Understanding Elk Talk

Submitted By Mark Campagnola Feb .22.2016


With all the different elk calls on the market, and how easy they have made it to sound like an elk, there is still so much more to learn about what they are saying. Just letting out with a bugle or a cow mew doesn’t spell success. Elk make so many different types of sounds that bugles and cow mews are only a small fraction of it, but there is something you can do to understand elk talk.

To understand any type of animal you need to listen to the real thing. I teach a lot of people at Bass Pro’s Fall Classic, Cabela’s Elk Days, and other seminars how to bugle and/or cow call every year. But bugles and cow mews are just two basic sounds that elk make. Don’t get me wrong; keep going to those seminars because you never know what you may come home with (Elk Knowledge). You need to listen to real elk to pick up on their rhythm to really become a good caller, plus, if you also learn about elk biology and ecology you can become a great caller. I have been studying elk for over 30 years now and I’m still learning something new every time I hunt or just sitting and listening to them make their music.

The best time to be out listening is when the elk are rutting. If your hunting season is open during that time great, if not still get out there and you will learn a thing or two just by listening. Some times while I’m hunting I’ll just kick back on a ridge in the dark and listen to the elk choir all around me. Some of the best places to go are national parks where there is no hunting allowed and you will hear nothing but pure elk talk without any outside influences.

Rocky Mountain National Park near Estes Park, Colorado is one of the greatest places to hear and watch how the elk act, and react during the rut and how they communicate beyond bugles or cow mews. A couple other great places are Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada and Glacier National Park in northwest Montana. Do not take any of your elk calls when doing this. I know the temptation is there but don’t; you will get a ticket for harassment of game animals. These elk aren’t pressured by hunting so you will hear and see things that could help you when you’re out hunting next time. This helps when you need to pull another trick out of your sleeve to bring that bull or cow in just a little further no matter what weapon you choose.

After the rut is over and you’re cooped up in your house during the winter, pop in a DVD and watch what the elk do and listen close to their sounds. Hunter’s Specialties' Wayne Carlton Calls "Primetime Bulls" DVD series is excellent. My favorites are both Primetime Bulls 7 & 8; both DVD’s have everything I look for in an elk hunting DVD. The best part about having multiple videos is you’ll get different views on elk and elk behavior. If you can get out and you know where the elk winter, like in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, go there and listen, you will be very surprised at what you hear.

The bottom line is if you want to understand what the elk are saying, get out and watch their behavior and listen to what they are saying at the same time. Like I said, if you really want to be a great caller, get out and do this and then you too will start to understand what the elk are talking about.