GJ’s Elias McMillan talks lessons from elk calling championships

Elias McMillan of Grand Junction, far right, displays his trophy after finishing third in the youth division of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation/Leupold World Elk-Calling Championship in Las Vegas.

If Elias McMillan takes anything away from his recent experience at the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation elk-calling championship, it’s this: Sounding like an elk is sure different when it’s judges, not elk, that are being attracted.

The 13-year-old East Middle School student grew up around elk calling by listening to his father, Jason, a guide with Keys Guiding and Outfitting in Mesa.

But it seems elk are easier to entice than judges.

“I definitely learned you’re not out in the woods,” Elias McMillan said a few days after placing third in the youth division at the 2013 RMEF World Elk Calling Championships presented by Leupold in Las Vegas.

“You’re not really calling elk. You have to be more creative with your sound,” he said about making elk sounds on a brightly lit stage in front of a packed room and not on a stand in the Colorado backcountry.

“It was pretty nerve-wracking and actually got my adrenaline going,” Elias recalled. “I think I could have done better if I hadn’t been so nervous.”

Jason McMillan said his son has been calling elk for less than two years but already shows an inherent skill in the art of attracting elk.

“We were in the woods doing some trail maintenance, and he was just playing around with a diaphragm (mouth) call, and he called in a six-point bull,” Jason said. “I think he might be calling for me a bit more.”

At 13, Jason was just old enough for the youth division, won by 17-year old Greg Hubbell Jr. of Belmont, Calif.

Second place went to Brayden Langley of McMinnville, Ore. His father, Bryan, won the men’s division title.

While Jason usually makes his elk sounds using a diaphragm call, which sits against the roof of his mouth, the Elk Foundation competition called for full-out bull elk bugles.

But first, Elias had to learn to use what’s called a grunt tube to amplify his calls.

“I had to give him a crash course in bugling,” Jason said. “He only made cow calls, because that’s what you use in the woods, but the judges wanted to hear some real bugling.”

Jason said he can build on the third-place finish in future contests.

“The competition was much older, and I learned a lot from them and the experience,” he said. “I think if I practice more, I can go farther and maybe get some sponsors.”


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