Talking to Elk

Oct 28 , 2020


Tom Diesing

Talking to Elk

Do you speak the language? I guess the real question is, do you know what you’re saying? Throughout the year I instruct many eager elk hunters in the art of communicating with elk. I am very surprised at how little the average hunter knows about the different types of calls, what the calls mean, and what they are actually saying to the elk they are pursuing.


Within the human race, when we are attracted to another individual how important is your approach and the words you speak? First impressions, and saying the right thing, helps you get started in the right direction. Pickup lines, saying the wrong thing, and shallow words usually end up with a rejection! Relationships among elk in-the-wild are very similar to that of the human race. If you are not saying the right thing in a given situation, you may not get too close to the elk you pursue.

There are many different calls that elk make and each one has its own meaning – i.e. alarm bark, lost calf, estrus whine, gathering herd, greetings, locating bugle, screams, grunting, chuckling to name a few. So, where do I start?

When I talk to hunters who struggle calling elk, I always suggest that they sign up for a calling class to brush up on their skills and learn as much as they can about elk communication. Getting educated and taking a $50.00 calling class or buying a $10.00 instructional CD on elk calling basics is priceless! Yet it amazes me that at times I get a blank stare (do I have two heads or something?). Of course, that’s when I start questioning them about what bow they are shooting and compliment the nice Sitka jacket they are wearing. Sitka gear and a new top-of-the-line bow (with matching arrows) will generally hit your budget around the $2000 mark! Then my next question typically is, “Seriously? You are willing to spend over $2000 on your bow and camo but you don’t want to spend $50.00 on learning to communicate with the elk you pursue?” Not only will a calling class (and, yes, some practice) give hunters more confidence in the field, it will also improve their opportunities to use all that expensive equipment in an actual hunting situation. The bow and camo hunters have invested in won’t do much good if the elk are out of range! Something to think about.

I ask hunters every year if they call elk on their annual trek to the woods, and many say they don’t call. I hear a lot of reasons why: too much calling in the woods, elk are wise to it, elk are quiet, it’s never worked for me, I’m afraid of spooking them, I’m not good at it, I rifle hunt, and on and on. But those aren’t reasons, they are excuses. Over the last 30+ years, I have called-in, and personally harvested over 30 elk with a bow and muzzleloader. Calling elk is a proven and exciting way to hunt elk, and for that matter, all game!

If you are unsuccessful calling elk, it may have more to do with your approach and what you are actually saying out in the field. Are you responding the correct way in these hunting situations? Are you communicating or just making noise? Calling with the right amount of emotion and saying what the elk want to hear is the key! Don’t waste any more seasons. Come on have some fun and sign up for a calling class! There are many elk calling educational resources out there ranging from websites to 1-1 instruction. And bonus, it’s a great way to get fired up in the off season!

Don’t leave it to chance… “Hunt like you Mean It!” Tom Diesing- Owner

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published