Colorado Elk Hunting is one of our most favorite big game animals to pursue. As a team, we have found that we can maximize our success by working together in the field. This page is meant to provide many helpful tips/hints for having a successful hunt. There is a lot that goes into having success during the season. Planning, Preparation, Practice, Gear, fitness, and Calling are just some of the most important components.
Tips to be a Successful Elk Hunter:
Tip 1 – Calling Elk: Open Reeds: If you have a hard time using a mouth diaphragms, try an open reed elk call. I began with open reed elk calls and found they were easier to master then the mouth diaphragm. I still use open reeds today with great success! Phelps Game Calls make a great product for elk and other types of game to “bring’em in close”!!! When it’s hard to get the elk talking, I found out early that open reeds were the game changer I was looking for. I used to wear a duck hunting lanyard with five different elk open reeds attached to it. I wore this lanyard around my neck and would find a strategic location in the woods to position myself and use each in a calling sequence. Each of the reeds had their own unique sound and tone, they were different in size and shape, and some were made by different companies. This early strategy made me sound like a small group of cows talking to each other. This not only brought elk in, but many hunters too! When I got to experience real elk communication between me and live animals, I was hooked! I knew I had to do more research and continue to improve upon my new-found skills.
Tip 2 – Calling Elk: Built-in Reed Tubes: If you can’t use a mouth diaphragm yet, another option is to try a bugle tube with a built-in reed. Open reeds give you good cow sounds, but to get a basic bull sound, these built-in reed tube devices can create the sounds needed to locate a bull elk in the woods. One of the first tubes I used was the Terminator, by Primos. An even better option and new to the market today is the EZ bugle by Phelps Game Calls. Built-in reed tubes helped me locate some of the first bulls I ever had the chance to harvest and get a real sense of where elk were and where they were going. After using the internal built-in reed tubes to locate elk, I would use my open reeds to bring them in closer. When I started calling elk, I had to rely on these devices to communicate with elk. At this time, still early in my elk hunting career, I still could not use the mouth diaphragms that I use today. I had to really rely on these beginner products/devices to give me the best chances to be successfully, and they worked!
Tip 3 – Research and Practice: To be good at anything you must practice! I spent 30 minutes a day practicing my elk calls in order to sound the best I could in the woods. When I first began using calls, I practiced sounding like an elk and mimicked them talking to each other in a variety of scenarios/situation; I did not practice for elk calling competitions. I would find opportunities to practice whenever and where ever I could, at home alone, in the back yard, and to and from work; I drove my family crazy.
I also watched a lot of YouTube videos, podcasts, and TV shows on elk hunting. I used these resources to try and imitate the sounds elk were making, not the hunters. When I first began learning and practicing elk calls, I would try to find the best examples of elk sounds, and figure out what they meant. I began to question the purpose of the sounds, and how some sounds related to others. When I began to relate elk sounds to human conversation or phrases, things really began to make more sense to me. More recently, I watched professionals like Dirk Durham and Jason Phelps on YouTube to finetune my calls and to try to emulate their bull and cow elk sounds in conversation.
Today, it can almost be to overwhelming find “Good” elk hunting footage because there is an abundance out there. These past few years, a revolution of independent hunting film makers has been born. There is so much material out there now, that it can be frustrating to find the right videos you need to sharpen your hunting skills. I have found myself sometime watching 5 to 10 minutes of a film and finding out quickly that the resource was not I something I could use or get what I was looking from it. This gets frustrating when this happened over-and-over when your attempting to find good hunting film. Time is very precious for many of us, and I was relieved to find a program called The Elk Collective. This program ended the searching process for me because they did all the searching for me. They are company that constantly adds new and refreshing videos, content, strategies and tips about elk hunting. I have begun to rely on this web source as my one-stop-shop for research and practice. I would encourage you to check them out too! Just like any great athlete, you have to use film to see the good and bad examples of your craft or someone else’s to learn from and support your goals to becoming a better caller and hunter!
Tip 4 – Calling Elk: Beginner Mouth Diaphragms (Cow/Calf): Master the basics of calling elk. When I started learning how to use mouth diaphragms, I had to first learn how to make basic cow sounds. I quickly realized that the root of all elk sounds was a traditional cow call (mew – eeoooooo). What I mean is, bull elk chuckles are basically quick repetitive cow mews. Bull location calls are elongated cow mews. Calf calls are hi-pitched and shorter cow mews. With this said, I realized, if I wanted to be a good elk caller, I had to master the cow mew! I would suggest, don’t move to fast, work hard at one call and focus on that call until you feel it’s perfect. Then practice it again and again! Continue to do this until you’re ready to move onto the next sound(s). Basic calls will get them in close year in and year out.
One of my most favorite elk sounds and one I use a lot in the woods is the elk calf sounds. I have killed more bulls using calf sounds than any other. Calf sounds pull groups of elk right in. I can’t tell you how many times when using a calf call that a group of cows has come into me and then sure enough, a herd bull or other nice satellite bull(s) follow the cows right in too! There is nothing more annoying to bulls when their female companions decide to leave him to go check on a lost calf. Of course, the bull(s) are going to follow the cows to reign them back and there is why this call is so important for hunters. I love watching Joel Turner use this same strategy, he is one of the best at calling bulls in with just calf sounds.
Tip 5 – Calling Elk: Advanced Mouth Diaphragms: After you have mastered the basic elk sounds, cow mews, calf chirp, and a locate bugle, I would then begin working on more challenging calls, ones that people struggle the most with. I wish, I had done this earlier in my career as it would have helped me kill more herd bulls or nice satellites. Some of the hardest elk sounds to make are, chuckles, grunts, lip bawls, barks and estrus screams. Like basic elk calls, these more advanced sounds stim mostly from the basic calls you have already mastered. Once more, these more advanced calls also tend to have more voice, emotion and expression within them. Like humans, we mostly do not talk at a monotone level of speech. We use voice inflection when we talk to make valid points, express our love, anger and frustration; elk are no different! The more difficult forms of elk talk stem from these same principles. Adding emotion to your basic calls the way elk do, changes the game and what you’re saying or trying to get another elk to say back. That’s why so many advanced elk hunters use these advanced calls within their calling sequence. In most cases, these more advanced calls are used to respond to an elk and what he is already saying to you or the other elk around him. Like basic elk calls, I had to study what all these sounds meant, how they should be used, and what worked and did not work for me when I was in the woods. When you can make every sound both a cow and bull elk use and you know the language, meaning, you know how to use the sounds to talk back, you will be able to consistently bring elk in and get them close.
Pro Tip 6: Hunting with Team Mates vs. Solo Hunting: Hunting as a team is better then hunting elk solo! I am sure that statement will stir some debate; however, with my years of hunting experience, I have found it to be true. Team/partner hunting is something I learned more about after attempting to build a hunting team around me. I have hunted for years by myself and have had my fair share of success; however, I have found hunting with a team of 2-3 (total), allows for higher success rates in harvesting mature bulls. Now, with that being said, if you are hunting with a partner that does not know how to call and communicate with elk, you might as well hunt by yourself and ask them politely to stay at camp to get dinner ready… All kidding aside, it was not until it was my turn to be the “shooter” during an elk hunt that I realized some or most of my hunting partners did not know how-to call-in an elk like I did. This simply resulted in me having to do everything and resulted in another hunter following me along in the woods in close proximity, spreading more scent, and not really able to help me when I needed elk calling support. When I began to look at the individuals I was hunting with, I had to revalidate their commitment and set minimum standards/requirements to raise the bar within my team. In some worse cases scenarios, I even had too “trim the fat” and began to limit the people I went into the elk woods with when it was my turn to fill a tag.
Hunting with a partner, if done right and “following the playbook”, will make you more successful then being alone in the woods. The reason I swear by team/partner hunting vs. solo elk hunting is due to a situation that ends most solo hunts, “the elk hang-up point”. The hang-up point often occurs in most elk encounters when calling has brought them in, but not close enough for an ethical archery shot. The answer or key to better negotiate elk hanging-up is hunting with a team/partner. When you have a teammate, who can call behind you (the shooter), some 100 yards and can use proper calls, communicating back-and-forth with a bull, this routine will surely bring more elk in close. The elk hang-up is tough to overcome without a good teammate. Yes, when hunting solo you can try to project your calls behind you to give the illusion that the animals you are pretending to be are further away and might pull the bull in closer, but more times than not, elk still hang-up, and opportunities are often missed to allow you to get in the right position, close the distance and eliminate the hang-up. Overall, hunting with a partner, will cut that “hang-up point” in half or even eliminate it all together which will result in more successful elk hunts!
In closing, my theory of elk hunting stands as, “know what you know and be a sponge to soak up even more knowledge, it is years of woodsmanship that yields success”. Even to this day, I still seek more knowledge and skill and that drive has helped me get where I am and where I want to go. Even though I have been successful from the start of my elk-hunting career, it did not happen without practice, and I did not wait until September to plan, prepare and practice; I did that the 11 months prior to the season beginning. I continue to follow this model even today. If you want to truly be good at something you have to commit fully to it. Every day you have to practice or do something that will make you better in the elk woods. If you begin to think in this manner, you will also see first-hand what each day’s investment will do for you come next September!
If you are seeking more great elk hunting information, please check out The Elk Collective, it is a video driven collection of elk hunting knowledge from some of the best elk hunts in North America.
WHY THE ELK COLLECTIVE?
The Elk Collective is a virtual educational course 100% video driven, designed to help YOU become a better elk hunter! We have over 120 videos loaded and more will be added throughout the year on a regular basis. The Elk Collective is about a group of hardcore, dedicated elk hunting fools who love to help others succeed.
They have assembled an entire team from different parts of the country and we are bringing you different views and opinions on how, what, when, where and why certain things work while in the elk woos. There is no one right answer to elk hunting success… In-fact, there’s countless ways to have success in the elk woods. That is why we feel it is important to bring you numerous views and opinions on scenarios and tactics. Maybe something that worked for one individual, might fit a certain scenario you’ve had in the past in the elk woods and gives you a chance to learn what to do next time.
Another great question I get is what elk calls do I use? I use Phelps Game Calls. What I love about their calls is you do not have to break them in, they are ready to use right out the package.
One of the most important pieces to my success is my gear! Great not good gear is a necessity when coming out west to hunt elk. I choose to wear Pnuma! Hands down the best gear on the market!.
If you have any additional questions please fill free to ask me anything about elk hunting. You can find me on any of the social media platforms listed below.
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