If you’ve ever found yourself in elk territory between September and October, you might have been lucky enough to hear the thrilling sound of an elk bugle call. This call is a sound like no other, but you might know little about it except that it is one of the most exciting sounds to hear in the wild. For hunters, understanding the elk bugle sound is important since mimicking it can be an important part of elk hunting.
But even if you aren’t a hunter, understanding the elk bugle is a fascinating insight into the lives of these majestic animals.
What Does an Elk Bugle Sound Like?
Describing an elk bugle can never do it justice, so if you really want to know how an elk bugle sounds, head over to an area known to have elk sometime during September or October, or, if that isn’t possible, you can find recordings of the elk bugle on the internet.
Here’s some good footage of bull Elk bugling from photographer Harry Collins on YouTube:
The best description of an elk bugle sound is that it’s something like a high-pitched horse neighing, except on a much louder scale and with a different rhythm. Bugles differ from elk to elk, and the sounds of an elk bugle can change. Initially, the bugle will start with a sort of growl before progressing into a primitive scream that sounds haunting and undeniably wild.
The call will sometimes end with a sort of chuckle that sounds a bit like hiccoughing. This is known as glunking.
Do Both Male and Female Elk Bugle?
The elk bugle is the signature of a male elk.
Cows will make interesting sounds as well such as barking, but they also have a lower-pitched call that they use to communicate with their calves.
The sounds of the cows are still loud, but they do not have nearly the amount of volume as a bull’s bugle, and the sounds do not travel as far.
Bull elk are the star when it comes to making sounds, and during the annual rutting and mating season, some bulls will bugle so much and so loud that they will actually lose their voices. It’s an integral part of their annual mating ritual.
Why Do Elk Bugle?
Bull Elk bugle for several different reasons, but most of them have to do with mating.
September through October is when the rutting and mating season occurs. The rut is when bull elk will compete with one another for females to mate with during the forthcoming mating season.
The bugle allows the bull to locate other bulls and intimidate them. The bugle can be deceptive, and a loud bugle can be an asset for smaller elk. Some of the loudest bugles actually come from smaller elk, so don’t be surprised if you hear a huge bugle and then are disappointed by an elk’s size.
That said, given that Elk tend to be one of the largest species of deer (after the Moose), you probably won’t be disappointed.
Elk will also bugle to attract mates or warn other bulls, or even other types of forest animals, to stay away when they see danger. The bugle is also a display of dominance among elk, so generally speaking, the better the elk can bugle, the better his chances at survival are.
Do Elk Bugle at Night or During the Day?
Deer are crepuscular, not nocturnal, and as a result Elk (like most other types of deer) tend to be most active around twilight and sunrise.
As a result, they are most likely to start bugling in the evening, but they will bugle throughout the night during the peak of mating season.
Sometimes the bugles can be heard early in the morning or at other times throughout the day, but this is not as common.
If you’re hoping to hear elk bugling, it’s important to stay as quiet as possible since elk are very sensitive to noise and stay away from people. After all, people are one of their potential predators.
Once you’ve found a nice spot for listening, you’ll probably hear the bugles from a distance as opposed to very close, and the elk bugling will probably occur in intervals of 15-20 minutes.
Some national parks in the United States offer guided excursions in which you can go with a park ranger to listen to elk bugles.
If you’re hoping to increase your chances of hearing an elk in the wild, going on one of these guided trips is recommended.
How Other Elk Respond to a Bull Elk’s Bugle
The way elk respond to a bull elk’s bugle depends on the purpose of the bugle.
- If the purpose of the bugle is for a bull to ward off other bulls and defend his herd, the herd will often buckle down and prepare for some sort of confrontation.
- If the purpose of the call is mating, elk cows tend to react favorably. They’ll often come to see if the bull is an eligible mate.
There is a lot about elk bugling that we still don’t know, and it’s often hard to discern the purpose of an individual call from the sound alone.
What Hunters Need to Know About Using Elk Bugle Calls
Hunters have been mimicking elk bugles for a long time in hopes of having a more successful hunt.
Using elk bugle calls can be difficult, and it’s important to understand how to mimic the call properly. Otherwise, you’re going to end up spooking and scaring away the elk.
Hunters will use what is unsurprisingly called an elk bugle to make elk sounds, which will be used to locate bull elk.
Elk tend to respond to other elk bugles, so if your bugle sounds like an authentic elk call, other elk will respond, making them easier to locate.
The best way to learn how to bugle elk is first to observe elk bugles. It might be worthwhile to do a few scouting trips just listening to elk calls.
Even if you aren’t hunting on these trips, it’ll help you learn the lay of the land and familiarize you with the different types of elk bugling. It’s probably best to go with an experienced elk bugler who can teach you the different calls and tricks.
What Not to Do When Elk Bugling
Elk are very sensitive to sounds. They can hear much better than humans, so they will hear any other sounds you are making besides bugling. It’s important to stay as quiet as possible and keep non-bugling noises to a minimum so that you won’t scare elk away.
Keep in mind that elk are very loud buglers, so don’t be shy with your bugling. If you can hear an elk bugling from miles away, they need to be able to hear you from the same distance. If you’re too quiet, they probably won’t believe you’re an actual elk.
Although it’s good not to be too shy, it’s also important not to overdo it. Remember, elk tend to bugle in intervals of 15-20 minutes. If you’re bugling every 5 minutes, the elk are going to know that you’re not a real elk.
Tips for Effective Elk Bugling
Though it might be appealing to go elk hunting on your own, going in a group can be just as fun and increase your chances of getting an elk.
Remember that elk respond to each other’s calls and often travel in herds, so if you are a lone bugler, you might sound like a lost cow or a threatening bull. By having multiple calls, you sound more like a group of elk, which might make it more likely for other elk to respond.
Again, the best way to mimic an elk bugle is to listen to as many elk bugles as possible. This can easily be done online.
When you listen to an elk call, think about how long and how loud it is and what the variety of sounds are and try and mimic them with your elk bugle, though if you have picky neighbors, I wouldn’t recommend doing this at home.
To be able to test your elk bugling, bring along a tape recorder and leave it running during the hunt. That way you can listen to both your calls and the elk calls later and change things up when they aren’t working.
When and where you bugle is up to you, and some hunters recommend only doing this during the rutting and mating season, but some people believe it’s a good idea to try this year-round.
Final Thoughts About the Amazing Elk Bugle Sound
The first time you hear an Elk bugling in the wild it’s a thrilling experience – one you may never forget. Few sounds elicit the primal reaction of a powerful bull elk’s scream.
Bull elk bugle for a variety of reasons, including to attract females and intimidate other bulls during their annual rut.
As a result, the best time to listen for elk bugling is September and October.