Call of the wild: Professional bowhunter from Marvel serenades elk

Professional bowhunter and elk caller Dennis Howell of Marvel recently bagged his 26th elk with a bow. When his freezer is full of game meat, he donates his bounty to local needy families or charities. Of his elk-calling skills, Howell says, “I like talking to the elk and having the elk talk back.” Enlarge photo

Courtesy of ISE Sports Show

Professional bowhunter and elk caller Dennis Howell of Marvel recently bagged his 26th elk with a bow. When his freezer is full of game meat, he donates his bounty to local needy families or charities. Of his elk-calling skills, Howell says, “I like talking to the elk and having the elk talk back.”

Listen ... closely.

Is that an elk?

Or is that Dennis Howell?

And don’t ask the elk because they can’t tell the difference, either.

Dennis Howell of Marvel, an otherwise quiet, go-about-his-business pest company operator, also happens to be one of the top elk callers in the world.

First and foremost, he’s a renowned bowhunter with a résumé of remarkable width and breadth – and more than his fair share of records.

And experience.

“Bowhunting is my life; it’s what I love,” Dennis Howell said recently, with a nod to his wife of 37 years, Kryn. And to his two daughters Kassi and Kakki and their families – four grandchildren in all.

“Bowhunting is a great challenge, and it’s a great time of year to be out,” Howell, 55, said after returning last week from the annual ISE Sports Show in Denver where he was one of the featured speakers.

Howell and fellow bowhunting professionals Marc Smith and Chris Roe, from Colorado’s Front Range, spoke about “The Secrets of Hunting Public Land for Deer and Elk.”

“We filled the place,” Howell said. “We filled the place last year, and we did it again this year,” said the soft-spoken outdoorsman with a hunter’s folksy knack for recounting adventures.

He’s uncannily modest, too. Howell also won the elk-calling competition held at the Denver outdoors show. That qualified Howell for a larger calling event in Salt Lake City later this year.

“I think it’s the experience,” Howell said when asked about his refined ability to replicate elk calls.

“I always liked listening to elk talking to each other,” said Howell, who is a member of the prestigious Hoyt Archery national bowhunting staff. “I like talking to the elk and having the elk talk back.”

He credited elk-calling legend Rocky Jacobson for his development as an elk caller. Jacobson, a former world champion, is the father of the reigning world champion elk callers – his two children.

Just being in his company was an inspiration, Howell said.

“It’s nice to hang around with a world champion, you just hope some of it will rub off on you,” Howell said. “It’s like a mountain biker around a world champion – you learn.”

Howell, who has lived in Colorado for 22 years and hunted here for nearly 30 years, will test his elk-calling skills against other top callers next weekend at a big show in Las Vegas. Experience, he said, should help him there.

“I called at the Las Vegas show last year, and I was a little nervous,” he said.

No so this time, he said.

Howell, who works with more than a dozen national archery companies, recently bagged his 26th elk with a bow.

He’s filled his family’s freezer with wild game meat for a quarter of a century.

And, he said, when he’s out on a hunt and his freezer’s full, he donates the meat to local needy families or charities.

After the Las Vegas show, Howell will head out on a variety of speaking engagements. One, he said, will take him to Michigan for a presentation for the Amish.

“The Amish love elk hunting,” he said, explaining their devotion to traditional lifestyles and hunting methods. “It’s fascinating. They love it.”

While Howell is gaining a new reputation as an elk caller at various competitions, he said he still prefers the real thing.

“At a contest, it’s different – calling people rather than calling elk,” Howell said. “I’m a little more comfortable in the woods.”

dstrode@durangoherald.com