Do Elk Bugle Year-Round? (Yes, Here’s Why)


Fact checked by Steven Lines, lifelong Hunter, and Outdoorsman.

The bugle call of an elk is a distinctive sound. There are multiple ways that a hunter can use this noise to their benefit. You can use it to track the movement of the elk. Or you can mimic their calls to attract them to the area. But will the elk bugle all year?

Elk will be most active during the rut. This occurs during the fall, usually between the end of September to the middle of October. But they will continue to bugle during the year. The bugle is their primary way of calling out potential challengers and controlling their herd.

Understanding the elk bugle is crucial for hunters. Keep reading to learn more about elk bugle calls and how you can put this information to use when hunting.

When do Elk Bugle

Elk will bugle throughout the year in North America. But the amount that they bugle will vary throughout the year.

They will be most active during the rut. This occurs during the fall months. They use this call to help them attract a mate. Because of this, it’s not uncommon for bulls to bugle most of the day. As we’ll discuss later, they will be more responsive to calls made during this time.

The breeding season will depend on where you live. Usually, though, you should start to hear bugling at the beginning of September. This will continue until mid to late October. But you might still be able to hear bugling towards the end of November.

You will be able to hear bugling throughout the rest of the year. But it will be occurring less frequently. Because of this, you will need to listen more carefully to identify the elk. Later, we’ll go more in-depth about the type of bugles you should be listening for.

What Time of the Day are Elk Most Active?

During the rut season, the best time to listen for elk bugling will be during the night. The twilight period will bring an increase in bugling activity. They will bugle most frequently during the rut. Sometimes, they can call out so much that they become hoarse.

The way the elk behaves will depend on the time of the day. During the sunrise and sunset, they will tend to be more active. This makes morning and evening hunts most productive.

During the day, they will tend to bed down. Often, they will move into thicker woods, making them more difficult to locate and hunt. It’s best to look for food and water resources.

Why do Elk Bugle

There are a few reasons why elk will bugle. Often, it will be their way of attracting a mate to the area. They might also use it to establish dominance and keep other men out of the area. Sometimes, it can be a way to alert fellow elk to danger in the area.

There are two main reasons why an elk will bugle. These are:

  1. When an elk is bugling during the rut, it is often a way for the bull to attract a cow to them, so they can mate. Because of this, they want to make sure that their call is louder and more attractive than other bulls.
  2. They can use their bugle as a way to establish their dominance. They want to make sure that other males stay out of their way. Because of this, they might use their bugle as a sign of aggression, acting as the precursor to a fight.

Other Ways Elk Attract a Mate

The bugle is just one way that an elk will attempt to get a mate. Some of the other ways they can get a mate’s attention are:

  • Rubbing. During the rut, elk will rub themselves against trees and other objects. This is their way of showing their dominance. It also allows them to get old velvet out of their skin.
  • Wallowing in mud and urine. This is designed to increase their scent making them more attractive.
  • Hanging vegetation off their antlers. Sometimes, you will find that elk are hanging vegetation from their antlers. This is used to show their dominance.

Other Types of Elk Calls

Like humans, elk use their bugles to help them communicate their emotions. Some of the reasons why they might want to make a bugle call include:

  • Warning of danger. The elk have a finely tuned sense of smell and have good hearing. If they sense a potential threat in the area, they will make noises to alert other group members. This lets them flee to safety.
  • Calling for help. Sometimes, a young elk will make a call. This is often calling out to their mother or seeking some other type of help.
  • Anger. Sometimes, the bulls will make a call to let other elk know how powerful they are. This can bring other bulls into the area, keen to defend their territory.
  • General communication. When traveling an elk herd, elk have been known to make quieter calls to each other. This ensures that they are all moving together.

As an elk hunter, it’s essential to know the difference between each of these calls. If you know why the elk are making the bugling call, you’ll know the best way to respond to them. This will help you encourage them to get close enough to take a shot. We’ll talk about how you can do this a little later.

What Does an Elk Bugle Sound Like?

Many people are familiar with the most common elk bugle call. This will start as a low-pitched growl. But, as it goes on, it will transform into a high-pitched scream. This sound will carry long distances, so you might hear it echoing through mountainous terrain. You can listen to the bugle noise here.

Other Types of Elk Bugles

While this is the most famous type of bugle, elk will change their bugle depending on their situation. Some other kinds of bugles include:

  • Locator calls. This is done throughout the year by the herd’s dominant bull. It’s their way of finding out if any other males in the area could challenge their dominance. If they don’t get any responses, they will continue on their way. Sometimes, they will stay in the same place when sending out these bulges. You can use this to your advantage, allowing you to pinpoint his location.
  • Challenge bugle. Sometimes, there will be rival bulls in the area. They send out this bugle when they think their dominance will be challenged. At the end of these bugles, they will add a few chuckles.

