herd bull or satellite bull"
WELL SAID!! Great points Paul. That sums it up for me. Lots to consider on these different encounters. I've played many wrong but am getting better at this game and it's all about learning from those mistakes in the past. I find myself re living past hunts/encounters from years ago....and a light goes off in my head....OH SHOOT! I know what i should have done! If that happens again, I'll know what to do. I used to think it was just lots of luck and time in the field. Don't get me wrong, it takes both of those but I am starting to believe YOU can make things happen more often if you know whats going on.
If they continue to give you their location without prompting, you should NEVER give them yours. Just slide in to their path a few times, eventually the bull will make a loop and come by...
Interesting thread and good discussion!!
Another very good point Elkman. The temptation to keep them talking and hear bugles can be my ruin. I'd rather kill one in silence then hear 100 bugles that lead to nothing. Good point.
SBH, being a Versatile hunter is a big key to hunting elk successfully! If you are hunting more open negotiable terrain with little to no downfall & loud brush to get through then you bet silence on the hunters part is golden when elk are vocal enough to get the needed direction & distance to them.
If you are hunting thick timber with tall willows, downfall & all types of huckleberry brush & other types of brush there is no stalking in silently no matter how much a bull bugles. You will find you need to either call them out or you call your way to them, both are a fine line of acceptable communication between you & the bull you are targeting. Not just any elk sound or over calling here will work, your sounds must make sense to the elk at that time or you will arouse suspicion in them, you will most likely fail at this attempt if this happens.
Being a decent spot & stalker or call & stalker can be as important to knowing when & how to call elk when one or the other is needed for your conditions! Being able to apply the needed technique for the area hunted allows you to adapt at any given moment!