Tricks of the Trade (Calling in the Cascades)
Bow hunting the Cascade Mountain Range is easy. All that you need is a solid month of scouting, physical and mental endurance, and the grace of Mother Nature. There is some crazy ol' timer statistic out there that states, 95 percent of all elk harvested in the Cascades are harvested by the same 5 percent of hunters. I imagine that it is about as accurate as anyone could guess, and I consider myself blessed to be in that statistic. I started hunting very late in life, and have only been hunting for a few years now, six to be exact, so any inaccuracies in my writing feel free to address.
My first two years of bow hunting was quite the learning experience to say the least. I had bit off way more than I could chew in those two years. Surprisingly enough locating the mystical creature was the easy part. I asked a few old timers where the best chances of spotting elk would be and after a few hours of tromping through the woods I found a heard. Once I settled in to my observation post I began calling and that is when all hell broke loose. I started out with quite "Here Elk" calls and they didn't respond. They were a good 150 yards away so I elevated my voice a bit on the second attempt and put a little more emphasis on the "HE" of "Here Elk," and boy did that work. They spun right around! The herd bull rounded up his cows in a hurry. All that I saw was mud flying from hooves about 20 elk asses and then nothing. An empty high mountain prairie with a maze of wallows and beds scattered for a hundred yards was all that remained.
That night I drove the hour and a half home trying to process what happened. I thought I had great intonation and carried my voice well while calling the elk. I sang in choir clear through high school, and was told I had a great voice, apparently not to elk. This story brings me to my first topic of discussion. How to call in elk once they have been semi located. Just in case you were wondering in never really used "Here Elk" to make my calls. It would have been just as productive though.
There is one vital key to being a successful elk caller. Practice, practice practice. It does not make perfect, because I do not believe there is such a thing when calling elk. It does, however, build confidence in producing the sound you want to here when you make your call. I have called in elk or got response nearly every year for the last four years with practicing different techniques. I have practiced to the point my wife kicks me out of the house; to the point that I was creating more of a ruckus than the war in Iraq when I was there in 2010. I bought just about every call on the market, and whittled it down to three. I use the Hyper lip double reed by primos, the Sonic Dome (double or triple reed), and a bugling tube.
I found that with these three devices I could create any sound I wanted to, and reproduce the sounds I was getting answered back to by the elk. The Sonic dome by premos is great for making calf calls. The Hyper Lip is great for estrus calls, and the combination of the Sonic Dome and the bugling tube is great for bugling. Easy enough one would think, but when do you make these calls and how do they sound? This is a question that separates hunters from nature walkers. It is no surprise that when hunting the Cascades during late August and early September it is very loud. It is almost impossible to stalk and shoot in this area. That my friends are where calling is the key to success.
I would hate to give out all of my valuable secrets in one post without having some interest in this topic. So if you would like to hear more about what I have found in my last four successful seasons please respond, and I'd be glad to give you a pinch of knowledge from my perspective. Thanks for reading and I hope someone is interested.