Elk NetworkElk Hunting Q & A – How Do You Call in a Cow Close Enough for a Shot?

General | July 6, 2021

Q & A is a department that appears in each issue of Bugle magazine. Below is a question that appeared in the 2021 July-August Issue followed by answers submitted by members of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. If not a member of RMEF and you would like to receive more Bugle content like this, go here to join.


There’s plenty of information available on calling in bulls, but how about cows? How do you call in a cow close enough  for a shot?

Alan Scott

Bellefonte, Pennsylvania


Answers from RMEF Members

Just as with bulls, calling in cows is very situational. You’ll be most successful if you adjust in the moment based on what you are experiencing. Try calf sounds, short and high pitched. If you don’t get a response, try to mix in more herd sounds. Keep adjusting and trying different things. If you don’t get a response after 30 minutes, continue your walk and try again.

Jim Williams

Butte, Montana


I’ve used mews and non-aggressive bugles to bring cows in under 40 yards. But a lost cow or distressed cow sound will bring cows in close a lot more often. A calf sound or calf in distress call also works.

Jim Hawkins Jr.

Coeur d’Alene, Idaho


Use a cow call while moving, then stop and observe. It’s not unusual for cow elk to parallel and travel the same direction just out of sight from a lost cow or satellite bull until they rejoin the herd. Take it from me: don’t hide so tight in brush that you can’t shoot when a cow appears. If the wind is right and your camo is good, you will get the shot.

Richard Payton

Lexington, Kentucky


You can’t beat Primos’ Hoochie Mama cow call.

Or me, imitating the Hoochie Mama cow call. Imitating a Hoochie Mama is the highest form of flattery, right? It works for elk and other wildlife. Mission accomplished.

Jennifer Nieland

Green Bay, Wisconsin


Scout and keep moving until you find enough fresh elk sign to believe that spot is seeing steady use. Once you’ve found an area that looks promising, sit and wait. Once I believe, I wait from sunup to sundown. Elk will pass through and I’ve found it to be more productive during the unusual hours of late morning or midafternoon. I’ve been successful using a calf in distress call and had cows come rushing in. Be ready to call and stop one, because they’re often traveling at a brisk trot.

Patrick Gouin

Jacksonville, Florida


I’ve seen cows come running in when my hunting buddy is trying to locate bulls. When he begins his challenge bugles, cows have come right in to 20 yards from the shooter. I have personally used a calf or lost calf call to calm a herd of elk that was pushed, then used the lost calf call to pull cows closer to me.

Patrick Littrell

Peyton, Colorado


Next Question

In heavily hunted areas, what are other ways besides specific bull, cow and calf calls to draw in shy bulls?

Bill Christensen

Holladay, Utah

(Answers will appear in the November/December issue of Bugle magazine.)

If you have an answer to Bill’s question above, email it to q_and_a@rmef.org. We are always seeking new questions as well. If we publish your question or answer, we’ll send you a Buck knife.

(Photo source: Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation)