Hunts and Calls Elk
Editor’s Note: Ralph Ramos from Las Cruces, New Mexico, has been shooting PSE bows for more than 15 years and guiding elk hunters for more than 20 years. He also teaches seminars on how to hunt elk at Bass Pro Shops Fall Classics and at the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s events.
Ralph Ramos Explains Why He Shoots the PSE DNA SP I was introduced to PSE bows by Will Primos, the creator of Primos Game Calls, who kept inviting me to get a PSE bow. But at that time, I was with another bow company. I had met Pete Shepley, the president of PSE, at the PSE plant in Tucson, Arizona – only 4-hours away from Las Cruces. Then Will invited me to go on a hunt with Shepley in New Mexico where I guide. By getting to know Pete and the company, I felt comfortable in becoming a part of the PSE family. Pete and I have been hunting elk together at least every other year for the last 15 years. The first bow I ever bought was a PSE in 1985. I was still in high school, before I got in the guiding business. Right now, I’m shooting the PSE DNA SP bow (www.pse-archery.com/ c/ pro-series-compound-bows_dna-sp). I really love that bow, because I have a 27-1/ 4-inch draw length. I believe this is the smoothest drawing bow that PSE has in its line. The bow is also extremely fast. One of the advantages of a fast bow is that here in the West, especially when calling in bull elk, often, I won’t have an opportunity to range the elk before I take the shot. Many times an elk will just pop out in front of you, and you have to get the shot off quickly. So, I’ve learned to judge yardage. I usually can estimate the range within 5 yards of the actual range. When we’re hunting elk, I know my shots will be within 30 yards most of the time and hopefully within 20 yards. I have my top two pins set at those ranges, and those two pins are really close together. Even if I misjudge the yardage by 5 yards, I’ll still get an effective hit. Another thing I like about the DNA SP is I can hold it at full draw for a long time. When an elk, a coyote or a turkey is coming in, I want to be able to draw my bow early. But I don’t want to take a shot, until I’m ready to take the shot. I don’t like a bow with a short valley. That kind of bow is telling you, “Hurry, hurry, hurry. Shoot quick, shoot quick.” Before I release the arrow, I like to wait until I have the shot that I want. I shoot a 73-pound bow, but the PSE DNA SP allows me to hold that weight at full draw for a long time.
Ramos Hunts and Calls Elk with Pete Shepley
I was on a hunt with Pete Shelley, the president of PSE, in the Gila National Forest where we were hunting some monster bull elk. For some reason, we just couldn’t seem to get a favorable wind to stalk an elk. In the Gila National Forest, the wind often will shift directions every 5 to 10 minutes. We had moved in close to a herd bull that was bugling a lot and that probably had about 40 cows with him. As we were sneaking in to get within bow range of this big bull, we spooked some of the cows that were bedded out away from the bull. The bull we were after wasn’t the only bull in that herd. When we spooked the cows, the whole herd left the area. Then we started chasing them. Pete has bad knees but stayed right with me. After we spooked the elk, we hiked a long way. Pete turned to me and said, “Ralph, how far do you think we’ll have to go to catch up with the herd?” I answered, “I really believe these elk will bed-down again. If we stay with them, we have a real good chance for you to take a nice bull.” We hiked about another mile in pursuit
of the elk. Then a twist of fate helped us out. We came to a fence that the bulls easily could jump over, however, the calves traveling in this herd couldn’t get across. We watched the calves run up and down the fence trying to find a place to cross. They were calling to the rest of the herd constantly, as if to say, “Y’all wait on us.” The bull began to bugle and chuckle. I could tell he was losing his patience with those calves, because he gave some demanding calls like an impatient father when his kids wouldn’t keep up with him. There were two other bulls also bugling to the calves. I have one cow call that I created out of a moose horn that allows me to give a really-loud cow call. Not only do I blow it loudly, but I blow it so that it sounds like a demanding cow calling the bull back to where she and her calves are located. While I was calling, a small calf walked to within 2 yards of Pete and me. I kept calling, and the little calf kept looking, trying to see where the cow was that was calling. Finally, the small calf winded us and trotted off 15-20 yards away from us.
We could hear the bull coming to us. Pete had an arrow nocked. We squatted down to keep the bull from spotting us. As we looked, we could see horns coming up the hill toward us. Pete came to full draw and held his shot until the bull walked right past us at 15-feet away, giving Pete a perfect broadside shot. At that time, Pete was using a NAP expandable broadhead (www.newarchery.com). When Pete released the arrow, he drilled the bull perfectly. The 340-inch bull only went about 40 yards before piling up in a heap. That hunt was probably one of the most-exciting hunts I’ve ever been on with Pete Shepley.
