Hung-up on Bull Elk

Every season we look back and reflect upon what we could have done differently on a particular elk hunt. The scenario goes like this – ” I called back and forth with a bull for at least an hour. He charged in, only to hang up just out of archery range. Sound familiar? Especially those of us who hunt solo, we have all been there, plagued by this dilemma in the past. I will highlight some of the tactics that have helped me draw in stubborn bulls those final yards. The first and foremost thing to consider is your set up. Put yourself in the elk’s shoes. Is the cover sparse? Can you see long distances? If an elk approaches, will you be hidden and still be able to make the shot? I like to use the contour of the terrain, and thickness of the forest to keep the bull’s curiosity up. If an elk can stand back 100 yards and see that there are no elk in sight making calls, it can lock them up. Set up in areas where the trees and brush restricts long shots. Make that elk come to 35 yards or less before he can see you. If the bull is just over on the back side of the ridge, set up just below the ridge line so he has to skyline himself within your effective archery range when he shows himself. Most of all “DONT STAND BEHIND A TREE FOR COVER”. This is a classic rookie mistake that can even tempt us old timers. You’re wearing camoflage, trust it and blend in. I like to break up my outline by standing in front of tall brush or a bushy tree about the same size as myself or larger. I usually don’t kneel down, as this can cause knee pain, and limit my shooting lanes. I don’t stand on ridge tops with my outline exposed, that will make you stick out like a sore thumb. When your set up is perfect, you have plenty of cover, and the bull is still hung up, it’s time to get aggressive. Lets just say the bull that is just out of distance for quite a long time, decides to slowly retreat. That’s the opportunity you’ve been waiting for. Crash towards the bull, rip an aggressive bugle and charge in, but don’t expose yourself. Be ready to shoot when you stop, many times the bull will turn and come back confused looking for their foe that they couldn’t see before. If the cover is right, you may even be able to repeat this more than once or twice before you get your shot or the bull catches on. After the “bull charge” hopefully you’ve taken your shot.

Bull elk rub

Heavy cover where Bulls typically feel less vulnerable.

Then there is the bull that rubs his horns for what seems like hours, but wont budge. Sneak closer as he rubs. Bulls will close their eyes intermittently during their tree thrashing and the noise will cover any noise you make as long as you’re discreet. When you can’t get any closer and the bull is still out of reach and out of sight, start rubbing your own tree. This will infuriate the bull. When he bugles, you scream and cut him off, when he rubs you rub. Repeat until he flies over to you ready to rip you in half. Many times rubbing your own tree, breaking branches and brush, stomping and raising a ruckus is the deal sealer! Calling elk can be rewarding or frustrating, just remember to be creative. Most of all, enjoy yourself. September only comes once a year!