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The Call of the Wild: Learning a Proper Bull Elk Bugle

The secret to wooing an elk out of the woods

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The sound of a bull elk bugling is intoxicating. Blood rushes to my face, I feel my heart rate go up, and I instinctively hunch a little to lower my profile. I am planning a backcountry elk hunt for September. I have my spot picked out, my topographic maps on order and I'm getting my packing gear in line. But I haven't hunted elk in years, and frankly, I feel a bit rusty.

On queue was the Idaho Sportsman Expo with a seminar titled "Elk University," taught by Glen Berry, who is the Canadian and World Champion elk caller and owner of Berry Game Calls. He has called in hundreds of elk and has personally taken more than 44 bull elk with archery equipment. Berry also has a DVD series called Hot Bulls. This guy knows his elk hunting.

The class started off with the normal technical difficulties of any small seminar: no sound out of the DVD player and too much high-end out of the microphone. And as soon as we got started I knew that Berry had given this speech before.

He started with the basics of hunting elk. Keep an eye on the wind. Sounds simple enough, but making sure that the wind is in your face and not blowing your scent to a bull is a lot harder than expected. In general, he suggests a northeast approach to hunting game in the Western states, since it is the prevailing wind direction for most mountainous areas in this region. Approaching from the north you will have the wind blowing in your face, exactly what a hunter wants. This little tidbit already changed my September starting location.

Berry then moved on to his real area of expertise: elk calling. The best bit of advice he gave on calling elk was to call only every 30 minutes if you do not get a response immediately. Bugle and then shut up and listen. Berry was clearly suggesting that too often, hunters over-call and scare the elk off.

Of course, Berry demonstrated his own line of calls and explained how they were the "best on the market." I can say I have never called in a bull elk before but plan to try this fall. I can't wait to hear the extended whine followed by low grunts that make up an elk bugle.

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