Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Finding Bull Elk Fights -- Lesson #1: Listening

Locating and Predicting Bull Elk Fights Lesson #1:  Listening

Boxley Valley is a big place, but if you learn to listen for fights your chances improve for locating one.  I have located a few elk fights by listening -- it is one of the reasons I work alone most of the time. When I am working the rut, I concentrate pretty hard. I am watching elk movements, and I am listening. People will see me parked in front of an empty field with my windows down and imagine I am nuts.  Nope, I am working -- listening.  

The Sounds of Bull Fights (and Coming Fights)

The first and most obvious sound of a bull fight is the crashing of antlers.  If you are paying attention, you can hear two big bulls mixing it up at least a half mile away. The big fight my wife videoed started out of view in the river, and only then moved to the Smith Creek field.  Listen more, talk less.  Turn off your radio and pay attention. 

Note the charging challenger bull in the distance. He is coming to
fight, setup by a special type of counter-bugling explained below. 

The second and less obvious sound of a coming bull fight is bugling, a special type of bugling.  It is a special type of "counter-bugling", when bulls bugle back and forth to announce their territories. Regular counter bugling has a relaxed pace.  Pre-fight counter-bugling is quite different.

So how is it different?  Well, the frequency of counter-bugles becomes steadily faster.  What was relaxed and occasional becomes more frequent, AND, the tone changes, especially for the herd bull. The herd bull's bugle will become somewhat lower, and gravelly in tone, and I swear you can hear his rage.  His hormones are raging and he has blood in his eye.

You can hear the challenger bull coming even if he is not visible, he is getting closer and louder.  Scan the cane line because he is coming, and the herd bull knows it.  Suddenly you will see the challenger bull break out of the cane line and run to challenge the herd bull (as above in the distance, not the little one behind).

As they get closer together, bugling gets more frequent as both bulls jack up the emotion. I have seen them right beside one another bugling up a storm before they lock up.

This is pretty exciting stuff.  Hearing the build up to a real deal bull fight between two of the big dogs is really something.  The buildup to a fight is really exciting.

So this is Lesson #1.  Listen, and pay attention, always.  If you do, you can quickly locate an oncoming fight if you are fairly nearby. Understanding how counter-bugling works helps you evaluate watching one elk herd vs. another when you have choices.  If you make the wrong choice, you can ID a bull elk fight in a nearby field and get there.  Remember, your brain is the most important photo tool you have, keep it in gear.  Concentrate.

I Relocated to this Bull Fight By Listening a Half Mile Away

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