I spent the last couple days scouting for elk in Montana. Temperatures were in the 90s and, although I was sweating to the oldies, I did have my first bull elk encounter of the fall season.
I was scouting, so I brought Sage (my dog) along for company. While we worked down a springy draw looking for elk sign, I chirped a few notes on my Carlton’s cow call. Sage found an old wallow and decided to wallow as well. Suddenly, I stopped cold. Did a bull just bugle back?
It was 10 a.m. and hot, but I swore I heard a bull bugle. I eased up on top of the next ridge and sat down to listen. Off to my right a cow mewed, and closing fast was a bull that again advertised with a bugle. Sage bristled and I had to clamp her muzzle when she started to growl. The bull was close in the dense timber, so instead of risking bumping the elk, I heeled Sage and slipped away to return a few days later when the season is on.
The encounter reminded me of a great elk tactic: If you peak the interest of a bull, quit calling after one or two calls. Some bulls get savvy quick, and too much calling makes them turn the other way, but teasing gives them a reason to come in—and they often do it quietly.
Archery elk season opened September 1 for much of the country. If you have any other great tactics to share, drop them in the comments section below for NAHC members to consider.