Use game calls to make your hunt more exciting. Photo Credit: ATA

Calling Strategies for Elk, Deer and Turkeys

  Cassie Gasaway   FeaturedBowhunting   October 30, 2018

Have you tried talking to animals? It sounds crazy, but using game calls to interact with animals is a great strategy for boosting your hunting success.

Hunters often wait patiently in hopes of intercepting deer, turkeys, waterfowl and other game on their way to eat, drink or rest. Other hunters ditch treestands or ground blinds to pursue game by foot with spot-and-stalk strategies. No matter the method, hunters can use specialized calls to improve their strategies.

Kurt Howard, general manager at Rocky Mountain Hunting Calls LLC, said calls are most effective during breeding seasons. Hunters can use calls to mimic or reproduce animal and bird sounds, such as male mating calls or female receptive calls, to attract their quarry.

“Game calls help make hunters more successful,” Howard said. “Animals are driven by their overwhelming instinct to reproduce. They become vocal, and call to find other animals during the breeding season. Since their reproductive cycle coincides with hunting season, hunters can call or talk to these animals to lure them within bow range.”

Even during breeding season, however, you can’t walk into the woods, call a few times and shoot an animal. To be effective, you must make realistic sounds, have animals within earshot, and tell realistic stories with your calls.

He suggests practicing with your calls, but don’t worry if you don’t sound perfect.

“You don’t have to be a world-champion caller to attract an animal,” Howard said. “You just need to sound like a real animal. No matter how good you sound, if you bugle from a busy highway, an elk won’t come to your call. It’s important to use calls in believable situations.”

Once you feel confident calling, give it a go! Not sure where to start? Consider using Howard’s favorite calling strategies for elk, deer and turkeys.


Bugle until an elk responds. Photo Credit: ATA

“My favorite and most effective hunting strategy for elk is to bugle until I locate a bull that responds to my call. Then, I move as close to him as possible so that when I bugle again, he feels challenged to fight or flight.”

Howard said a bull elk usually has cows – or female elk – with him during the breeding season. If you bugle close to him, you can force him to decide to fight to protect his breeding rights or retreat without his cows. If he commits to fight, Howard said the bull will come and look for you. When he does, “you got him.”


Use the rattling antlers once you’ve spotted a deer. Photo Credit: John Hafner

“My favorite way to hunt deer is to use rattling antlers during the rut when bucks are out looking for does,” Howard said. “It’s best to see the buck, and then rattle to draw them to your position.”

Howard said if you can see the buck in a field or with binoculars, watch how it reacts to the call. Adapt your rattling intensity or frequency accordingly. Bucks fight for dominance and breeding rights. If a buck hears your rattling, it might investigate. Be ready.


Call for hens once they’ve all left. This will draw in toms. Photo Credit: ATA

“The most success I’ve had with turkeys is to hunt them later in the morning during the spring breeding season,” Howard said. “Once all the hens leave the toms to go sit on their nests, I’ll do aggressive hen calls to attract a tom.”

Howard said aggressive yelps and clucks can excite a tom looking to breed again. It might rush to your position in search of a receptive hen.

Even if you do everything right, wildlife isn’t always receptive to calls. Be patient and persistent.

“There’s no proven data that explains when animals respond to calls and when they won’t,” Howard said. “The only way to overcome that is to be persistent. You might not always be successful calling, but when you are, it’s the coolest thing ever.”

Calling is an exciting way to make your hunts more satisfying. Visit an archery shop to buy some calls. While there, ask your archery pro to show you how to use different models.


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