Wayne Carlton's Elk Hunting Tips

Editor's Note: Wayne Carlton of Montrose, Colorado, the creator of Carlton's Calls, part of Hunter's Specialties fine call line, has been known as an expert elk hunter-turkey hunter for many years. This week we'll learn some of Carlton's elk tactics.

When hunting, everybody's accustomed to a fast pace. However, instead of chasing the elk, let them go where they want to go and then hunt them. First, it's okay to be out there at daylight and see where the elk are--an avalanche chute or an open park. But if you try to call to them in those situations, they automatically become wary and start moving off.

Spot them in an open park, hear them in the trees, and just listen and watch as to where they're heading. Pinpoint the area where you think they're going to spend the day. Make note of the fact that you hear this bugling going in a particular direction. Or, if you see a group of elk feeding in an open park, notice the direction in which they’re heading. But as soon as you pressure those elk, then it's very difficult to get close to them-- particularly when you’re bow hunting. Let them go where they want to go.

Don't try to fight the wind--let the wind work for you. Wait until 10:00 a.m., especially in the mountains, and play the wind right. Don't fight it, see what it's going to do, and walk into it.

Elk are in the bedroom, and they feel secure. Think of your own bedroom--that's where you let your guard down. You're at a complete disadvantage if someone breaks into your house while you're in there. Elk are no different. They sleep during the day because that is when they feel secure. They're used to the surroundings, and they don't have anywhere to go. They get in there at 9 or 10 in the morning and stay there until 3:00 in the afternoon. That gives you all day to hunt them.

Don't go in there calling your way to them. Try to get an answer from a distance so you know where they are. Then use your stalking skills to get close. Be very methodical, and take your time. Once you get in close, if you've had that bull bugle from a distance, use that same call once you get in close. When I use that call up close, I'll be set up to take the shot. On some occasions, I've had elk run straight at me on the first call.

If you're using a fighting cow call or something like it, as soon as the bull answers, you should be answering him back. Don't let the excitement die down--return the calls quickly. Also, as the elk start coming in, call less. The bull will start to pinpoint the area where the sound is coming from and get leery.

However, if you don't overcall, and you make him come looking for you, he'll be inquisitive and curious simply because he can't pinpoint you. A good analogy will be: call only as much as you have to, to get the bull to come to you. Don't overcall because that'll make him nervous.

Hunters often have numerous calls they want to take with them--in turkey hunting, elk hunting and all hunting. I've learned with turkeys that if you have a gobbler coming in to a particular call, don't use a different call. Keep using the call that's working. The same goes for elk. If the elk are responding to a certain call, keep using it. If you're hunting with a buddy and he wants to start calling, that call probably has a different cadence and pitch and, quite often, the elk will stop responding to the calls if you change the call.