Born to bugle: 7-year-old takes fourth (in division) at World Elk Calling Championships

Ava King is looking forward to when she’s old enough to go hunting. For right now, the Fruita 7-year-old tags along with her dad sometimes, but when her time comes, she’ll be prepared.

Calling in an elk is a skill that many elk hunters have mastered. Getting that precise pitch and tone of a bull entices the animal to come in close so an archery hunter can make the shot.

Ava might not be old enough to be a hunter yet, but she’s well on her way to being a skilled elk caller.

“She likes going hunting with her dad,” says mom Tiffany King. “She heard him (elk) calling and she liked it.”

In March, Ava competed in Salt Lake City’s World Elk Calling Championships, and came away with a fourth-place finish in the 10-and-under division. “It’s pretty awesome because I never got fourth place in anything before,” she says.

The elk-calling hobby started when the King family went to a hunting expo in Salt Lake City and Ava was given a bugle tube by a vendor. She wandered all over the expo the rest of the day blowing on the tube. “She went all around the expo calling,” Tiffany says.

When dad found out about the elk calling world championships, the family headed back.

Ava hopes someday to call in an elk for her dad and she even tried last fall. “We tried my bugle but they didn’t respond,” Ava says. “I’d love to call in an elk for him.”

Tiffany says she’s proud because Ava grasps why they hunt. “She understands the basic ethics of it,” she says. “If I ask her why we hunt, she answers ‘because it feeds our family.’”

While Ava’s love of elk calling borders on obsessive, she hasn’t stopped practicing. She even has a homemade bugle tube made out of a plastic water bottle and duct tape. “It sounds louder,” she says.

Which isn’t always the best thing, adds Tiffany.

“Sometimes I have to tell her ‘please stop, you’re driving me crazy!’” she says. “But we do let her practice.”

When not practicing calling elk, Ava enjoys soccer and swimming, as well as hunting for shed antlers. And she’s still looking forward to when she gets to actually hunt with her dad. But for now she just loves being in the great outdoors.

“It’s like I’m out in my backyard, but it’s a lot bigger,” she says.

— Dale Shrull