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Elk Calling Tips To Help Pack Your Freezer

bull elk calling tips to help fill the freezer

Effective elk calling tips can be the “make it or break it” when it comes to filling your tag. Although, if you’ve never done it, it can seem a little intimidating or confusing. 

How do you know when to call? What’s that call mean? When should I throw up a cow call?

There are so many variables when it comes to elk calling that it can be challenging building that confidence. It’s important to know elk vocalization, effective tips and techniques to improve your odds, and the common mistakes hunters make.

If you don’t know where to start but want to learn how to increase the odds of filling your freezer keep on reading. 

Sounds of an Elk​

What’s that sound? Is it a territorial grunt? Have I been spotted? What the heck are you talking about?

Let’s break it down. Elk use certain vocalizations to signal where they are or to let others know of potential danger. 

These sounds can be classified with 7 different notable sounds.


This is the one call you don’t want to hear an elk make. It’s a very harsh sound. It’s as much of a “bark” as you can imagine an elk making. In essence, it means you’ve been caught. No use trying to be sneaky anymore. It’s probably looking right at you now. If not, it most definitely heard or smelled you and will most likely leave the area.


An elk mew can mean multiple things. From announcing threats, to sparring between bulls, to basic communication between a cow and calf. A rough reference to sound would be like a very loud kitten mewing. 


This is a difficult sound to describe effectively. Saying “yeah” as “yeeeah” very high pitched and short would give you an idea of what it sounds like. It’s a non-threatening sound that hunters can use in hopes of bringing in a nice bull elk. The chirp is their general way of communicating within the herd. 


The bugle is easily the most famous sound of an elk. A bugling elk is a sound that will excite any hunter. Starting low pitch and quickly rising into a high-pitched scream that can be heard for miles. Using this type of elk call as a hunter is a good tactic. If dominant bull elk hear a bugle in their territory, they’ll likely come out intent on challenging. 


The “chuckle” is a series of short low-pitched sounds that typically follow a bugle (not always). This sound expresses dominance between bulls and can instigate a challenge and is also meant to attract cows. 


This is a muffled bass sound made by bulls that’s similar to a bugle. Similarly, they present a challenge to other bulls in the area, but they also attract cows. You have a good chance of calling the elk in if you use a series of bugles and glunks during the rut. 

Estrus Scream

This is a call exclusive to cows. It’s similar to their usual call, but it’s much louder and higher-pitched (like a scream). During the rut, cow elk will signal to other elk using this type of call to signal they’re ready to mate. This is a great call to master when hunting bull elk since it drives them crazy. It can also be used to locate nearby herds or stop a bull elk long enough to take your shot. 

Elk Calling Tips

elk bugling tips bob's sporting goods

Tip 1 – Bugle & Chuckle​

The “bugle & chuckle” is one of those elk calling tips that is a tried and true method of prompting a bull elk into a territory. This tactic can potentially scare away smaller bulls who don’t want to put up with a display of dominance. On the other hand, bigger bulls looking to keep their territory will come out to drive off the threat.

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Tip 2 – Cow Call to Calm a Spooked Herd​

You can be a silent ninja while stalking through the woods and still spook a herd of elk, even with the wind in your favor. It happens. If you find yourself in this situation, you can use a few short mews to calm the herd and tell them, “Hey, I’m just another elk” while you get yourself within range.

Tip 3 – Bugle Louder than the Herd Bull​

A great way to get a bull riled up is to throw off a power bugle right as he is. No one likes being shown up, especially a bull strutting his stuff during the rut. Doing this will likely bring a bull into range that’s ready to beat back a threat, so be on your toes and be prepared to take a shot.

Bugling Elk Blunders to Avoid​

Continual Bull Elk Bugle 

You’re getting a response back from your bugle, that’s great. You and the elk are going back and forth. Why not keep calling back and forth? Avoid this temptation! While you may get an elk to come in, he may consider the threat a more significant challenge than he wants to take on and keep his distance. 

Relying On One Call Tactic 

Some hunters will depend solely on one call tactic. While mastering a particular call type is beneficial, mixing it up is equally so. 

Over Calling High Trafficked Areas  

If you’re hunting on public land, there are bound to be high trafficked areas. The elk in the area know this. While it’s tempting to hop out of your rig and let out a few calls in a clear cut that you can clearly see a bull hanging out in, avoid the urge. This ensures elk will steer clear of the area if it’s being bombarded with elk calls. The best tactic is to get off the road, put in the leg work, and put your elk calling to work in lower trafficked areas when possible. 

No Emotion

Hunter’s just starting with elk calling often get hung up on airflow, duration, and projection, which are essential but can leave the call falling flat. Don’t forget to put the emotion in your call! It’ll make a world of difference. You don’t have to learn how to bugle elk like a world-class hunter; you just need to have the feeling behind the call to instigate the challenge. 

Not Storing Your Calls Properly

I get it, throwing your calls on the truck dash is easy. You know where it is, and you can grab it in a heartbeat if needed. Don’t do it! Store your calls in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight. 

Fillin’ That Freezer​

At this point, you should be feeling loads better about identifying elk vocalization in the field, have some prime elk calling tips to up your game as well as know what to avoid. All that’s left is putting in the work to fill that tag and your freezer. With any luck, you’ll need a second freezer! Happy hunting.

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