September 16, 2010 in Outdoors

Don’t be too good at calling

Smaller bulls might believe bruiser is nearby
Brett French Billings Gazette

Wayne Carlton poses with a New Mexico bull elk shot at 15 yards.
(Full-size photo)

Elk and condoms

 What do condoms and elk bedrooms have in common?

 Before fancy, idiot-proof elk and turkey calls were developed, the diaphragm call was the main, hands-free option. But it was difficult to learn how to place in a hunter’s mouth and create realistic sounds. It took lot of practice. Consequently, not many folks used them.

 “When I first started using a diaphragm call, they were lead with condoms or dental latex stretched across,” Carlton said. “I’m not trying to be silly, but condoms could withstand moisture better than dental latex.”

 Modern materials have improved and good callers don’t need to resort to condoms, at least not to get a good-sounding call.

 By the way, Carlton is so proficient after his years of practice that he can make goose, turkey and elk sounds with a single diaphragm call.

It’s the archery season and the elk rut is in full swing. You set up on a mountain ridgeline, dig out your elk call and blow a beautiful bugle worthy of winning an elk-calling competition.

You wait to hear a response and there is none … only silence.

Caller and call designer Wayne Carlton has a theory as to why.

“The better we learn how to call, the more animals we scare away,” he said. “A four-point or a small six may be hesitant to come in,” thinking that you’re the biggest, baddest dude in the neighborhood and he doesn’t want to get his butt kicked. Hunters are better off sounding like an aggravating adolescent.”

Carlton, who lives in Colorado, uses this tested method for putting the sneak on a bull elk.

“First thing in the morning I’m trying to place them,” he said.

He’ll glass the hillsides with binoculars, call and listen. If he gets a call back, he’s off to pinpoint the elk’s location.

“By 10 a.m., I like to be in their bedroom,” he said.

That’s the time of day elk will bed down in thick timber. Carlton said guides advise against pursuing elk into their bedroom because, if they’re flushed, they may leave the country.

“I love hunting their bedroom area because that’s where they feel secure,” he said.

Once he finds a good place to set up within 150 yards of their secure habitat and with the wind blowing in his favor, Carlton will call again with a bugle or cow call.

“When people call they have to think about the cadence,” he said. “If the rhythm is good, the call can be a little bit bad.”

When he’s calling, Carlton said, he tries to create excitement and sometimes movement.

“I’ll call right after him. I go kind of crazy on that first response,” he said. “The more excitement you create, the better chance you have to bring ’em in.”

Carlton often moves after calling to position himself for a shot. He’ll also try to “throw” the call in a certain direction. Relocating makes it harder for the elk to pinpoint his position.

Concealment is key and staying downwind is the key.

He tries to set up in the shadows of trees or bushes to hide his form from the animals’ alert eyes. From his years of experience, Carlton also knows that sometimes the best call is the one in his pocket.

“I’ve learned that if I think the animal is coming, I don’t call,” he said. “You have a much better chance of getting a broadside shot if you don’t call them to you.”

Carlton doesn’t use decoys, although he’s experimented. Using one last year, Carlton found the elk spooked unless they saw the decoy from far away. A better idea, he said, would be to flash an elk butt decoy just to attract the elk’s attention.

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email