Elk Bugling

As I was driving down the Moose-Wilson road at dawn with a couple from New York City I stopped to take a look at a few elk up on a ridge. As I was pulling over we heard a loud high pitched noise and the guests commented on the squeaky breaks. I quickly explained the elk were actually making the strange noise. They were amazed this sound was the elk bugling noise I just told them we would hear. After we listened for a while we continued further north into the park. We drove down River Road just beyond the Bradley Lake trail head and were fortunate enough to see four bull elk, one with noticeably larger antlers than the rest. We set up a spotting scope and the couple was excited to visibly see an elk emit steam as we heard it bugle. At this point they were convinced I did not have squeaky breaks. We watched as the male elk were walking in and around a herd of females. The largest bull easily dominated as he ran the smaller males off to the side as they came too close to the females. We watched until the herd disappeared into a forested patch. Though we saw an abundance of wildlife on this autumn morning, the elk bugling was the highlight of the couple’s trip as they continued to excitedly talk about how they never would have imagined elk bugling would sound like an out of tune flute. It is definitely worth a journey into the park to see and hear the elk bugling and behavior during this time of year. If you don’t have the opportunity to head into the park, in this NPR clip, a Jackson couple narrates the sound of elk bugling.

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