Think 'Left Brain' on Call Setups

Elk Hunting: Think 'Left Brain' on Call Setups
Infographic by Ryan Kirby

Fill that tag by knowing your game and following this plan for elk hunting.

By Gary Lewis

Early in my elk hunting career, I noticed a trend in how elk responded to our calls. If there was a hill or a mountain, the elk would go to the high ground, or stay on the high ground and circle to the downwind side.

One of my elk hunting teachers is Dan Kloer. He is a calling expert, call designer and veteran of many seasons of bugling to bulls and calf-talking cows into bow range. Kloer said elk are "left brain." Troy Neimann, who has been my elk-hunting mentor and who teaches an annual elk seminar series with me, said elk tend to go to their left when approaching a caller. What else can we learn from successful veterans like these guys? A lot.


Bull elk bugling during the rut. (Shutterstock image)


LEFTIES 

Think of it this way. Elk are social animals. They like to be together. They group for safety, for feeding, for mating season. There is a social structure, a hierarchy. They tend not to vocalize over each other. And for all these reasons, they are susceptible to calls. And bulls are more likely to investigate the sounds of female elk from late August into September and all the way into early November.

Looking back on dozens of call setups, I remember elk coming from uphill, downwind and my right side. Neimann's experience confirms that, and so does Kloer's.

They tend to go to their left and show up on your right. Last year Neimann called in close to 20 bulls in two days on one ranch. Days like that are rare, but they afford the opportunity to learn from the animals.

"Each one came from above and to their left," said Neimann. "They circle to the downwind side. They hear, they want to smell and they want to visualize."


This is the key to the calling setup, and why even a new elk hunter should not worry so much about how their calls sound and spend more time thinking about each setup before they start calling.


Infographic by Ryan Kirby (click to enlarge)

LOVE TRIANGLE

HERE'S A GREAT SETUP that's deadly on elk during September hunting. The shooter and two callers form a triangle with the shooter at the tip of the wedge and the primary callers at the base. If the shooter has cover, he can move forward to get the shot. If not, the callers should move back to give the impression that cows are leaving. That draws the bull in from his original position toward the shooter. Stay within sight of each other, and use predetermined hand signals to communicate with one another.



NO MORE LOCKUP

Elk make a lot of different sounds. Bulls scream, hiss, challenge and chuckle. Cows bugle (yes, they do), mew and chirp. They rake their antlers and nibble at grass and stomp their hooves and their ankle bones click in still morning air. Each animal has an individual voice.

Our ears disbelieve what we hear. That's why we interpret the cow bugle — a four-note call that goes from high to low — as a spike squeal or a hunter's poor attempt, and we miss what's really going on.

Approach a call setup with the plan to stay in place for an hour. The first 45 minutes are for calling and the last 15 are for staying in place, quiet, on watch.

With this in mind, put several different calls into play, starting with cow sounds and calf sounds and then escalating, if the time is right, into bull sounds.



An elk comes to a call because it has been sold on a scenario. "They want to believe. Then they want to confirm," Neimann said.

It's hard to predict what a complex creature will do, but we do know some things about elk. One of the most important this time of year is that they want to come to the sounds we make. They believe. And a lot of times they come from the high ground, circle to the downwind direction and come in, circling from their left side. Now they want to confirm by scent or by sight.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Lure Lock Options Includes LED Light Boxes & More

Lure Lock Options Includes LED Light Boxes & More

Pro angler Jonathan VanDam showcases new offerings at ICAST 2019, including the ultra-thin, big bait boxes, LED-lighted boxes and backpack-able gear lockers. With Game & Fish Editorial Director Adam Heggenstaller at ICAST 2019 in Orlando.

MLF BPT angler and former Classic champ Casey Ashley has been with Costa del Mar sunglasses his whole career. At ICAST 2019, he shows OSG writer Lynn Burkhead some new products and talks how to pick the right lens color for the water.

Abu Garcia Virtual Rod with Bluetooth

Abu Garcia Virtual Rod with Bluetooth

Pure Fishing's Andrew Wheeler tells Outdoor Sportsman Group writer Lynn Burkhead all about the brand new Abu Garcia Virtual rod that integrates Bluetooth technology through a free ANGLR smartphone app.

Mustad

Mustad's Saltwater Jig Lineup

Russ Whisler shows OSG's Lynn Burkhead the innovative features and great color schemes in Mustad's voluminous lineup of saltwater jigs introduced at ICAST 2019.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

While catfish are still catfish, the difference between day and night tactics and strategies can be profound, even when fishing the same lake or river. Fishing How-To

How to Catch Catfish Day and Night

Terry Madewell

While catfish are still catfish, the difference between day and night tactics and strategies...

As most catfish anglers know, blue cats, channel cats and flatheads will eat darn near anything that fits in their mouths. Catfish

5 Ways To Catch Catfish on Lures

Keith Sutton - September 16, 2015

As most catfish anglers know, blue cats, channel cats and flatheads will eat darn near...

The best jig fisherman are those that are always aware of what their jig is doing. Bass

4 Tips When Jig Fishing For Bass

Chris Schneider - August 25, 2015

The best jig fisherman are those that are always aware of what their jig is doing.

From Monksville Reservoir to Union Lake, plus five other picks, here's where you'll find the Garden State's hottest bass fishing. Destinations

7 Best Bets for New Jersey Bass

J.B. Kasper - October 04, 2010

From Monksville Reservoir to Union Lake, plus five other picks, here's where you'll find the...

See More Trending Articles

More Big Game

Here's some help in spotting bucks before your buddy does. Big Game

Big-Buck Secrets Mule Deer Hunters Won't Share

Gary Lewis - August 08, 2019

Here's some help in spotting bucks before your buddy does.

Said the hunter: ‘We knew he was big, but not world-record big.' Big Game

World Record Rocky Mountain Goat Approved by Pope & Young

Game & Fish Digital Staff - February 20, 2020

Said the hunter: ‘We knew he was big, but not world-record big.'

Light gear that's heavy with features but built for the long haul. Big Game

Mule Deer Hunting Gear Choices for 2019

Gary Lewis - August 26, 2019

Light gear that's heavy with features but built for the long haul.

Bow, rifle and late-season hunting each call for their own strategies. Big Game

Pattern Perfectly for Big Elk Hunting Reward

Andrew McKean - August 13, 2019

Bow, rifle and late-season hunting each call for their own strategies.

See More Big Game

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now