Editor’s Note: Dieter Kaboth of Orofino, Idaho and a member of the Hunter’s Specialties National Pro Staff, is a four-time World Champion elk bugler.
I primarily hunt public lands. I’ve called-in hundreds of elk but only have taken 52. Most of the time I’m calling-in elk for friends and family members. I have an archery season and a rifle season tactic I use for taking bulls on public lands.
In Oregon, elk season starts the third week in August. During the beginning of elk season, which is before the Labor Day weekend, the bulls aren’t very vocal. Although I don’t know where the bulls are located, at this time of year, I generally call-in the biggest bulls of the season. Too, during this time, the bulls haven’t mated yet, so they generally are congregated in bachelor groups.
To successfully take bulls with a bow during archery season, find an area with a lot of elk sign. You’ll generally identify these types of places on a north-facing slope with water drainages. I’ll go to these sites in the evening. Since I know the elk are in the region and can hear me, I’ll start calling. Typically, the bull will come-in silently, and I won’t even know he’s there until I see him or he gets downwind of my location and smells me.
I use both cow and bull calls when I’m hunting early-season elk. To get the bulls to come-in, I create an illusion of two bulls calling to each other. I’ll use a call that sounds like a herd bull and call in one direction. Then I’ll use a different call that may sound like a young satellite bull and call in the other direction. Since I’m trying to get the elk out of their beds just before they feed at night, I’ll start this type of calling at about 5:30 pm, call about every 10 to 12 minutes and wait on the bulls to move to me.
I want a crossing wind, so the wind is coming from my left or my right. I’ll put my hunter facing the wind but downwind of me about 70 yards. As a bull covers ground, he’ll more than likely come in downwind. By putting my hunter about 70 yards downwind of me with his bow, then when the bull arrives and crosses the wind carrying the scent of the bull he thinks he’s heard, my hunter will be able to get the shot. I also give cow calls, with my favorite being the Hunter’s Specialties’ Fight’n Cow Call. But you need other elk calls to also give the illusion of a herd of elk. I use the Hunter’s Specialties’ Bull Hooker Cow Call, the diaphragm elk calls, the Squeeze Me Elk Calls and the Estrus Squeeze Me Elk Cow Call.
To paint a realistic picture in a bull’s mind of a herd of elk, I’ll give the herd bull call and then a satellite bull call in another direction. I want the bull I’m trying to call-in to think that the ole herd bull has quite a few cows around him already, and that this satellite bull is bugling back and forth to him. Elk are herd animals and like to be with other elk. If you can make the sounds of a herd of elk calling to the bull, enticing the bull to come into a herd is much easier than calling him to one lone elk. I’ll use a Hunter’s Specialties’ diaphragm call with an elk bugle and the Mac Daddy. I prefer the Mac Daddy, because it produces a high-pitched squeal I can’t get from a diaphragm call alone. I’ve won several World Elk Calling Championships using the Mac Daddy. Too, I’ll use the triple-reed Hunter’s Specialties’ Infinity Latex Diaphragm Call. I use both double- and triple-reed calls when I’m bugling and trying to sound like a bull elk.