Monday, September 22, 2014

Insider Tip. Listen for Bull Elk Fights

Everyone imagines that bull elk fights are something you just run into. The truth is if you are paying attention, you can hear bulls getting ready to fight long before they lock up.

Here is the setup:

1. You hear lots of loud bugling. Usually all the noise is from the herd bull who is attempting to warn off the challenger bull who he knows is nearby. Bugling becomes more frequent, and if you listen closely you can hear the two animals trading bugles, I call this "Counter-Bugling"

2. Counter-Bugling will get pretty intense. You can hear the bugles getting raspy and growly and deeper, less melodic. Sometimes the bulls are right next to each other bugling in each other's face. The herd bull will now be in a rage, and you can tell easily. I have seen the herd bull froth at the mouth at this stage.  

If you hear this kind of bugling get to the location it is coming from. The stage is set for a bull fight. Usually you will find the bulls facing off when the noise starts toning down. Then there is a transition to the bull fight.  They may lock up right away, if they do you can hear them for quite a distance. In Boxley Valley this can be well over a half mile. 

I listen in 2 ways, generally when I drive the valley I have my radio turned off and the windows rolled down. I both look and listen intently in placed where I pull off. I am listening carefully to the bugling as above, and for the clatter of antlers. When I stop and shoot I continue to listen carefully. I always move to counter-bugling, especially if it is raspy.
This is the first engagement in a bull fight, I call it the "run along"
Note the herd bull is bugling angrily. From here they will face off
and lock up.  This is from 2008.  

When you are working elk use all your senses. A lot of conversation will result in missed opportunities. You are a hunter, not a visitor to a zoo. Stay alert. 

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