Ralph Ramos on How He Got Hooked On Elk Calling
A good friend of mine, Jay Jarden, hunts with a PSE bow just like I do. We were hunting Labor Day weekend a few years ago – the earliest part of elk season in New Mexico. Early, early in the morning we heard an elk bugle just before first light. The elk was about 1,000-yards away in a basin. He didn’t bugle a second time. We were hunting a burned-over area. Even though the bulls don’t bugle very much in the early part of the season, I thought, if we could go to this burned-over spot and get to a vantage point, we might be able to spot this bull and make something happen. When we got to a place where we could see a great distance, I saw two bulls a long way off. I started calling, and the elk began to bugle. We had been hunting for 3 days and hadn’t seen a bull. So, I told Jay, “We need to go after this bull now.” We took off at the quick step, went down a canyon and up another mountain where we had last seen the two bulls. When we arrived there, I started giving soft, quiet cow calls. We heard the bull chuckling. Jay went down the mountain about 120 yards in front of me to set-up to try and get a shot at the bull. I wanted Jay to get the first chance to take the bull, even though I had an elk tag also. I kept giving cow calls. I could see the bull down in a little bowl. This bull came within 30 yards of Jay before he took the shot on this really nice bull that scored about 300 inches. I had set-up about 120-yards behind Jay. I’d hoped to pull the bull right by Jay. Also, I wanted to be mobile to move to my left or to my right and continue to call, if the bull went to the left or right of Jay. This technique had worked well for me over the years. I’ve been hunting elk since I was 13-years old. I was born in Silver City, New Mexico. I’ve hunted the Gila National Forest most of my life. Fort Bayard National Wildlife Refuge is near Silver City, and that’s where I go in the evenings in September to call elk and listen to them. When I was a kid, I rode my motorcycle out there. I listened to elk and practiced calling to them. I never will forget that one afternoon when I was a sophomore in high school and I kept calling to this one elk. He would bugle and come toward me. I remember the bull was really upset. When I saw the elk, I could see by his attitude that he was mad. Back then, I was using a Quaker Boy bugle (www.quakerboy.com). For some reason, the call that the bugle produced really fired-up this bull. I was sitting on my motorcycle. He came in so close to me that I got nervous. Although I yelled at him, he kept coming. Finally, I stood up and waved my arms. He stopped within 20-25 yards of me and my motorcycle. After that one experience, I was hooked on calling elk. Right now, I’m using Flextone calls (www.flextonegamecalls.com), Primos calls, and Rockie Jacobsen (www.buglingbull.com) calls. When I’m elk hunting, I’ll have a minimum of eight different calls. To me, calling elk is much like going fishing. You don’t go fishing with only one or two lures in your tackle box. So, I take plenty of elk calls. I know that on some days, a bull only will answer to one call, and you never know which call that bull wants. By having eight or more calls, I can continue to change calls until I get the one that makes that elk bull talk.
Ramos on Taking His Biggest Elk with a Bow I was guiding Mike Strandlund, the editor of “Bowhunting World,” and he was using a bow from another bow company. I had my PSE bow. I called in a bull that came within 12 yards of Mike, and he nailed the bull. Since dark was fast approaching, we field dressed his bull. We decided to come back the next day to skin and quarter the bull and carry the meat and the head out. I still had a tag in my pocket. When we went to recover Mike’s bull the next morning, I left my bow in camp, so I wouldn’t have to carry it at the same time I was carrying the meat. However, Mike took his bow to get some photos with it. At first light, we skinned the elk, and I started boning out the meat. Anytime I’m in elk country, I keep a diaphragm mouth call in my mouth. I started giving cow calls every now and then, just because that’s what I do. As we continued to make pictures, bone out the meat and pack the meat into our frame packs, I heard a bull bugling from down below us. At this time, I had only been a PSE pro staffer for about 3 years. When we finally got all the meat boned out, packed up and ready to start carrying it back to camp, nature called, and I had to go to the bathroom. The bull that had been at the base of the hill roared out a bugle so loud that it almost scared me. The bull was right below me. I hurried back to Mike and the meat. Mike asked, “Are you going to take that bull or not?” I said, “Okay, let me borrow your bow.” He handed me his mechanical release and his bow. I trotted down the mountain about 40 yards and called again. I could see this bull coming straight to me. The bull would score 360 points on Pope & Young. I said to myself, “Ralph, as soon as that big ole bull puts his head behind the tree just out from you, you’ve got to come to full draw.” Within two heartbeats, the bull had his head behind the tree, and I came to full draw. I didn’t know it, but Mike’s draw length was 30 inches, and my draw length is 27-1/ 4-inches. So, I had to move my neck and head backwards to be able to see through the peep sight. As the bull got closer and closer, I prayed, “Please, Lord, let him turn broadside to me.” The Good Lord heard my prayers, and the bull turned broadside at 12 yards. I let him walk past me and drilled him – taking out both lungs.
Now, I had a problem. I thought, “I’ve taken this awesome bull, but I wasn’t using my PSE bow.” I was determined to do the right thing. So, once we got my bull and Strandlund’s bull back to camp, I called Pete Shepley and said, “Pete, I shot this awesome 360 point bull. The only problem is I didn’t shoot him with a PSE bow.” Then, I explained to Pete what had happened. Pete started laughing and said, “Hey, the purpose of the hunt is to take the elk. You had a great hunt, and that’s what really counts.” I thought that was a really classy thing for Pete to say and to let me off the hook. When I went to help Strandlund get his elk back to camp, I didn’t have any intention at that time of taking a bull. I didn’t even have my bow with me. Sometimes things just happen that you don’t have control of, and. I’m glad I took the bull. I just wish I had taken him with my PSE bow.