CALLS IN THE WILD

July 29, 2004 11:00 pm
KNOWS HOW TO CALL: Jim Horn's elk calling has helped him harvest an elk during the first week of Oregon's bow hunting season for nine consecutive years. (The Observer/DICK MASON).
KNOWS HOW TO CALL: Jim Horn's elk calling has helped him harvest an elk during the first week of Oregon's bow hunting season for nine consecutive years. (The Observer/DICK MASON).

By Dick Mason

Staff Writer

It is a streak that some hunters might covet as much as a trophy elk.

It belongs to Jim Horn of La Pine and he uses it to inspire hunters. Horn has taken an elk during the first week of Oregon's bow hunting season for nine consecutive years.

The streak gets more impressive upon closer inspection.

For the first eight years of the streak Horn took his elk during the initial three days of the season. Last fall he jeopardized his streak when he did not get an elk until the fifth day of the season.

Horn, who gives dozens of presentations on elk calling each year, cannot promise hunters that they can match his streak.

The hunter does make one guarantee, though.

Everyone can call in at least one elk a day if they follow the 45-5 rule.

Horn urges hunters to stay in one place at least 45 minutes and call every five minutes.

"If you do this every five minutes for 45 minutes, before the day is over you will have an elk in front of you — but it may not be a bull,'' Horn said.

He believes elk always respond to calls at the start of archery season in late August, regardless of weather conditions. Many hunters mistakenly believe that elk have not started their rut and thus think it is too early to call.

As mentioned earlier, Horn has long been successful during the first week of archery season. Often he will be hanging an elk while hunters are returning to camp complaining that it is too hot or too early in the season.

Hunters who have the preconceived notion that it is impossible to call successfully early in the season or when it is very hot or cold are limiting themselves, Horn said.

Understanding elk behavior

To be an effective caller one needs to remember what is behind elk behavior in the late summer and fall. When elk are in their rut their behavior is not based on logical thinking or deductive reasoning. Hunters who plot strategy on such an assumption are making a mistake, Horn said.

Often elk are simply acting instinctively or are responding to hormonal changes. He used the example of bulls rubbing off the velvet of their horns in the summer. This is a biological response.

"It is not a calendar event. Their hormones are changing,'' Horn said.

The call expert urges hunters to be patient and remain optimistic even when they are not getting immediate verbal responses to their calls.

"I don't expect a (verbal) answer. I do expect a response to the call,'' Horn said.

It is important to remember that elk respond cautiously to calls.

"Most of the time they come in slowly. You have got to give them time,'' Horn said.

It is critical to remember that elk are looking for others of their own kind.

"If it doesn't see an elk it will hang up,'' Horn said.

Being cautious is a survival instinct.

"They make their living by staying alive,'' Horn said.

People calling for elk need to keep themselves hidden. Sometimes people call elk while out in the open. A bull might be drawn in but will run away the moment it sees someone.

Horn said it important to be creative when calling and to give bulls a slightly different sound than what they are used to. A bull won't respond if the caller sounds like "a cranky old cow he has heard all year. You have to create something exciting,'' Horn said.

He urges callers to always remember that they are trying to fool bulls into thinking that they are responding to cows or calves.

"We (elk callers) have become illusionists,'' said Horn, the western promotions manager for Primos Hunting Calls.

Horn spoke at Bi-Mart Friday. On Saturday he gave a presentations at Ski Anthony Lakes where he spoke at the Eastern Oregon Super Shoot archery tournament.

Horn gives presentations almost every night in the month leading up to the start of bow hunting season, which begins Aug. 28 in Oregon. Horn never tires of giving these presentations because it builds his anticipation for the upcoming season.

"It keeps me pumped up every night.''