Facilitated elk hunting Debrief


Junior Member
Nov 8, 2020
September was fun this year, we bumped elk, we heard elk, we smelled elk. Things got “western” a few times with camp visitors at night and a random surprise moose at close range and soaked boots and damn near high-centering my truck. Even without a bull on ground, it was a successful season in my mind, particularly since it’s the first time I’ve carried a bow into woods since 1997.

But I wanted to tell you about a scenario we had on closing day and see how I might get better.

Tired of hunting pressure everywhere we thought there should be elk, we threw a Hail Mary and went near a highway in some promising terrain. Sure enough, we located a bull from a ridgeline above a steep drainage near a the highway right before dark one evening. We decided to come back early the next day and come up the drainage itself a few miles down where there creek crossed the highway.

The next morning, the wind was in our favor and the ground was wet, making our approach much quieter than normal. A half mile in we located a bull up the creek valley using a basic locator bugle. We closed a few hundred yards without calling and then I fired up a cow party for a couple minutes. Crickets. The wind was still very much in our favor so I sheepishly locate bugled again. He answered up drainage again. And this time he kept bugling for a few minutes. So we closed a few hundred yards quickly and quietly again, cow called again, crickets again. I reluctantly locate bugle again to get a bead on him. Same story, same dance. This happened maybe two more times. Every time he was further up the creek and not answering cow calls.
After two more hours of dogging this fella up the drainage, he went full ninja. We never saw, heard, or smelled him again. After climbing up the ridge and waiting awhile, it was clear he’d bedded and shut down.

I have some guesses as to how we could’ve done better, kept him engaged and/or confused, and made a better play. But since I’d rather learn from people smarter than myself, I’d like to debrief this with the treehouse here see what you folks have to say.


Senior Member
Jun 8, 2020
CO Springs
Had more than a few encounters just like this, this year, so im interested to see what the response is also.... bugling for me would get them to sound off but it also just drove them further away. I understand some elk just aint in the fighting mood but darn it they just didnt sound off with cow calls until the last week of Sept for me.

Ultimately i also did what you did except i ended up finding success with the ninja approach in deep timber and quiet quiet cow calls, the only thing was.... he bugled on his own so i knew where he was bedded down and that was just dumb luck.


Apr 12, 2020
I’m a novice elk hunter (successfully harvested first ever elk a couple weeks ago), but from what I’ve experienced the past couple years, it’s one of the following:

1) He was doing his natural moving up to his bedding location, and he was responding to you while he made his way there. My tactic in this case would probably be to figure out his bedding location and setup for calling nearby

2) He had cows with him and you were far enough away that he was comfortable just moving his cows away from you. My tactic in this case would be to close the distance and bugle, forcing him to come investigate/fight you otherwise you’ll steal his cows. This was the exact scenario how we shot our bull this year - it wasn’t until I bugled less than 40 yards from him that he came towards the call. Farther away and he would just push his cows away and leave with them.


Senior Member
Feb 26, 2018
I played this game multiple times this September as well, did a lot of head scratching. Curious what the more experienced hunters have to say.

I tried pushing my luck a few times, trying to get in tight to bedded elk (they would talk but 100 -200 yards wasn't close enough to get them to come over and play) and usually the wind would hose me if I moved any closer. Then I tried following them until I was for sure they were bedded. Then I would wait for the wind to improve before moving any closer (go over the ridge or up onto a bench), but wouldn't be able to locate them again.

Towards the end of the hunt I kept running into raghorns with cows, they would bugle to cow calls and get me excited. They would keep their distance though as I moved in, pretty sure they had been beat up enough they were going to keep their distance. Once I saw them I would either go find other elk that would be easier to call or try to stalk that herd, if they were in a decent spot.

Found a few that cooperated, but it took a lot failed attempts to get there!