Contributors to this thread:
Is bugling your primary strategy?
For Elk of course. It used to be mine…but now I use it sparingly.
Maybe we can share experience- what you’ve seen lately and a little bit of tactics for elk on these General units.
I’ve seen a big sea change with elk over the last 4 decades. When I was bowhunting Co in the early 80’s, we were practically the only guys in the woods and those elk would come to bugles on a string.
There are still situations where they will come to you like in the old days…but it seems to me with the last couple decades of guys bugling every 100yds up a trail these elk are a bit smarter. In some of the units that I hunt, the elk are screaming before opening day but then a couple days later they shut up. They are more likely to run off when you bugle.
I get it, some guys like the Jacobsons still run and gun covering massive amount of ground until they find one that wants to play. If you listen to their commentary these guys are covering a lot of country-12,15 mile days…which in my experience is getting to be common.
Then there is pressure…and how do you deal with it?
Observations ? (on the current state of elk hunting)
I don't even carry a bugle most of the time. Called in quite a few 20 years ago. Even then, though, you never knew how the elk was going to respond. This was hunted public in NM. I have had a lot more luck the last 15 years stalking in quiet on talking bulls.
The Jacobsen strategy, is increasingly turning non-pressured elk, into pressured elk, IMHO. Especially in OTC and heavily hunted units.
Say there are 3 regularly vocal bulls in one drainage. These guys have hung out together all summer, easily recognize each other by voice alone.
Suddenly, a "stranger" comes along, honking his horn. If these elk have been hunted before, do you think they'll take the bait, every time?
The big bull I was working last Season, basically just "chirped" almost like a cow, in the morning, while taking his herd to bed, on the last Day I got into them. Maybe because an Army of run-and gunners, had run him over the Mountain, and forced him to take refuge in my drainage? Had the same experience, with a huge bull in NM we were working , in 2020, due to an army of guys swarming a nearby ridge.
I prefer getting up super early, and just silently stalking around waiting to hear something before first light. I carry a bugle, just in case I get in a bull's "comfort zone", with an encounter. But most times, I'll just try to rake him in. Keeps other hunters from screwing up my setup, as well.
Hunting Alone i bugle for locating only. Then spot and stalk/still hunt. If bull is coming and hangs up I only bugle if I have cover/terrain/multiple shooting lanes to move.
With a shooting partner it’s a whole new ballgame. As his/her caller I will move back and around and call frequently if needed to get the bull to come into the shooters range. Sometimes calling less/stopping will increase a hung up bulls curiosity and he will come in, most often silently.
I learned a lot from Big Dan on Bugling tactics. I miss that man!
Only early, in the dark, for locating. My unit now has 1100 LE tags so might as well be OTC. Everybody hunts like the YouTube guys, especially NRs. As a result, daylight bugling from live elk has been almost nonexistent for the past 10 years. Bulls will still come to investigate, very cautiously and always silently. But since I hunt solo I rarely bugle anymore as a hunting tactic. Gone are the days when we could toodle on a wooden flute or coiled gas pipe and have every bull in earshot answer.
The tactic that’s worked for me is slipping into bedding areas in the morning twilight then bugling at sunrise. Otherwise, bugling or cow calls isn’t something I use regularly.
Primary Strategy? Nah.
Cold calling with soft mews and some raking, MAYBE a light bugle occasionally, is my bread and butter
Is it my primary strategy? Nope. Is it a strategy I use at certain times? Absolutely.
NOT bugling is my primary strategy. Cover ground until I hear a bugle, let them bugle me in. Close the distance, check the wind, make a plan, repeat.
It sure is. I spend most of my time doing it...oh wait...I thought it said "BUNGLING"...that I have mastered.
"Buggering"? Got that down..
Nope. light calf and cow calling, ie, very light. killed the last three bulls over a wallow or wet meadow. Very very very little calling,. No loud bugles, maybe a soft young bull call.
Can't say I have a "primary" strategy. Bugling, cow calling, spot & stalk, and ambush have all worked for me. Pretty much allow the situation to dictate the strategy. That said, getting in close and challenging a bull with bugles is by far my favorite strategy. IMO, nothing in the wild compares to having a pissed off screaming bull in your lap.
Every elk every day and every scenario is different. I you try to plan on what your going to do your already limiting yourself.
Depends on the set-up
If they are being very vocal, most times I shut-up and stalk/sneak in quiet.
If I do call it is more cow calls and a Raggy type bugle now and then.
Good luck, Robb
Many of the guys that are mentioning methods that aren't all bugling are also guys showing up on kill thread. Would be curious if the majority of their bulls are killed in same general area year after year due to knowledge of these areas over time, or if the strategy they employee work across the west. Good thread guys always learning here!!
My primary strategy is to hunt from a tree stand. Most of the time I will call from a spot near my stand. That spot will be where the elk will need to come close to see the elk that bugled. I give only one 2 second bugle then climb up into my stand. After that I stay quiet. I think I have killed about 6 elk that came in a full two hours after my call looking for the bull. Before I figured out that calling location was critical, even though I was 25 feet up a tree, I had bulls come close and just look from a distance. Then they would turn back to where they came from. I have had several come to the exact spot I bugled from and just stand there looking until they get shot. The thing to note is that it often takes two hours for the elk to come to the bugle. One time I shot a 5X5 after waiting for two full hours. After the shot I waited another 45 minutes before going after him. During that time, I had five other bulls come to that exact place I had called from.
