Editor’s Note: Audrey McQueen of Eagar, Arizona, nine-time World Elk Calling Champion in the Women’s Division and current champion, has guided for elk for 15 years. McQueen, an avid user of Hunter’s Specialties’ elk calls, and her husband own and operate Trophy Ridge Outfitters in Luna, New Mexico, and take hunters to mule deer, antelope, elk and even oryx.
Question: Audrey, how did you get started calling elk?
McQueen: I’ve called elk my entire life – at least since I was 6- or 7-years old. I remember begging my dad for some elk calls, and after he bought them for me, I worked hard to learn how to use them.
Question: What’s the elk-call strategy that has enabled you to win the Women’s Division of the World Elk Calling Championship nine times?
McQueen: I try to sound as clear and as crisp as I can. I want to imitate some of the best bulls I’ve ever heard in the wild and give the calls that sound pretty to me. They must sound pretty to the judges, too.
Question: You also guide for elk, don’t you?
McQueen: Yes, I do. At Trophy Ridge Outfitters in New Mexico, we guide for mule deer, elk, antelope and oryx.
Question: What are your clients’ reactions when they learn that a woman will be their guide?
McQueen: When I was 16- or 17-years old, hunters were a little reluctant to go with me. But now my clients say, “Hey, we’d rather go with you than some ole guy.”
Question: Why do the hunters prefer to hunt with you?
McQueen: Many of them have heard that I’m a good caller and know I’ve lived in these mountains my entire life. So, I will know the area we’ll be hunting well. Too, they know that I’ve been successful as a guide.
Question: What’s the best bull you’ve called-in for a client?
McQueen: About 7-years ago, I called-in a bull that scored 386 on the Boone & Crockett scale. I once called-in a bull that would have scored 390, but the hunter wasn’t able to take him.
Question: Audrey, how do you start a conversation with a bull elk?
McQueen: The way I call really depends on the time of year. Sometimes I try to get the elk really excited with my calls, while at other times the elk will respond better to a mature bull call. But more than likely the elk will prefer to hear a spike bull call. The older bulls seem to want to come in more when they think a young bull they can whip is trying to call to their cows. You can make a few cow calls with a Hunter’s Specialties Mac Daddy or one of the other Hunter’s Specialties elk diaphragm calls, turn around and have a bull looking at you. Other times, you can make a few cow calls, not hear anything, give a spike bugle call and hear elk bugling all around you.
Question: What’s the difference in the spike bugle and an old elk bugle?
McQueen: A young bull has a very high-pitched tone bugle, which often sounds more like a squeal. The old bulls sound much gruffer and have a more buzz-type bugle or lip bawl. The older bulls usually have more raspy voices than the young bulls do.
Question: What’s your best call to get a bull to come to you?
McQueen: The cow-in-estrus call. I use Hunter’s Specialties’ Wayne Carlton double-reed diaphragm calls to call-in cows or bulls.
Question: What’s the biggest mistake most hunters make when they come out West to hunt elk?
McQueen: They call too much. Generally a less-experienced hunter will call a lot, thereby educating the bulls on how a hunter sounds blowing on an elk call. Oftentimes novice elk hunters won’t take the time to practice and learn the sounds elk produce. That’s why I encourage all novice elk hunters and even pro elk hunters to use the Hunter’s Specialties Mac Daddy. The Mac Daddy hasn’t been around as long as many other elk calls, so most of the elk aren’t educated on its sound.
An experienced caller can make the Mac Daddy sound like a herd of bulls. The average or the beginner caller can make the Mac Daddy sound like a young spike bull, which drives the elk crazy. In the first year I used the Mac Daddy, I was hunting with the Hunter’s Specialties’ film crew in late October after the rut. I called-in two bulls with the Mac Daddy, and the hunters took both of them. That’s one of the reasons I recommend the Mac Daddy to anyone who wants to call elk.
Question: What’s the biggest bull you’ve ever taken?
McQueen: I took a bull that scored 371 on the B&C scale during a late muzzleloader-season hunt with a Thompson/Center muzzleloader. I didn’t call-in this bull. We do a lot of spot and stalk in this region. I glassed this bull the night before, came in the next morning, spotted him and then moved in close enough to take him. Because there wasn’t much water around, I thought the bull would stay in that area to get water as long as he wasn’t pressured by other hunters. Too, I was certain no one else had found this bull. This hunt was in late November, and at that time of year, elk are feeding in the brush up in the high elevations on the south-facing sides of the mountains. I got about 200 yards from the bull and was able to take him.