Elk Talk: A Quick 30-day Guide to Improve Your Calling Skills

Elk Talk: A Quick 30-day Guide to Improve Your Calling Skills
July 20, 2021

By: Jonathan Metcalf

It’s the time of year where most of us really start to let our minds wander down the path of fall hunts to come. Hunting has a way of working itself into your blood stream and intertwining itself with your core. Talking to yourself in the car, reliving every encounter and thirsting for the sounds of September, sound familiar yet? Bull elk bugling, chuckling, screaming their way to the seat of the throne for breeding rights; friends become foe and a champion emerges from the battle of September! I have chills writing this, thinking back on trying to play the battle flute and speak the language of the mighty wapiti! 


Jonathan Metcalf 

Communicating with elk is one of the most addictive ways to hunt I have ever experienced. Learning their language and mimicking it to try and persuade them to come and battle my bow, arrow and myself. A winner “takes all,” kind of chess match. Let’s take a couple minutes to talk about how to practice elk calling, elk calling techniques and elk calling strategies.  I’ll give you a quick rundown on my type of thirty-day elk calling strategy. 

Learning how to elk call is one of the larger conversations around elk hunting, with many different strategies and approaches available out there, there is many ways to become “fluent” in elk. Start yourself out ahead of the game by listening to elk vocalizations and learning from the real source. Elk calling is an art, and although listening to some of the world’s best callers can be cool, and make you learn to sound sexy; you really need to be learning the ins and outs from the elk themselves. Listen for those little nuances, and emotions, even cadences that the elk do when they call. GoWild and other internet sites are an awesome tool to use for searching elk videos to watch and listen to elk, schooling you up on the real elk vocalizations. 

Now that we have started listening to the elk, it’s time to get busy practicing. Elk calling will have its challenging moments but embrace the suck and come out ready to rage war with your bugle tube. Start out taking your calls with you on the commute to work, you really don’t realize how much you can grow by taking the time to practice during your drive time. I like to grab two or three reeds and toss them in my cupholder, this also allows me to test durability, and consistency of said call.  Practicing elk calling in the car is great way to practice without pressure and in a close quarter environment. 

Moving forward in your quest to learn how to talk with the monarch of the mountain I would dig deep into elk related podcasts and other sources of elk content. Filling your mind with as much data as you can, trying to compile a general understanding of what these calls you are making are saying. As you practice in the car and get consistent with your reeds, you can now apply that data into laying out a call strategy. Consistency is the key, you want to be confident and consistent in your calling, applying practice to thought, will create a habit. Restless Native and Gearbox Talk are a couple examples where you can dig deeper into elk calling and elk calling strategy. I like to tap into as much information as I can, so during my practice I can start to throw my own twists on things and make it personal.

Alright now that you have the meat and potatoes of the elk calling game, its time to put together a practice schedule. Consistency…. Remember that word?  Practice will make you consistent, consistently practicing will make you remarkable. You understand elk sounds, at least enough to get your point across. You practice in the car, so now you are getting comfortable and are able to choose the call you want to war with.


Jonathan Metcalf 

A simple way to put all of this together in a schedule format is as such:

  • Practice on the commute in, 10-15 minutes is plenty to start to grow with.

  • Listen to podcasts, elk audio and other elk nerd stuff while practicing. 

  • Change out calls and practice with multiple calls so your arsenal is larger.

  • Repeat point one and two on the commute home

  • Dream about elk…..  ok maybe only during naps.

  • Spend some time practicing calling outside, allowing yourself to let that battle bat roar!

  • Spend some time practicing elk calling in the woods, or timbered areas. Sounds carry differently in wooded environments or heavy brush.

  • Integrate elk calling into your workouts, or range days. Learning how to call at an elevated heart rate is key, considering the magical monster you’re going to chat it up with will take your breath away. 

  • Call a friend, mic check each other over the phone and take constructive criticism.

  • Record yourself while you are practicing your elk calling. Playing back your recordings will allow you to make adjustments and fine tune your calling. 

  • Always keep learning and have FUN. 

As basic as a turkey I know, but a very good layout to get your brain turning on your practice times. relax turkey callers, you can utilize this strategy for your clucks and purs also.  Getting back to it, practice makes perfect, go into it knowing you’re always going to need to practice, and you’ll grow to be a legend behind the calls. This isn’t the elk calling bible or reference book by any means, but I promise you this; if you build yourself an outline similar to this, practice consistently and stay after it, you’ll be Optimus Prime behind that call. Good luck out there this season, may the gods of sound be with you!

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