Other Types of Elk Calls

While elk are known for their bugle, it isn’t the only sound they will make. Some of their other calls include:

  • Mew. This is similar to the meowing that a kitten will make. It’s how the calves will communicate with their mothers.
  • Chuckles added to the end of a bugle. This is a way for the bull to demonstrate its dominance and power. The more chuckles, the more powerful it is.
  • Drum sounds. Sometimes, you’ll hear deep noises, like the banging of a drum. Because they are so deep, this sound will travel over a long distance. This is another way for the bull to prove its dominance, challenging any surrounding males. It’s most common during the elk rut.
  • Bark. This is the sound no hunter wants to hear. Like a dog’s bark, the elk will use this noise to signal danger in the area. This is the herd’s cue to get out of the site.
  • Chirping. This is a high-pitched noise. It’s often used within the herd to ensure the group stays together.
  • Clashing. If you are elk hunting, you might hear the sound of elk clashing antlers. This is their primary way of establishing dominance, showing that they are the most muscular male in the area.
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Using Bugle Calls to Track Elk Movements

Now that we know more about what a bugle is and why elk will make this noise, we can use it to our advantage when hunting. The first thing we can do is use the bugles to locate where the herd is. They will even bugle when they are bedded down.

But using a call to locate the elk can be a difficult task. It can echo off mountains and rocks, making it hard to pinpoint the cause of the signal. The good news is that you don’t need to rely on it during the rut season.

First, you’ll want to look at the trees. See if you can spot any signs that they have been rubbing on them. It’s also a good idea to look for things like droppings or tracks. This tells you how recently the elk were in the area.

Like all hunts (mule deer, red deer, moose), you’ll need to consider how the elk will react to stimuli. If there are a lot of humans around, the elk will often want to avoid that area. You should also look at a map. Look for signs of water, food, and other wildlife. The elk will want to move towards these areas.

This article goes into more depth about how you can locate both bull elk and cow elk during your hunt.

Using a Bugle to Attract Elk

Another way to use the bugle to your advantage is by replicating the call. This will bring the elk to you. Let’s look at how you can do this.

Making a Realistic Bugle Noise

The first thing that you need to do is learn how to make a realistic bugling noise. You will need to build or buy an elk bugle to do this. This is a tube that will allow you to replicate the call of the elk. This video shows you how to develop your bugle. Alternatively, you can find them in hunting stores.

How to Call for Elk

Once you have your bugle, it’s time to go hunting. Once you have located the elk, you’ll need to decide what type of bugle you want to employ. This will depend on the type of call the elk is providing.

Sometimes, you will get a more tentative call. In this case, you might need to wait until you are closer to start getting aggressive. This will help you force the elk into the open, where you can get a shot at them.

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On the other hand, you might be able to get aggressive from the start. This will force the elk towards you so that you can get a good shot. Here are a few other tips that you can use:

  • Be in control. You want to make sure that the elk respond to your calls rather than you reacting to them. If you can do this, they will want to come to you.
  • Elk have two emotions. There are two things that the elk will respond to. They will respond to love. This is especially important during the rut, as they bugle to attract a mate. The other emotion is anger. This is what happens when you are going into their territory and start challenging their dominance.
  • Understand the emotions. Many people can get caught up in trying to replicate the call perfectly. But this is often less important than reading the emotions of the elk that you are communicating with. The elk will come if you can make the right call at the right time.
  • Keep practicing. Like all skills, your elk calling will improve the more you practice it. If you want more tips on what you should focus on, check out this video with champion caller Corey Jacobsen.

Why Do Some Elk Run From a Bugle Call?

Most of the time, the elk will go towards a bugle. They want to face their challenger and prove their dominance. But this won’t always be the case.

Sometimes, they will gather up their herd and leave the area. Among hunters, this is called bugling and running. There are a few reasons why this might be happening.

Sometimes, it might be a young elk. They might be too inexperienced and concerned about the prospect of going up against a bigger animal. Because he doesn’t want to lose his harem, he might want to move his cows out of the area before losing the challenge.

On the other hand, bigger bulls can also bugle and run. They might have a lot of cows who are coming into estrous. At this time, he will often be more focused on breeding than proving his dominance.

Third, the hunter might have made a mistake. If a hunter has already spooked the bull, he will be warier. If he can sense danger in the area, he is unlikely to go towards the sound. He’ll just want to gather his herd and move away from the threat.

The good news is that bugling and running are rare occurrences. In most cases, if you make a good call, the elk will come to you.

Final Thoughts

Bugling for elk is one of the essential tools that a hunter will have at their disposal. If you can understand why they are bugling, you’ll be able to respond appropriately. When done right, the elk should come to you, giving you plenty of opportunities to shoot them.

Though this will be most effective during the rut, elk will bugle all year. As a result, a good caller will always be able to attract elk into the area.

Steven Lines is a hunter and outdoorsman from Safford, Arizona, USA. Since he was a child, he has been hunting and fishing and has over 20 years of outdoor experience. Steven works as a hunting guide in Arizona during his spare time and runs a Youtube channel dedicated to sharing his outdoor adventures with others.