Born And Raised Outdoors: How to Call Elk – Solo Edition

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How to solo call in an elk is one of the most-asked questions the team at Born And Raised Outdoors sees come across their desks. Calling in a bull when you’re solo in the woods is a different beast entirely. In this video, Born and Raised’s Kody Kellom walks elk hunters through their tips and tricks for calling in elk when you’re hunting solo. 

The Setup

The biggest difference when you’re calling in elk solo, the setup is critical. Look for terrain breaks, anywhere where a bull could possibly hang up—where he can see where the sound is coming from. Consider packing in a decoy and using that sight line as confirmation during your hunt. Find a location where the bull has to come all the way in to see where that sound came from. Look for heavier cover, find your shooting lanes, and use your initial setup to increase your odds of success.

Go with What Works

Go with what got you there—with what got the bull interested to begin with. See what the bull is responding to, and react accordingly. Assess each situation and if a bull is interested, keep doing what you’re doing to keep him interested.

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Sneaking into Position

If you can’t quite bring him into the right distance, consider making that last call and then making a move into your position. Get the bull fired up, starting to converge, and then think about pushing forward into a good shooting position and bring him in using a hide-and-seek mindset. Sometimes you need to stop calling and let the bull come into position, then move quickly and quietly to meet him halfway.

Hide and Seek

Don’t give away your exact location. Cow calls when solo calling are a great way to keep the bull interested; play hide and seek with the bull to pique his curiosity and testosterone so he keeps coming in.

A male hunter uses a bugle tube to call elk.

Volume and Direction

Instead of calling at the bull, use the sound cast. Turn your head, keeping in mind volume and direction can give an illusion that the sound is coming from a different location than where you’re sitting. Don’t always scream in the bull’s face and try to cut him off, use that control and direction. A lightweight glove can also be used to cap the end of the bugle to help muffle and direct sound. Do the same with a cow call; tone it down, turn your face… keep it interesting. 

Raking = Move

One advantage to solo hunting is that fewer people = less sound. Use that to your advantage. When the bull is raking, make any movements you need to. Hunting solo, you have a better chance to hide your presence. Use the times when he’s raking to sneak in, keeping in mind if the bull is with a herd, you need to ensure all the elk present are distracted and not aware of your presence.

A group of four male hunters take a break to chat.

Patience

If you call a bull in and he hangs up, just be patient. Let things develop. Sometimes a bull may get curious and come in, but if he can see where you’re calling from, just wait. Let him move on, then make a move and keep calling him in. 

Bark Scream/Bark Chuckle

If all else fails and an elk hangs up, bring out the bark scream/bark chuckle. Basically a confirmation of “I’m a bull here,” this sharp, shrill sound can intrigue a bull to stop and possibly even come back into position. Practice this call before you head into the field solo calling. If all else fails and a bull is looking for confirmation of where you’re located, this is a good one to pull out. 

A game bag hangs from a tree and an elk antler is propped against a limb.

Positive Mindset/Don’t Quit

Keep a positive mindset. Solo calling and solo hunting can be challenging. Be mentally and physically prepared. Don’t quit, and keep a positive outlook on where you are and why you’re doing what you’re doing. Go for it hard every day, talk yourself up, and enjoy the process.

With the tips and tactics Born And Raised Outdoors provides in this video, you’ll be well on your way to solo calling bulls in this season. Armed with this knowledge, it’s time to hit the elk woods with confidence.

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Jess McGlothlin

Before taking the role of onX Communications Writer, Jess McGlothlin worked as a freelance photographer and writer in the outdoor and fly-fishing industries. While on assignment in the past few years she’s learned how to throw spears at coconuts in French Polynesia, dodge saltwater crocodiles in Cuba, stand-up paddleboard down Peruvian Amazon tributaries and eat all manner of unidentifiable food.