Elk Facts: Hunting Elk, History, Habitats and Habits

An introduction to hunting elk, learn more elk facts including the history of the elk, food sources, habits and habitats of the elk.

| November/December 1988

The good, the bad and the misunderstood when hunting the majestic elk. Learn more elk facts, including history of the elk, food sources, habits and habitats of the elk. 

Elk Facts: History, Habitats and Habits

I top the ridge at first light and stop to catch my breath. Almost at once I glimpse movement on a ridge running parallel to mine, a hundred yards or so across a shallow draw. Through binoculars, in the soft amber light of dawn, I count the shadowy forms of a dozen elk trailing along in single file, fully exposed but only a jump away from the protection of the dark forest. At the rear of the procession marches a big bull with large, well-formed antlers. Beautiful. He is herding a harem of 11 plump cows.

I hunker down in a tangle of knee-high Gambel oak and glass the bull and the terrain separating us. No way, I figure, that I can sneak across the open draw to within bow and arrow range—40 yards at the extreme—without being spotted. Better to lure the bull to me. If I can.

I pull a small, horseshoe-shaped neoprene disk from a pocket of my camouflaged jacket, place it against the roof of my mouth, hold it there with my tongue, inhale and let go with a humble but heartfelt imitation of a bugling bull elk.

The big bull's reaction is immediate and violent; the magic is working (it doesn't always). This is the height of the rut, the annual breeding season, and my imitation bugle has duped this monarch into believing I'm a rival bull after his harem. He barks (yes, barks) and lurches at his cows, sending them crashing off into the protection of the forest. Now he stares my way. Unable to spot my camouflaged form crouching low amongst the brush, he vents his anger on a handy pine sapling, slashing at the little tree with his massive antlers, gouging out big chunks of bark and shearing off limbs with each violent toss of his big black head. The racket generated by this tantrum is considerable, a threat meant for me.

Answering in kind, I pick up a fist-sized rock and bang and rake it against the base of the nearest bush. That does it. The bull stamps, gives the denuded sapling a parting slap and plunges off the ridge and down into the draw that separates us, quickly dropping below my line of sight. To keep him hot, I bugle again.

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