A Trick For Harvesting Bigger Bulls

All the rage in hunting seems to be “use this trick or that trick” to killer bigger elk. At Montana Decoy, we believe sometimes the real “trick” is simply being out there as much as you can and showing them an elk decoy to authenticate your calls. It’s true that most of us have adopted the weekend warrior moniker what with full-time jobs and families becoming the top priorities in life. But that’s where using a Montana Decoy comes into play.

Over the course of hunting’s illustrious history, decoys have mainly been associated with turkey and waterfowl hunting. Not until Jerry McPherson revolutionized big-game decoys did you see hunters packing them into the backcountry. Antelope and deer decoys were used sparingly when nothing but cardboard cutouts or foam targets were available. With Montana Decoy’s ingenuity, a whole new class of hunter was born.

"I like running and gunning until I hear a bugle," says Jerry McPherson of his bowhunting style.

He covers a lot of ground, bugling and cow calling in hopes of hearing a bugle in response. Once he hears a bugle, he moves in close and sets up his decoy. He positions himself off to the side between where he thinks the bull will come in and where the decoy is located. He suggests moving out 20 to 30 yards ahead of the decoy, and downwind of the incoming prey, in hopes that the bull will walk past.

By setting up off to the side, McPherson can let the elk walk past him before he has to draw.

"They won't even see you," he said. "They're zeroed in on the cow decoy.

"But you've got to wait for them to get past you," he added. "Otherwise, they'll see any movement you do."

"Flashing" is a new style McPherson has developed for luring in wary bulls, one he tested in the Missouri Breaks.

The first time he pulled in a big bull by flashing, McPherson was set up on a ridge just before sunup. There was a large bull across the coulee that McPherson had bugled to and then cow called. When the bull showed interest, McPherson raised his rump decoy, which shows the backside of a cow elk, and then slowly lowered it as if the cow was walking away over a ridge.

The curious bull came closer, to the bottom of the coulee, and raked some trees with its antlers. McPherson cow called again, flashed the decoy and slowly lowered it.

Since the bull was coming up the hillside, McPherson planted the decoy and went behind a log to hide and, hopefully, get a shot.

"That was the dumbest thing I could've done," he said. Because when the bull came up and saw the decoy, it stopped. McPherson estimated the bull would have scored more than 400. He noted any bull taken with a bow is exceptional, and a bull scoring more than 260 typical, 355 nontypical, makes the Pope and Young record book. The world record nontypical bull taken with a bow scored 442 0/8, while the typical record is 409 2/8.

The bull was quartering toward McPherson at 20 yards when it stopped to consider the decoy only 10 yards away. McPherson was at full draw, waiting for the bull to take one more step and present a better target. But after hesitating a second, the bull bolted.

"I had set up the rump decoy in the open, right where the bull topped the ridge, he was about 10 yards from the decoy and there was nothing to cover the leg poles," McPherson said. "So it looked odd."

What he should have done, McPherson said, is lay the decoy down, making it appear as though the elk had gone over the hill. Maybe then the bull would have walked past him looking for the cow instead of hanging up.

Elk hunters throughout the West and Canada are beginning to see more positive results from year to year. The more you’re in the woods, skirting the mountains and becoming part of the landscape, the more you flatten the learning curve. That’s not to say success is imminent, it’s not. But you can’t kill elk if you don’t position yourself in elk habitat. Stick an Eichler elk, Miss September or the most popular elk decoy of all time, Cow Elk I, into the ground when a hot bull is near, and without sounding too redundant, increase your chances.

Out there somewhere, just within the imagination, stands a king. He didn’t get that way by being overzealous, impulsive or just plain stupid. Yet every animal has a weakness. It's only natural. And we're trying to expose that weakness with every decoy we create. Will you find it this season? We hope so.

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