RENO, Nev. Al Morris is the reigning world champion of elk calling, a title 15 years in the making and one he could lose this weekend.
Always a highlight of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation's annual "Elk Camp" convention, the 2010 RMEF/Leupold World Elk Calling Championships kicked off Friday morning with preliminary rounds of competition.
Finals will be Saturday. ESPN Outdoors will feature live streaming video of the competition at noon ET.
Viewers will see the best elk callers in the world step up and challenge Morris for his title in the Professional Division, as well as elk-calling crowns in five other divisions: men's, women's, youth, pee-wee and natural voice.
"I competed for 15 years before I finally won my first world championship last year. I placed second five different times and I placed third four times. So finally winning it all last year was very cool," said Morris, of Springville, Utah.
An accomplished elk and predator hunter, guide and member of the Hunter's Specialties pro staff, Morris will not only compete, he'll also share his knowledge of elk at several seminars during Elk Camp.
He managed to find a few minutes for our Six-Point Bull Session:
Point 1: What's the difference between calling in a tom turkey and calling in a bull elk (other than about 800 pounds)?
Morris: They say if a turkey could smell you'd never kill one, but we know that elk can smell just fine and we manage to get bow-close to them. Hunting strategies can be very similar. They both will let you know they're around by bugling or gobbling. They both are very vocal animals and respond well to calls.
Call the hens and gobblers follow; call the cows and bulls will follow. The two sports are alike in so many ways I have even called Merriam's turkeys in the same meadows where I have called bull elk, so even the country can be the same.
Point 2: Lots of elk hunters work in teams but you believe there are advantages to hunting solo. Such as?
Morris: I love hunting solo primarily because I only worry about my noise, my scent, my setup, my calling. Every additional person doubles or triples those factors. There is no better feeling than calling elk for a friend, but to call and fool a bull one-on-one, well, there is no feeling like it on earth. Do it one time and you will be hooked for life.
Point 3: If a bull within bow range gets downwind, the hunt is over no cover scent or special clothing or pine-flavor chewing gum will make much difference right?
Morris: Wrong! On a video, Primetime Bulls 7, I call a Colorado bull into 8 yards. But at 20 yards it lifts its nose and tries to catch my scent.
He couldn't smell me. I had washed my body with Scent-A-Way body soap. My clothes were scent-free from the detergent and stored in a scent safe bag. And I wore 6 scent wafers on my hat, clothes and pack. It all worked to convince that elk that whatever it had smelled was of no concern. I promise that a good smell-invisible program will put more elk steaks in your freezer.
Point 4: How does calling elk for competition relate to calling elk in the field?
Morris: I think calling to judges behind a curtain is much harder than calling to elk. Stage calling has made me refine my calls so I try to be perfect with my cow calls and bugles.
The reality is elk are not perfect with their sounds and mistakes are quickly forgiven by elk not so with judges. Calling on stage has made me a better elk caller in field. I have learned how to make a lot of great sounds that get elk in archery-close by learning and being around the best elk callers in the world.
Point 5: Wolf hunting began in 2009. Did you hear of any hunters calling in wolves as they do other predators, and do you foresee a growing market for wolf-calling products?
Morris: I am so glad that we are finally getting a chance to actually manage these predators and I hope that it will only increase with more tags and opportunities in the future.
Some of our elk herds in West are in trouble and it's only going to get worse if they don't loosen up more tags for wolf management.
I do know some successful wolf callers. One buddy recorded his hounds baying a cougar in a tree, played it back later, and a dozen wolves came in. He filled his Idaho tag.
A lot of good calls already exist for wolf calling and I think more niche products will come along. I look forward to my first chance to try and call a wolf.
Point 6: What are the three most common things that elk hunters do wrong?
Morris: First, most hunters don't trust that they are making the right sounds. Trust in your calling and remember you can't call one in if you don't call at all.
Second, most hunters are not aggressive enough. They're way too timid. Too much aggression can be bad at the wrong time, but sometimes you have to pressure elk and see what they do, so you'll know how to make your next move.
Third, a lot of hunters think that because they have the latest, greatest elk call that success is just waiting for season to open. I spend three days scouting for every day I hunt, so preparing for a 7-day hunt should mean you spent 21 days looking for an elk to hunt.
I realize if you live back east you can't drive out west and scout on weekends but you can spend time on the phone, on a computer and getting in shape to be successful on the mountain. The fun of elk hunting is in the journey. They say success is where preparation and hard work meet, so shoot your bow all year, shoot your rifle every chance you get, mentally prepare for that moment of truth.
Elk hunting will get into your blood if you try it one time.