For me, elk hunting is like a chess game. I try to get into a bull elk’s head to make him think I’m coming after him, and that I anticipate his moves. An older bull elk is a very-intelligent animal and knows when another bull elk is coming to him and ready to fight to take the herd bull’s harem. That herd bull wants to know all he can about the bull that’s challenging him before the fight begins. The quickest and easiest way for the herd bull to size up his opponent is to see and to smell the challenger bull that he’ll be fighting before the fight starts.
To do that, the herd bull probably will a make circle downwind and get below me. If the bull is coming to my left, I will move to my right, so the bull can’t get downwind of me. The herd bull hopes to size me up, but I’m going to try to not let him pick up my scent or see me. I feel like my hunters and I have been successful, if we can get within 120-150 yards of the bull that’s bugling without his seeing us or smelling us. I want the bull to make the next move. I’ll set-up my hunters to face the direction he’s coming from, and the next sound that the bull makes, I will know what I have to do next. If I can hear him walking or bugling, I’ll back away from my hunter and start softly cow calling to sound like a cow that’s wandered away from the herd, or a new cow that’s just moved in to the area and has been listening to that bugle. I want the bull to wonder, “Was that cow a part of my herd, or did that cow come to this area with that other bull?”
If the bull bugles after I’ve been silent, I will bugle on top of his bugle. In other words, I will not let him finish his bugle before I bugle. When you bugle on top of the herd bull’s bugle, you’re telling the herd bull, “I don’t care what you’ve got to say, and I don’t care how bad you think you are. I’m more important than you are, and I’m going to become the king of your kingdom.”
After I bugle on top of the herd bull’s bugle, I’ll whisper to my hunters, “Get ready to shoot right now, because that bull is either going to come to charging in, or else he is going to leave the country.” If the bull doesn’t come charging in, and I’ve got the wind in my favor and know there is enough cover for me to move closer to the bull, then my hunters and I will move 20-60 yards closer to the bull. Next I either will use a spike bugle or a dominant bull bugle. Many hunters believe that you shouldn’t bugle to a bull when you only may be 50-70 yards from him, but I don’t. I will admit that at times I have sounded like a bigger, stronger bull and have caused some bulls to run away from me. But usually if a bull has established a certain area as his home range, he will come to you. The bull finally will get so aggravated at the lack of respect you’re giving him, that he will come in ready to fight. I use my bugling and getting close to push the issue to the point that the bull either will fight or run, and if he decides to fight, than either my hunter or I will take him.