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More Ways to Take Bull Elk

Day 4: Calling-in Big Bull Elk in Utah with Al Morris

Editor’s Note: Al Morris of Springville, Utah, won the 2009 World Elk Calling Contest, and he and his partner Garvin Young also are coyote-calling champions. Morris and Young were in Utah assisting Kenyan Davis in filling his bull elk tag.

IClick for Larger View was hunting in Utah for the beginning of rifle season one year in September at the Book Cliffs, part of the East Tavaputs Plateau near Green River, Utah, with my friend Kenyan Davis. My buddy Garvin Young was filming the hunt, and I was doing the calling. This hunt was important to me, because this was the spot where I’d scattered my dad’s ashes. Thirty-years ago, my dad and I were sitting on our horses here on the Book Cliffs, and my dad looked at me and said, “Son, when I die, I want my ashes scattered in that little meadow right there.” When he passed away more than a decade ago, that’s where I scattered his ashes.

Click for Larger ViewWe’d hunted for 4 days without locating a really-big bull. But Kenyan’s dad rode up a ravine and found this bull. The next day, when the bull bugled, I kept him bugling with my two diaphragm calls until we could get a look at him. We had to hike for 3-1/2-hours to finally reach a spot where we could see the bull. Throughout the hike, we occasionally would stop and spray-down with Scent-A-Way. As we closed-in on the elk, one of the cows in the herd spotted us and took-off running, taking the herd about 1/2-mile up the mountain. Luckily for us, because she didn’t smell us, the elk stopped within 1/2-mile. If she’d smelled us, our hunt would have been over. If an elk sees movement and doesn’t know what the movement is, it may run a little distance and then stop. But if an elk smells you, you may as well tell that elk adios.

As soon as that cow broke to run, I started calling like a calf and giving some cow mews to convince the cow we’d spooked that perhaps she saw another elk instead of a hunter or at least to put a question in that elk’s mind so that she wasn’t really sure what she saw. We got within 300 yards of the elk when we decided to take the shot. Because the bull hadn’t seen what the cow had seen and because he heard cow and calf sounds coming from the spot where we were located, he kept inviting us to join his herd by bugling almost constantly. We further confirmed that we were cows and not hunters by continuing to walk toward the bull, as though we were cows and trying to catch-up to the rest of the herd. Since we were rifle hunting, we weren’t trying to get really close like we would if we were bowhunting. By using diaphragm elk calls, we weren’t only able to keep the bull calling to us and listening to us come home, we were able to position him for a broadside shot that Kenyan would take later.

Click for Larger ViewEarlier on this same hunt, using two calls, I called-in five other bulls at one time to within less than 100 yards of us. We were able to video three of the bulls at the same time. I was able to pull all those bulls in by using an estrous cow call. Those bulls really got fired-up and started bugling. All five of the bulls we called-in were over 300 inches and would have scored from 300 to 330 on Boone & Crockett. However, we had our sights set on a bigger bull. Most hunters happily would have taken any one of those five bulls, but Kenyan had tried for 16 years to draw this area, so he wasn’t going to take just any bull. We only had 5 days to hunt. Those five bulls came in on the fourth day, but Kenyan made the decision to hold-out for a bigger bull, even if it meant he wouldn’t fill his tag. That’s often a decision you have to make when you’re hunting for trophy elk. I have two theories about hunting: Don’t pass on an animal the first day that you would have taken on the last day, and if you take the first little average bull that comes by, you’ll never take a big trophy bull elk. If you want to take a really-big bull, you have to weigh those two options.

Click for Larger ViewOdor neutralizers played a major role in our ability to find the elk and take the big bull we took. We rode horses into the mountains, but we’d get off the horses and start walking. When you’re walking, you’re constantly perspiring. Without odor neutralizers, we would have spooked most of the elk we saw. When the five bulls came in, we were within 100 yards of those elk, and the wind was swirling. But none of those bulls seemed to know we were in the area. When Kenyan finally took his bull, the bull was raking a tree with his antlers. Kenyan took the shot at 300 yards, double-lunged the bull, and the bull dropped. This hunt was great, long and memorable.

PhD ElkSecrets for Hunting ElkTo learn more about elk hunting, click the title for “PhD Elk” and “Secrets for Hunting Elk” new eBooks for Amazon Kindle by John E. Phillips. Or, you can go to and type-in the names of the books to find them. You also can download a free Kindle app that enables you to read the book on your iPad, computer or SmartPhone.

Tomorrow: Top 10 Wolf Hunting Tips for Elk Hunters

Check back each day this week for more about "More Ways to Take Bull Elk"

Day 1: Getting Close to Take Big Bow Bull Elk with Phillip Vanderpool
Day 2: Take All Your Calls on Elk Hunts with Phillip Vanderpool
Day 3: Big Bull Elk in New Mexico with Nationally-Known Alex Rutledge
Day 4: Calling-in Big Bull Elk in Utah with Al Morris
Day 5: Top 10 Wolf Hunting Tips for Elk Hunters

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Entry 677, Day 4