The bugle of a bull elk is an iconic outdoor sound. If you are elk hunting, it signals that a mature bull is nearby and provides an orientation to its location. Like “Gentlemen, start your engines,” or “Play ball,” it signals a call to action with a series of possibilities. Should you cow call to lure it closer, bugle aggressively to challenge the monarch, wimp bulge to appeal to its dominance, or shut up and sneak closer?
Sound and Size
I once drew a coveted elk tag in Utah in a region that offered only a few mature bull tags. I was new to the area and hunting on my own when I ran into a pair of equally luck hunters who had a tag. “We’ve been chasing bulls all week,” they told me without seeing the really big bull they are after.
“Can’t you use the sound of the bulge to tell the size of a bull,” I asked. “Not really,” was there reply. “We’ve slipped in on bull after bull, yet there seems to be no correlation between the sound of the bugle and the size of the antlers.”
I once hunted a remote canyon in Central idaho where I found a hidden passage to the head of a giant canyon. Creeping slowly and glassing often, I spotted elk at the base of the canyon and sneaked closer, hoping to see a bull. As a harem of 20 cows spread out, a bull let loose a bugle I’ll never forget. The ovation was so loud and powerful, the entire mountain seemed to shake. It bugled several more times and I could feel the vibration of the cannon-like sound. I sneaked within 70 yards until one of the cows spotted me and gave the alarm. As disappointed as I was, I knew that I’d seen a once-in-a-lifetime bull on public land.
If you need a bit of extra motivation to get in shape for the coming season, check out this incredible footage and sound. It’s guaranteed to make your adrenolyn pump.