Ha Ha, I hear ya Bitterroot! There are a few good holes here & there where we've stumbled on these type of elk, we call them dumb elk! (grin) They are very cooperative! Unfortunately they are far & few in-between!
Steve, stay with what works Sir! But I will say in the defense of calling that it does work, Timing & use of sounds is very crucial as many of these OTC herd bulls have been around the block once or twice! (grin) The classic bugling & cow calling will not get it done, 90% of those will end up in hang-ups or turn bulls into runners if not handled correctly or understood.
95% of the elk we take (over 65 herd bulls) are via calling! They may start out as Spot or Call & Stalk but end up that some sort of aggressive calling is needed to seal the deal. Yes, we hunt all OTC & heavily hunted zones, the success rate for a bull here is under 6% with last year sporting over 6000 hunters in our unit not to mention the wolves! We have pressure but calling is still the #-1 source of our success! This is why I would recommend it to those who wish to go that route. It takes a lot of work to master this art, it's no accident to consistently call in herd bulls or satellites. This doesn't mean you have to be the worlds best caller or have to know how to make tons of sounds, but more importantly you must understand what sounds you are using/saying & what the elk are saying?
This is where hunters go wrong! Most do not know the differences between classic location bugles or a lip bawl bugle or a round up bugle or a calling cows away from another bull bugle or a re-gathering bugle, not to mention selective cow sounds, etc. Recognize these different sounds & it will open up a whole new outlook on how you approach elk hunting! Not saying we shouldn't Spot & Stalk but consider other successful avenues to avoid being one dimensional when the stalk starts to go sour! Be very versatile is key! (grin)
Knowing when & where to call is equally as important! Good Luck elk seasons getting close! (grin)