By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
Put a calling reed in his mouth, a bugle in his hand and Brad Cain must sound like the Luther Vandross of the elk.
The Keizer man was crowned the best amateur elk caller in the world earlier this month at the World Elk Calling Championships held earlier this month in Las Vegas.
“It was the first time I’d ever competed, my hunting partner has been going there to compete the last couple of years and I finally decided to join him. I was really just hoping to make it to the finals,” said Cain, 27.
Cain was part of a strong showing for Oregonians in the competition. He took first in the men’s division, Bryan Langley, of McMinnville, took first in the pro division, Colton Crawford, of McMinnville, took first in the pee wee division and Kristy Titus, of Bend, took second in the women’s division.
Cain has been hunting for most of his life, but followed his father into bowhunting elk about 10 years ago. Even then it was a slow start.
“I hadn’t killed an Elk at all until I started doing the calls about five years ago,” Cain said. Not all hunters use calls, some prefer a spot and stalk method, but the calls can be useful in more ways than one.
“Sometimes it’s a matter of finding out where the elk are and other times you can get them to come to you,” Cain said. “When that happens you have time to set up and be ready for them.”
The calls are made using a U-shaped piece of latex that fits over the roof of the mouth. Using different mouth sounds and tongue pressures alters what comes out and, done well, can emulate any of a variety of hunting prey.
“With a single reed, I can duplicate sounds of turkeys, coyotes and elk,” Cain said.
Adding a bugle intensifies the bellows, barks and whistles that can draw responses from a greater distance. During competition, Cain had 30 seconds to perform his best emulation of both cow and bull elk.
“I always figured my cow sounds were better, but I ended up getting fairly even scores on both of them over the course of the competition,” Cain said.
While it was his first calling competition, Cain didn’t come by his skill overnight. Until recently, he was attending school in Portland and kept reeds in his vehicle to practice on his commute. Significant practice time didn’t alleviate the jitters of being a first-time competitor, however.
“I’ve never been more sweaty for two days, but it was cool because there were a couple of guys there who are pro callers and one of them came up to our hotel room and we blew calls to like 11 o’clock at night. We probably just about got kicked out of the hotel,” Cain said.
Those sorts of networking opportunities were exactly what Cain hoped would come of the event. He also got some one-on-one time with pro Joel Turner, who took second in the pro division.
“I was out in the parking lot on the day of the prelims practicing and he came out and did some calls with me and gave me some good feedback that boosted my self-esteem right before the competition,” Cain said.
Cain is currently working in construction, but he and his hunting partner have begun filming their trips in hopes building their video production company, Next Level Outdoors. He’s already set up an appearance at the Oregon Bowhunters Association’s convention later this month.
“It would be great if winning would create an opportunity to work with a sponsor, but it’s always just been something fun. I love to compete at anything,” Cain said.