July 24, 2003 11:00 pm
ELK LANGUAGE: Dan Kloer demonstrates his most popular elk call, the Dominator. (The Observer/DICK MASON).
ELK LANGUAGE: Dan Kloer demonstrates his most popular elk call, the Dominator. (The Observer/DICK MASON).

Summer is a time when the pace of life slows for many people.

Don't tell this is to Dan Kloer of La Grande, however.

The pace of his life is picking up, just as it has each summer for the past two decades.


The call of the wild.

Kloer is the owner of Deep Timber Sounds, a company that makes big game calls. Kloer is busiest during the summer because most of his customers are archers who bugle for elk. Bow seasons for elk in Oregon and many other states begin in late summer, which explains why Kloer is often deluged with orders in July and August.

Kloer also produces calls for turkeys, ducks, deer, bears, geese, crows and coyotes, but the majority of his calls are sold to archers who hunt for elk.

Kloer, who works out of his house, is essentially a one-man company. He designs and assembles all of his own calls, something he has done since starting his company about 28 years ago.

His work is labor intensive but Kloer never tires of it.

"I like the challenge of making new calls,'' he said.

Kloer succeeds in meeting the challenge because he knows the language of elk and other big game animals as intimately as a linguist. The knowledge is hard earned. Kloer has spent years studying big-game calls. Sometimes he has spent days in a tree stand testing his calls to see how big game animals respond to them.

"I have the option, because this is my job, of being able to go into the woods when most people are not there,'' Kloer said. "Most people don't have the time to go into the woods and learn what I can teach them.''

Much of what Kloer has learned is on audio and video tapes that he has produced on calling.

Kloer always emphasizes that it is important to listen when calling for elk.

"The key is to understanding what they are saying and to answer back,'' Kloer said.

For example, if one hears a bull elk calling it is important to determine whether it is one that wants to challenge another bull or is calling cows. Hunters should respond with either an aggressive call or a cow call depending on what they hear.

Calling in big game animals is more challenging today than it was three decades ago when Kloer first began making calls. More people are using game calls which means that animals are not as easily fooled.

This is particularly true of elk. Three decades ago all one often had to often do to draw in an elk was to give a simple bulge imitating an aggressive elk. Today doing this scares elk away in some areas because some elk now a associate a bugle with people, Kloer said.

Bow hunters call for elk more than rifle hunters because archery seasons for elk start in late August when the animals are in their rut. Elk are more responsive then.

Kloer's top selling call is the Dominator, which he gets 1,000 orders for each year. It allows hunters to imitate a variety of elk calls.

He produces about 15 models. Prices range from $5 to $32.99.

What makes a good call?

The quality of sound it produces and the ease in which it can be blown. Sometimes it is more important to have a call that is easy to use than one that can produce a large variety of calls.

"A call may offer more variety but it might be harder to blow,'' Kloer said.

To ensure that his calls can help everyone, Kloer makes a point of hunting only on national forest land that is accessible to the public. He believes that if his calls are effective in national forests they will help the general public. Kloer gets invitations every year to hunt for free on private land but always turns them down because he wants to test his calls only in places the public has access to.

Kloer believes that anyone can be a good big game caller with practice.

"It is like being a musician. If you want to be a good musician you have to put the time in,'' he said.

Practice prepares one to make appropriate calls when needed.

"It is important to be a confident caller who can produce sounds when you need to use them,'' he said.

Kloer moved to La Grande about nine years ago from Oregon City. He started Deep Timber Sounds in Oregon City about 28 years ago. His first sale was a dozen elk calls to a store in Oregon City known as Larry's Sport Center, which has since closed. It cost Kloer $6.25 to make those first 12 calls — an initial investment which was to yield not only a good financial return but also a rewarding career.

For information on Deep Timber Sounds on the

Story and photos

by Dick Mason

of The Observer