Adventures Hunting Elk

Editor’s Note: Pete Shepley, the founder of PSE, has been an avid elk hunter since the early 1970s. He’s traveled all over the country hunting elk.

I’ve been an avid elk hunter since the early 1970s and have traveled all over the country hunting elk. I was talking with a group of bowhunters one day, and someone said, “Why don’t we go to Colorado and hunt elk?” I said, “Yeah that’s a good idea.” I thought this hunt would provide an opportunity to hunt a critter I never had hunted before and to take my first elk. So, four or five guys and I loaded up and went to Colorado to hunt elk. Although we hunted really hard, none of us really knew what we were doing, and we didn’t take an elk. As PSE grew, I had a salesman who had an elk-hunting operation in the Big Horn Mountains just above Lovell, Wyoming. I started going to Wyoming and guiding for him. I’d guide for a week, and then, he would allow me to hunt on my own for a week. Although I didn’t take many elk during my guiding days, I learned more and more about how to hunt elk. I was seeing a lot of big bulls, but I couldn’t get shots at them. I finally decided if I was going to kill a really-big bull, I couldn’t shoot an elk that wasn’t a really-big bull. So, I shouldn’t try to take a small bull or a medium-sized bull, because I knew there were big bulls on this property. Since their elk season was only for 2 weeks, and I could only hunt one of those 2 weeks. I decided to spend my time hunting the big bulls, instead of just taking any size elk, to be able to say I had taken one. To be really honest, I can’t remember when I took my first elk. And I can’t tell you the exact number of elk I have taken, but I know I’ve taken more than 20.

I really liked elk hunting, because unlike many hunts, you can start hunting elk before daylight (listening for them to bugle and trying to get in close), and you can hunt until the last minute of legal shooting time. So, I could stay busy trying to take an elk all day long. I also get excited seeing elk, hearing them bugle and then trying to get in a position to take one. An elk hunt is excitement all day long. I love to hear the calling and hear the bull respond.


Often in the morning, we’ll spend our time calling and chasing elk. In the afternoons, we’ll sit in a tree stand over a waterhole or a wallow. I don’t really like sitting in a blind as much as I do chasing the elk. Elk hunting is like many other types of hunting. You’ll make mistakes, and the elk won’t do what they’re supposed to do. You’ll be going to a location where you think you’ll get a shot, and the next time you see or hear that elk he may be a mile away. So, luck is one of the important factors in a successful elk hunt.

I often tell people that hunting elk is much like hunting wild turkeys. If wild turkeys didn’t gobble in the spring and give away their locations, there wouldn’t be nearly as many people who hunted them. I think the same is true of elk hunting. If the bulls didn’t bugle, the sport wouldn’t be nearly as exciting for me and many others as it is when they do bugle. For me, the most-exciting aspect of the hunt is calling to the elk, having the elk answer you, and if you’re really lucky, having that huge creature come to you.

In the early days, when I first started hunting elk, I considered myself a pretty-good elk caller. But compared to the men and women calling elk today, I really wasn’t very good at all back then. The calls that have been developed to call elk are far better today than they were 30-years ago. Back when I started hunting, we had those refrigerator coil tubes we used for calling.

One time I was hunting in New Mexico with a fellow named Ralph Meline, who was such a good elk caller. He called me in four different times in one day. He was so good at sounding like a big bull elk that I would slip in close and spot Ralph Meline (I called him Abe, because he looked like Abraham Lincoln). Each time he called me in, I felt much more foolish than I did the first time I came to his calling.


Having the Most-Unbelievable Elk Hunt

One of my favorite people to hunt elk with is Ralph Ramos, a school administrator in Las Cruces, New Mexico. For several years, we had a cabin in New Mexico, and Ralph would come up and hunt with us sometimes. Ralph is a super elk caller. I think he’s called in about 350 elk for himself and the people he’s guided, in his career. Ralph is so proficient at scouting and finding elk for the people that hunt with him that many of his hunters will take their elk the first days that they hunt. That’s the good news, but Ralph has one thing he does that can be very irritating. He never shuts up calling elk. He’s always blowing that elk call, and it tends to make me a little bit crazy. However, you can’t argue with success. Ralph has a proven record of being a successful elk guide and elk caller. He doesn’t call in an elk every day, but he calls in elk most days, and he’s highly successful.

Ralph and I were hunting one morning. By 10: 00 am, he had called in six bulls to 20 yards or less for me. However, the biggest bull was only about 325 inches. This was on the first day of elk season. We were videoing the hunt. Even though I didn’t take a shot, we were all having a great time having all these bulls come in to within 20 yards or less. Ralph has a system that he calls the X-Factor, and he’s deadly effective at calling bulls in really close.

