Hunting elk is definitely easiest when they’re bugling. They’re easier to find, because their songs carry for a surprisingly long distance. Once you get to the area where the elk are making a racket, sometimes you can lure one in with a cow call or a bugle. You just have to know what they’re looking for.
Male elk are a lot like male humans. When they get an idea in their heads, they don’t change their focus easily. So if the bull is looking for love, a cow call is your best bet. If he’s looking to prove he’s the king of the mountain, you might be able to call him in with a bugle. If you use the wrong call, though, he might just go off to find what he’s looking for somewhere else.
Be careful with your bugle, especially late in the rut. Once the bulls have determined their pecking order, your bugle won’t have the desired effect. The bulls get bugle shy awful quickly, and all you’ll do is push them away.
However, if you get between a herd bull and his cows, a bugle might be exactly what you need. If you’re lucky enough or skillful enough to find yourself in that situation, a bugle will get the old boy to come on the run. Be ready for a quick shot.
When they’re not calling, you’ll have to resort to real hunting. Look for tracks, follow trails and search for droppings. Take a good look at the habitat and try to figure out where thy might feed or bed down. Areas in the shade where there’s a lot of cover, like thick or felled trees are a good bet. Move up on these areas slowly, and look closely. A bull’s rack can easily look like a dead snag if you’re not paying close attention.
They’ll feed in lush meadows, especially when there’s thick timber close by. If there’s sign that elk have been using the meadow recently, hunker down and settle in for a wait. Your best bet of ambushing the animals where they feed is early in the morning or late in the evening.
However you do it, elk hunting’s a lot of work. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get an elk on the first day, or even the fifth. Keep at it. When you finally do get an elk, all the work will be more than worth it.