Bring Big Game to Your Bow in Thick Cover
Big-game animals that hole up in dense cover during midday or sequester females in the breeding season aren't off-limits to you just because you have a bow in your hands. All you need is a buddy. Two bowhunters can lure whitetail bucks, elk, moose, or bears out of the thick stuff and into bow range with a ground-level, stop-and-go calling strategy.
THE BASIC PLAN involves moving from one promising patch of thick cover to another, calling at each to lure your quarry. Let’s use whitetails along a creekbottom as an example. Bottomlands commonly feature isolated thickets that make excellent bedding or security cover for deer. With your buddy, parallel the creek on one side, moving into or quartering into the wind. When you reach a likely thicket, split up.
If you’re the caller, you should set up directly crosswind of the heavy cover, 75 to 100 yards or so off its edge. Ideally, there will be a small ridge, bank, or hill where you can stay somewhat hidden but still see down into the cover below. Meanwhile, your buddy should swing 60 to 80 yards downwind of you, sneak near the thicket’s edge, and find a spot where he is concealed, yet has fairly open shooting. An old logging road is a perfect example.
Both of you should be ready to shoot at any moment. A lovesick buck could lose his caution and approach the caller directly. More often, though, he’ll circle 50 to 75 yards downwind to get a whiff or a better look at the source of the calls–putting him in perfect position for the other shooter.
Once you’re both in place, let things settle down a bit, then call conservatively at first. Start with a series of yearling-buck contact grunts and move to some light rattling if necessary to pull in a lone buck. If you think a buck has an unready doe cornered in the cover, soft doe grunts could bring her out in an attempt to pass the buck on to another doe (you). Otherwise, loud rattling or the wails of a fawn in distress may quickly change your luck. And if that doesn’t work, just go to the next thicket and try again.
The beauty of this technique is that it can work on all sorts of big game. The whistle of a spike elk, say, coupled with foot stomping and branch breaking can enrage a mature bull, luring him away from his harem and right into easy bow range.
One year in British Columbia, my hunting partner used an axe handle to thrash a clump of alders, irking a nearby bull moose tending an estrous cow. When the paddle-horn stepped into the open to confront the “intruder,” I arrowed him at 30 yards.
Two words of caution are in order. First, be very careful about trying this technique outside of bow-only seasons. Using it for moose in a remote Canadian forest is one thing, but for whitetails during gun season? No way! Second, keep in mind that rich big-game habitat often supports a healthy population of black or grizzly bears, and your calling could entice a hungry bruin. Once, in Colorado, I was camouflaged and crouched down when two mature black bears charged me, scaring the wits out of me. So be careful–and make sure to get a bear tag.