A little before 11: 00 am, Ralph called in a satellite bull that I didn’t shoot. I was thinking to myself, “We’ve had seven bulls within bow range, and the time’s not 11: 00 am yet.” But Ralph kept on calling. After a few minutes, I spotted this really nice bull coming toward us. When the bull was at 45 yards, I drew my brand-new PSE X-Force bow. I had shot this bow at my shooting range and was really pleased with its performance, but this would be the first time I had shot the X-Force at an animal. I shot the elk in the front. The arrow went all the way through him and went out the side of his rear leg. He only went about 100 yards before he piled-up. When we got to the bull, he had really nice antlers and scored about 345 on Pope &Young. I thought to myself, “Life doesn’t get any better than this. Ralph’s called in eight bulls before 11: 00 am.” I took the last bull he called. This hunt was so phenomenal and so memorable, because when you call to an elk, most of the time, they don’t come running. Generally you have to call and call, sweet talk to them and try to move in close. Sometimes you may have to call for 2 hours to get them to come in close enough for a bow shot. Sometimes you may talk to them all day and never get a shot. For me, the calling and the anticipation of seeing a big bull elk is just really exciting. Then when you shoot an elk, there’s a thrill at being able to take one. Then all the excitement is over, because field-dressing, caping, quartering and carrying out meat is much like work. But in my lifetime, I’ve never had a fellow call in eight elk for me in one day. Unbelievably, we had all this excitement before noon. This has to be one of the most fantastic hunts I’ve ever been on in my life.


How to Choose Sport Optics

It is very easy to choose a binocular, best spotting scope, or riflescope for many people. They think that a binocular is an instrument you pick up and just look through – simple and easy. They may buy a pretty-looking spotting scope with high magnification and a low price, then mount it on a tripod and they think they are ready to use it and all will be good. They think a riflescope is this black tube with glass installed at each end. So, all they have to do is select a low price, fancy model name along with an attractive color and style. If people do this, in most cases they will be disappointed.

Leupold Spotting Scope Reviews

What else is important? What you are going to do and how are you going to use the binocular, spotting scope, or riflescope, and how serious you want to become in your interests will help determine the best product for you. My recommendation is to buy the most expensive optical instrument that you can afford (after you have decided on the type you want) and you will not be sorry! Optics, with proper care, should last many years and the upfront purchasing investment will be well worth it.

Top Rated Spotting Scopes

For hunters it may make sense to spend more on a riflescope than the rifle as the riflescope is so important in getting an accurate shot – you know the rifle will shoot fine but if you cannot aim it properly to get a precise shot all is for naught. Binoculars and spotting scopes appear to be simple optical devices but in reality, they are complex, precision optical instruments. Riflescopes are even more complex as they have to function with heavy recoil action of the rifle and stand up to this hundreds of times and yet continue to be repeatedly accurate.

An educated consumer will be much happier learning about the various aspects of binoculars, spotting scopes, and riflescopes before making a purchase. This book discusses the basics of sport optics products and gives you a lot of information to digest. It should help you make the best choice considering what you will be using the products for before making your buying decision. In general, with binoculars, spotting scopes, and riflescopes you usually get what you pay for. As the price increases, in most cases, so does the quality of the unit. It is easier to use this guideline for binoculars and spotting scopes because with riflescopes there are so many different types of options to skew the pricing. However, this is just a guideline as I have seen and compared several products costing a few hundred dollars outperform models costing two to four times as much. Be very careful with television, online, and print ads for binoculars that offer you 1000 power, see sharply at 35 miles, and many other deceptive and irrelevant claims, many free extras, and all at a price of $ 19.98 plus shipping and handling. I’ve seen a TV ad for “Zoomies” that magnify 300 times and the optics are put into an eyeglass like frame, noting great for reading books, TV watching, binocular use, etc. – and all for $ 10 plus shipping and handling and get a second one free with order. Do not fall for binoculars (large or small aperture) with powers of 120x, 150x or more as the image will last brightness, have a very narrow field and not satisfactory at all. There are many more similar type horrible products but just ignore them as you will be throwing your money away as they are junk. Stick with known, reputable brands. There is a multitude of binoculars, spotting scopes, and riflescopes available in the marketplace in the U.S.A. from dozens of manufacturers and suppliers and when added to what is available in other countries around the world it is mind-boggling.

It can be very confusing trying to sort through the maze. Most brands are reputable but be careful of unknown brands. To give you an idea of how many models are available at this time in the U.S.A. alone, I tallied the numbers by looking at company brochures and on their websites, by going to numerous conventions and events, etc. If I were to add brands sold exclusively in Europe and other countries around the world, I am sure the models would be increased about 30% to 50%. These are standard optical models and not including specialized binoculars, spotting scopes, or riflescopes. The retail price range for these instruments is below. Due to the large quantity of the various products, I have included images

throughout the book of many of the more popular models.

I cannot tell you which particular binocular, spotting scope, or riflescope is

best for your application as only you can choose the unit best suited for your particular purpose and usage. This book can be a guide to help you make your choice or choices as you may want two or more binoculars or riflescopes for different applications. It is amazing that in some manufacturers’ brochures and websites for binoculars you are told that model “X” is the best for birding, model “Y” is the best for sporting events, model “Z” is best for hunting, etc. Then, they will tell you which riflescope to buy for specific hunting categories. To me this is ridiculous because it depends on exactly what you are going to be doing, under what conditions, and what your budget is. It also does not help you that many

retail store clerks know virtually nothing about the optical instruments they are selling. There are many specialty retail shops and online business (especially in the hunting and birding industries) where the personnel are quite knowledgeable. So, read on and hopefully you will gain some knowledge about binoculars, spotting scopes, and riflescopes.