You Can Call too Much to a Bull Elk with Mark Hanson
Editor’s Note: Mark Hanson of Mesa, Arizona, took his first elk in 1984. He's been a member of the Mossy Oak Pro Staff for 7 years. To date, he’s harvested 10 bulls. However, he's called in more than 20 bulls for friends and family to take. “We hunt for elk by putting in for tags. If I don’t get drawn, I’ll help anyone who draws a tag find and take his elk. I also maintain a guide’s license, so if any of my sponsors or their customers gets drawn, I can guide for them.”
For early-season elk bowhunting, I usually hunt the White Mountains on the east side of Arizona. Our bow season begins about mid-September, which coincides with the beginning of the rut. I usually call to the elk and try to stalk in close enough for a bow shot. But if I'm not finding many elk, I’ll put up a tree stand over a wallow and call. However, I much prefer to stalk and hunt. I shoot the PSE Decree HD. To get in close enough to take a bull with a bow, I rely heavily on my Mossy Oak camouflage, because I like to call the elk in to me, whether it’s an elk I'm trying to take, or I'm calling for someone else. I use a Flextone Dominator call. I like this call because I like the way the diaphragm goes into the call. Every time you add that diaphragm to your call after each time it’s removed, the sound comes out somewhat differently. On most other elk calls, the diaphragm fits the same way. So, you always sound like the same elk. But with this particular call, every time you take the diaphragm off and then reattach it, you sound like a different elk. The other thing I like about this call is that it comes as part of a bugle. You can pull the mouth piece off the bugle and use the call like a cow call. I also like the Primos cow calls. If you understand elk, and you call well, getting a bull in close enough for a bow shot isn’t nearly as difficult as it is if you don’t call well.
The farthest I've ever had to shoot an elk with my bow was at 35 yards, and the closest was at 10 steps. The real secret to getting elk in close enough for a bow shot is to sit extremely still and don’t overcall the elk. One morning I was out hunting, and I thought I heard a flock of geese coming. But as the flock got closer, and the day got brighter, I could see that the flock of geese actually was two hunters blowing elk calls almost every time they took a step. I met the two gentlemen later, and I asked them, “Why do you call so much?” They replied, “We went to an elk-calling seminar, and the one thing that we really took away from that seminar was when the instructor said, ‘You can’t call too much.’ I smiled and said, ‘You probably need to rethink that.’ When I call, and I hear an elk getting closer and closer, I tone down my calling. If I use my bugle at all, I only use it to make a grunt like a bull will make when talking to his cows. I also give a few cow calls every now and then very lightly. If I have two bulls answering me, I’ll get somewhat aggressive with my cow calling. I try to sound like an estrous cow, so the bulls will become more competitive.