Bowhunting World Oct 2003

Elk Run Silent, Run Deep ~By Bob Robb


There were bulls bugling at several  stations of the clock as l crept; along a wide trail near Steamboat  Springs, Colorado, last September. It was hot and dry, and walking the trail was the only way to move silently into the light breeze. Using my  binoculars to scan the thick brush carefully before each step, I eased  along, ears and nose and eyes on Red Alert. Suddenly a bull bugled just above me, not 60 yards away. lt was a Pope & Young class 6×6 bull that had not yet risen from his morning nap.

At 4:00 in the  afternoon, it was time for him to get up and move. Crouching behind some trail side brush, I watched the bull get up, move, 20 yards, and start raking a tree. That gave me the opening l needed  to slide to the left, and ease up the slope.  At 35 yards stopped, and when me bull lifted his head t0 bugle my arrow greeted  him. He never knew what happened.

This was not the first time I had slipped into bow range of a mature bull
elk without calling. I learned long ago that a poor caller like me is
better off with a sneak attack than trying to trick a bull to come to a
call, when the odds were he wasn’t going to come no matter how good a
caller I was.

Each season, more and more bowhunters are figuring this  out. They are
learning to use their calls to locate bulls, then sneak in  on them on cat’s feet. When they get close, they might use some cow calling. to stop the bulls for a shot, or to move him a few yards into an opening. In this gane silence is truly golden.

Strategy of the Pros

The “Run Silent, Run Deep”  approach has been used by several bowhunters for many years with great success. Perhaps the most graphic example is the world record bull bowhunting legend Chuck Adams arrowed in M0ntana in 2000. Adams stalked the bull as it moved toward a bedding area, herding his cows and never calling at all. Another elk hunting legend, Arizona’s Randy Ulmer, has taken more whopper bulls than one man should be allowed using the same method.

“My system is based  on the ability to travel light and fast, locating a herd of elk with the type of large old, bull I am interested in, then being able to stay with them and “stick-and-move” quickly and quietly to get into position for a shot” Ulmer said.

The Importance of Scouting

Ulmer is a big believer in  scouting, locating the kind of monster bull he wants to hunt.If he finds a herd of elk but it does not hold the size bull he’s after, he makes a note of it and moves on in search of the next herd.

“If you want to kill a true giant bull, there is no use wasting your time hunting a herd that
doesn’t have one.” he said. ” I know that sounds pretty basic, but there are a lot of hunters they’re searching for the ‘bull of the woods’ who spend too much of their valuable hunting time where one simply does not live. Most guys don’t spend enough time scouting – or because are from out of state, don’t have the season – and they end up spending a big chunk of their hunt simply trying to find a herd of elk.”


Why You Should Not Call
“Even if you are the best caller in the world, I have found that it is generally the younger bulls that come in, but old bulls don’t.” Ulmer said, ” If the big studs come at all, they get to a certain point  – usually somewhere between 70 and 100 yards – then stop and will not commit to come in any further. I believe that’s because at this point they are looking for another elk. If they don’t see one they get very suspicious and simply won’t come. At seven, to 10 years of age, they’ve seen a lot of elk hunters and they are not stupid. They also often will turn tail and sneak out of there. I also think the bigger bulls can tell the difference between people calling and elk calling. These old boys are going to sneak in, take a peek, try to get downwind of the caller, and try and smell what;s there. Sure there’s always the odd bigbull that gets killed by bugling or cow calling, but that’s the exception, not the rule.”

Hurry Up, Slow Down


When he’s located a herd of elk and it’s time to move in  on them, Ulmer, a fitness fanatic, noted that he uses two speeds. “There is very fast, and there is very slow, and no medium speed in my elk hunting,” Ulmer said. “When I’ve spotted a herd and i may have to circle them to get ahead of their line of travel, l go as fast as I can go. That can mean jogging for miles. Once I’ve gotten into position however, it becomes a slow, meticulous still-hunt stalking game.
” What happens is this,” Ulmer continued. “In the morning the elk have reached thick brush or their bedding grounds, and they  slow down. They’re a little nervous themselves, looking, listening, and smelling for  danger. You now have to stalk them like you would
a bedded mule deer buck, which in my mind is the most difficult of all western
game animals to  stalk and shoot. If you’ve happened to get ahead of them
and the herd is moving past you it is also a tough deal. The lead cow always
comes first, and she is always suspicious. Then the other elk file by, and they
are wired-up too. The bigger bulls always come last. That means you have
to beat all these other elk first to get your shot.


Ulmer’s Ideal Scenario


“Here’s my ideal morning scenario,”Ulmer said. “I’ve found a big bull and l have watched him and his herd go to bed. Now l have to make a decision. If  I
think there is so much hunting pressure in the area that  someone else may stumble by and bump him, l’ll go ahead and try and  stalk him. This is very hard, though, and l try and avoid this if  I can. There are just too many other elk around to make it a high-percentage
game. However, if he is in an area where there is little hunting pressure, l will
back off, take a little nap and relax, and about 4 p.m. or so l will get up and move into a spot 150 yards downwind of  the bull. and wait. Typically, a couple hours before dark the elk will get up, stretch, and nibble around. The bull will usually let out a little growl or soft bugle, and once l hear that l know right where he is. I try  and stay patient, because now is
the best chance to get him. After his quiet day. that bull is usually lazy and relatively unwary.

“At some point before the dark the bull will generally nib a tree, and this  is
when they become very vulnerable,” Ulmer said. “`Nomally they tend to  rub
for somewhere between lO to 15 seconds, then stop for up to 10 minutes, look
around, maybe call a little, but not move much. Then they’ll rub again, and stop again. This can go on for maybe 15 minutes at the  most, and now is when you have make your move
without hesitation. I line-up on the bull, try and get a quartering or complete butt-at-me
angle, and when he is rubbing his tree, I run as  fast as I can right at him. The second he stops, you have to stop. When he starts rubbing again,you run again. Before you know it you can be within good shooting range of him and get your shot off without him ever knowing you were there.”


If he catches up the elk herd and gets in tight to them in the thick cover,
this is when Ulmer may use his diaphragm call. “Big bulls like to get into the thick
stuff as  quickly as they can in the morning, and that’s where you catch up  with them,” he said. “lf you can slip-in close enough in this type of  cover you usually
just get a quick shot opportunity as they pass through the thick brush and small trees. When I see the bull coming l’ll draw my  bow and wait for him to get
into an opening, then I’ll blow sharply on my cow call to stop him. Almost
always the bull will stop, turn, and look right at you. 1fyou’re already at full
draw they will almost always let you release and watch the arrow all the way
in, and not jump the string like a deer. However, if they see you draw they’ll
run, so you have to be ready to shoot when you sound off on your call.”


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