The sounds of elks bugling overlap and reverberate against the rock outcroppings and hills. The experience will astound you. You will be reminded that you are standing on sacred ground — where the first peoples of America stood and the same echoes of nature filled the autumn, night air.
During the September-October mating season, bull elk stage their own passion play. The characteristic rutting call of bulls can be heard from just before dusk to dawn. Head into Rocky Mountain National Park and stop at Horseshoe Park. There in the early evening, you will find local volunteer guides called the Bugle Corp on hand to provide insight and information.
In the last few years, some elk have moved into town and onto the golf course for their rut. The typical bugle of the bull elk is a surprising, distinctive sound that begins deep and resonant, and becomes a high pitched squeal before ending in a succession of grunts. As you stand in Horseshoe Park, Moraine Park or Upper Beaver Meadows you may hear one or more bulls bugling and you'll notice the variations.
You may be fortunate enough to see a bull elk rounding up his "harem" in one of the National Park's montane meadows, or in town on our golf courses and lawns. Bulls have various levels of experience in herding. Some are "studs" and others are wannabes. The stud is the bull that is clearly in command. There may be other competitors nearby, but they can't compete with the mature bull's display of antlers and his bellowing bugle. This swashbuckler gathers and cloisters his cows with apparent ease. Often other bulls stand on the sidelines, watching with obvious frustration. Even those who have managed to corner a cow or two watch helplessly as their prospects evade them and run toward a growing assembly of cows, yearlings and calves which have gathered near another bull. You may also notice a bull with broken antlers or half a rack — the result of competitive battles between bulls.