Whitetail deer hunters are schooled on silence, sneaking through the woods as quietly as possible, approaching stands with stealth and silence, and avoiding the dreaded stick-snap that can send a big buck bounding away. These cautions are warranted for whitetail deer, but not for elk. In fact, being “too quiet” can be a hindrance in the mountains. I hunted the Seven Devils Wilderness area a few years ago and our party of four was returning to our horses after a long day afield. With a three-hour ride back to camp in the dark, we were moving briskly when suddenly a bull bugled just ahead of us. We hadn’t called or made any enticement, other than sounding like a herd of elk moving toward him. Within seconds he bugled again at 75 yards. Marching in, the bull came to 30 yards before fleeing, catching my buddy off guard.
In most calling scenarios, a hunter tries to be quiet, but with elk you’ll be more successful if you walk around and break a small stick or two. I once hunted with TV host Chad Schearer (right), who lured a bull from half a mile away. As I sat at the ready, Schearer moved while he called 50 yards behind me and the realism was incredible.
Just last season a group of us met in a thick stand of spruce in Wyoming where we decided to watch a waterhole until dark. The mountain was tinder dry and walking quietly was impossible on the quarter-mile jaunt. We sat at the water for less than five minutes when two big bulls showed up, apparently following the sound of what they perceived as elk. Sometimes the “squeaky wheel” gets more than just the grease!