You might expect a top elk caller to focus his hunting advice on proper call selection, volume, tone, timing or teamwork. But one Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation World Elk Calling Championship winner says perhaps the most critical step to calling in elk is how you set up to intercept an approaching bull.
Corey Jacobsen of Boise, Idaho, is one of the most decorated world champion elk callers in the country, as well as a consistently successful bowhunter.
Jacobsen offers the following key advice on calling elk into bow range:
“The setup might be the most critical step," Jacobsen said. "It always plays a major role in determining the outcome of a hunt. I can’t count how many hunts have been blown by a bad setup — too much brush to shoot through, not enough cover to hide in, no shooting lanes, inconsistent wind currents, caught in the open, the list goes on and on.
“I always repeat one word to myself when I’m setting up on a bugling bull: ARC.
“The meaning of ARC is twofold. First, a bull will often approach your setup by circling downwind. I like to visualize a straight line from the caller to the bull, then draw an imaginary arc on the downwind side. This is the path a bull will likely follow as [it] comes in. Always try to set up along that arc.
“The second thing ARC means to me is ‘Always Remember Concealment.’ Elk survive by three main senses: sight, sound and smell. Conceal yourself from these senses every time you set up. Set up in front of brush or trees and allow your camouflage to break up your outline (and give you a clearer shot than if you’re positioned behind cover). Clear the area where you set up. This will eliminate the chance of snapping a twig as you shift your weight or draw your bow. Obey the wind. No argument. No excuses. If the elk smells you, the hunt is over. No amount of cover spray, odor-eliminating gear or luck will make your scent disappear from a bull’s nose if the wind is going straight toward him. Keep the wind in your favor.
“Hunting with a partner is an incredibly effective way to call a bull past your setup and increase the chances of getting a high-percentage shot. If you’re the shooter, use a rangefinder to determine distances to trees, stumps or rocks around your setup, thus eliminating any guessing when the elk shows up.
“Finally, be sure to draw your bow only when the bull’s vision is obstructed, when his head is turned or behind a tree. Few things are more frustrating than having a perfect setup and everything coming together, only to have it all fall apart at the moment of truth."
In the RMEF World Elk Calling Championships, amateur callers have 30 seconds to mimic cow and bull sounds. Professional competitors like Jacobsen are required to make specific calls including standard bugles and cow calls as well as breeding calls. Judges score each competitor anonymously. Winners in the six divisions of competition receive prizes and cash ranging from $500 to $2,500. The event helps raise awareness of RMEF elk, habitat and conservation initiatives.
Editor's note: This was originally published September 2, 2011.