What Do Elk Look, Sound And Smell Like ?


What Do Elk Look Like?

That depends on what continent you are standing on. European Elk look almost identical to what North Americans call Moose. This article deals with North American Elk or Wapiti, though. They look more like a large, tan deer than a moose.

Elk are among the largest members of the Cervidae or deer family. In the Cervidae family, the elk is smaller in size only to the Moose. However, it is one of the largest land animals in its range, which stretches from North America to Central and East Asia.

Elk have a greyish tan to light brown body, a yellowish rump patch, and dark chocolate brown legs, neck, and head. Mature bull elk have large antlers, which can reach over four feet from tip to tip.

The four surviving subspecies of North American are Rocky Mountain, Roosevelt, Manitoban, and Tule. Roosevelt Elk are the largest in body size, while Tule Elk is the smallest. Rocky Mountain Elk have the largest horns.

From the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation website, average elk sizes are as follows.

  • New Born Calf: On average, a newborn calf will weigh in at around 35 pounds.
  • Cow: An average-sized cow will weigh around 500 pounds. Remember we said that Roosevelt Elk are the largest and Tule Elk are the smallest? An average-sized Roosevelt Cow will weigh 600 pounds, while an average-sized Tule will go 300 pounds. Cow elk average 4 1/2 feet tall at the shoulder. Their average length from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail is 6 1/2 feet.
  • Bull: Bull elk average 700 pounds in weight. Roosevelt bulls average 900 pounds while Tules average 400. Incidentally, there are accounts of Roosevelt bulls reaching weights over 1300 pounds in the Raspberry Islands of Alaska. Bull elk average 8 feet in length from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail.
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What Do Elk Sound Like?

An undisturbed herd of elk is constantly vocalizing. They mew, grunt, growl, and bugle as they communicate with each other. The sounds and vocalizations that they make are as follows.

  • Mews and chirps: These are the sounds that elk make as they talk back and forth to one another in a herd dynamic. The sound is almost bird-like. A chirp is short clipped. A mew, on the other hand, is slightly more drawn out. A mew starts out at a slightly higher pitch than it ends at.
  • Cow in heat call: A cow that is in estrus makes a sound similar to a mew. It differs from a regular mew in that it’s louder at more drawn out. This noise signals to the herd bull that she is in heat and receptive to breeding. If your an elk hunter, learning to imitate this sound is worth your while.
  • Bark: This is the sound you’re likely to hear if you inadvertently allow the wind to blow your scent to the herd of elk your stalking. A bark is a warning sound. It’s usually followed by the sounds of thundering hooves and elk crashing through the brush as they seek to put some distance between you and them.
  • Growl: Most of the time, but not always, a growl proceeds the bugle of a bull elk. The growl of a mature but elk starts from the diaphragm and is a deep, throaty growling sound that will make the hair stand up on the back of your neck when your out in the woods with these creatures.
  • Glunk: A glunk is another sound that a bull elk is capable of making. Glunks are low-pitched thumping noises that emanate from deep down in their throats. Glunks generally proceed or follow bugles.
  • Bugle: Bull elk bugle all year round but do it more during the rut. A bugle generally starts as a low-pitched growl and gets progressively higher until it becomes a scream. The bugle generally goes back down the scale from the scream to a growl once again. During the rut, bull elk bugle to throw out a challenge to all potential rivals. They also do it to advertise to all cow elk in the area.
  • Grunt: Bull elk grunt. They grunt in a series of 4 or 5 quick staccato grunting noises. Generally, if a bull is going to grunt, he will do it following a bugle. This isn’t always the case though sometimes a bull will grunt without bugling.
  • Antler rattle: During the rut, bull elk bang their antlers on trees and brush to show fierceness and dominance to potential rivals. When your elk calling, sometimes it’s helpful to find a large stick and bang and rub it vigorously on the trees and underbrush. This imitates the sounds a bull elk would make and draws the surrounding bulls in looking for a fight.

Why, when, and where do bull elk lose their antlers?

What Do Elk Smell Like?

Especially but not limited to the time around the rut, elk have a distinct livestock-like aroma similar to that of a herd of domestic cows but with a sour, musky overtone to it.

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All elk have an odor, but a rutting bull is much more aromatic than a cow. During the rut, bull elk seek out wet, swampy areas where they construct mud wallows. They ad their urine to the wallow, and then they wallow and roll in the odorous mixture. This is their version of a cologne or an aphrodisiac to attract the girls. Bulls also pee on themselves. A rutting bull elk is going to be slimy with urine along the full length of his belly and up to his throat to his chin.

On a couple of occasions, I’ve first smelled the elk before realizing they were around. However, elk scent can linger in an area for days, so it’s not necessarily an indication that they’re near. On the other hand, it’s a signal that you need to slow down or stop moving altogether while you take stock of your surroundings. Otherwise, you run the risk of spooking them. It’s discouraging to send the bunch of elk you’ve been after over the next mountain as they noisily crash through the trees alerting all the animals within hearing distance that you’re around. That’s happened to me on a few occasions.

Good Luck In Your pursuit Of Elk In The Great Outdoors!

I hope you’ve found this article to be informative and helpful.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>