I hunt elk because I like to hear them bugle same goes for turkeys . I call a lot and a bugle is my go to. With any kind of calls knowing what to say and when to say it make the most difference . Best of luck to all this season. It’s coming fast.
Bungling….yeah, no kidding. Been there done that…
Fool me once; There have just been too many of my elk encounters in the last few years where calling just ran them off….especially herds with some of those old savvy cows.
After a bunch of those head scratchers, I find myself calling less and less. I’ve had pretty good success being stealthy and just staying close to those herds taking advantage of the fact the herd bull circulates around the herd.
On a separate note, did anyone shoot and lose a 400”+ bull in AZ last year? My buddy James found a dead head while shed hunting and its a monster….if so I can put you in touch with him and you guys can work it out.
Still use a bugle a fair amount, but not the YouTube run and gun style I feel that pollutes way more elk than it kills.
I bugle all the time, till I get an answer.
For those that bugle often, how many times out of 10 do other hunters end up responding and they end up in your setup or you chased someone else’s bugle?
I have killed one bull and he was bugling hard at whatever I did. Turning the heat up over time bugling is what really pissed him off. I just listened to him, like I do turkeys, and tried to figure out his mood. Luckily it worked. I feel like I just happened on a bull on the right day that was in the right mood.
If i was in another situation that lended to a better method, I would try that. I think I would prefer to just sneak up on them. It cuts down on me screwing up by making the wrong call.
I wouldn't go anywhere without my "Big Dan" autographed Hoochiemama cow call. :)
I sometimes use the Elk Mountain strategy of getting out early in the dark.
It does have one advantage; I can be up high on the mountain and hear the hunters bugling every 100yds coming up the trail…. So I know exactly where the Hunting pressure is going to be-grin.
Great discussion! I'm on team..."Less is more."
Beendare, I think that you summed up the subject nicely and most seem to agree. Back in those "old days" we probably didn't appreciate those uneducated elk as much as we should have. We thought that this bugling elk in was a piece of cake and would remain so. I miss the old days but the hardcore hunters seem to improve their tactics as mentioned above and get the job done. Badbull
Funny, I don’t feel like an expert on the subject- far from it I assure you.
If you looked at my success in the last few years of heavily hunted general units and getting bulls within recurve range, its been pretty dismal.
If the bulls are bugling then I will too, but only as a locator for the most part and then switch to cow calf calling when I can close the distance. 3rd. week of 9 is when the action starts. Calling before then is a waste of time at best and will drive animals out at worst.
You have to "read the room." And the room changes from drainage to drainage or state to state, even day to day. I too, miss the 80s when all the bulls were aggressive and responsive. I've been on 34 bowhunts for elk in seven states and two Canadian provinces and even in the 80s there were days, sometimes weeks, when the timber was silent. I've had days when the bugling was wild and the next day it was a morgue. I've never quite figured out why that happens. In 2021, I experienced the most bugling I have ever heard while hunting DIY crowded public land in Arizona for the first eight days, then we had several of those inexplicably silent days. I bugled in quite a few bulls when I would normally rely on cow calls or silent stalking. If they're talking, I'm answering. The point is, you have to be flexible and prepared to respond to the elk. There is nothing like a bugling bull coming to the call and I'm not giving that up for anything.
People that sit and wait for a bull to bugle tend to sit a long time. I prefer to make things happen.
I don’t always bugle, but when I do…damn it’s fun!
I don’t always bugle, but when I do…damn it’s fun!
Curt Wells summed it up nicely.
Get the ElkNut app and it will tell you what to do and when, it varies a lot. Anyone who says they only do this or that is greatly limiting themselves. I agree with Kurt too, it depends a ton on where and when and what works for that area.
Curt, you make some good points as usual. I have always appreciated your writing, Badbull
i have had the best luck with bugling and getting bulls into bow range earlier in the season before dominance is established.
my primary strategy is to cover ground until i see, hear or smell them. then as mentioned above, try and figure out the direction they are headed and what they are doing. sometimes you find yourself in precarious situations because of stragglers or wind changing direction.
if i am on elk and they are quiet, not moving much, some may be bedded, they're relaxed, etc., seldom does any type of calling work in my experience.
if you are bugling to try and locate a bull, it is best to do this from a location where a bull is more likely to be such as in a pocket of deep timber or a creek bottom. as mentioned above, it is not like it used to be and many hunters will bugle from trails, ridge tops, and edges of meadows. i think elk know a real bull would not be bugling from those locations.
X 2 to HUNT & CURT! Love to talk with ELK. If you don't know their language, LEARN IT. Every day is a new conversation and the youtubers are born and raised to repeat the same thing over and over and over and over. #huntsmartNOThard
I don't chase 'em enough, maybe every other year or so...I've always just kind of gone with whatever the Elk are doing...They're talking, I'm talking!
We get up at 3:30 am and bugle in the dark. It's like the 80s in the dark. They respond to every bugle. We do it at 10+ spots to determine best attack plan when getting light. Fortunate to be in an area on North end of Gila where bugling still works in daylight. One other time it works really well that I haven't seen listed yet is that first week of Sept when you can get big bulls to come into bugles silently. Crazy how stealthy a 1000# animal can be!
Yeah it’s a huge advantage hearing those L pop off and knowing where they are.
On my hunts in the Gila, they will be bugling like crazy in a meadow for example at night but by daylight they will be long gone. It helps to identify travel routes between feeding and bedding but On many of those travel routes the elk are using the thermals so you can’t always set up on them and wait.