7. Respect the lead cow. Elk live in a matriarchal society. During the rut, big herd bulls sometimes act brain-dead. The old cow at the head of the line, however, is another story. For practical purposes, lead cows never make mistakes. You may get away with bumping a spike, calf, or satellite bull, but spook the lead cow and you will spend the next several days looking for elk instead of hunting them. [NEXT "Stop Calling"] **8. Stop calling. **
Bugling-the term I'll use to refer to bugling, cow talking, and everything in between-has become a controversial practice. Some knowledgeable elk hunters think that human calling interferes with the rut to such an extent that it should be banned. I don't go that far, but I do think that bugling is one of the most overused of all hunting techniques. Back when, regulations ensured that the early bugle season took place under one of two circumstances: in remote wilderness areas far from crowds or during archery season, which had few participants at the time. Nowadays, except on very large private ranches, elk have heard it all, and they are becoming bugle-shy. No matter what the quarry, any call represents an exchange of information as useful to the defense as it is to the offense. I seldom call at all, even during the heart of the rut.