To bugle in call-shy, public land bulls, a team approach is best. A caller needs to funnel elk to his shooter by moving around and simulating multiple cows. Many bulls will close a long distance gap but hang up around 100 yards when they don’t see a cow to corral. That’s when I use a special weapon called the ‘X-Zone.’
The caller needs to be a minimum of 100 to 150 yards from the shooter. This allows a caller to move around in the background while calling, shifting positions and using natural tree cover to keep from being detected. Bulls will move side-to-side, sweeping the area in front of a shooter trying to wind a cow or you. In turn, the caller will move in the opposite direction he hears a bull bugle, luring the bull right to the shooter. The goal is to get the bull to walk into the X-zone and into a shooting lane. You can stack the odds by having the caller listening for bugles, then reacting to position themselves opposite those bugles while consistently calling. The caller should sound like a herd of female cows with calves, forcing the bull to focus on the caller’s noise behind the shooter.
Elk calling still works, but every elk hunter has a bugle and a cow call, and hard-hunted bulls have heard most of them. But with persistence, timing, and new techniques, bowhunters can have success—the X-zone being one way to close the gap on an ornery bull.
Ralph Ramos lives in New Mexico where he is a middle school principal and professional hunting guide. He has been hunting elk for nearly 30 years.