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A friend of mine was exchanging challenges with three bulls in a mountain valley. One was down it, one up and one directly across. He would blow his bugle, wait awhile, and they would answer. This continued for half an hour, but the bulls would not come closer. Finally, when he was on the point of giving up, he heard a twig snap behind him. He looked around and there stood a magnificent bull, so close that it was almost peering down his collar. It had approached without a sound.
Today elk are found in most of the western states. Montana, Wyoming and Idaho probably have the greatest number, although most of the others have either regular open seasons or else occasional hunts on a drawing basis.
Elk are much larger than mule deer but smaller than moose. The books say that a mature bull elk may weigh as much as 1,100 pounds. I have never seen one that big. An 800-pound bull is a big one and the majority are not so large. Cows probably weigh two-thirds as much.
WILDER THAN DEER
In the country where I hunt elk each fall, there are also mule deer and whitetails. Whitetail deer are notoriously clever, yet, despite their greater size, it is more difficult to see an elk of either sex here than it is a whitetail deer. Not only are elk wilder than any deer, they are, in my opinion, equally adept at skulking away unseen and unheard. We see mule deer nearly every day when we're hunting, whitetails perhaps every other day and elk only occasionally.
Of course, in all fairness to the white-tail, I must admit that part of the reason for this lies in the nature of the two animals. When you scare a deer, he may run as far as a half mile and hide. But when you thoroughly frighten an elk he probably will keep going until he has put five miles behind him. We discovered long ago that it usually is futile to follow the trail of a band of frightened elk.
Because of their extreme wildness and the rugged nature of the country they inhabit, the possession of a "bugle"?and the ability to use it?is a tremendous help in hunting them.
I rather feel that using a call is taking advantage of many kinds of game. When a flock of ducks trustingly let down to the inducements of a good man with a call, they arouse my sympathy. Not so with elk. The bulls are so clever, and their ability in the woods is so superior to that of man, that his skillful use of an elk bugle does little more than even the odds. Furthermore, if he is after a trophy, a bugle will show him many more bulls than he ever could see without it. Even though they may not come, their answers to his challenges will tell him where they are.
One fall day several years ago, a friend and I crept carefully over the ridge along one side of a little basin. There we saw five elk lying on the moist earth in the shade of a clump of fir trees. They were all cows. The wind was in our favor and they had not heard our approach so they were un-alarmed. I raised my bugle and sent a challenge ringing.
The cows paid little attention. Everything was quiet. Then, after a wait of nearly a minute, I had an answer. Two hundred yards down the hillside the herd bull served notice that he would be right back to whip the intruder. I waited, then blew once more and this time I got an immediate reply. He was closer.