The call of the wild: Game calls for hunting

Deep in the woods, a bull elk calls. While the sound will draw a cow elk, it also will bring other bulls in defending their territory from the challenge.

That’s exactly why many hunters, especially during bow and black powder seasons, use calls to mimic the bugle of a bull — it brings prey to them instead of them tracking.

Using a game call is considered by some to be “active” hunting, used instead of sitting motionless in a blind.

Success is judged by reproducing a call realistic enough to fool an animal into the sights of a gun or bow.

The art of calling animals used to be only for the practiced, but new devices let even a novice mimic the bugle of a bull elk, the quack of a duck or the call of a moose.

According to Dave Hutton, owner of Craig Sports, there’s a call for any animal that makes noise and some for those that don’t. “Game calls are popular for elk, more so than deer, but hunters do use deer calls to stop (the deer) so they can get a better shot,” he says. “Our main calls are for elk and deer, but if they make noise and they’ll come to a call, there’s a call for it.”

Elk calls aim to attract when the elk are in rut.

“Depending on the time of year and call you’re using, they’re very effective,” Hutton says.

Becca Nielsen, co-owner of Rocky Mountain Bowstrings in Meeker, says game calls are essential in elk hunting, where spot-and-stalk type hunting is virtually impossible. Call types range from beginner to advanced, from a taped recording to squeezables and those hunters blow. (Note: Electronic callers are illegal in Colorado.) Advanced calls — reeds or diaphragms — often require hours of practice. Nielsen says they’re more effective because they’re more realistic. “If elk have been messed with at all, you have to be authentic,” she says.

There are many styles and brands of mouth calls to choose from — open reed, closed reed, semi-enclosed reed, plastic reed, metal reed, variable reed and interchangeable reed. The advantages of mouth calls include price and convenience. They’re generally affordable, ranging from $2 to $15, and are transported easily in pockets. They’re also easy to handle, lightweight and easily stored.

Disadvantages of mouth calls vary from one type of call to the next. Some are easy to break, hard to clean or get out of tune easily. In windy situations, it also can be difficult to blow a mouth call with adequate calling volume.

No matter what kind you use, practice makes perfect, from learning what the call should sound like, how much to call, and where and when to do it. There’s nothing worse than blowing your chance at blowing your bugle.