Do Elk Bugle in the Spring?

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If you’ve ever put down an elk, then you’ve probably heard him bugle.  An elk bugle is a warning, a declaration, a cry for help, and a signal that the rut is on. As a hunter, learning about elk sounds will help you make similar calls or they’ll help you easily locate an elk. So, do elk bugle in the spring?

Across North America, elk bugle all year round, except in late summer when this vocalization subsides. Bulls are noisy during the rut or breeding season, which starts in early September to mid-October. Elk cows bugle mainly in the spring calving season.

While elks do make other noises, bugle calls are the most definitive. Read on as I describe the elk bugle, its cause, meaning, and results, plus whether you can hear it in the spring.

Is It a Bugle or a High-Shrill Bark?

The captivating cry of the American elk carries far, over woods and mountains to warn off amorous rivals or attract receptive cows. Bugles are not a one-season thing. You can hear them from males or females, with each vocalization carrying differing messages in various seasons. During spring, you’ll hear an assortment of mews and chirps alongside grunts and barks, which elk use to talk to each other.

Being a herd animal, elks have specific communication skills when the animals are on the move, rest, or special occasions like the rut. Barks, just like some bugles, are warning signs, while are for when an elk wants another to show itself. You’ll also hear elk moan, whine, cry, and hiss, stomp hooves or rattle their antlers against tree branches.

However, the sounds that carry further and capture hunter’s hearts are chuckles and elk bugles. You’ll hear them inside dark timbers and around river breaks, in the morning, before dusk, or all night long. Sometimes, at noon, a bull elk will bugle to sound off and declare to all and sundry how much he’s worth in terms of harem size.

What Do Elk Bugle in the Spring Calls Mean?

It’s easy to call an elk bugle a mating call, but that’s not always the message.

For instance, in late August and early September, you’re likely to hear elk bulls making the locate bugle. This vocalization consists of a one to two-second high, double note, a non-aggressive call meant to keep the herd in touch.

In spring, it’s common to hear a scream bugle, which is a bull-to-bull communication meant to put a subordinate animal in its place, establishing dominance. The scream bugle can also be addressed to cows, a high-pitched and clear herding call bugle that’s different from the call for threatening rivals. This bugle is atonal and coarse.

A full bugle is the one you’ll hear most, often during the rut and in times of herd movement. This classic call made by irritated bulls, starts with a low growl that heightens several notes to culminate in a grunt. Bulls use full bugles while displaying a full head of antlers for social worthiness and breeding ranking.

The Female Elk Spring Bugle Call

In spring, between May and June, the most common elk bugle call comes from the birthing cows. While these calls are rare, they are pretty different in acoustic nature from the ones that the bulls produce.

You can also hear non-aggressive bugles within this herd when there are no adult males in sight. Such vocalizations occur when cows and the young congregate while feeding or while resting.

Some bugles are also emitted in an aggressive context when female squabbles occur. You’ll often see this in the spring when a dominant cow is chasing a subordinate interloper. There’s a discernible difference in the duration, rate, and context of male and female bugle calls, as well as the time of day when they make them.

Spring bugle calls from cow elks are a result of hormonal changes and high-stress situations. They are common at the end of gestation and the lactation period. Whereas bulls will bugle more during dusk and dawn in the fall, females prefer the late morning hours. During their peak calling hours, cows bugle one call a day compared to the males, who do so at an average of one call per minute.

How Far Away Can You Hear an Elk Bugle?

An elk bugle call can carry anywhere from 100 to 1,500 yards depending on vegetation, topography, weather, and atmospheric pressure conditions. Hearing the resonating bugle will also depend on which way the animal is facing, the temperature, and the time of day. Elk calls tend to travel further early morning, late evening, and at night.

When an elk is bugling near trees with the wind rustling leaves or streams splashing over rocks nearby, your ability to hear its bugle is reduced to less than 200 yards. However, if you stand at an elevated position with hills all around, you’ll cat