MISSOULA — A bugling bull elk is a sound many hunters are familiar with It’s the breeding season for elk better known as the rut. By emitting this sound it is attracting potential mates, bringing herd members closer together, and aiding in the assessment of fighting ability and dominance of other males.
Elk produce the sounds through the larynx and the vocal tract. The bulls are trying to impress the girls and because of this, an arms race unfolds. As a young bull elk matures, it develops a loop in its trachea. These young ones are having their voices become a deeper sound. The only other species known to do the same thing is us. As a boy's larynx descends during puberty this makes their voices deeper.
Studies have found that most women find deep male voices more attractive - and this may be true for elk as well, as young bulls sometimes attempt to deepen their voices to sound like a more mature elk looking for mates.
Elk also use pheromones throughout their lives. These scents can be used to recognize members of the same species, whether the individual is a male or female and the reproductive status of that individual. Bull elk smell the rumps of females during the breeding season to recognize those in their brief receptive period. They also urinate on their own stomachs and underhair to advertise their reproductive status to females and other males.
The young of many species of mammals recognize their parents, and parents recognize their young, by smell. Female elk also have been noted to bugle but it is rare, usually happening only in the spring during the weeks when calves are born.
And here's a look at elk in Yellowstone National Park during the rut: